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Portables Hardware

Ask Slashdot: How To Shop For a Laptop? 732

Posted by Soulskill
from the compare-and-contrast dept.
jakooistra writes "My sister recently asked me for a laptop recommendation. I said, 'Sure, what are techie brothers for,' and diligently started my search for her perfect laptop. Two days later, I feel like I've aged two years. Every laptop vendor seems to want to sell a dozen different, poorly-differentiated models, with no real way of finding out what is customizable without following each model to its own customization page. And there are so many vendors! How am I, as a consumer, supposed to find what I need? Is there a website, hiding somewhere I just can't find, that tracks all the multivariate versions and upgrade choices in an easily searchable database?"
tester datajakooistra adds a few criteria, in case you have specific laptop suggestions: "It needs a good CPU, but we almost don't care about the GPU (HD 3000 graphics are acceptable). A model that doesn't get very hot would be nice. We'd like an SSD and an internal optical drive. A 15"-17" screen at 1366x768 or higher would be ideal. Budget is around $1,500, but could go up to $2,000 if it's really worth it."
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Ask Slashdot: How To Shop For a Laptop?

Comments Filter:
  • mac (Score:1, Insightful)

    by easyEmu (977903) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:55PM (#40123923) Journal
    get a mac
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @06:57PM (#40123943)

    Pick MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, then pick a size. Done.

  • Get a Mac (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:01PM (#40123977)

    Just get a Macbook.

    Seriously. They make nice enough laptops and are within your price range while having crappy enough specs (compared to a non-Apple at the same price) to meet your requirements :)

  • Re:mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MankyD (567984) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:01PM (#40123979) Homepage
    I will say, the one thing Mac has done well is avoiding the exact problem the OP describes. They basically have 2 laptops, with a few different monitor sizes. The specs can vary slightly, but not so much as to make a real difference.
  • Acer (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tiffany352 (2485630) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:02PM (#40123991)
    If you plan on running that isn't OEM Windows or want it to last for more than a year, DO NOT GET AN ACER. I thought that, maybe, they used extremely shoddy parts and had bad ACPI support for only the cheap models. I was wrong. I've had this laptop for about a month and the fan is already dying on me... Next month it'll be the usb ports, like my sister's and cousin's laptops..
  • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:02PM (#40123993)

    Step 1 is to figure out what your absolute demands are so as to narrow your choice already. This includes budgeting, what you'll be using the thing for, etc. Sounds like you've already done this.

    Step 2: Walk into a store.
    No, seriously. It's all good and well to spec out a machine on the web and then say "this one's perfect!". But then you get it and... the casing feels weird, the way the keyboard types makes you cringe, the glossy screen you thought would be nice and sharp is really just reflecting the bright windows behind you when you sit at your desk, the backslash is situated next to the shift key, the audio quality can be called poor at best and while you intend to use headphones most of the time it's really just not acceptable, and whenever you glance at something else, you can't help but notice some weird fuzzy...moving..jittery.. things on the screen that you can't quite see when you look straight at it but you swear they're there (and they are - hello, temporal dithering - load up the LCD test webpage if possible if you care about the screen).

    So go to a store and test the machines in person. THEN go back to the internet to find the best deal / customization options if you really want.. or, if you've pretty much found the one you want, get it at the store (yeah, you could save some bucks - but the store did provide you the service of allowing a hands-on.. might as well reward them, within reason).

    Your budget is pretty high for a computer that doesn't need to have much graphical prowess, by the way.

  • Cheapest (Score:1, Insightful)

    by mynamestolen (2566945) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:03PM (#40123997)
    Buy the cheapest because stores are selling them off because they won't run that bloated expensive legacy operating system. Then wipe out the said operating system as you load Linux.
  • Re:mac (Score:1, Insightful)

    by easyEmu (977903) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:03PM (#40123999) Journal
    Configuration Price $1,999 * 2.2GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 * 4GB 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM — 2x2GB * 128GB Solid State Drive * SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW) * MacBook Pro 15-inch Glossy Widescreen Display * Backlit Keyboard (English) & User's Guide * Accessory Kit
  • 13" MacBook Air (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:03PM (#40124003)

    Subject says it all! It's a great system, extremely fast for regular day-to-day things, especially web surfing. Plenty of fast for just about everything else.

  • Lenovo (Score:2, Insightful)

    by stlava (1736430) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:05PM (#40124015) Homepage

    Get her a Lenovo business laptop. Yes, they are a little bit pricey but you get what you pay for.

  • Re:Business only! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:08PM (#40124037) Homepage Journal

    Do not buy a consumer laptop, make sure you shop around in the Business/Small Business areas of leading manufacturers (HP, Lenovo, Dell).

    That's funny, because in a recent Slashdot discussion about laptops the exact opposite was recommended - business grade laptops are typically priced higher for essentially the same hardware you get in the "consumer" grade.

