help recommend laptop
January 11, 2011 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a new laptop... price range $1800-1300... I get to pick out a new laptop for work, i'll probably get a better deal (gov't rate) then what is publicly listed, but any suggestions??? I haven't had new hardware for a couple years, so i'm not sure whats the best at the current time. My only requirements are listed below:

4gb or more of RAM,
x64 OS (might end up doing a multi-boot system),
3 year support,
i do a lot of intensive processing, (link analysis, data mining, etc..) so more power, the better...

posted by fozzie33 to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, with that kinda scratch, I'd go for something like this beast from newegg:
18.4" screen
Intel Core i7 (1.73GHz)
500GB HD + 64GB SSD
posted by Grither at 7:13 AM on January 11, 2011

Assuming you're ordering in the US, you're in the price range of a Lenovo T410 or T510. If you are prepared to trade off portability for power, the W510 is their highest end and still in your price range (about $500 off until mid-month, I see). Their hardware is very good, and usually works well with various flavours of linux (though I have not tried this with their latest systems).

Their three year support package runs between $200 and $320, depending if you want on site service or immediate replacement or if you are prepared to do it by a return. We've had techs come out to a hotel and fix Thinkpads on business trips. Their warrantee service is really excellent.
posted by bonehead at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: i need to go through a small business, but i'll keep that system in mind...
posted by fozzie33 at 7:22 AM on January 11, 2011

Hold off a few weeks if you can. Sandy Bridge laptops are being released as we speak and are quite nice.

The new cpus are performing on-par with desktop i7's. Battery life, especially on the full quads are upwards of 4-8 hours with a 17" screen.

It's a significant performance increase and the retail models are starting to hit store shelves. I think you can get the new model x505 from sears (toshiba) right now.

I'm waiting to see what sager/clevo/asus end up doing. I really don't want a nividia chip, so the new g53/g73 models are right out. Plus, I don't want to wait until april.

Sandy Bridge details

Also, the notebookreview forum is the best place to get this kind of info.
posted by Lord_Pall at 7:35 AM on January 11, 2011

Oh yeah, The styling isn't ideal, but the new alienware (m17 r3) is a beast. I like the build quality as well. Unsure when it's coming out.
posted by Lord_Pall at 7:36 AM on January 11, 2011

I'm very happy with my Sony Vaio Z. Always reliable, after a student discount mine cost me 1950 and is specced as follows.
i7 proc
4 gb ram
128 gb ssd
1920x1080 screen
Windows 7 x64
Blu-ray drive
Backlit keyboard

Battery life isn't as phenomenal as with my TZ however its a steallar laptop and build quality is great. They treated me like royalty with my TZ purchase so I feel great about this purchase.
posted by asadqh at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2011

If you are stuck going through a small business, you are "stuck" with brands that have reseller networks, which isn't really a bad thing if you do it right. I think that is HP and Lenovo. I would buy Lenovo.

Stick with manufacturers that offer onsite service, and make sure the warranty you buy has that, more or less through their own repair channels. You don't want to be stuck with something you have to mail to Korea to get fixed. Or something where you have to file an insurance claim to get reimbursed for the repair. Again, Lenovo.

I would think that waiting for the Sandy Bridge would be a good thing, except for the reality that newly released things can tend to have first-generation stability issues. If you are going to wait, wait an extra month to make sure nothing weird simmers up.


1- Get 4gb of RAM, in a single chip config. Then you can add more later, if necessary, without having to re-buy more RAM. It will be more expensive, but I believe it saves money in the end unless RAM prices drop severely.

2- Get the fastest available RAM. If DDR3-2500 isn't available, get the cheapest there is, and then upgrade to a single 4gb stick once you get the machine. It makes a difference in processor intensive workloads.

2.5- Make sure the machine you buy is capable of the fastest kind of RAM. This probably isn't an issue at the higher end, but lower end machines sometimes use older memory controllers that don't support the newest speeds.

3- Look up the specific models of HDD available, and get the one with the best numbers. If battery life is a concern, look at the power usages too. You want the lowest latency and seek times, lowest power usage, and highest "internal transfer rate" or "sustained transfer rate". This can sometimes be non-intuitive- 7200 rpm drives can have lower power usage while having worse performance.

4- Visit Best Buy and get a feel for screen sizes and resolutions- bigger isn't always better if you can't see it. And/or, a 15" high resolution screen might be more comfortable for your eyes than a 17" lower resolution one.

5- Use up some of that budget to get a second power adapter or a docking station or port replicator. The convenience of just sliding the unit into a dock, rather than plugging in the various cables every time, is huge.

6- If you are ever going to have to do presentations, make sure it has the right connector. I think "display port" is what they are using now, and I *think* there are adapters that then plug into that and give you the right kinds of plugs for your display equipment. Get the adapter too.
posted by gjc at 8:19 AM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sandy Bridge laptops are being released as we speak and are quite nice.

The new cpus are performing on-par with desktop i7's.

Sandy Bridge is outperforming the first generation i5's and i7's by around 25-40% on the first benchmarks with lower power consumption. To know you have a laptop with a Sandy Bridge CPU, the processor listed will be in this format:

Intel Core iX-2XXXM where X are the various chip types. i7 > i5 > i3. The older CPU's will lack the number "2" and be in the format of Intel Core iX-XXXM.

Other than that:
- 4GB RAM is now a minimum, consider 8GB if the price seems right. RAM speed is not worth spending money on.
- Get a fast hard drive, or possibly a solid state drive. SSD's are way more expensive on a per GB scale, but the speed you get from a SSD is way, way faster. SSD's are going for over $2 per GB. Regular HDD's are around $0.08/GB for laptop drives. For HDD's look for best performance, likely a 7200rpm drive.
- Get a laptop with a video card, not low-end integrated graphics. Mobile versions are slower than their desktop counterparts, but you can still find the relative differences in the Tom's Graphics Card Hierarchy. Note where Intel graphics are in comparison to nVidia/AMD mobile graphics. Three ranks on the hierarchy = noticeable difference.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:00 AM on January 11, 2011

Look up the specific models of HDD available, and get the one with the best numbers.

Is the computation you're doing CPU-bound or disc-bound? If you're using a lot of swap space, the absolute best thing you can do is go SSD instead of HD (after maxing out the system memory). The difference is amazing. If you're CPU-bound, and SSD won't matter, but a disc-bound system will really benefit from going to solid-state storage.

As my old QM prof used to say, a supercomputer is a tool for making a disc-bound problem into a CPU-bound one. SSDs do the same for consumer-grade systems.
posted by bonehead at 10:03 AM on January 11, 2011

I'm in the same boat. Hopefully the new T-series Thinkpads from Lenovo with the SB CPU will be announced soon. That's what I'm waiting for.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2011

Response by poster: i'm leaning towards the hp elitebook... got a good quote on one...
posted by fozzie33 at 5:14 AM on January 12, 2011

« Older How to warm up a cold living room.   |   Seeking ANG Newspaper Group fulltext archives Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.