how to get a good laptop??
April 26, 2016 11:10 AM   Subscribe

i am student and need a better laptop for my thesis. my field is computer engineering and i work with laptop for programming. i want to bye a new laptop that has a good speed and the money that i want to pay for that is about 800$. please help me to choose the best one
posted by msmryh to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
Either the Dell or Lenovo outlets will offer the best bang for the buck. Look for something with 16GB of RAM and an i7. The Dell site generally has something on special for 30-40% off the list refurb price, so make sure you look for those deals.
posted by Candleman at 11:14 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

You should run the numbers but I think the best value could be a slightly older thinkpad or asus then max out memory and add a the largest SSD that fits your budget. Look for one with an nvidia gpu. Double check reviews on recent thinkpads. CPU power has not been growing as fast the last few years, but memory and the SSD are huge boosts.
posted by sammyo at 11:20 AM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: i7 (not a "u" version), 16GB or more of RAM, a 256GB or larger SSD. Onboard GPU of some sort (it will be shown as Nvidia something or other in the specs) is helpful, but not as critical. Also, backlit keyboard is often overlooked, but amazing if you ever use it in darker situations.

1080p resolution is, IMO, the ideal resolution for 14-17" screens. Many 1440 or QHD screens give me headaches.

Asus, Lenovo, Dell (XPS, Alienware, or Latitude ONLY!), and some Acers. Don't go off-brand or get HP.

As mentioned above, Dell and Lenovo outlets are the only way to go.

Dell is currently having an amazing 35% off sale on their outlet. See here:
posted by lattiboy at 11:33 AM on April 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think it all depends on what you mean by "programming". For my CS master's program, nearly all the compilation I did was on the school's Linux cluster, so I could have got by with something really, really cheap.

If you're just writing code, you don't need that much space. If you're not compiling much, you don't need a huge processor. If you're doing anything with graphics, particularly 3D graphics, you'll need more space and a faster processor, and maybe a discrete graphics card.

You also didn't specify what OS you're working in. If *nix, Macs make great dev machines, but it'd be hard to find one for $800. Dell also makes Developer Edition laptops that come without Windows. And, Windows 10 will be shipping with a bash shell soon.

I'd say look for a ThinkPad or Dell XPS with i5, 256GB SSD (really, a SSD is my #1 requirement for you), and at least 8GB of memory. More of anything is nice (I'd prioritize as memory, then processor, then graphics, then HD size) but those are the minimums. I know a lot of people like Acer and Asus, but Lenovos and Dells have been, in my experience, more reliable.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 12:06 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best Buy has a rack of stuff that the boxes were opened, then closed. Sometimes they are really cheap. Best buy has to match any sale you can come up with. So I bought a monitor, I didn't get a laptop, but I probably will. The monitor was on sale for a couple of days after I bought mine, they returned me the extra 108 dollars. I like doing business with them, and they have a lot of different merchandise.
posted by Oyéah at 12:50 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have no idea why people are suggesting an i7 for programming - are you doing something very compute-intensive? If not, get an i5.
posted by gorcha at 2:19 PM on April 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

I have no idea why people are suggesting an i7 for programming

In part because better classes of machines have i7s, so it's an easy way to help cut down the number of models under consideration.

And in part because they tend to offer about 15% better performance, which if you're compiling even moderately sized code will add up to quite a bit of saved time after a while. They better allow for running virtual machines for test environments. And the extra horsepower makes running IDEs that automatically detect errors in real time easier. I know that "real" programmers use vim but I've spent an awful lot of time cleaning up messes caused by vim programmers that let typos slip through to production that IntelliSense or similar software would have caught.
posted by Candleman at 2:49 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Consider at least looking at your school bookstore. The discounts there can often beat the discounts by going through an outlet, and you are less likely to accidentally get a piece of junk--they probably sell a model aimed at CS majors. The standard Apple education discount is $200, which may put some Macs in your reach if you do need Unix, especially if your bookstore is offering other discounts.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:57 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

System76 Lemur
posted by lunastellasol at 5:06 PM on April 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

I assume you're comfortable with Linux? Then the system76 brand linked above is perfect. Apparently they have decent support, too.
posted by deathpanels at 5:27 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some detail on what you will be doing with the computer would be helpful.

I'm in a mathematics degree, and use my laptop for some coding and much looking stuff up on the internet. This entails two main things:

- Much scripting and internet work is comparatively processor-light compared to games. If I needed to do some serious number crunching I'd probably get a desktop - it's not worth paying for heavy processor power on a laptop. What I want is a quick interface.
- Ease of use becomes very important if I'm scripting for long periods, however. I want it to be light to be able to take it with me to script and write on the train, and have a long-lasting battery for the same reason. Ergonomics become very important too - a bright display and a comfortable keyboard.

My advice is to look at the lightest and most comfortable laptop in your price point. If you're willing to spend $800, most things you get will be perfectly satisfactory in terms of processing power. Get an SSD if you can, too; you'll have less storage space, but if it's primarily a coding laptop you won't be storing a million movies, and the difference in startup time is phenomenal.
posted by solarion at 9:49 PM on April 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would recommend you consider getting a used high-end business laptop that's about four years old. (I've had really good experiences with T-series Thinkpads.) This one looks pretty good, for example.

They tend to be well-built, very high-performance for their time and with lots of bells and whistles. They're also going to be durable and repairable because business travelers want a reliable computer that can take the abuse. They can also cost you much less than $800 so you can save the rest in case it's lost, stolen or damaged.

This is a pretty good time to buy a used laptop. They still lose their value very quickly but performance gains have slowed down a lot and 2012's top-of-the-line will still be pretty quick by today's standards. And anyway, programming is not a CPU-intensive activity. As long as your editor and compiler are adequately fast, you're fine.

(Apple is the exception to this rule; they hold their value for stupidly long periods of time. Don't buy a used Macbook; just get one new or refurbished from Apple.)
posted by suetanvil at 8:52 AM on April 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

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