Buying a laptop. Please help.

Since I moved to my new apartment in September, I’ve been without a computer except when at work. While my work computer does let me post here, it doesn’t let me do much else. So I’ve decided to get a laptop. Partly because it is portable, but mostly because I just don’t have any room for a desktop computer in my apartment.

The last time I bought a computer was in high school, so I don’t know that much about current computer tech. I was wondering if some of you could help me out, give me some tips on what to look for and what to avoid.

I plan on using the computer mostly for “sharing” music. I don’t plan on playing many games on it, so I don’t need a super powered machine. I would like it to have a nice screen and decent speakers though. But I’m working on a budget. I really can’t afford to spend more than a grand.

A few specific questions:

How much memory do I need nowadays?

Should I avoid getting my computer through Dell?

What OS should I get?

I know you guys know your shit. Thanks to any of you who can help me out with some answers/general advice.

Speed: ~1.2-1.4 Ghz should be enough enough.
Memory: 256 MB (or 512 MB) should be enough for your purposes
Hard drive: big (80-100 GB, more if you are a music hoarder)
Brand: Go with Intel. They tend to run longer, even if they don’t provide as much processing power as AMD.
Video card: Whatever. Your loose expectations for this category will make the laptop inexpensive though, as this is a big part of determining the price of a laptop.
Sound card: Look for a good one. I’m not an expert on these.
Speaker: Some laptops offer Surroundsound, so maybe look into that.

So basically it would be hard for you to find a new computer that isn’t powerful enough to do what you want.

Cless has it right. I’d get a pair of speakers with a subwoofer, costs 50 bucks, for good sound and it is worth it if you listen to music on your laptop. Laptop speakers aren’t bad, at least the ones on my dell aren’t, but they’re not phenomenal.

The new intel mobile chips will have longer lasting batteries as well. You don’t want to get pentium 4 chips in your laptop, they’ll burn your crotch and suck your battery dry like a brazillian prostitute. The chip speed you’ll find for a mobile chip is around 1.6 to 2ghz. The upper 2ghz chips are too expensive and it really doesn’t matter so stick to the cheaper 1.6. Don’t trust the clock speed as a comparison to a P4 3ghz because its not a 1:1 transition between the 2 chipsets. A 1.6 is faster than 1.6. Even then, clock speed nowadays is a non issue at the speeds we have. Its RAM that’s more important and you shouldn’t need more than 512.

Dell’s alright. Nulani would probably suggest Acer, which isn’t bad. Its a matter of how much you wanna pay.

If you want to play games, you’ll need a good video card and a minimum of 512 of ram. If you honestly don’t care, just get some kind of integrated graphics with a max of 512 for your RAM. It should keep your laptop cost relatively low.


Aside from that, anything you find is going to be ok.

Unless ure only going to use it for websurfing and word processing, with XP you need atleast 512mb of Ram. Gaming, Id get 1GB. I just got a new dell latitude d810 with 1.8GHZ cpu and 1gb ram and an ATI card and it works fine with my games and stuff.

Id say Dell is ok. If ure not gaming or doing anything weird, look at apple’s notebooks. They are pretty nice, except you cant play games on them (as there are none/few worth playing). Sony is ok ive heard. IBM/Lenovo’s Thinkpads are ok too.

Acer Travelmate 2410 or 4150 or Lenovo Thinkpad Z60M.
Speed: 1.4GHz+, Pentium M or Celeron M
Memory: 512MB+
HDD: 40GB+
Videocard: Any, as long as it’s mobile.
OS: Windows XP Professional or Mac OS X

Only brand I’d suggest staying away from is Alienware - my experience with them was beyond horrible, both from service and quality standpoints.

Anyway, for a solid desktop-replacement class laptop, good ones start at about $1800. These types of laptops tend to be big and heavy, so make sure to invest in a carrying case too.

CPU - Get a Pentium M or an AMD Turino. AMD is less expensive, and I actually have an AMD laptop right now and have no problems with it so far. 1.8-2GhZ is the midrange of low power chips as far as price goes. Even though you can get 2x or the clock speed out a laptop with a desktop chip don’t do it - they will run very hot (so hot in fact that you may have overheating problems, depending on how well the laptop is constructed and the ambient temperature) and drain your battery fast when you don’t have it plugged in.

RAM - 1 gig, minimum these days. 2 gigs is ideal. You can get away with 512 MB but it’s not going to run well. Most off-the-shelf laptops only ship with 512, if you don’t get a custom one you may need to upgrade it later.

Hard Drive - Depends - you’ll either want the biggest or the smallest. If you have a big media collection look for a laptop with two hard drives, they go all the way up to 200 GB. If you don’t have a lot of space intensive files go with a basic drive, 40 or 60 GB and save some money.

EDIT: Another thing you can look into is getting a big desktop drive, putting in a USB 2.0 enclosure, and using it as an external drive to save money.

Video - Even though you may not be playing a lot of games, save the regret later if you change your mind and look for a video system that does NOT use shared RAM. Dedicated ram onboard the video system will greatly improve performance. If you feel like spending a little extra get a laptop that has a modular video card so it can be upgraded later without a microscope and soldering iron. Also, if you get a laptop with a widescreen (i.e. any aspect ratio other than 4:3 letterbox) make sure the video supports aspect ratio scaling, otherwise if you’re running a resolution with a different asepct ratio than the screen, it’s either going to small (centered in the screen and not scaled) or distorted (scaled to fill the whole screen).

Everything else is pretty the same. I’ve never had any problems with any Dell system I’ve ever owned, only reason I have an HP right now is because Dell won’t ship to an FPO address, and HP makes some good laptops these days too, also getting parts is pretty easy for HP laptops if you’re not under warranty.

Thanks for all your advice guys. Here is a possible system that I might get. Could you take a look and tell me if it is good? Thanks.

Thinkmate Z61A - $983

Product Features
Battery Life: 4 hours
Weight: 6.0lbs
Screen: 14" XGA 1024x768
Processor: Intel Pentium M 1.4GHz 400fsb
Chipset: Intel 855GM
Ports: 4x USB 2.0, 1x 1394 Firewire, 1x Audio Out, 1x Microphone, 1x RJ-45 10/100, 1x RJ11 56k Modem, 1x Type II PCMCIA, 1x VGA Out
Memory: 512MB PC2700 DDR333 SODIMM
Video: Intel 855GM Integrated Video
Optical: Notebook 8x DVD/24x10x24x CDRW
Hard Drive: Hitachi 80GB 5400rpm Notebook (Note that I can get 80GB 7200rpm for $84 extra.)
Network: Integrated 802.11g Wireless
Sound: Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Notebook
OS: Windows XP Home (Note that I can get XP Pro for $60 extra.)

Not bad with the exception of the vid card. I think that is a shared memory card. Thats not a good thing to have.

What is an Rj11 port??

It’ll do, but get Windows XP Professional.

Looks good :ma<b></b>ho:

Thanks guys!!!

You were a lot of help.

Oh, and make sure the battery life is actually reasonably close to 4 hours. Some laptops count battery life by running it on minimum contrast and brightness and no sound.

My Dell has 5-6 on a good day. That laptop will suit your purposes fine. I don’t know about the brand, I’m just talking spec wise.