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Advice for a laptop purchase.

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hello OCN!

I am currently returning to college after a 15 year venture into the workforce and have discovered that a laptop is not only recommended once gen ed courses have been completed, but it is necessary. My major will be in Electrical Engineering (likely in analog/digital electronics or control/signal processing) and I want to make sure I don't spend more than I need to, while having enough horsepower to perform whatever tasks I need it to perform. Please keep in mind, I am 6'7" and have large hands, so a full size keyboard is a must.

As per the sticky:
Quote:
What is your maximum budget?
I am looking to spend under $2,000. I was looking at xoticpc.com as they have a wide range of customizable laptops, but most end up in the 2,200-2700 range with all the toys. I do not know if I need them or not, hence this thread.
Quote:
What country are you in?
I live in the United States.
Quote:
What will be the uses of this laptop?
I honestly do not know all of the programs I will be using, but I would imagine autocad as well as other mathematical programs? Perhaps those that have recently completed a BS/MS in EE could help here.
Quote:
Do you have brand loyalty or care which brands we select for you?
Asus/Sager/Lenovo are preferred, but I am open to others. Not MSI/Dell/HP.
Quote:
What screen size do you require?
A larger screen is preferred, but as I will be carrying this around, is a 17" too much? I also noticed that most laptops with the 17"+ screens tend to have terrible battery life, so a 15" model may be preferred.
Quote:
What screen resolution do you require?
I have a decent desktop (see sig) at home, so movies/gaming is done there. I do not know what resolution is needed for the scholastic programs, so that I leave up to you.
Quote:
Are you looking to buy NEW or would refurbished/recertified/used be okay?
Definitely prefer new, as I do not want to have to take the laptop apart myself to fix it in case of a non-existing warranty. (I have the technical know-how, but big hands makes this task much harder.
Quote:
How long should the battery last? (Under optimal conditions, no movies/games/heavy internet)
Whatever can get me through the day. Most of the higher end "gaming" laptops have a rated battery life of 2+ hours, which I do not think is enough. I do not know if I would be able to charge my laptop in class (doubtful) so I will be purchasing a spare battery, but I would like decent battery life.
Quote:
What games would you like to play with your laptop? And on what settings?
I do not plan on playing any games on the laptop. It will be for school purposes only.
Quote:
What operating system do you need? (if any)
I know most laptops come with Win7 Home 64 premium. That is likely sufficient. Professional and ultimate have some nifty toys that I could use, but I can always upgrade the OS for free from the University if needed.
Quote:
Is there a certain style of laptop you want? (aluminum, black, gaming, etc.)
I have really been digging the design of the G74 design by Asus. It seems to have an excellent cooling design, but again it appears to lack decent battery life. Aside from that, I have read that I need a laptop with a numpad that is separate such as found in a full-size keyboard. (I do not care for chiclet keys either.)
Quote:
How much hard drive space do you need?
I have been looking at running a 120-160GB SSD combined with a 750GB HDD setup. I have become spoiled by the speeds of SSD, so this is a must.
Quote:
Do you need any special hardware? (blue ray, webcam, specialty ports, etc.)
I have read that a serial port is helpful, but not necessary. (Programming controllers) Aside from that, I do not know what else I would need.
Quote:
Is there anything else we need to know?
I am essentially looking for a laptop that has a decent screen size, battery life that will get me through the day, the ability to run CAD without crying like a little girl and obviously features that give me the best bang for the buck.

Thank you in advance!
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post #2 of 14
Judging from your posts it looks like you're going for a laptop with fairly good specifications, you can't really expect any decent battery life from those.

From personal experience 17" is too heavy and too big to carry around. I much prefer 13.3" for schoolwork, but not sure how that would go with your hands. I also doubt you'd be able to get a 15.6" with two HDD bays.
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy;15618921 
Judging from your posts it looks like you're going for a laptop with fairly good specifications, you can't really expect any decent battery life from those.

From personal experience 17" is too heavy and too big to carry around. I much prefer 13.3" for schoolwork, but not sure how that would go with your hands. I also doubt you'd be able to get a 15.6" with two HDD bays.

