Laptop Purchasing Advice

ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
edited April 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey, my roommate is buying a new laptop, and this is about the best one I could find for him:
Studio 17  	Intel® Core™ 2 Duo T6400 (2.00GHz/800Mhz FSB/2MB cache)
Operating System 	Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Service Pack 1 64 Bit
System Color Option 	Jet Black
Memory 	4GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 800MHz
Built-in Keyboard Options 	Standard Keyboard (included in the price)
LCD Panel 	Glossy widescreen 17.0 inch display (1440x900)
Video Card 	256MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3650
Hard Drive 	Size: 320GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM)
Adobe Software 	Adobe® Acrobat® Reader 9.0
Combo or DVD+RW Drive 	6X Slot Load Bluray (BD) Combo Drive (BD Read Only)
Sound Card 	High Definition Audio 2.0
Wireless Networking Cards 	Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Mini-Card with Netgear WGR614 Wireless Router
Camera Module 	Integrated 2.0M Pixel Webcam
Office Productivity Software (Pre-Installed) 	Microsoft Works
Anti-Virus/Security Suite (Pre-installed) 	McAfee SecurityCenter with anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall, 30-Days
Battery Options 	56 Whr Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell)
Service 	1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
Dial-Up Internet Access 	No ISP requested
LCD and Camera 	Glossy widescreen 17.0 inch display (1440x900) w/ 2.0M pixel Camera
Processor Branding 	Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor
Labels 	Windows Vistaâ„¢ Premium
Dell Remote Access 	Dell Remote Access, free basic service
Finger Print Reader 	NO FINGER PRINT READER

It's $954.00. I looked at Lenovo's laptops, and couldn't find anything even remotely comparable for the price. I'd prefer to avoid Dell, but this is hard to beat. Anyone got any suggestions for other options, or see anything wrong?

Thanatos on

Posts

  • ZackSchillingZackSchilling Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Nothing is really wrong there, but we don't have anything to go on here. What is the laptop for?

    The only thing that sticks out as wrong to me is that the 17" screen. A 17" widescreen these days should at least do 1080p. Also, a 17" screen is really large. Is this laptop going to mostly hang out on a desk? It's not going to be very portable, both in terms of physical size and battery life.

    ZackSchilling on
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  • pheknophekno Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    1. I'm pretty sure a very similar laptop is currently available on sellout.woot.com for about $400 less (but it doesn't have a BluRay disc drive and it doesn't have a wireless router, otherwise it's identical)
    2. If he really wants a BluRay disc drive, you might as well have a 1080p monitor attached, otherwise it's largely pointless
    3. I really don't think you can get a 17" display that can do 1080p anywhere
    4. Even if you could, what's the point?

    Edit: Oops, the one on sellout.woot.com has an integrated Intel graphics chip, that's considerably inferior ATI mentioned in the OP.

    phekno on
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  • SarksusSarksus ATTACK AND DETHRONE GODRegistered User regular
    edited April 2009
    A WXGA+ screen (1400x900) is something you would see on a 14 inch screen. I can't imagine how that would look on a 17 inch screen. As Zack said a 17 inch notebook is huge. It's not going to be very portable and the glossy screen is going to make outside viewing difficult due to the glare.

    A 15 inch screen with a 1680x1050 resolution is a better deal to me.

    Also keep in mind that price and specs are not the only factors you should be looking at. Durability and build quality are also an important considerations, in which case a Dell Latitude or a Lenovo ThinkPad would be your two choices. You're going to pay more but you'll receive a better product.

    Another consideration is battery life. I can't compare the Studio 17 to comparable Dell or Lenovo business notebooks but the Studio 15 does have worse power performance in comparison to either the Dell Latitude E6500 or Lenovo ThinkPad T500 (all of these are 15 inch notebooks).

    That being said I'm not sure you can really go wrong with a Dell. Obviously a lot of people have had bad experiences with Dells but that is true for any manufacturer. It's really a matter of whether you want to spend a little more money in order to squeeze out the full potential of the notebook form factor, and I think a business notebook would give you that in every area save for games or multimedia.

    Edit: Regarding 1080p and Blu-Ray, I wouldn't recommend a Blu-ray drive, either. It seems really silly to me to use a portable device like a notebook to watch Blu-Ray movies. I can't imagine what effect that would have on battery life, DVDs are bad enough. There are, however, 17 inch screens that have resolutions as high as 1920x1200. Hell, there are 15 inch screens that can do that. They do exist. I wouldn't recommend that resolution for a 15 inch notebook, however.

