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Novice mom needs help/advice on USA purchase of laptop for college/light gaming

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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January 11, 2014 6:47:31 PM

Need to replace my daughter’s dead laptop. My son referred me to this site and I’ve been looking for a few days (forums/articles), now just SO confused.

Chief complaint on past laptops: very slow and laggy, battery life and problems.
Must haves: optical drive, webcam/mic, smooth surfing, storage, decent life expectancy, light gaming.

I've answered the suggested questions. Here they are:

budget? Prefer abt $600-700, but if absolutely necessary: $900

size? 15.6. Prior laptop was too small at 14”. Using a 17.3 now and although a bit big, is preferred to 14”.

screen resolution? All have been 1366x768 and that has been adequate

portable or desktop replacement laptop? Some portability, used for school and trips home.

battery life? As much as possible. Battery life has been a huge issue in past.

games? ? Some gaming, but mostly browswer-based. Ideally capable of playing future games smoothly on low settings -

tasks? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.) Research, school work and online classes, watch movies, videos, music, social networks, store photos, documents, presentations, some gaming

storage (Hard Drive)? Lots! Ran out of space on last computer, which was 500gb. Prefer convenience of all info stored on one drive, rather than have to carry a 2nd external hd, or cloud compute.

time to keep your laptop? Hopefully 3-4 years.

Optical? Bluray not necessary, but DVD optical reader/writer IS important to avoid carrying around another external item.

brands you prefer to buy and brands you don't like and explain. Have limited information: HP was past 2 laptops, both SLOW and laggy, only lasted about 1.2 & 1.5 years, and power cord/power supply on both HPs was always a problem (eventually it became impossible to charge unless in a very specific position, until finally not able to charge ever). PC s have all been home built by older brothers.

additional info: NEED input on which brands are best. Have been considering Dell, Toshiba, possibly Lenovo.

Questions:
Why are lenovo’s so recommended here? I don’t understand this because their ratings on Amazon, Newegg, etc. are typically low. Yet, here it seems advisors always suggest Lenovos.

Feedback on Toshiba/Dell/Lenovo/Acer/Asus etc. Which brands are more suited to long life/durability? Which brands are more prone to problems?

Please suggest any laptop that you think might be adequate and best VFM. If you could provide links that would be extremely helpful.
a b 4 Gaming
January 11, 2014 6:59:22 PM

While I cannot recommend a laptop for you (personally I'm a desktop guy.....lol), I will try and answer your questions:

1. Sites based on consumer feedback such as Newegg, Amazon, etc. are not all that reliable and should be taken with a grain of salt. Instead, for more trustworthy evaluations of computer products, hardware review sites such as here, Anandtech, Daily Hardware, etc. are used for many of us to provide recommendations that we give.

2. As to long-life and durability, that will vary from manufacturer model to manufacturer model. Reading the consumer feedback sites can give some indication of reliability and in some cases allow you to see how various manufacturer's customer support responds, but most hardware review sites articles will give a general overview of the reliability/customer service aspects as either a part of their article or include them in their pros/cons bullet points.

Sorry I could not be of more assistance :( 
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a b 4 Gaming
January 11, 2014 7:11:50 PM

I won't recommend a particular one, because at a particular price point, there really isn't a lot of difference.

But....
Size. If this is going to be a mobile device, a 17" is a bitch to haul around. My son started off college with a 17", and quickly got tired of carrying it around. Agreed that a 14" is too small. So the ones in the middle 15.6"

Be wary of reviews at Amazon, etc. 1/2 the positive ones are shills, and 1/2 of the negative ones are mere shipping problems or user error.

Brands? Any and all of those you listed will work.
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Related resources
January 11, 2014 7:25:05 PM

USAFRet said:
I won't recommend a particular one, because at a particular price point, there really isn't a lot of difference.

But....
Size. If this is going to be a mobile device, a 17" is a bitch to haul around. My son started off college with a 17", and quickly got tired of carrying it around. Agreed that a 14" is too small. So the ones in the middle 15.6"

Be wary of reviews at Amazon, etc. 1/2 the positive ones are shills, and 1/2 of the negative ones are mere shipping problems or user error.