  • by sethstorm (512897) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:10PM (#40124057) Homepage

    Select between Lenovo(Thinkpad) and Apple refurbished, then drill down to whatever models fit the criteria. Then do a favor for them and get them to have the longest warranty obtainable. For Lenovo, this would be 5-year(?, maximum may be 4) onsite service. For Apple, whatever Applecare does is going to have to do.

    Either company has some thin and stylish laptops in that price range. Lenovo just happens to make them more maintenance friendly.

  • Re:mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bughunter (10093) <bughunter@earthlin k . net> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:14PM (#40124091) Journal

    get a mac

    It sounds trite, but there is a kernel of wisdom there. Buy a Macbook Pro if you can afford it.

    If you have the budget, you'll get what you pay for. It has the only extended warranty for any electronic gadget that Consumer Reports recommends. It will run any OS you like. It will last for 5 to 10 years depending on your needs (games vs web/email, respectively). You can spend a similar amount and get a comparable or slightly better hardware package from Dell/Alienware, but it won't come with the warranty, OS options, elegance or robustness that Macbook Pros are famous for.

    This suggestion will start a flame war. You're going to hear from fanatics from both sides. However, I manage a mix of computers for both a small business and a household with several power users, and I have learned firsthand the strengths and weakness of both camps.

    Windows' strengths are in gaming and technical/engineering applications. If you want access to the most games, or need to run CAD/FEA applications, then you should buy a Windows desktop machine. Not a laptop, but one that you can upgrade piecemeal as your needs evolve. Build your own, or arrange to have one built for you, and you can get a spectacular set of hardware specs for a very low price.

    However, if you want a casual use or business laptop, then Apple's MBPs are the best available, even if you intend to run Windows exclusively. The extra money you spend will eventually pay off in 1) time saved in building it, and 2) the time saved in maintaining it. The 2.2 GHz 15-inch models offer the best price/performance ratio if your budget is constrained. Otherwise, I recommend buying the 17-inch 2.5GHz quad-core i7 - it will last the longest before you need to purchase a replacement.

  • Re:Business only! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:23PM (#40124181)

    Because you are paying for a longer warranty, the manufacturers aren't stupid, they put better parts and have higher QC in the machines with longer warranties.

  • Re:Business only! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr@IIIbhto ... inus threevowels> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:23PM (#40124187) Homepage Journal

    And the comment you linked to runs contrary to my experience.

    The real business grade laptops - not just from a manufacturer's business line, but the ones that are considered high-end - tend to be built from more durable materials, tend to be designed for easier service, tend to be documented better, and tend to have better support.

    Workstation-class, and one step down as far as position in the model range (which often shares hardware with the workstation class, but often with a dual-core and either integrated graphics or a low-end GPU), tend to count as those.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <> on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:33PM (#40124263)

    Does that "same" hardware also include the case and screen? That's one (not the only) reason they cost more.

    How much for a Windows laptop with an all-metal case? Or at the very least, one that equally as rugged as the Macbook Pro (although I guess if it's plastic it's going to be bigger and bulkier to get the same ruggedness, but we can let that pass).

    I never understood why buying a computer had to be a race for the bottom. Then people end up complaining about how crappy their computer is.

  • by jo42 (227475) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:35PM (#40124289) Homepage

    That's one thing that all of the other 'tarded manufacturers just cannot get right. Low profit margins? Make more models! Model not selling well? Make more permutations and combinations of the model! Still not selling? Slap on (even) more stickers, make the keyboard glow, add all sorts of other shinny eye candy and faggy arsed shite stuff to it.

  • Re:mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:37PM (#40124301)

    Mac has done well is avoiding the exact problem the OP describes

    That's a typical misconception. Apple puts together a very pretty package and basically dictates what you will run, how you will run it, what you can do with it, and where you can do it. There are a whole new set of problems with mac, and if you are quite limited as to what you can do software-wise. You will still have software problems. You still have viruses. You still have software problems with upgrades. People still need to search some forum from time-to-time to figure out how to fix some strange new issue. Ever try and build something from Ports only to have it *not* friggin work when you upgrade? Yeah, same issues. It's not a perfect world that everyone seems to imply. Don't get me wrong, Apple has gone to great lengths to make the use experienced top-notch, but it still has it's problems just like Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. I get really tired of people making it out to be some trouble-free system when it's not.

  • Re:mac (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:40PM (#40124323)

    Considering that the Mac will run all of your Windows and Linux software alongside Mac stuff, I fail to see how you can say it's limited software-wise.

  • Re:mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rockout (1039072) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @07:48PM (#40124381)

    Keep in mind this isn't a recommendation for the techie brother, but for aforementioned non-techie sister of the techie brother. All of the problems you list are really nerd problems (with a healthy dose of anti-Apple mania thrown in, I might add) and not problems for a casual user. If she has the money for a high-end laptop (and does - budget is "up to $2000"), might as well spend it on a Mac. She'll be happier in the long run and the techie brother can stop shopping for countless hours trying to figure out what's customizable and what isn't.