Unfortunately that has been the caveat that I have been struggling with. (performance vs. battery life) After spending hours on the internet trying to see how much performance I need, I find differing opinions on exactly how much power I need. One site recommends at minimum an i7 with 8GB of RAM, while others state that a simple netbook with a roll-out keyboard (full size) is more than sufficient.)

I have found a couple 15.6" lappys that do have dual bays, or they use an optical bay for an extra storage area. I do not know how practical this is, I just wanted to make sure I have enough storage space while being able to keep that speed from an SSD.

Thanks for the reply!
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post #4 of 14
For schoolwork you don't need more than a very basic laptop, an i3 with 4GB RAM will do easily.

I'm not sure about those dual HDD bay laptops; aren't they quite heavy?
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post #5 of 14
I would take a look at the ThinkPads. Maybe the T series. They sound about right for what you are looking for and they are in the correct price range.
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post #6 of 14
Go for THINKPAD or other IBM/LENOVO kids they will stay with you like a good mate , we have IBM and LENOVO both are priceless for what they offer and price tag there is G560 core i3 2.4 GHz 3GB DDR3 for ~ $600
post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy;15619429 
For schoolwork you don't need more than a very basic laptop, an i3 with 4GB RAM will do easily.

I'm not sure about those dual HDD bay laptops; aren't they quite heavy?
Unfortunately that is one of the drawbacks. I was looking into a "laptop backpack" due to this potential issue.
Quote:
Originally Posted by killeraxemannic;15619511 
I would take a look at the ThinkPads. Maybe the T series. They sound about right for what you are looking for and they are in the correct price range.
Thank you, I will definitely look into this!
Quote:
Originally Posted by hiwiki;15619636 
Go for THINKPAD or other IBM/LENOVO kids they will stay with you like a good mate , we have IBM and LENOVO both are priceless for what they offer and price tag there is G560 core i3 2.4 GHz 3GB DDR3 for ~ $600
So another vote for the ThinkPad. Thank you for the input, this definitely helps!

+rep all around! thumb.gif
Edited by HAF_wit - 11/8/11 at 11:04am
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post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by hiwiki;15619636 
Go for THINKPAD or other IBM/LENOVO kids they will stay with you like a good mate , we have IBM and LENOVO both are priceless for what they offer and price tag there is G560 core i3 2.4 GHz 3GB DDR3 for ~ $600

Thirded. To clarify, only the Thinkpad T420/T420s, T520, W520, and X220 are the good (full-featured) Thinkpads.

ALL 14" and 15" Thinkpads have the exact same full-sized keyboard (7 row, even). Another bonus, all of them can take an mSata SSD and use that for a boot drive (they go up to 80gb or 120gb). You could also do the optical bay for HDD, and install a 2.5" SSD where the HDD was. Super easy to swap between HDD and DVD-RW (10 seconds, pretty sure you can do it in sleep mode).

If you went with a T420s and mSata SSD, it's a whopping 4 pounds even, 1" thick, quite a loaded system IMO (goes up to i7 dual-core and Nvidia Quadro/NVS graphics) if you want something fast and lightweight. Cost is probably around $1500 specc'd out, $1200 base. EDIT: $1600 with a 160gb Intel SSD(2.5"), i7-2640M, and Nvidia graphics. http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:category.details?current-catalog-id=12F0696583E04D86B9B79B0FEC01C087&current-category-id=AA35DF77B594680023A04BD6BB1B6878

I'd go with 1600x900 on a 14" or 15"; 1920x1080 is nice but personally found it tough on my eyes (have a 15" T510 w/1080p screen) unless you scale everything up.

Integrated graphics and i5 dual-core is fast enough. i7 quad is overkill IMO. Coming from a 3rd year ME.
Edited by jrbroad77 - 11/8/11 at 11:20am
 
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post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrbroad77;15619860 
Thirded. To clarify, only the Thinkpad T420/T420s, T520, W520, and X220 are the good (full-featured) Thinkpads.

