Help me pick a laptop!
October 25, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

my beloved macbook pro has died and the emergency replacement i bought (an hp) is the devil's own computer. i need a new laptop that will function in a few specific ways...

i am not really partial to brands (except for hp, which i now hate) but here's what i need the laptop to do:

-be able to handle multiple applications at once, including things like photoshop and vuze that routinely handle large files
-speed, speed, speed
-excellent touch pad: one where the cursor doesn't jump, hovering =/= a click, having to find the *perfect* spot on the pad to execute a click or selection
-preferably something without windows 8
-something incredibly user friendly - i.e., i don't need a lot of technical knowledge to install programs or do anything more than basic trouble shooting

any recommendations you can give are greatly appreciated!
posted by megan_magnolia to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Why not buy another MacBook Pro?
posted by demiurge at 7:48 AM on October 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

My beloved MBP-15 died right before a business trip, and I bought an emergency backup MBP-13 to take with me. I got the -15 fixed, and I'm typing on the -13 right now. If you like Macs (and I recognize that not everybody does) and can afford one, they're good machines (esp. compared to mid- and consumer-grade Windows laptops).
posted by spacewrench at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

something incredibly user friendly - i.e., i don't need a lot of technical knowledge to install programs or do anything more than basic trouble shooting
This has almost nothing to do with the computer and everything to do with the operating system. Since you're used to Mac, get one with as much ram as possible and an SSD.
posted by Sophont at 8:02 AM on October 25, 2014

Be sure to check the refurbished section at the Apple online store.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:54 AM on October 25, 2014

Yep, get another MBP. If money is an issue, check the refurbished section.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:55 AM on October 25, 2014

If you only need an emergency replacement for less than two weeks (while you get your old laptop repaired, say), you can buy a MacBook from the Apple Store and return it before the two week deadline, no questions asked and no restocking fee.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:59 AM on October 25, 2014

No specific suggestions, just an observation. If the HP you have can't handle large files, you almost certainly bought bottom-of-the-line. Most computer makers have rock-bottom machines that they sell very cheaply. They're intended for families with kids to keep them off mom and dad's good machines. It doesn't matter if you get a cheapie HP, Dell, Tosh, whatever, if you buy the cheapest thing at Walmart, it's going to perform badly. If you get a mid-range or better, that's where you find enough power and touchpads that function.
posted by sageleaf at 1:04 PM on October 25, 2014

If money's not an issue, without a doubt get a new MacBook Pro and max out the memory.

If money is an issue, look at the refurbished models, and maybe some used ones, and get a non-Retina MacBook Pro, and upgrade the RAM to its max. This will be much cheaper if you buy the RAM and install it yourself. You cannot alter the memory in a MacBook Air or a Retina MacBook Pro.
posted by WasabiFlux at 3:30 PM on October 25, 2014

You want speed, speed, speed, etc. Then get a laptop with an "i7" Intel CPU. Those are the fastest on common machines. I have a Lenovo Yoga2 with 3200x1800 screen resolution, i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, and I love it. I first bought a Toshiba and returned it for multiple problems. Look for laptops that say "Ultrabook" and have Intel i7, at least 8gb memory.
posted by nogero at 3:42 PM on October 25, 2014

-excellent touch pad: one where the cursor doesn't jump, hovering =/= a click, having to find the *perfect* spot on the pad to execute a click or selection

On this point alone, buy a mac. Every time someone or some company has tried to lure me to another machine with claims the trackpad is decent, it's been a dirty freaking lie. No one can make a good touchpad anymore except for apple. They're either fake buttonless mac trackpads, tiny, or decent sized but constantly trying to do stupid gesture control stuff and with terrible buttons. And 99% of them are just bad apple clones with the gesture problem now.

From what you've described, you want the machine i own. Buy this and forget any of this was ever a problem. If you can swing it, get this version which while it costs as much as a brand new machine, includes both 16gb of ram and a 512gb SSD.

To elaborate on why you want the(pricy) 15in model for what you're going to do, let me explain intel processors in the modern age.

