Decide what laptop is best for me!
July 20, 2007 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I am seriously considering getting a laptop. Basic requirements are that it have a 15-inch screen, 2GBs of RAM and Windows Vista Home Premium. I've done a fair bit of research, but am finding it hard to come to a final decision. So now I turn to you, wise MeFi'ites. Can you help?

For various reasons, Apple machines aren't an option. I've decided to take the Vista plunge as it has some nice photo editing options I'd like - I'm a current XP user and I want to move on from it. Budget is under €1500.

I am extremely tempted by either the VGN-N31Z/W or the more expensive, slightly less pretty, but better featured VGN-FZ11L. Can anyone give me their thoughts on these two models?

Also, has anyone got any non Sony suggestions?

Acer are my second choice of machine...but I've not been able to play with the ones I'm interested in, only read about them online. I have played with a large 20-inch screen Acer, which was lovely, but are far too large for my liking and beyond my budget. What are the smaller ones like?

I'm not that interested in Dell, I have used some of their newer machines and I'm not all that impressed - they feel sort of clunky when I sit down and use them. The one XPS model I do like has a smaller screen than I want.

Help me make my mind up!
posted by tomcosgrave to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I've looked on Notebookreview first in the past whenever I needed a new laptop. Simply because the reviews are written by real users, who also tell how their machine holds up after some use.
posted by ijsbrand at 9:48 AM on July 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Vaios are also notorious for a lot of proprietary software, so you'd probably be better off with the Acers anyway. I recently had to eval a Vaio here, and it required software to make the DVD eject button functional for pete's sake.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:25 AM on July 20, 2007

I have a two-year old 15" Acer Ferrari, and for the most part was pretty happy with it (my wife is using it now, as my program purchased a MacBook Pro for me). It's a pretty solid machine, a bit heavy but not too bad, built-in readers for most digital camera media. Newer revision has a built-in camera. Great wireless reception - no problems even with fairly weak signals.

Some caveats: The screen isn't especially bright; not sure if they've improved this on newer models. Even when plugged in to power I used to shut off the lights in the office to make it easier to see.

More importantly, Photoshop runs like shit on the Acer. I think it's a display issue, some problem with the ATI video card (or perhaps the AMD processor) but for whatever reason CS1 refuses to update the screen unless I move or resize the image, and the CS2 trial I installed added in the fun of disabling every keyboard shortcut in the program. Damnedest thing is that Google showed me plenty of other people had the same issue on similar machines (there's at least one AskMe on this) - not all Acers, and no common thread I saw in hardware - but Adobe refuses to mention the issue on their website, choosing instead to pretend it doesn't exist.

Acer makes machines with Intel / nVidia. I'd lean that way if you're going to be running Photoshop for images. Plus, after the whole rootkit thing, I'd rather not give Sony any of my money if I can avoid it.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:52 AM on July 20, 2007

NOT Toshiba. That is all I have to say.
posted by Xere at 12:49 PM on July 20, 2007

I've (my GF, rather) got a Vaio. It's nice, and she's very happy with it. There was lots of crapware to uninstall, and frankly for the price, she could have gotten a better equipped Dell. But, it's pink, and that's what she wanted, and so whatever. Like I said, she's happy with it.

For a non Sony recommendation, I'd recommend a Dell. In my job(s), I purchase 7-10 laptops per year for various reasons, and Dell pretty consistently has the best price.

But, other deals can be had - Acer, Gateway, and Toshiba also make pretty decent, affordable laptops. I haven't had a terrible experience in years. Service has always been good to me, but I am familiar with the horror stories.

I've got a Gateway CX210 that I really like - but that's a tablet and you didn't mention wanting writing capability.

Point is, laptops are almost to the point that they are like appliances now. Find one you like that fits in your budget. I highly recommend an extended/accident warranty no matter what you choose.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:36 PM on July 20, 2007

If you are going to be a casual user of the laptop for basic Office/internet tasks, I would recommend going with cheap and replacing it more often. I usually suggest whatever is cheap (as in sub $700) from CostCo/Sam's Club.

To people that will be more demanding, I look at Thinkpad's and nothing else. No crappy trials come on the systems. Great included utilities to access the special hardware features. Great system update utility to keep drivers and such updated. Solid laptops. Awesome keyboards. Trackpoints. Great support.

If you want to be more demanding but wish cheap, wait for one of the good sales at Dell and get a Latitude (and spring for the two year NBD support).

I would absolutely not buy a Sony. Of the dozen I have dealt with, I have encountered crappy utility software, poor customer service, poor warranty coverage, poor documentation on older laptops on their website, removal of drivers for older equipment from their support site, and painful to upgrade hard drives (the last two I did considered the hard drive to be a factory serviceable part only).
posted by fief at 2:14 PM on July 20, 2007

There's nothing wrong with the VAIOs but they all seem to have 100 to 200 USD premium for absolutely nothing. Might be worth it if you like the look and feel.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:32 PM on July 20, 2007

You never really know what you want in your first laptop until you've owned your second laptop.
posted by rsclark at 4:44 PM on July 20, 2007

The easy way to decide on a laptop first requires that you get one that is also a convertible tablet-PC. (You'll use it as a standard laptop, but enjoy having something better than a mouse or fingerpad, and the added options for use just make for a better machine than the older style of laptop)

Now, once you've decided to get a laptop with tablet functionality built in, the other advantage kicks in - it cuts out most of the laptops you could spend forever humming and harring over, instantly cutting the market down into a short list of a few top-notch models, from which it is easy to find the one that best suits you.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2007

Just to let you all know that I went with a Sony VAIO FZ11L - lovely machine to use so far, a friend working in the retail business was able to get me a decent reduction in the price, which helped to persuade me!

Thanks for you help!
posted by tomcosgrave at 2:06 AM on July 23, 2007

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