ALL 14" and 15" Thinkpads have the exact same full-sized keyboard (7 row, even). Another bonus, all of them can take an mSata SSD and use that for a boot drive (they go up to 80gb or 120gb). You could also do the optical bay for HDD, and install a 2.5" SSD where the HDD was. Super easy to swap between HDD and DVD-RW (10 seconds, pretty sure you can do it in sleep mode).

If you went with a T420s and mSata SSD, it's a whopping 4 pounds even, 1" thick, quite a loaded system IMO (goes up to i7 dual-core and Nvidia Quadro/NVS graphics) if you want something fast and lightweight. Cost is probably around $1500 specc'd out, $1200 base. EDIT: $1600 with a 160gb Intel SSD(2.5"), i7-2640M, and Nvidia graphics. http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:category.details?current-catalog-id=12F0696583E04D86B9B79B0FEC01C087&current-category-id=AA35DF77B594680023A04BD6BB1B6878

I'd go with 1600x900 on a 14" or 15"; 1920x1080 is nice but personally found it tough on my eyes (have a 15" T510 w/1080p screen) unless you scale everything up.

Integrated graphics and i5 dual-core is fast enough. i7 quad is overkill IMO. Coming from a 3rd year ME.
eek.gif I didn't know Lenovo was customizable at the source! Woooow, do I feel stupid right now. doh.gif Thank you very much for the link and the insight! Knowing you're an ME definitely helps too. wink.gif
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post #10 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefy;15618921 
Judging from your posts it looks like you're going for a laptop with fairly good specifications, you can't really expect any decent battery life from those.

From personal experience 17" is too heavy and too big to carry around. I much prefer 13.3" for schoolwork, but not sure how that would go with your hands. I also doubt you'd be able to get a 15.6" with two HDD bays.

All the Macbook Pro's have full size keyboards - even the 13" model. All of the dual core i7 models seem to fit into the sub 2k price range:
13-inch: 2.8 GHz
2.8GHz dual-core
Intel Core i7
4GB 1333MHz
750GB 5400-rpm1
Intel HD Graphics 3000
Built-in battery (7 hours)2
In Stock
Free Shipping
$1,499.00

15-inch: 2.2 GHz
2.2GHz quad-core
Intel Core i7
4GB 1333MHz
500GB 5400-rpm1
Intel HD Graphics 3000
AMD Radeon HD 6750M with 512MB GDDR5
Built-in battery (7 hours)2
In Stock
Free Shipping
$1,799.00

Even a 128GB factory SSD model comes in at $1999, before student discount.

It's worth considering - and yes, you can run 7 on them.

Personally, I like my OS X, so I have a VM for windows work.
I'm also partial to small laptops. I have a 13" core2duo 2.2GHz/4GB ram/160GiB SSD macbook at the moment, and it's acquitting itself nicely.
Edited by u3b3rg33k - 11/8/11 at 11:57am
 
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Reginald
(14 items)
 
GLaDOS (v3)
(12 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsGraphics
i7-970 @ 4.14GHz 1.350v P6T7 WS Supercomputer MSI 7970 GHz Edition HIS 6950 
RAMHard DriveHard DriveCooling
48GB Crucial Ballistix @1660MHz 9-9-9-27 Momentus XT intel 480GB 520 series INX-720 
OSMonitorMonitorMonitor
win7pro Soyo P-MVA 1200p 24" Dell 24" 1200p Dell 17" 4:3 (market tickers) 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Dell Quietkey AX850 PC-Z60 Logitech G5 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Q6700 @ 3.0 (stock volts) ASUS P5WDG2-WS PRO HIS 6950 2GB turbo (unlocked) 8GB DDR2 800 
Hard DriveOptical DriveOSMonitor
9550SX w/BBU + 4x 250GB 7.2k Raid 5 HL-DT-ST DVDRW GSA-H30L Kali Linux VNC (TC Rig, baby) 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Dell QuietKey (PS2) Truepower Trio 650 Koolance PC3-420SL Logitech G5 
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