Need laptop recommendation
November 18, 2008 2:10 PM   Subscribe

I get to spec out a new laptop for my new job. I've never had to do that before so I need advice on what manufacturer/model I should be looking at. Requirements inside.

I will need something fast, reliable, with a ton of memory and able to handle a lot of heavy apps like Visio, MS Project, Adobe Creative Suite, Office, etc without draggin ass. This is a laptop for a Director level position managing web development. I will not be DOING web development. It would be nice if as a bonus I got some sweet media capability too. PC only - I have a Mac already.

Anyway - I'd like a 16-17' screen minimum, 320BG hard drive, 2 or 3 GB RAM, I don't want to wait an hour for the thing to start up, I want a keyboard built for normal man hands, excellent color repro and resolution, I don't want a ton of bloatware, I'll be running Windows, decent battery life would be nice. Graphics card does not need to be orgasmic but wouldn't hurt to have a nice one.

I was thinking one of the new Vaio AWs with the 18" screens. Never had a Vaio though.

Anyone have thoughts? I will be buying through NewEgg most likely.
posted by spicynuts to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd recommend buying a business class machine with support and an extended warranty if you can. You can buy a damage warranty as well, which I would also recommend if you travel. Business support is usually friendlier, faster and more competent than consumer support. My recent experience is with Dell laptops, which are fine, though they only make consumer-level 17" laptops that are affordable.

You might consider buying an external monitor and keyboard if you'll be doing most of your work in one place. Finally, consider replacing your existing Macbook with a 17" MacBook Pro and using VMware Fusion or Parallels to run Windows. You can run Adobe CS and MS Office on the Mac side and use Project, Visio and whatever else you need on the Windows side. My experience is that 4 GB of RAM is generally enough to run both Mac and Windows at the same time.
posted by cnc at 2:39 PM on November 18, 2008

First off, I would recommend talking to the company's IT people to see if they prefer anything in particular. Since they are the ones who are going to be fixing it when something goes wrong, they might have some suggestions on what they'd rather not deal with.
posted by rhizome at 2:40 PM on November 18, 2008

Size and wieght would be my primary consideration.
Fill it with ram. Speed beats capacity for harddrive.
CPU is less of an issue, really they are all much the same unless your doing serious number crunching or running virtual machines.

Batteries will always drian, so consider if you want the extra weight. I go for less battery, but lighter. You'll take an adaptor anyway.

On site warranty. Next day.
Wireless. Bluetooth.

I hardly every use my CD/DVD
posted by matholio at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2008

matholio nailed it.
Fast drives are better than big drives. Lots of ram. As much as you can get.

(You have file servers and stuff for storage - and as a Director, you should be conscious of not having critical data existing only on your laptop. Laptops break and get stolen.)

You want something easily serviceable and easily replaceable when it takes a walk. You don't want to skip a beat when that happens.

Honestly - from your description, you dont' want a laptop, you want a powerful workstation.. sog et one, and use terminal services for remote access.
posted by TravellingDen at 4:00 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: First off, I would recommend talking to the company's IT people to see if they prefer anything in particular. Since they are the ones who are going to be fixing it when something goes wrong, they might have some suggestions on what they'd rather not deal with.

Right, but...there is no IT department. This is a start up. There is only me and four other people. So, I get whatever I want. Support will be me coming to askme and saying 'my shit is f'd..what do I do', basically.

Anyone have any specific experience with Vaios or Sony's customer support?
posted by spicynuts at 5:42 PM on November 18, 2008

Do you have a 17" laptop now? Have you ever used one? They're unruly and gigantic and heavy. If you travel, unless you travel first class, it will be basically useless. I have a 15.4" laptop, and I recently replaced it with a much smaller and lighter model. I don't miss the 2" of screen real estate at all.

As for the apps you mentioned, they're not actually that 'heavy' nowadays, especially if you load up the machine with ram. Unless you're playing games, or doing some sort of 3D Visualization, theres little reason to get discrete graphics.

I recommend something like a Thinkpad. Lenovo's support is still some of the best out there, at least in my area. Try to get one that you can plug into a dock if such a thing still exists, and buy a nice 20 or 24" screen. Failing that, I suggest the Lenovo X301, it's still a bit expensive, but it comes with a nifty Displayport connection that will let you rock out a decent sized screen while in the office, but not kill yourself when you're carrying it around.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:47 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: I have a 17" screen on my macbook pro right now. I will not be traveling with this machine most likely. All the suggestions about RAM and hard drive speed over hard drive space is extremely helpful. I'll look at Lenovo.
posted by spicynuts at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2008

Dittoing thinkpad and a dock for when you're at your desk. They're tough, work hard, and this is the sort of thing they're built for.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:51 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Maybe here's an approach...what is the difference in all of theseother than screen size and 2G vs 3G that makes the price vary. What's the difference between the 800 dollar one and the 1400 dollar one and the 2500 dollar one? And where do I see hard drive speed?
posted by spicynuts at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2008

Another vote for Thinkpad, plus a large external monitor with two-screen capability. DealUniversity is featuring 22-inchers for less than $200.

If you need to travel in the future, a separate machine for just that purpose, like the Asus Eee 1000H, would do nicely.

(I haven't yet figured out how one pronounces "Eee".)
posted by megatherium at 7:23 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: There will be no external monitor. It's just not feasible with the reality of our offices..we're in an incubator...i'm never at a desk, essentially. Budget is under 2000, with 1500 being ideal. How about this - any of the following brands that I should absolutely stay away from entirely?

Sony Vaio
posted by spicynuts at 7:32 PM on November 18, 2008

I know I'm not answering the question, but if you already have a 17" MacBook Pro, why buy a second machine to run Windows? It seems like it would save a lot of trouble to either install Windows in Parallels or Fusion, or dual boot to Windows with Boot Camp.

If you're absolutely going to buy a new laptop, the brand you choose is less important than the quality of support and the warranty. You DO NOT want a warranty that requires you to mail the laptop back. They all more or less use the same parts. Many times the company doesn't even make their own branded laptops.

To answer your question about Sony, the Vaios have in the past had a reputation of being finicky, break-prone and proprietary. They were/are the exception to the "same parts" rule of the other brands. However, I don't have enough experience with recent Vaios to know whether this still applies.

If I were buying a laptop today, I'd look at Dell, Lenovo and HP before the others.
posted by cnc at 8:23 PM on November 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks kids. I want to buy a new one because I don't want to have work on my personal computer. I want to leave the laptop at the office. My personal Macbook Pro is for my own use. It's a piece of mind separation I guess.
posted by spicynuts at 7:26 AM on November 19, 2008

Best answer: I'd also recommend Thinkpad, but I'm a total fangirl.

At least some of the difference on your Newegg link is between the Lenovo Thinkpad models and Ideapad models. My understanding is that Ideapad is meant to be more of the consumer line.

At your pricepoint, Ideapad would be your only options for a 17"+ screen. The only Thinkpad 17" model is the W700 and they start at $2500 on sale. The Ideapad Y7xx series has 17" screens and matches your budget.

I can't speak to Thinkpad vs. Ideapad, I've only ever owned the former. Rock-solid, great keyboard, fantastic machines. I used my first for seven years and am currently on my third (just purchased). I've only ever had one service needed on any of them, that was 9 years ago.

Incidentally, you may be interested in CNET's recent feature article on 18" laptops.
posted by clerestory at 9:51 AM on November 19, 2008

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