Brands? Any and all of those you listed will work.


Thanks for taking a look. I kind of feel honored that you replied :)  As I've said, been looking here for three days and I noticed your personal "specs" - lol. Although you've been answering questions here since only March, you've provided help on over 10,000 topics (if I've learned to interpret this info right). Really is great that you've helped so many people. Thank you for that service, too.
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January 11, 2014 7:37:01 PM

It's the general consensus that Lenovo laptops have the best keyboards, probably since they acquired IBM's computer division (which is really great for school/productivity or just getting your wpm up xD).
I've personally owned two Lenovo laptops (a higher-end Thinkpad X200 from 2007 and a lower-end G600 from 2009) and both still work great today except for some mild heating issues that make it uncomfortable for prolonged use in your lap. I would definitely recommend them for a student.
From my personal experience, most Lenovos, especially the portable ones, have integrated graphics (which means they don't have a dedicated video card), which is fine for everyday use and "light" browser-based gaming, but your son might be disappointed by the graphics performance down the road. Another problem is that Lenovos tend to come with a shit-ton of bloatware, but you can always uninstall that later.
Over my life I've owned computers from Dell, HP, Toshiba, Asus, and Lenovo.
I'd say Lenovo is the best brand by far and Toshiba the worst (I had a Toshiba Satellite fail on me because of a faulty power supply after only 1 year). Dell and Asus fall in the middle, but I've only ever owned an old Dell desktop from the early 2000s and I've heard that they've turned their reliability/quality control around big-time. My impression is that Acer makes more budget-oriented stuff, which might not be bad for your purposes at all.

Laptop Mag's Notebook Brand Showdown 2013:
http://blog.laptopmag.com/best-worst-notebook-brands-20...
They graded each major brand out of 100 points, factoring in thorough reviews of every laptop they have released in the past year + called up each to test customer service.
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January 11, 2014 7:56:22 PM

momof3js said:
USAFRet said:
I won't recommend a particular one, because at a particular price point, there really isn't a lot of difference.

But....
Size. If this is going to be a mobile device, a 17" is a bitch to haul around. My son started off college with a 17", and quickly got tired of carrying it around. Agreed that a 14" is too small. So the ones in the middle 15.6"

Be wary of reviews at Amazon, etc. 1/2 the positive ones are shills, and 1/2 of the negative ones are mere shipping problems or user error.

Brands? Any and all of those you listed will work.


Thanks for taking a look. I kind of feel honored that you replied :)  As I've said, been looking here for three days and I noticed your personal "specs" - lol. Although you've been answering questions here since only March, you've provided help on over 10,000 topics (if I've learned to interpret this info right). Really is great that you've helped so many people. Thank you for that service, too.


10,000+ responses. Yeah, I have no life...lol
And you're welcome. I would do it again.

I've had good and bad experiences with most of the major laptop brands. Dell/Sony/HP/Toshiba/etc

The HP I have here from work is easily the loudest PC in the room. Other HPs are fine.
1 Toshiba died in 90 days. Another Toshiba is going strong after 4 years.
I have a 16+ year old Dell that still creaks to life when asked.
A Sony VAIO (only dropped twice!) still runs strong.

Look to the feature set and specs at your particular price point.
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January 11, 2014 8:10:50 PM