    Edit2: You might also want to spend more money on the warranty and get at least two years.

    Sarksus on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    To everyone in here trashing the blu-ray drive in the laptop: if you've owned a PS3 or blu-ray player for half a year or more, you've probably stopped buying DVDs. The DVD drive in your laptop will then be useless for all your blu-ray movies. So while you might not be able to see the full 1080p benefits, you'll be able to at least watch your movies.

    And personally I think Dell's build quality sucks, but my Sony laptop needed new memory modules at 11 months, so I don't really have any productive advice on that front. Edit: You know, I'm really questioning this laptop. How are they getting blu-ray and a 17" screen in there for under a grand? I just went to Sony and had to go to around $1500 to pull off this setup.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    My laptop has bluray, and I find it pretty handy (since it's my only blu-ray player.)

    It's pretty much a given that a laptop with a BDROM is also going to have at least VGA output. Mine has VGA and HDMI, and I regularly hook it up to larger screens to act as a portable blu-ray player.

    Regarding the price / features it's probably legit. Lots of laptops around the $1000 or less mark have BD-ROMs these days, and a 17" LCD doesn't actually add to the cost of a laptop, especially at that resolution.

    Ego on
    Erik
  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Check out Acer's site. I got my brother a laptop similar to that except 16" 1080p screen, blu ray player, and a geforce 9600m (or maybe it was a 9400m... not sure), 4gb ram, big hard drive, the lot. Battery life isn't the best (about 2.5 - 3 hours) but its probably better than that Dell with a 17" screen will do. Anyway, it cost $999 Canadian, which my googling tells me is about $832.22, and we got the guy at futureshop to knock off an extra $150 cause we bought a 3 year warranty with it (50% of the cost of the warranty.)

    He has it at work right now, so I'll post the model number tomorrow and see if its available in the US. So far it's had no issues (been almost a year) and by far the best deal on a laptop I've ever seen in Canada.

    Wezoin on
  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    6930, I have one of those. Good machines. It's the 9600m gs.

    edit: I should specify, mine is. Some are GT's.

    Ego on
    Erik
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    He's mostly going to use it on his desk. He wants to hang onto it for five or six years (yes, I know, I've explained to him that he's better off buying two $400 laptops three years apart than one $1000 laptop now and expecting it to last six years), and so he wants the Blu-Ray for when DVDs go the way of the dinosaurs. Battery life and weight aren't huge concerns.

    Thanatos on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    So, would something like this be better?

    It seems like the on-board video would make the Blu-Ray a pile of shit.

    Thanatos on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Thanatos wrote: »
    So, would something like this be better?

    It seems like the on-board video would make the Blu-Ray a pile of shit.

    I agree. Everything I'm seeing on a google search is saying you need a minimum 256 MB VRAM and a 1.8 GHz+ CPU (and that Sony is at 2). Most of them are recommending either NVidia 7 or 8 series and up, or ATI X1K series and up. However, this site seems to think the integrated graphics chipset in that Sony is fine. Some more searches revealed a general opinion that the HD decoding features let that chipset play blu-rays even though it won't be able to handle games very well.

    As I see it, your friend has three options:
    1. Buy the cheap but better-on-paper Dell, but add an extended warranty so if it has build problems, he's covered.
    2. Buy the Sony and try blu-ray first thing. If it sucks, take it back since it's not working as advertised.
    3. Increase the budget. To be honest, you can own a computer for a long time now...my parents are still happy with a desktop I built them in late 2004. But for a laptop, $1000 is probably a bit low of a pricetag to get both longevity AND blu-ray.

    Scrublet on
    subedii wrote: »
    I hear PC gaming is huge off the coast of Somalia right now.

    PSN: TheScrublet
  • EgoEgo Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I wouldn't get something with Intel graphics just for the sake of how many more game options you get out something like the HD3650 or the 9600M (or even 9300.) What country are you in, Thanatos?

    Ego on
    Erik
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    The U.S. He doesn't game at all, though, so gaming isn't a concern.

    Thanatos on
  • WezoinWezoin Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Thanatos wrote: »
    The U.S. He doesn't game at all, though, so gaming isn't a concern.

    I still wouldn't want an Intel on-board video card on any machine. Especially not to run blu rays.

    Wezoin on
  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I have a Dell. I love it, but the build quality leaves something to be desired. The Vostro laptops seemed to be better in the touch factor, but the Inspiron has been fine for me.