See, intel is like that nerdy kid who is amazing at drawing robots in the back of class, but comes up with awful names for them like "KillDestructinator 2000 GT-R". They sell, for no legitimate reason, both a four core and two core i7 CPU in laptops. In desktops they only sell quad core i5 and i7 cpus, but in laptops it's just some specially adorned i7 models. There's no way to tell other than googling the model number, in a lot of machines.

The i7-equipped macbook air and 13in macbook pro have dual core CPUs, the 15in has a quad core.

I've had lots of laptops from lots of manufacturers, and yea, i REALLY hate everything HP makes. It's all garbage. The thing is though, i've had a lot of good machines. Even very good machines, like thinkpads. The newer macbook pro is a great machine. It weighs as much as a lot of 13in laptops, the display is amazing, it has ample power to do anything in photoshop, premier, ableton live, or any other pro app you throw at it. The battery lasts forever. It's silent(even compared to comparably priced Real Pro Machines like T or W thinkpads with the high res displays, or a dell precision 3800, or whatever).

I seriously can't come up with a single bad thing to say about it, and it just knocks the hell out anything like what you described wanting to do.

And seriously, the trackpad is great. You also get stuff by default you usually have to pay to upgrade to on other machines. SSD? you can't buy one without a decent sized one. quad core? ditto. high res display? there isn't a model without one. etc. Even if you get the most basic refurb model i linked, you will not be unhappy. The only reason i even linked the other one is that i sometimes regret not getting 16gb of ram just because you can't upgrade later. I haven't run out of ram doing anything yet, but if you plan on power multitasking you could. I'm a monotasker, or i completely lose focus so the base model is perfect for me. Two Big Apps though could easily eat 8gb if you're working with big content.

If you shop around, you'll notice that once you upgrade say a lenovo t540p to have the 3k display, 256gb ssd, quad core, 8gb of ram, real graphics card, and some other bits you're at $2000 anyways. And you can't even get out the door for under $2200 with a precision 3800 with remotely similar specs, and it would still need some upgrades to compete. Also worth noting that both of those machines are really chunky and plasticy compared to the macbook, with way crappier battery life and crappy trackpads.

The apple tax is sort of dead on these kinds of machines. Apple might charge too much for certain upgrades, but lenovo wanted like $400 for 16gb of ram too. That $2000 refurb is a *really* good deal for what you get. It even comes with the 750m graphics card, which will let you do anything GPU accelerated(including many actions in photoshop) or even gaming rather fluidly. I've run everything from big files HD video editing to modern games on mine, and it just rolls right over everything. Hell, in some games like starcraft 2 i can turn everything up to the absolute max and it just looks beautiful. Then i can quit and go get some work done or even just screw around and it's all really fast.

Basically what i'm saying is there's no real argument for not just buying another mac. Apple might be faltering a bit with the phones and makes some weird decisions with ipads, but they're still making totally solid macs.

Alternatively, if you think you really don't need a quad core or powerful graphics, and just want overall speed... check out this. A lot less cash, and barring CPU bound tasks(ie applying a lot of macrod stuff in photoshop, big transforms, big layer mask stuff and filters), a lot of what makes stuff feel slow is lack of ram, and hard drives. That one still gives you a decent amount of ram and a fast PCI-E SSD(which close to no one else is offering, still). A 1000mbps main drive makes everything feel faster. You pretty much get the essentials of what makes the big one awesome for a lot less money.

I really think for what you described wanting to do, and being frustrated with, you want the big one like i have. But if budget is your primary concern, i think it you'd be hard pressed and would have to have some technical knowledge and be willing to swap out a lot of components on something else to get anything remotely as satisfying as a 13in retina macbook pro for that much or less.

Because yea, there is a third option here of "find a couple year old W series thinkpad with the quad core and IPS screen, add a bunch of ram and an SSD", but that's fiddly and still won't be that cheap.
posted by emptythought at 12:28 AM on October 26, 2014

« Older First Date Strategizing   |   How to remove the cartridge from a Glacier Bay... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.