For a $700 15" you should be getting at least
CPU: 3rd or 4th gen (Ivy bridge) i5
Look for computers that come with the "U" version, which means it uses ultra-low voltage and thus may have better battery life but also slower cpu clock speed.
HDD: at least 500gb @ 7200 rpm. The rpm refers to how fast the physical hard drive disk is spinning. A higher number means faster performance. The other popular speed is 5000-some rpm, which from my experiences feels WAY slower than 7200 rpm and makes the computer feel sluggish.
The other option for a hard-drive is "solid state drives," which completely blow any conventional hard drive out of the water in terms of speed but generally come in smaller sizes and are much more expensive. Getting a solid state drive should solve your "sluggishness" problem, since most "sluggishness" in day-to-day tasks is caused by either the hard drive being slow or RAM being not enough.
GPU: this is the grey area. Laptops that come with discrete GPUs (the better ones that can handle full-blown games) usually have tradeoffs like worse CPUs or HDDs to keep the cost low. Also, if a laptop does have a discrete GPU, pay attention to what specific model it is. A lot of mobile discrete GPUs are actually worse than the Intel integrated graphics (*cough* geforce 610m *cough*). All laptop graphics cards are really crappy from a hardcore gamer's perspective, but anything really should be fine for stuff in the browser. In general, if you're getting a good discrete graphics card with anything better than a 3rd gen core i5, then that is a pretty good deal.
RAM: at least 4gb is fine

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Anonymous
January 11, 2014 8:50:33 PM

Animal is totally right, customer reviews are awful ways to gauge how good a laptop is. Professional reviews/YouTube is the best way to go for quality judgment.

I would highly recommend Dell's Inspiron 15 7000. It has about 8 hours of battery and a 1080p screen, and I don't think in 2014 people should be settling for anything less than that. It also comes with a 1TB hard drive. Dell has a bad rap for quality control, but that's for the low-end models; higher end models are generally very reliable. It's pressing your budget at $850 with the coupon code WD0RTDJWM4QC1F, though.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-15-7537/pd?oc=fncwb56...


If you would really like something less expensive, Sony's VAIO Flip series is also very good for the price (1080p, 7.5 hour battery, about $750 with the 10% student discount), but it does not come with an optical drive. CDs are becoming increasingly uncommon with digital distribution on the rise, so you might want to consider this option. The reason I avoid the Fit line which has a CD drive is a miserable 3-hour battery. I personally have had a VAIO for two years now and I love it.

http://store.sony.com/gsi/webstore/WFS/SNYNA-SNYUS-Site...
I'd customize it with a 1GB video card and the 750GB HDD, putting it just over $800.


The $600-$700 range for laptops is always iffy for all manufacturers. At that point, I would drop my expectations and go for a $350-$400 machine that I could replace in two years for something better or throw in an extra $100-$150 for much better options.
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January 11, 2014 8:58:34 PM

Anonymous said:

If you would really like something less expensive, Sony's VAIO Flip series is also very good for the price (1080p, 7.5 hour battery, about $750 with the 10% student discount), but it does not come with an optical drive. CDs are becoming increasingly uncommon with digital distribution on the rise, so you might want to consider this option. The reason I avoid the Fit line which has a CD drive is a miserable 3-hour battery. I personally have had a VAIO for two years now and I love it.

http://store.sony.com/gsi/webstore/WFS/SNYNA-SNYUS-Site...
I'd customize it with a 1GB video card and the 750GB HDD, putting it just over $800.


Imho the VAIO isn't the best choice since the $800 version only comes with a Core i3 processor.
It also has a touchscreen, which I find really clunky and unnecessary on laptops. I'd rather save $50-100 and get a different computer w/o the touchscreen, but it's really just personal preference.
The VAIO line is pretty much Sony's direct competitor to Lenovo's Thinkpad line. Both are pretty decent but the Thinkpads tend to be more reliable.
The Thinkpads, VAIOs, and Inspirons are targeted more towards corporate professionals (think portability, sleek design, high cost) and are great for students too but aren't good budget choices.

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Anonymous
January 11, 2014 10:33:33 PM

For a college student who won't be playing the most recent AAA games, I can't think of a situation where a fourth-generation i3 wouldn't be adequate. The main reason I recommended the VAIO is because it has one of the best screens in its price range. I would definitely recommend any sub-$750 laptop that had a 15" 1080p IPS display, but I cannot find any besides this one.