    Your statement that it's not trouble-free is correct, but you imply that it's no more trouble-free than the laptops running Windows. It is, actually. By quite a bit.

  • Re:Business only! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @08:10PM (#40124513) Journal

    I tell people to buy the least expensive acceptable model. Save the $ for the next purchase or else something worthwhile. My reason? Laptops, cheap ones, usually will do everything people want. AND when the crap goes south in a year, after the warranty is gone, you won't be as heart broken as if you spent upwards of $2000 for a really really nice laptop with all the bells and whistles.

    Right now, you can get a Core i3 2.3 Ghz with 4-6 GB ram for about $500-600. Really, what more is a non-techie gonna need? I get people dropbox or box or some other cloud storage for their "stuff", and quite frankly, most people will be just fine with something like that. There are exceptions, but really, most people would be fine with that.

    At that price range, you can buy 3 laptops for the price of the Macs people are recommending above.

  • Re:Business only! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @09:30PM (#40125003) Homepage

    There is a lot to say about this approach. The only extra thing you tend to have to do is to wipe the drive and install a clean OS image (Windows of your particular flavor or Linux). Get rid of the shovelware and weirdo 'utilities' manufacturers still foist on the unsuspecting.

    Most people doing word processing, Internet, an occasional picture or movie don't need anything built in the last half decade. That's why tablets work for a lot of people, horsepower wise.

  • by yanom (2512780) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:20PM (#40125287)
    The hidden advantage of Lenovo is that all their stuff looks 10 years old, so no one bothers stealing it.
  • Re:mac (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MisterSquid (231834) on Saturday May 26, 2012 @10:23PM (#40125321)

    You can buy two non-Apple laptops with comparable hardware for the price of a Macbook Pro

    Comparable in every way except being able to run any modern OS in the world, including Mac OS X.

  • Re:mac (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2012 @11:01PM (#40125555)

    It seems to me that the techie brother isn't much of a techie if he can't find or interpret specifications. He might know how to set the clock on his microwave, but he is not a techie.

    Real techies never read marketing materials when buying a computer, because spec sheets explain CPU, GPU, memory and storage options.

  • Re:Pink one. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedBear (207369) <> on Sunday May 27, 2012 @01:14AM (#40126277) Homepage

    Get a pink one. She'll be happy.

    You say that to be funny, but in fact that is another of the many reasons that I always just tell people these days to buy a Mac. Since they only make a few different models of laptops and they don't change the form factor sometimes for years, there is an EXTENSIVE amount of really nice after market accessories available for Macs, including hard cases in various colors, tons of different "skins" and some very nice keyboard protector options. Great for protecting the laptop inside and out, and great for those who like to customize what their computer looks like. A few PC manufacturers sell colored laptops, mainly their cheap consumer models, but guess what? It will always be that color. With the cases and skins widely available for Macs, you can change your laptop's looks as often as you want, and keep the thing looking like new for years even in harsh environments like school/college.

    Plus there's the fact that if we can learn to get our damn techie egos out of the way we might realize a couple of things. Firstly, the specs really don't matter much anymore unless you're doing something like hardcore gaming or video processing. Normal people never hit the limits of even low end processors and GPUs these days. Secondly, most non-techie people will actually prefer using Mac OS X, which is yet another reason to get her a Mac.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one anymore who just plain got tired of trying to find a decent PC laptop out of the hundreds being marketed. You go to the Apple store and you just decide how big a screen you want, and whether you want an optical drive. That's pretty much it. No matter how anti-Apple you may be, you do have to wonder why there are so many people besides me who are answering this question with "Just buy a Mac."

    They're damn good computers. Period.

  • Re:mac (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @03:04AM (#40126663) Homepage

    You're doing it hopelessly wrong.

    She has totally different criteria than you. Numbers and specs mean nothing. Anything on the shelf will be powerful enough and have enough RAM, etc. for a normal person.

    The real question is: Will it make her happy?

    Take her to a big shop with lots of laptops and see which one she fondles. Feel the keys, pay particular attention to the trackpad buttons. Pick it up and see if it feels solid. If it seems reasonably well built then that's the right one.

  • Re:mac (Score:3, Insightful)

    by firesyde424 (1127527) on Sunday May 27, 2012 @03:22AM (#40126703)

    Holy apple tax batman! Are they making macbooks out of gold plate these days? $2000 is upper mid to high end Alienware money. You Mac fanboys might have had a reason back when apple used ppc hardware. But now that Apple uses the same stuff as everyone else in the PC world, there's no excuse for this kind of price gouging. Unless you are telling me that OSX is worth the $800 - $1000 difference in hardware.......

Aren't you glad you're not getting all the government you pay for now?