I'd like a laptop that satisfies the following criteria:
--It should be reasonably powerful. I'd like a 1.8 GHz P4-M (or equivalent) or better processor with 256+ MB RAM.
--I'll be taking this thing back and forth with me to classes, so I should be able to carry it around in a laptop backpack comfortably. This means it can't weigh a tremendous amount. I'd prefer something less than 8 pounds.
--I'd like to be able to dual boot WinXP and Linux. I've heard that some laptops don't let you change the OS (which never made sense to me).
--A very clear and readable display. I'm going to be doing a lot of programming on this thing, so clear text is very important to me. I don't understand the difference between UXGA and SXGA+ displays. The only difference that I've found is that UXGA can run in 1600x1200. I don't even like running my 19" CRT at that res, so I think 1400x1050 or 1280x1024 will be just fine. That said, if a UXGA display is significantly clearer than a SXGA+ at the same resolution, I'll definitely go UXGA.
--It would be nice to be able to play some games on it. Ideally, I'd like a laptop with the mobile version of the GeForce4 or an equally fast video subsystem.
--No iBook or Apple/Mac laptops. This isn't coming from an anti-Apple/Mac zealot; I'm sure their products are as excellent as others here have said. The bottom line is that I need to run Windows apps like Visual Studio 6 and Word 2000, so I need a Windows machine.
--It should be under $3500 US.
At this point, I'm considering both the Dell Inspiron 8200 and the Toshiba Satellite Pro 6100. I'm leaning more toward the Toshiba because it's almost a full pound lighter than the Dell. I've heard others speak very highly of IBM's Thinkpads, but I haven't done a lot of research on them.
Finally, a question: built-in wireless adapter or external wireless card? I've heard that built-in versions get poor reception when compared to external cards.
This is not to be insulting, but first off a notebook with a P4 and a high end graphics adapter will be: bulky, heavy and hot.
I would suggest something that is less powerful which will make it smaller, lighter and produce less heat. A notebook with a low voltage PIIIm or a Celeron using a 14" display will be nice and compact. It will be easy to carry around and will produce less heat. If you are going to be transporting your notebook frequently you will want to get one that is well constructed because even small bumps and vibrations tend to shorten the life of notebook.
I would suggest getting a notebook with a good warranty. It seems like everytime I read about a person who sends a notebook in for repair needs a new motherboard or a new display, etc.
As for the wireless cards, I have never used one. I like built in nic's. I have heard the reception with the newer built in wireless cards is getting better. The only problem with the external wireless card is when you pack up your laptop you have another item to disconnect and put away.
When it comes to LCD's their native resolution is the best viewing resolution. If your display is designed to display 1600 X 1200 it is best to use that resolution for maximum quality. Selecting a lower resolution tends to result in a lower quality image. That's what I have heard.
I have used both XGA and SXGA LCD's and both had better resolution and picture quality than any CRT monitor I have ever seen. When I go from my notebook to my desktop I really notice how fuzzy the CRT monitor is.
The best piece of advice I can suggest is don't skimp on the hard drive. If you are going to shell out a pile of money for a top of the line desktop replacement notebook get one with a 5400 rpm hard drive. The majority of notebooks use 4200 rpm hard drives and they are the biggest system speed bottlenecks. Getting a P4m notebook with a GeForce4 video adaptor and 512MB of 266 DDR SDRAM and a crappy old 4200 rpm hard drive is like buying a desktop with a P4 Celeron, on board graphics, PC133 SDRAM....insane.
zpyrd: Thanks for the great reply. After thinking about it some more, I've reconsidered certain criteria.
First of all, I've come to realize that portability is much more important to me than I initially suggested. I'm now strongly considering the IBM Thinkpad T30 based largely on the fact that it's only 5.1 pounds. After I realized that the 7-8 pound Dells and Toshibas weigh about as much as two full-sized textbooks, I started considering lighter options.
I believe a 14.1" screen would be better for me than a 15". I'm also considering 12.1" options, but those models tend to skimp on other features that I'd prefer to have such as a touchpad and integrated optical drives. In fact, I would strongly consider IBM's X series machines, if it weren't for the fact that they lack a touchpad.
Also, I'm no longer hell-bent on getting the fastest processor available. Most of the time, I'll be doing programming on this laptop. I'd like a reasonably fast video subsystem to play a game or two, but fast performance in Direct3D/OpenGL stuff isn't necessary. In other words, I don't need a GeForce 4.
I've heard a lot about the high quality of IBM's Thinkpads. When I started shopping around, I looked at their top-of-the-line A series, which fell outside my price range. The T series, on the other hand, look to do everything I need them to do.
Taking my new criteria into account, do you have any other laptop suggestions? I'm leaning heavily toward the IBM T30 Thinkpad.
I would definately suggest checking out the Sony Vaio VX and GRX series notebooks. They ave huge clear screens, they're really light and they have powerful CPUs. They have just about everything you could want integrated (like WiFi) and they're decently cheap for what you get. www.sonystyle.com should have some good info for you.
I agree with the Dell reply. You should visit Dell's web site at dell.com. They have hands down the best quality notebooks on the market today. Plus, when you purchase a Dell notebook you are automatically given a web page specifically designed for your name and notebook. On that web page you will find all the drivers, updates and infos specifically for your notebook only. And remember, have fun with the thing.....