That said, I would still push for the $850 Dell. The battery life is phenomenal for sub-$1000 (9hrs+ according to some reviews), and it looks like that is a major concern. I would keep it in mind as your high-end option.
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a b 4 Gaming
January 11, 2014 11:24:00 PM

The current generation of Intel CPUs, named Haswell, has been unusually well received for its improvements in power use and hence, battery life. If battery life is a very important consideration I would strongly suggest you avoid getting some of the Ivy Bridge (one generation prior) laptops still on the market. It is easy to tell Haswell from Ivy Bridge. Haswell CPUs start with the number 4, so for example 4700MQ, 4300M, 4100U, etc. whereas Ivy Bridge start with 3, so for example 3820QM, 3230M, 3130M, etc. Moreover, if you see a U and even more so Y suffix, that CPU draws less power compared to other processors that otherwise have the same number. However, you do give up a bit of performance with U or Y suffix CPUs.
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January 12, 2014 2:29:06 AM

momof3js said:
Need to replace my daughter’s dead laptop. My son referred me to this site and I’ve been looking for a few days (forums/articles), now just SO confused.

Chief complaint on past laptops: very slow and laggy, battery life and problems.
Must haves: optical drive, webcam/mic, smooth surfing, storage, decent life expectancy, light gaming.

I've answered the suggested questions. Here they are:

budget? Prefer abt $600-700, but if absolutely necessary: $900

size? 15.6. Prior laptop was too small at 14”. Using a 17.3 now and although a bit big, is preferred to 14”.

screen resolution? All have been 1366x768 and that has been adequate

portable or desktop replacement laptop? Some portability, used for school and trips home.

battery life? As much as possible. Battery life has been a huge issue in past.

games? ? Some gaming, but mostly browswer-based. Ideally capable of playing future games smoothly on low settings -

tasks? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.) Research, school work and online classes, watch movies, videos, music, social networks, store photos, documents, presentations, some gaming

storage (Hard Drive)? Lots! Ran out of space on last computer, which was 500gb. Prefer convenience of all info stored on one drive, rather than have to carry a 2nd external hd, or cloud compute.

time to keep your laptop? Hopefully 3-4 years.

Optical? Bluray not necessary, but DVD optical reader/writer IS important to avoid carrying around another external item.

brands you prefer to buy and brands you don't like and explain. Have limited information: HP was past 2 laptops, both SLOW and laggy, only lasted about 1.2 & 1.5 years, and power cord/power supply on both HPs was always a problem (eventually it became impossible to charge unless in a very specific position, until finally not able to charge ever). PC s have all been home built by older brothers.

additional info: NEED input on which brands are best. Have been considering Dell, Toshiba, possibly Lenovo.

Questions:
Why are lenovo’s so recommended here? I don’t understand this because their ratings on Amazon, Newegg, etc. are typically low. Yet, here it seems advisors always suggest Lenovos.

Feedback on Toshiba/Dell/Lenovo/Acer/Asus etc. Which brands are more suited to long life/durability? Which brands are more prone to problems?

Please suggest any laptop that you think might be adequate and best VFM. If you could provide links that would be extremely helpful.


Hi
I'm new here, but I have done a lot if research lately regarding laptops:
In US lots of models are available to choose from , I'm giving a few which I would have considered buying if they were available with the same specs in my country:
Dell Inspiron 17 7000 series :
http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-17-7737/pd
The 899$ version, and discounts keep coming on these too.
It'll be fast due the 4th gen i5 4200U, and battery will be better due to the ULV ( ultra low voltage) processors.
I'll personally don't see the internal hdd capacity as they are horrendously slow, they are all equipped with 5400 rpm drives. I would advise buying a fast USB 3.0 (and shockproof) external drive,
Or go with a laptop with a hybrid drive.
The inspiron 15 7000 is also good, it has a 9 hour battery life as publicised by dell, given you can carry an ext. Dvd Drive. My personal choice.

You can also see inspiron 15r 15z 17r.

Lenovo z710
http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/ideapad/z-series/z...
569$ and 799$ versions
They don't have the U processors so stick with an i5.

Lenovo z510
http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/ideapad/z-series/z...
The 579$ i5 4200m version

Lenovo u510
http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/ideapad/u-series/u...
749$ i5 version

No Toshiba, Asus or Acer since they do not have long life span, as far as I have noticed.
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