Laptop purchase?
February 8, 2016 11:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to scope out a quality laptop that is available for purchase, but there are a few specifications that are causing complications. Special snowflake details inside.

This has to be a relatively futureproof purchase. This is Not for gaming. But it does need to handle programs that are huge and take a lot of resources to run. I need
  • 12gb or more of RAM
  • 256gb SSD or 1tb drive
  • I7 processor
  • Windows 7
I'm open to hearing about just how painless Windows 10 is, since I know that is a limiting factor. From what I have seen, I also would prefer to avoid these manufacturers:
  • Lenovo (the bloatware drama),
  • HP (general poor reputation for laptops only),
  • ASUS and ACER (good, but I need above this level),
  • Apple (unavoidable compatibility problems)
This limits me mostly to Dell, and likely their XPS or Latitude models. But I can't seem to find any with Windows 7 and 12 gb of ram. If you have any recommendations or insight, I'd love to hear it. If you have gigantic programs that you personally run on a laptop and you want to share your experiences, please do. Price is a factor, but if you're confident from personal experience the machine can handle Herculean tasks, I can figure that out. Thanks!
posted by cashman to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Aside from the mild irritation of things being moved around slightly (and I get around most of those issues on both Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012 by using Classic Shell), and some display issues that may or may not affect the things that are actually important to you, there's nothing hugely wrong with Windows 10.

I run SQL Server on mine and that's fine. (And it's a complete POS Lenovo Yoga - mine's the only one our company bought that hasn't [yet] developed horrible problems and been replaced several times before buying something else. I would totally buy a business-class Lenovo, because all manufacturers put bloatware on their shit, Lenovo just did it especially poorly. But the Yogas are awful.) I'm not running anything dramatic on SQL, but I don't ever turn the services off or anything, it's just there waiting for me to need it.

If you have a specific Herculean task you're thinking of, you may want to google that thing specifically with Windows 10 to make sure there's not specific issues, but it's been fine and stable in general.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:09 PM on February 8, 2016

I'd drop the Windows 7 requirement. Windows 8 was definitely a misstep, but Windows 10 is back on the right track. And the compatibility list should not be significantly different between the two. It might help to know what you are running and/or what makes you want Windows 7.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:12 PM on February 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Note that for Windows 7 next year support for most updates will be dropped on the newest processor architectures.
posted by XMLicious at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Love Windows 10, I bought a new Toshiba last July and immediately upgraded from 8 to 10, and cannot recommend it highly enough. No problems whatsoever (and I hate 8 with fiery passion).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:15 PM on February 8, 2016

I don't disagree with the posters above that you should consider dropping Win 7 as a requirement.

But if you want to stick with your original parameters, consider after-market upgrades to get you all the way there on stats. For example if you've looked at " XPS or Latitude models[,] But... can't seem to find any with Windows 7 and 12 gb of ram," and memory is REALLY the only missing item, just confirm that there is room on board and buy a $50 memory stick to upgrade it. For instance the Latitude 15 5000 series model that best meets your limitations only ships with 8GB of ram, but it appears to be upgradeable to at least 12 or even 16 (confirm before you buy, of course).

Also I would reconsider your Lenovo aversion. I think they really retrenched on the bloatware / spyware after they got so publicly smacked around about it. And Lenovos tend to be some of the most configurable laptops out there, in my experience.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 12:22 PM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: At work we've had the Dell XPS 13s and they're a really beautiful machine. I don't think you could go far wrong with the XPS 15 build that has 16 GB of RAM. Windows 10 really isn't that bad and it opens up a lot more options for hardware. We're mostly a Dell shop but we did try a couple of Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbons and I wouldn't buy them again. One had a motherboard failure and was in the shop for 2 weeks waiting for parts.

For my own work PC I use a Macbook Pro, which (at least for the mid-2015 generation) dual boots Windows 7 perfectly. I've pushed the hardware (i7, 16 GB RAM, 512GB SSD) hard and it's never had a hiccup. I know you mentioned compatibility concerns, but there are a few folks around here who run exclusively Windows 7 or 10 on Apple hardware and seem entirely happy with it. I would keep that option open if your budget will stretch that far.
posted by pocams at 12:25 PM on February 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

I've been pretty happy with my three year old Samsung Chronos (i7 quad core, 12 GB RAM, 500 GB SSD) but Samsung's notebook marketing seems to be dwindling.
posted by scruss at 12:32 PM on February 8, 2016

Apple (unavoidable compatibility problems)

You don't want to buy a Windows laptop before their expected March event, but for what it's worth, installing Windows on Apple hardware via Bootcamp is the most painless, jank-free installation of a windows machine that I've ever seen. You can get the specs you want in their Macbook Pro line.

I often say that I wish I could buy hardware fractionally as nice as Apple's anyone else, for any amount of money.
posted by mhoye at 12:55 PM on February 8, 2016

Get an x220, upgrade the ram to 2 8gb sticks, swap out the internal hard drive with an ssd and stick another ssd drive (msata) into the empty mini-pci slot. Then put in a usb3 port card into the smartcard slot. That's not a bad setup.
posted by I-baLL at 12:57 PM on February 8, 2016

I haven't had a new computer in ages, much less a Lenovo so can't speak about the bloatware, but here's a left field suggestion:

Vintage Thinkpad T410s/420s.

Win7, most come with that much RAM or is easily replaced, most come with the SSD and you can either have an optical drive or mount a 2.5" HD and get terrabytes of data storage onboard. i7 is an option on them. Unrivaled laptop keyboard. The Red Nipple. Build quality on the 410s was still decent.

Craigslist, Vancouver, saw a few for ~$300 CDN last night.

Might have to spring for a new battery, too, if you need to be unplugged.

(I used to own a T410s during the last half of my image-analysis heavy PhD, using it as the sole workhorse, and stupidly gave it away (had a X61s before that, to replace a C400). Saving up to get a used 420s, although the 430s's have ok reviews and are around $500-600 right now.)
posted by porpoise at 8:04 PM on February 8, 2016

AFAIK the Thinkpad line of laptops are fairly immune from Lenovo's issues. I have had at least a dozen Thinkpads over the years and have liked all of them, the Carbon X1 I am using currently is an impressive device, if expensive.
posted by Cosine at 9:00 PM on February 9, 2016

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