Laptop choice (w/ laptop buyer FAQ) - overwhelmed by Black Friday, CyberMonday

1. What is your budget?

A: $500 -$800, prefer under $700 unless the additional $ buys a real leap up. If that is the case, would even stretch a little farther.

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

A: 14 or 15", but even larger would be OK if not too heavy.

3. What screen resolution do you want?

A: Don't have a technical spec, but am not a gamer, do lots of word doc editing and some work in excel, am well into middle age, so crisp visual is important.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

A: Portable, if I understand the question. Will use mostly when traveling or at home -- will not be primary work computer. Relatively lightweight is great as my shoulders and back have not appreciated my current brick of a laptop.

5. How much battery life do you need? A: At least one domestic plane flight -- 3-5 hours?

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?

A: No games. So boring ;-)

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)

A: Reliable, speedy connectivity is important for remote access to desktop from court, conferences, etc. Will also want to stream Youtube video trainings, and for personal use, watch films.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?

A: Since this computer is mostly for travel, I'm not too concerned about a big hard drive . I have an external hard drive.

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.

A: Have mostly been using websites that are collecting and evaluating Black Friday "deals," and linking to store and company sites.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?

A: I run a small non-profit, so no budget for luxury. I usually keep them till they die.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?

A: Ideally would like DVD R/W, could give that up.

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.

Lenovo -- highly recommend by other attorneys, but they are talking Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is at least $300 over my budget. I'm not sure which Lenovo products that I can buy within my budget (if any) I should consider.

Dell -- good reputation as solid business laptops, but have heard their customer support is terrible.

HP -- ?

All three are offering many deals right now, but I find it hard to understand differences in features & configurations and what would be of real use to me.

13. What country do you live in? USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
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  1. Best answer
    Based on what you plan on doing here are some inexpensive options:

    15.6" Toshiba Satellite C55-A5302 with a dual core Pentium 2020M 2.4GHz CPU (Sandy Bridge generation) and 1366x768 resolution screen for $300. It is 5.3lbs. This laptop to fit your basic needs. The Pentium CPU used to be the mainstream and high end Intel CPU from years long past. Now the name is used for value oriented CPUs. The Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs represents Intel's mainstream / high end CPU brand. The main difference between a dual core Pentium and the dual core Core i3 is that the i3 has Hyper Threading (HT) which can improve performance as long as the program is designed to use HT. It creates a virtual core for each physical core so the Core i3 CPU is kind of like a 4 core CPU, but not really. For what you plan on doing HT is not going to have much of an impact on performance.

    17.3" HP Pavilion 17-e016dx has a quad core AMD A8-5550M 2.1GHz (3.1GHz Turbo Core) and a 1600x900 resolution screen. However, it is 6lbs. AMD CPUs are generally not as powerful as Intel CPUs because each AMD CPU core process less instructions every 100MHz compared to each Intel CPU core. However, the higher clock speed makes up for that difference and having two more cores can also help improve overall performance. Turbo Core can increase the clockspeed to 3.1GHz if only one core is being used and the CPU temp is not too high. When more cores are used the max clockspeed will be lower than 3.1GHz. The 17.3" 1600x900 resolution screen should make everything easy to see and due to the larger desktop resolution it can allow you to be better at multitasking if you tend to have many programs / windows open and displayed on the screen at once.

    Unfortunately, the integrated graphics core is powerful enough to play really boring games that are not too graphics intensive. :) And of course there is also the weight of 6lbs. But for $400 it is a pretty good bargain.

    The 15.6" Lenovo's Z510 series offers pretty good performance for the price and decent weight; starting at 4.9lbs. The models sold directly from Lenovo's ranges from $444 to $780 and at least at this moment in time you cannot customize any of them. I would avoid the $444 which has a Celeron CPU and focus on the others. I recommend going for the model with either the i5 or the i7 CPU (both are dual core). Both the i5/i7 CPUs have Turbo Boost which can overclock the speed of the CPU as long as the CPUs are not running too hot. The Core i3 lacks this feature and the price difference between the i3 and i5 versions is only $24. Personally, I would choose the i7 version which comes with a 1920x1080 resolution screen since I multitask a lot. However, text will be rather small so it's best to actually look a 15.6" laptop which has a 1920x1080 resolution screen to determine if text would appear too small. Perhaps go to a store, or maybe a friend / colleague has one you can check out. A substitute would be a 14" laptop with a 1600x900 resolution screen which I think would be comparable.

    My current laptop is a 2 year old 14" Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 with a 1366x768 resolution screen. While it's pretty good for playing games, the low resolution limits my productivity which why I am likely going to buy a new laptop next year with a 1920x1080 resolution screen. Perhaps the 15.6" Lenovo ThinkPad T540p.

    For something light (just under 4lbs), there's the Lenovo S431 ultrabook for under $600. The down side is the screen is only 1366x768. At least it's cheaper than the Carbon X1.

    There is also Lenovo's ThinkPad L series which is the economical version of the premium ThinkPad T series. The ThinkPad L440 (14", 4.9lbs) and L540 (15.6", 5.4lbs) both start at around $600. Unfortunately, it seems Lenovo decided to remove the customization feature due to the holiday season since customizing takes time and can delay shipments. That means you cannot choose a 1600x900 resolution screen for the L440 right now and you cannot customize the L540 with either a 1600x900 or 1920x1080 resolution screen.

    Perhaps the options to configure Lenovo laptops will come back after the Black Friday / Cyber Monday frenzy. If I was looking at buying a laptop right now I would be really pissed off at Lenovo.
  2. Hmmm... it seems Lenovo has been updating their site since they added more Z510 laptop models (no customization) and brought back the ability to customize some of their other laptops...
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