Cheap, great laptop recommendations?
August 12, 2013 5:04 PM   Subscribe

I really need a cheap, new-ish laptop to make my Youtube cartoons. I have very little to spend, so I'm hoping you smart folks on the TG Comics board have some suggestions.

I've been making a Youtube cartoon series for a few years using Xtranormal, and I had to stop because the Xtranormal company shut down. If I'm going to keep making cartoons, I need to switch to a new software... and if I'm going to switch to a new software, I'll need to get a better laptop than my trusty but rusty old Lenovo.

I have very little to spend, but I have about 200 bucks in Amazon gift cards. (My birthday and Christmas are close together, and this year almost everybody I know gave me a gift card for both. Yay!) I can spend 100 to (maybe) 200, beyond that.

I've gotten interested in the possibilities of Muvizu, and they say you need the following system requirements:

Windows XP or newer.
2.4 GHz processor
Graphics card with “Shader model 3”
2.3 GB of free hard disk space

I'm trying to find the best laptop for video-making/cartoons, in my price range of 200-375 or so. I really want to exceed 2.4 GHZ, if I can. A lot of the laptops I find in my price range fall short of 2.4 GHZ, but to be honest I'm not too sure how the decimal points work, here. If I see a laptop that says it has 2.13 GHZ, that's more than 2.4, right? (I agree with Barbie: "Math is hard!")

Refurbished is fine, as long as it's from a reliable seller (ideally somebody offering returns if the computer craps out in 3 weeks.) It doesn't have to be super-new, but I'd prefer something newer than 2010 or so. I know I could get more bang for the buck with a desktop, but I need a laptop. I am probably going to use this sucker for years, so a good, reliable brand would be essential.

Here are a couple of laptops I've been looking at, to give you some ideas: 76?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1376276717&sr=1-76&keywords=laptop+ghz+2.5 30?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1376276171&sr=1-30&keywords=laptop+ghz+2.5

Anybody got any opinions? Suggestions? Anything?
posted by Ursula Hitler to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Having $200 tied to Amazon sucks, because physical stores like Best Buy and Staples have new sales all the time, cutting $100-$200 off of brand new laptops all the time. As it is, you could search Amazon for "x ghz laptop" and see what you find for various values. As for Shader version 3.0, you'll need something that supports Direct X 9.0c or better.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:38 PM on August 12, 2013

I am not the best person to make recommendations, but I will point out that Woot is having a laptop sale all week long. This won't do much if you have to use your Amazon gift cards, but if you can scare up some cash...
posted by Going To Maine at 7:31 PM on August 12, 2013

on the topic of processor speed: you need to consider what kind of processor it has in addition to the speed it runs at. if you're looking at, say, a 2.4GHz Celeron versus a 2.0GHz Core i3, the Core i3 will be a lot faster. the order these things go in (for Intel-based ones at least) is Celeron, Pentium, then Core series. Core i-series (i3, i5, i7) are newer and faster than the Core 2 series. so, of the two you've selected so far, the Dell is the quicker one. also consider cores - more is better though in your price range you're pretty much going to only see dual-core options. (also note that, for example, a Core i3 process does not have 3 cores. it has two.)
posted by mrg at 7:40 PM on August 12, 2013

I'm not much of a tech-head and I get confused about this stuff in a hurry... but basically I just want whatever is going to work, without slowing to a crawl. When the Muvizu people say you need 2.4 GHZ, does that seem like a hard and fast thing? Or could I get by with a bit less? Something I read said that most semi-modern laptops will have shader model 3 installed already. Is that so, or it yet another thing I'll have to look out for?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 8:23 PM on August 12, 2013

That Dell is going to be an absolute dog at this point and the Acer will be pretty terrible as well. Don't fixate on clock speeds of the CPU - different classes of CPU have very different performance even at the same clock speed (as a general rule, Intel chips will be much more efficient than AMD, and so on). You want nothing less than an i3 CPU (and you really want an i5).

If you can work out a deal to trade your Amazon certificates with someone for cash, your best bang for the buck is the Dell Outlet, particularly if you wait for a good sale. I got a 17" laptop with an i7 (top of the line CPU family) and 8GB of RAM) for $350 there earlier this year. The two specific models that are often available for ~$350 there that you should consider there are the Inspiron 15R and 17R.

If you need to go through Amazon, I'd suggest you bribe a computer savvy friend with a nice dinner or whatever to sit down and help you select something at the precise time you're ready to make a purchase. But unless you get really lucky with a Christmas sale, you're not going to find a _great_ deal there (or any of the box stores like Best Buy). Online is where the discounts are. Amazon's model doesn't line up with selling computers at great prices.
posted by Candleman at 5:03 AM on August 13, 2013

If I see a laptop that says it has 2.13 GHZ, that's more than 2.4, right? (I agree with Barbie: "Math is hard!")

Just as an aside, in case you didn't mean that sarcastically: 2.4 is greater than 2.13.

It goes like this: 2.10, 2.11, 2.12, 2.13, 2.14 ... 2.19, 2.20, 2.21 ... 2.39, 2.40. And you can drop or add as many trailing "0"s as you want, so 2.40 is the same as 2.4.

To your bigger point: the raw clock speed is a poor guide to the processing power of a CPU. CPUs execute instructions on every tick of their clock - a clock that ticks at 2.4 GHz will tick 2 billion 400 million times a second, while a 2.13 GHz clock ticks 2 billion 130 million times. But different CPUs do different amounts of processing in each tick. A 2.4 GHz Core 2 CPU is faster than a 2.2 GHz one, but a 2 GHz i5 will run rings around both of them on benchmarks.

I'm guessing that any modern CPU in the 2 GHz ballpark will be fine for you - you should look to maximize the amount of system memory and get a decent graphics card. (I know nothing about graphics cards, sorry.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:58 AM on August 13, 2013

Sorry folks, I had a Situation going on and was offline for a day or so. Thanks for the advice!

Just as an aside, in case you didn't mean that sarcastically: 2.4 is greater than 2.13.

I was not being sarcastic, and this kind of thing is why I freaking hate math. Oh, of COURSE 2.4 is greater than 2.13, because everybody knows 4 is more than 13!

F you, math.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:09 AM on August 14, 2013

Oh, Jesus. I just checked this thread to see if anybody had posted anything new, and realized I'd started it with a bit I cut-and-pasted from when I posted this same question on the TG Comics board. I am a flaming lame-o.

Anyway, I wanted to say thank you to everybody for the advice. I haven't purchased a new laptop yet, but I am very close to it.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:08 PM on August 28, 2013

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