Looking for a tool to reccommend a laptop configuration
July 19, 2011 8:32 AM   Subscribe

Is there a tool online that might be able to tell me what parameters I would want for a new computer (probably laptop) given my current patterns of use? Looking in stores leads me to think I don't need the high end models but I'd hate to buy something only to find out I should have sprung for the extra RAM.

I can't seem to figure out which options in a laptop would fit my needs. I figure there has to be a tool out there that won't just tell me to buy the most expensive product by their manufacturer.

In case you care, here is what I'm looking for:

I'm a graduate student, and use my computer for mostly word processing, data analysis (Via SPSS) and internet browsing. All at the same time. While probably watching a show or listening to music. So you could say I'm a multi-tasker. I want a computer that can handle several programs at once without freezing. I'd like to continue using Windows 7.

I'm not a gamer, so I don't need a high end video card and I don't care about super high def images or audio. I don't need a huge hard drive, I can't even fill the one I have now. A laptop would be nice for portability but now that I have a netbook I'm not convinced I need it anymore. I've had Dell and HP in the past and spent a lot of time with customer service so I'm pretty sure I'd like to find another company to work with.

Any recs for sites? Or even setups you have and love?

posted by gilsonal to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Given that your other needs seem modest, I'd say the top priority is for the laptop to have at least 4 GB of RAM.
posted by lukemeister at 8:45 AM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Microsoft has a fairly decent computer recommendation tool.

and I concur with lukemeister, you could probably do fine with any laptop with 4gb of ram and a decent size screen (15 inches or more) if you plan to watch a lot of stuff on it.
posted by royalsong at 8:48 AM on July 19, 2011

My completely non-structured, anecdotal recommendation based on working with a variety of computers from awesome to brain-dead at my shop is that about anything you'll find at Best Buy will fill that prescription, processor, ram, etc. wise. On general principle I'd get 4 GB ram if I could afford it. (on preview - great minds!)

Since you don't have a lot of special requirements, I'd comparison shop brands and/or just go to stores and, you know, look at computers. How do you like the display, keyboard, etc? Is the display big enough, does the case look nice and fit in whatever you want to carry it in?
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:48 AM on July 19, 2011

BTW, in case you're wondering why the emphasis on RAM - it's harder to upgrade a laptop, and it always seems like in 2-3 years the difference between a computer that can't get out of its own way with whatever new program has come along and one that's still adequate is - RAM.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:50 AM on July 19, 2011

I nth lukemeister's answer. RAM is your friend. RAM helps you multitask. Go with at least 4 GB. I purchased a Lenovo IdeaPad Y550 off newegg.com about a year and a half ago for around $800 and have been really, really pleased with it. I only wish it had a better display (it's way too bright/not crisp enough and I can't seem to fix that no matter what I fiddle with). I didn't pay enough attention to the display specs or I might have known this before I bought it, I'm not sure.
posted by Falwless at 8:52 AM on July 19, 2011

I'm a fan of the Asus laptops lately. You're requirements seem low enough that this laptop for $521 (plus $15 shipping) from newegg would be quite sufficient. Dual core current generation Intel processor, integrated graphics (sufficient for your use), 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive, 15.6" screen, DVD burner, Windows 7. Should be sufficient to run DVDs, Youtube videos, Hulu/Netflix and easily handle word processing, etc.

Your requirements are fairly low: 4GB RAM should be a minimum. If you feel you need more RAM then upgrade it yourself. 8GB of DDR3 Laptop memory is a mere $55. 320GB or 500GB HD should work and are cost-effective. Intel HD 3000 graphics are the norm with the current generation of processors. It's good enough for general use. Processor should be the Intel Core i3 or better as lower-end processors in laptops don't provide a good cost savings relative to performance loss. The other requirement is up to you: how big of a screen do you want? You can get a 17" screen laptop that is very similar to the one I linked above for $600.

The forums and AskMe tend to recommend Asus, Lenovo and Acer as the quality brands right now. I personally also have liked Toshiba laptops as a good low or mid-price option.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:00 AM on July 19, 2011

How big are your SPSS datasets? If they're very large, you may need even more than 4 GB of RAM and the fastest CPU you can get.
posted by maxim0512 at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2011

Response by poster: I would say it's not huge but I should probably leave open the idea that I might have to deal with some larger ones. How easy is it to upgrade laptop RAM? Would it be cheaper to just buy a computer with four and get an eight online to replace it with? I'm good at following directions but I'm not super skilled at hardware stuff.
posted by gilsonal at 2:36 PM on July 19, 2011

Usually a laptop ram upgrade involves a couple of screws from some panel on the bottom, pop the old sticks out, put the new sticks in. 2 minutes if you know what you're doing, 10 if it's your first time. Easy. (This does not apply to macbooks, which I've not dealt with.)
posted by defcom1 at 10:44 PM on July 19, 2011

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