New laptop time (I hope my current laptop doesn't read this and get angry).
April 25, 2010 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Windows laptop suggestions or feedback. Details inside. Not looking for "Buy a Mac" as an answer.

I am currently on a two plus year old Acer Aspire which means I am in pretty desperate need of an upgrade. I have had no real issues with the computer crashing, which is great, but there are other problems that are getting to me such as a terrible battery life, and slower processor.

I work on the road as a photographer, and the laptop comes with me everywhere, literally. I am looking for something smaller, possibly lighter, definitely more powerful, and absolutely with a better battery life.

Here is what I need.

Budget: max is 700-800

Size: 14in or smaller. Considering 13inch but want to test them out first.

Battery life: 4hours plus

Reliable: Yes please.

Other: Good graphics (photographer), optical drive, lightweight would be nice.

So far have looked at the Acer Timeline, ASUS K42F-A1, and ASUS U30Jc-1A (which I believe just launched and is a bit on the more expensive side).

Would love to hear any feedback or other suggestions on setups. I am not in a huge rush to buy however it will probably be within a month or two.

And yes, I would love to have a Mac but it's just not in the budget for now. Besides, I have been on Windows machines since forever and would rather just stick with them.
posted by WickedPissah to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
ASUS has built a very good reputation for reliability. You may also want to consider a Sony Vaio, specifically the Y series.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:00 PM on April 25, 2010

Engadget loves the U30Jc-1A. I recently bought this bad boy and I absolutely love it. Six actual hours of battery life. It is sans-optical drive, but I picked an external one up for $50 on newegg for the six times a year I need it. Plus the damn thing weighs like two pounds and has two-finger scrolling like the macs do.

I would go with the U30Jc-1A if you're willing to go a tad over-budget. Seems like a great mix of power, battery life, and portability.
posted by masterscruffy at 4:53 PM on April 25, 2010

I think HP machines have pretty good consumer value for money. Check their "ultra-portable" section on their web site. If you have the money I think the windows 7 tablet PC are pretty cool but the 13" dm3 series is basically halfway between a netbook and a full laptop (no optical drive). The dv4i is more full-featured. I looked at both of these for a new laptop for my wife before she decided to (wait for it) buy a Mac.
posted by GuyZero at 5:00 PM on April 25, 2010

If I had to go back to the PC, I'd probably get a Lenovo Thinkpad.
posted by 4ster at 5:05 PM on April 25, 2010

After having two consecutive rubbish Apple MacBook Pro 17" laptops require more warranty repairs than a 60's British sportscar (The arguably best OS available means nothing if the hardware is dodgy) I got fed up and recently purchased a Sony Vaio F series and an Acer Aspire 1410 netbook. I am very much impressed with the quality and fit and finish of both. For your requirements the models I chose are either too large or too small, but I think that the Vaio CW series would meet your requirements, as would a Lenovo Thinkpad T410. The CW comes with an NVIDIA 310M discrete graphics processor and core i3 or i5 cpu, which is roughly comparable GPU wise, and a generation newer CPU wise compared to the 13.3" MacBook Pro. At a great price savings, some 50% in some configurations. The Lenovo T410 also has Core i3 or i5 processing and the integrated intel graphics (with option for discrete, but after using photoshop on my Aspire netbook [dual core celeron and same integrated graphics at GMA 4500-MHD] and having it run flawlessly and surprisingly quickly I'd argue that you'd be fine with that graphics processor) in the same price range as the Sony. Having owned a half dozen Thinkpads in the past decade, with none ever requiring service (and a 5 year old T42 being used as backup every time my mac frequently went in for repair) I can vouch for their durability and reliability. Asus and has a great reputation for reliability, but I have found their less expensive models lacking in screen resolution and quality compared to Lenovo and especially Sony. The Acer Timeline 14" is a very nice laptop, with the same intel intel graphics as the T410, and a very agreeable price, as seen here. Stupendous battery life, and a very nice quality screen would make that arguably one of the better bets, especially cost/feature wise. Granted, you gain increased battery life and decreased weight by going with the lower voltage processor, but it should be more than up to the task. Decisions, decisions. Good luck, and I hope this helps.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 5:55 PM on April 25, 2010

I think HP machines have pretty good consumer value for money.

FWIW, they were considered "significantly worse than average" in the most recent PC Magazine survey.
posted by pmurray63 at 6:40 PM on April 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all for the great suggestions so far. As of now I am kind of leaning towards an Asus or the Acer Timeline. That UL30A-X5 that masterscruffy posted looks very cool and I think I could go without an optical drive or go external. But I also want to look into the ThinkPads they seem to get great reviews.

Still open to anyone else willing to post their suggestions though.
posted by WickedPissah at 6:55 PM on April 25, 2010

Sign up for the Lenovo newsletter. I regularly get offers of 30% off their Thinkpads. Don't bother with the other two lines (Essential and Ideapad) - I've seen a couple and they're not the same lineage at all. The current Thinkpads, though, are still super solid notebooks.

Huh. Looks like their X-series (subcompact) now has a "budget" line (<>
I have an X61s (last generation), and I've carried it around at all-day walkabout conferences and it's never been a problem weight/size-wise. Even with only a 6-cell battery, I get close to 4 hours. With a 9- or 12- cell battery, you should be good for 4 even with sleep/hibernate instead of shutdown. The displays on every modern Thinkpad I've seen is colour-accurate and appropriately bright (I do scientific imaging). I don't miss the internal optical drive (you can get slim externals, and I have one) mainly because of the prevalence of cheap flash media and wireless.

Despite some on-noes when Lenovo bought Thinkpad, the build quality of the Thinkpad-branded notebooks has remained consistently high and now with the benefit of slightly lower costs. Like with high-end Logitech products, I can't imagine getting a non-Thinkpad notebook for myself or anyone I care about. Until I experience otherwise.
posted by porpoise at 7:34 PM on April 25, 2010

The Alienware M11x just launched (should receive mine any day now).

11.6" screen, high-power graphics card (1GB) that can switch to onboard graphics to save battery life, backlit keyboard, 160GB Hard Drive (I will be upgrading this), 4 GB of Memory (a $38 upgrade), for $840 direct.

Can't beat the portability for the price, and the solid Alienware customer service.

The optical drive would be extra (it's a $65 upgrade from Dell, but cheaper ones can be had at Best Buy or Amazon). Personally, I think Optical Drives are outdated/obsolete. I just rip ISOs and use a thumb drive.
posted by Master Gunner at 8:33 PM on April 25, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks porpoise, will sign up for the newsletter for sure. Lot to choose from here but I am starting to narrow it down I think.

MasterGunner: Looks like a good suggestion but I am leaning towards a slightly bigger display. Didn't see anything between that size and 15" on the site which I find odd.
posted by WickedPissah at 7:41 AM on April 26, 2010

Nope. Alienware only makes those three sizes.

Nothing between 11.6" and 15", I'm afraid.
posted by Master Gunner at 8:58 AM on April 26, 2010

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