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time for a laptop upgrade...

Discussion in 'Computers & Technology' started by $tinkle, Aug 8, 2012.

  1. $tinkle

    $tinkle Expert on blowing

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    it's likely time to retire our main workhorse - a decade old compaq nc6000 running xp pro - with a similarly simple laptop for family use, and since HP has sullied compaq's good name, i'm leaning toward dell (but realizing most players are largely resellers of others' technology).

    ideally, it should:
    - be windows based
    - handle the simplest of tasks without noticeable processor lag
    - have ample storage
    - last for another decade+
    - boot up fast
    - proper form factor; none of this mini laptop nonsense
    - not be terribly fragile

    i'd like it to:
    - be priced under $300
    - have office installed (can get by w/ open office)
    - NOT HAVE an optical drive (seems to be obsolete now)

    i do not care about:
    - brand name of core, display, memory, & other internals, so long as they're proven
    - color
    - warranty
    - gaming considerations (hw accel, 5.1, etc.)
    - thickness/weight
     
    #1 -   Aug 8, 2012

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  2. dante

    dante Unabomber

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    Keep an eye on www.slickdeals.net? Deals come and go, and if you can jump on it you can get some *screaming* deals. Picked up a 15" Lenovo refurb with an i5 2530m, 4GB, 750gb HD for ~$345 (after tax/free shipping) on one of their blowouts of refurb'd products ~a month ago. RAM is upgradable as is the HD (generally). One option for a "fast boot" would be to remove the optical drive and replace it with an SSD, giving your more storage and a far faster boot time (and keeping the normal HD for the storage capacity). That's pricey, though, as the enclosure + HDs would easily run you over $100 or $150 right now.

    At that price level you are going to end up missing some crucial (optional?) extras, though: Most likely it won't have HDMI (makes connecting to a TV far harder), and probably won't have gigabit ethernet either. What's more is that laptops usually aren't upgradable like desktops are... Also, few (no) laptops in this range are what you'd call "robust". Most have plastic frames and worse, plastic hinges.

    If you have a monitor, you might look into a desktop, and keep the laptop along with it? Wipe the laptop and run Linux (low-resource, can do most of the menial tasks like surfing the web/email/etc), and then have a more serious setup as well. Desktops are far more interchangeable: you can easily add things such as video cards (if you want to turn it into an HTPC, and would include HDMI if the motherboard didn't come with it), faster internet connections, USB 3.0, etc. You can also replace/upgrade processors as well (with laptops they are welded in place). With occasional investments it'd be able to evolve to meet your needs?

    They're also cheaper/faster for the price. Double-check the actual speed of desktop vs laptop processors when you're comparing, because oftentimes desktop processors are allowed to run faster due to better heat dissipation. Our new desktop's i3 runs at a faster native speed than our new laptop's i5 2430m does at it's fastest "boost" speed. So even though they're the same generation, and even though i3 is supposedly not as good as i5, our desktop is faster due to how it's configured.

    For an example of a desktop deal, we just got a Lenovo at Staples for $279 (on sale, plus $100 off any Lenovo):

    Processor: i3 2120
    Hard drive: 1TB
    Ram: 4GB (single stick, so can add another easily/cheaply)
    HDMI port

    http://slickdeals.net/permadeal/778...3.3ghz-4gb-ddr3-1tb-hdd-dvd-burner-win-7-prem

    The deal is expired, but if you keep an eye on a site like SD, there's probably going to be other ones that crop up relatively frequently. I also realize that getting a desktop doesn't make any (financial) sense if you don't already have a monitor, as the additional $100 pretty much puts it out of your price range. Getting something a little bit faster now *slightly* future-proofs you as you look towards keeping it for a decade. There will be a time when a slower computer won't run whatever it is you need it to, but eventually ANYTHING you buy now will be outdated and not able to run shiny new programs regardless.

    My advice? Buy whatever you can now, and start putting $5/month into an account marked "computer upgrade". In 5 years you'll have $300 (not counting interest) and you can buy another $300 computer that will run rings around whatever you buy now. :)
     
    #2 -   Aug 8, 2012
  3. dante

    dante Unabomber

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    By the way, can you tell that I've been researching low-end computers and just picked up two recently?

    Also:

    1) You're not going to find "Office" installed on anything at that price range, since it sells for ~$100 (a third of your budget). Libre Office is the latest/greatest "Open Office" (OO was sold to Apache?), and from what I've seen it'll perform adequately. There are also programs like Thunderbird (email client), GIMP, Inkscape and others that mimic just about anything MSFT or Adobe put out.

