Recommendations for a new notebook?
August 10, 2004 4:00 PM   Subscribe

I've got US $1200 to spend on a new notebook. I'm not a gamer; just a college student who surfs the web, watches movies, listens to music, and does some programming. Care to point me in the right direction?
posted by Scottk to Shopping (6 answers total)
First, check to see what your school offers in the way of educational discounts, and if there are any, let us know what your options are on that menu. The discounts at my university-affiliated workplace are unbelievable, and significantly tilt the table towards some options that I wouldn't have considered otherwise.
posted by delfuego at 4:13 PM on August 10, 2004

Apple Store for Education. Get yourself an iBook.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:18 PM on August 10, 2004

Response by poster: My institution's got nothing for discounts, other than on Macs, as nathan notes.

I'm just trying to steer away from macs. Nothing against them, I just feel more comfortable with my windows based software and whatnot.
posted by Scottk at 4:36 PM on August 10, 2004

Get a Toshiba with a DVD drive and 512M RAM and you'll be all set. I got mine for about $1250 in January, dropped it a few times, and it still works perfectly.
posted by cmonkey at 4:59 PM on August 10, 2004

Keep your eyes open for custom build Laptops. They are relatively cheaper with higher build quality. The money you can save could go to another 20GB of space or 1GB of system RAM, maybe even an extra battery.

Make sure the warranty is good. Common knowledge: Extended warranty for your laptop is as important as the laptop itself.
posted by Keyser Soze at 7:03 PM on August 10, 2004

If you're not after a Mac, although you can get some pretty fair deals on refurbished Mac laptops that are a year or two old, I'd suggest casting around for a used IBM Thinkpad or, believe it or not, Gateway Solo. A two or three year old Thinkpad is more than enough to do what you want; certain old models of the Gateway Solo (the 9300, for example, which is closer to "ancient" than "old") are almost indestructible, as are most Thinkpads. I've got a Solo 9300 that has outlasted every other piece of hardware in the house and it is still a great movie/music/web/development machine. Batteries are a little hard to come by, but with the second battery I can easily get 3.5 hours of run time from it, even using the burner or DVD player.

Some folks seem to like Toshibas, but I've never been fond of the hardware itself or their mysterious driver problems. For similar reasons, as well as the fact that they have a high failure rate, I'd suggest avoiding Sony laptops.

I used to suggest Dell Latitudes for the kind of use you're planning to put the machine to, but apart from a few too-old models (like the CPiA 400XT), the build quality is so bad that they begin to disintegrate inside a year of heavy use. Dells are also notorious for failing batteries and having lots of annoying keyboard problems. I've gone through a couple of Dells and 5 or 6 laptop keyboards, even after cracking the machines open and making physical modifications to reduce some of the problems.

I'd steer clear of buying new hardware. You don't need anything even close to the kind of hardware that's being sold today. The 3D hardware, surround sound, ridiculously fast processors, video inputs, all that crap will be wasted on an everyday browser/editor machine.

Don't spend more than $1000, or you're likely to be throwing a lot of your money away. You just need a nice portable box with a big hard drive and a reasonable amount of memory.
posted by majick at 8:27 PM on August 10, 2004

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