    Malkor on
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  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    What are the odds of a given laptop lasting more than three or four years? I don't suppose anyone has any numbers?

    Thanatos on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    What about a refurb? Worth it? Likely to have any sort of longevity?

    Thanatos on
  • LuqLuq Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Oh it may very well last. It doesn't mean he will be able to stand using it. I've got an IBM 386 laptop but I don't find myself needing to use Word Perfect 5 very often.

    In my experience most people trash their laptops in 3 years. A lot of broken laptops come across my desk at work and home.

    Luq on
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  • MalkorMalkor Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I have a ~10 year old Toshiba that turns on, surfs the net, and gets super fucking hot.

    Malkor on
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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    If someone isn't computer "savy" and OCD about cleaning up the system, I think you'll hit nasty slowdown around the 3-4th year. This is in addition to things like having to replace the battery, memory degradation and general obsolescence.

    Any laptop I've had that has lasted more than 5 years is essentially a word-processing and emailing dinosaur.

    If you're going to be using it for basic functions only, like word-processing and internet browsing, the best way to make it stay in tip-top shape would be to do a full-wipe/reinstall every 2-3 years.

    Just my experience. For the record, last year I got fed-up with notebooks and purchased a Velocity Micro machine. I'm much happier, even if the portability is less than desirable.

    The Crowing One on
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  • SmurphSmurph Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    I would suggest going to a store and trying to get your hands on the exact model of laptop you are getting. You might find some button or port placement that you hate with a passion or you might hate the feel of the keyboard/touchpad. These are things you won't get if you shop exclusively online. If they like what the laptop feels like, have them go back home and order it online.

    Personally I would have them buy the 15" version of the same laptop for a few hundred less. 17's are really impractical to move around with.

    Smurph on
  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    What's the verdict on Dell refurbs? Good? Bad? Horrible?

    Thanatos on
  • ZackSchillingZackSchilling Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    If it comes with the same or better warranty, then the verdict is go for it. If the machine is a hidden lemon, that's not going to wait a full year to present.

    ZackSchilling on
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  • RookRook Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Thanatos wrote: »
    What are the odds of a given laptop lasting more than three or four years? I don't suppose anyone has any numbers?

    Last I heard it's something like a 25% chance it won't make it to 4 years, which is pretty high (source). That's a couple of years old, but it's hard to tell if things are getting better or worse, the new GPUs from nVidia are apparently pretty shonking.

    I bought a 4 year warrenty for my laptop, didn't regret. I also have a Dell, and although I have had a couple of parts fail, I've been fairly impressed with the ease of the tech support service (though I'm fairly technically literate which helps so I only ever use the e-mail system).

    Rook on
  • InvisibleInvisible Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Thanatos wrote: »
    What about a refurb? Worth it? Likely to have any sort of longevity?

    In general laptops have a lifespan of 3-5. That's not to say they will certainly fail after that time, only that they're designed to be replaced after that long. This is referring to PCs and not Macs.

    Invisible on
  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    Invisible wrote: »
    Thanatos wrote: »
    What about a refurb? Worth it? Likely to have any sort of longevity?

    In general laptops have a lifespan of 3-5. That's not to say they will certainly fail after that time, only that they're designed to be replaced after that long. This is referring to PCs and not Macs.

    I had "Moron Insurance" on an old Dell back in school. Suffice to say, one night it decided to become a beer can. Complete with beer.

    The insurance covered an entire new machine. A newer machine. Refurbished.

    While I can't speak to the technical aspects, I will swear that that referb was slower and less responsive than any new computer I have ever purchased. I'd never buy one referbed unless it was an absolute steal.

    The Crowing One on
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  • ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited April 2009
    If it comes with the same or better warranty, then the verdict is go for it. If the machine is a hidden lemon, that's not going to wait a full year to present.
    We talked to some other people, and the verdict was that for the deal, it was worth it. Ended up being $400.00 for a $550.00 laptop, with the only warranty difference being that it was mail-in instead of phone/on-site repair (for $70.00 the warranty could be upgraded, but we figured "fuck it").

    I finally brought him around to the "two $500 laptops spaced 3 years apart is better than one $1000.00 laptop you use for six years" school of thought. Ended up with a 2.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo (1 MB cache), 3 GB of RAM, a 15.6" widescreen monitor, and a 160 GB HD (he only has 66 GB right now, including an external 40 GB hard drive that he can use with the new one).

    Thanatos on
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