    2) Think about how you're going to want to use this computer over the next ~10 years. Video Skype? Media player? Portable web-surfing? If you anticipate ever looking to stream something off of Netflix/Hulu (free)/etc, it would change your requirements. Same if you want to stay in touch with family members via Skype. Your needs of the past decade could be *very* different from the next 10 years. 10 years ago video chat didn't exist and now it's one of the primary ways I stay in contact with family members living ~1,000 miles away, and is fully integrated into G+/gmail, Facebook, etc. Who knows, maybe everything will move over to cloud computing and we won't need powerful processors anymore? Or there might be a "new thing" that forces anyone who wants to use it to move over to something better than what they had?
     
    #3 -   Aug 8, 2012
  4. $tinkle

    $tinkle Expert on blowing

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    yeah, the more i think about it, by preferring NOT to have an optical drive would likely put me into the next price range, so scrap that. i'll just take whatever gets bundled; basic 48x dvd-r/w or equiv

    can't take the desktop route for this, as it's used heavily on the dining room table (as evidenced by the heat damage to the finish). however, i'm looking to upgrade my lab in the basement, so i'll tuck your observations away for later. maybe sooner than later.

    as i see more content being pushed to the cloud, my only major local requirements are video processing & storage. don't see a viable candidate as needing HDMI, nor the horses to run an instance of sql server. this is more for the wife/daughter with basic computing needs, that's why i believe i can do it on the cheap.

    you make a strong case w/ hulu, esp since we just upgraded [effective midnite] to the rest of the world with 7m broadband. how did i ever live w/ 1.5? but our blu ray is wireless & has netflix/hulu hooks in already, so that will probably take the load there.

    let's put it like this: by design, none of us txt (much prefer IRL), so a good deal of 'must haves' that resemble social networking are frills to us. yes, we know it's silly to boot up just respond to an email w/ < 140 chars.

    crawl/walk/run/bolt
     
    #4 -   Aug 8, 2012
  5. $tinkle

    $tinkle Expert on blowing

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    lol@SD:
     
    #5 -   Aug 8, 2012
  6. dante

    dante Unabomber

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    Does your blu ray player have networking/media player capabilities as well? One thing I do see in the next decade is that regardless as to whether it's streamed or owned, *everything* is going digital. Just like .mp3s replaced CDs, having a physical disc of your favorite movie is probably going to get dropped by the wayside in favor of digital offerings. It'll be easier to purchase, easier to download (legally/quasi-legally), and easier to store/play. Assuming that you can network your blu ray with your new computer, you should be able to set it up for media storage and play through your blu ray player.

    I opted for a desktop as a new/faster computer as it's more customizable going forward. If I need more video-processing power, a $100 low-watt video card is an easy upgrade (and I probably wouldn't even need to bump up the power supply unit). The processor is also upgradable, neither of which is possible on a laptop. If it hadn't had HDMI, that is included with the new video card. Basically the most strenuous thing I use my laptop for is video skype (runs HD fine, especially with the newer webcams with onboard H.264 encoding) and streaming/playing videos. Anything more processor intensive I can easily just boot up the desktop which runs circles around my not-quite-3-year-old-laptop.

    Two last things: One, computers often seem to get "blown out" around Black Friday and two, if you buy a computer with W7 between now and the end of the year, you get a $15 upgrade to W8. No clue if W8 is going to be either good (ie, necessary to do things in the future) or horrid (like MSFT releases often are), so I'm probably just going to partition the drive and set it up as dual-boot. Then I'll have the option as to which OS I want to boot into...
     
    #6 -   Aug 8, 2012
  7. $tinkle

    $tinkle Expert on blowing

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    http://www.groupon.com/pages/gg-ce-toshiba-laptop-1

    $300 refurb'd, but with these specs, i could get down:
     
    #7 -   Aug 9, 2012
  8. dante

    dante Unabomber

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    That processor is about netbook level and would probably struggle to perform ordinary tasks today, let alone a decade from now. The rest looks adequate (graphics, RAM, HD, etc), but since it's impossible to change processors in a laptop I'd pass.

    What you *need* to do is find a deal like this one. It's $100 more than your target, but drag your ankle-biter into the nearest Staples (any "student" qualifies, even elementary/middle/high school level) and stack up the discounts. That's expired, but if you keep an eye out they pop up every so often.

    Or just keep an eye on your favorite outlet/refurb website. Here's an i3 Lenovo for $324. Bigger HD, and a *far* faster processor.

    Also, if you can wait, deals get far better around Black Friday. Here's a thread on a similar notebook then that was selling for $179. (Similar, slightly smaller HD and 2gb less ram)
     
    #8 -   Aug 9, 2012