Help me find a new non-Mac 15" Windows 7 laptop. What manufacturer should I go with? Details inside.
August 29, 2010 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a new non-Mac 15" Windows 7 laptop. What manufacturer should I go with? Details inside.

I am looking for a new 15" Windows 7 64-bit laptop. Price is not a limiting factor but I'm not going to just blindly buy the most expensive machine I can find assuming its the best.

What manufacturers/models do you guys recommend? I am looking for very good build quality and a clean look like found on Macbooks. Obviously, reliability is a key requirement, too.

I am not expecting to use this for gaming or heavy video editing or anything. I'll use it for Internet, music streaming, torrenting, interface with my NAS/server, etc. Just general day to day things that I assume most laptops can do.

Any ideas? Thanks!
posted by decrescendo to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Back in June, I purchased a Thinkpad Edge and have been VERY happy with it. It's got that great Thinkpad build quality, and the chiclet keyboard is surprisingly nice. The only thing I don't like about it is the fingerprint-magnet case top, but I've found that a quick wipe with a soft cloth intended for shoe polishing does a great job of keeping those at bay.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:52 PM on August 29, 2010

This laptop reliability survey helped me make my decision (Toshiba, ultimately, and I'm quite happy with it).
posted by mireille at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2010

Sony Z series?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:55 PM on August 29, 2010

i'm having a lot of fun with my HP tm2t (ebay...$600)...a bit smaller screen, but it's a touchscreen as well as a pressure-sensitive pen tablet (think: real painting)...the touch and handwriting recognition features built into windows 7 are nothing short of amazing...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:57 PM on August 29, 2010

I've become an evangelist for HP elitebooks... the 8530 and 8540 are 15 inchers with great displays; as well as damage protection features.
posted by stratastar at 12:58 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also, I'd love to have a Mac-like touchpad on this laptop. I'm not sure how close to that I can get though.
posted by decrescendo at 1:02 PM on August 29, 2010

I'm not sure why you don't want a MacBook Pro, but if it's because you want Windows 7, and price is otherwise no object, then why not buy a MBP and a copy of Windows 7, then set up bootcamp so that you only boot into Windows 7 all the time?

If you want a machine designed for Windows, I recommend a Thinkpad.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 1:32 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have not seen a PC laptop that lacks two mechanical touchpad buttons, but there are a number of finger-gesture schemes that mimic that aspect of the Apple touchpad.

Asus, Toshiba, Acer, HP, Sony, Dell . . . are ever closer to becoming brand badges for generic hardware and little else. The machines are built for them in a few huge generic laptop factories in China. There's no one or two brands that meet your stated preferences better or worse than the others. You're probably best off walking into a big electronics store and playing with a bunch of floor models to see which ones grab you.
posted by gum at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2010

I have an HP Pavilion laptop, and my mother bought one not long after I did (coincidence, not planned) and they are the worst pieces of shit our family has ever owned. They run so hot that the keyboard is actually hot to the touch, and we've had to get cooling stations just to keep them from running so hot that they shut themselves down.

We've both had major issues with ours that needed them to be sent back to the manufacturer within the first 6 months of owning them, and the tech support was so miserable I had to fight with them for a month to get them to listen to a sound file of the error I was having (it was making the sound skip every 20 seconds) Seriously, I called tech support, explained my issue, they had me send it back to them. They wiped my harddrive and sent it back without fixing it. I spent two more weeks arguing over the phone, saying 'look, I'll just make a recording of my problem and send it to you' and them saying 'gee, our tech guys just read reports, I don't know if I can get them to listen to a file.' In the end I fixed it myself with the help from a friend.

And after only two years of pretty basic use this one seems to have a problem just keeping up with firefox and google talk running.

I'm so sick of these problems that I'm saving up for a Macbook as we speak. :P
posted by Caravantea at 2:27 PM on August 29, 2010

The HP Envy series is a macbook clone. Not sure about the quality though.

If you don't mind the question, why do you want so many "mac like" features, but don't want a macbook. Specifically if price isn't an issue, and you aren't gaming or doing heavy graphics then the cards in them are fine.. plus their support is super solid with Applecare.
posted by lakerk at 3:12 PM on August 29, 2010

I recently switched from a Windows 7 PC to Mac and am really happy. Is there a particular reason that you want a PC instead of a Mac? My reason was always price, but if price is no object, than a Mac might actually be the right option, given the features that you want.

However, the Thinkpad linked above has the multitouch features that you are looking for. Don't know if it's just like a Mac touchpad, but it sounds like it.
posted by elpea at 3:17 PM on August 29, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I should say price is a limiting factor. I'm sick of the Apple tax. I also don't want OS X. I've considered the Win7 on MacBook Pro route but that's a lot of money.
posted by decrescendo at 3:21 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a similar set of criteria and was coming from a 13" Macbook. I settled on a Lenovo Thinkpad T410. Let's go through your points:

- 15" screen, price: the Thinkpad T series comes with either a 14" or 15" screen, and is priced from about $1k to $1.5k, depending on sales/options.

- Clean look: a matte black rectangle. I think it's a very simple, functional look. I love it.

- Very good build quality: check. Feels ridiculously solid, has an excellent keyboard (like, best laptop keyboard ever), Thinkpads have a "legendary" reputation for robustness. Check out some of Lenovo's torture test videos. I also got a three-year warranty extension for (what seemed to me) not much money at all.

- Day-to-day computer use: definitely covered. In fact, you may want to consider stepping down to the Tx10i, with a Core i3 processor. The i5s may be overkill. Stick with the Intel HD integrated graphics as well--the latest integrated graphics from Intel are quite good. Not great, but much better than in the past.

- Mac-like touchpad: ehh, close? It's not as big, but bigger than most consumer-level PC laptops. It supports multitouch--I tried two-finger scrolling out of habit and it worked fine. It's got a lovely texture as well.

- Price: look to pay at least $500 less than a competitive MBP, if not more. Wait for coupons.

A sidenote: I always like to discuss how Apple and IBM/Lenovo chose to solve the same problem, in this case: how does a user find a rarely-used key in the dark? Apple's solution is quite beautiful--a backlit keyboard. IBM's solution? An LED in the bezel of the LCD which shines down onto the keyboard. The engineer in me really appreciates the robustness, simplicity, and flexibility of IBM's approach. Less complexity, lower power consumption (the MBP's backlit keyboard uses several similar LEDs), and you can use it to read a sheet of paper or take a look at a note in the dark as well. No, not as pretty, but perhaps more elegant.
posted by thack3r at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I moved from my second problem ridden macbook pro in a row to a sony vaio f series and its been great. The f series is a little big for you, but any of the other vaios would make a great choice. I am also very find of the think pads, and in your case the t 510 series would be great. I have think pads that are 8 and 9 years old that are still going, and are being used by friends to this day. I have yet to have an apple laptop last more than 2 years without a trip back to apple for repairs. Just my 2 drachma, mind you.
posted by chosemerveilleux at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2010

"I'm not sure why you don't want a MacBook Pro, but if it's because you want Windows 7, and price is otherwise no object, then why not buy a MBP and a copy of Windows 7, then set up bootcamp so that you only boot into Windows 7 all the time?"

I have an '09 aluminum 15" MBP that I run Windows 7 on. I don't recommend it, frankly. The Windows drivers are pretty mediocre (understandably, an afterthought for Apple) so the battery performance is about half of what you get on OS X. The Boot Camp EFI/BIOS hack is pretty ugly technically- for example, it breaks Windows 7 System Recovery disks.
posted by theclaw at 6:17 PM on August 29, 2010

posted by jeffamaphone at 7:31 PM on August 29, 2010

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