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How to prioritize SSD in my laptop budget?

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December 30, 2011 10:39:32 PM

Hi folks. I'm trying to upgrade from my old Gateway pentium laptop with my top objectives being speed and reliability on reasonable budget (under $1000). My starting point has been to test drive the least expensive laptops I can find with either Intel i5 Sandy Bridge or i7 processors and take advantage of Best Buy's liberal return policy. I'm liking what I'm finding so far, but the more I read about SSDs the more I'm convinced I want one and then I start to wonder how that decision should refocus my other priorities? For example, I wasn't too concerned about hard drive capacity before, since I already keep all my music and movies on a NAS. But if you know you're going to chuck the hard drive for an SSD then it doesn't matter at all, right? And how much does RAM really matter either? If I settle on an i5 and install a 120 GB SSD, would I really notice any difference between 4, 6 or 8 GB RAM? And what about the processor itself? Should I rethink starting from an i5 or i7 if +SSD a less expensive processor (possibly AMD) is going to feel almost just as fast?

I know these are matters of personal taste and it's hard to advise without knowing my usage habits better. Suffice to say I spend a lot of time on my laptop but mostly it's just the standard web surfing, email, facebook; using my Sonos and iTunes controllers, etc. I barely even use the office-lite applications. That said, I don't mind at all going to the top of my budget for the fastest, most reliable combo. (Current leaning: an i5 Gateway or Asus + 128 GB Crucial m4 SSD). I'm just budget conscious enough that I don't want to spend ~$750 for that and find out later that I could have gotten virtually the same performance for my needs for a lot cheaper. Like maybe even just upgrading my old pentium gateway with an SSD instead.

Any thoughts/guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!


P.S. Forgot to mention that I'm not into gaming at all so that's not a consideration either.
a b D Laptop
a c 119 G Storage
December 30, 2011 11:20:02 PM

Something to consider and it all depends on your budget is to get a 240gb SSD. I remember laptops shipping with 160gb , 250gb hdd's and if you can swing a 240gb then you would have a lot of extra room. Since you are not into gaming and you don't have work intensive applications you can go with an i-5 cpu and 4gb of ram.
Check out these two SSD's from Corsair;

Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F240GBGT-BK 2.5" 240GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
$389.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F180GBGT-BK 2.5" 180GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
$289.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I currently have three of the 180gb SSD's in my computer and they are fast.
December 31, 2011 12:06:14 AM

If your needs are really just light web browsing and basic things like word processing, then you barely even need the lowest of what you're looking at. Even an AMD E350 netbook level could suit your needs. I wouldn't worry too much at CPU or GPU power, but avoid Atom based systems. I would recommend the 4GB of RAM because some of it will be used by built in graphics. If you want something to last a long time, getting a model with USB3 would be good as well. An SSD however is an upgrade that can help any system even if just a bit with load times. They are more durable if your laptop takes a hit and use less power.

If your intention from the start is to put in an SSD, there are a few things to consider with a laptop (assuming it doesn't come with an SSD).

Depending on your tech level, how hard is it to switch the HD on the model you're looking at? Sometimes it's as easy as removing a panel from the bottom and sometimes you might have to remove several parts to reach the HD.

What kind of internal connection is inside the laptop? Ideally it should be an SATA3, not SATA2 connection. SATA3 can fully take advantage of SSD speeds. The drive you get should be SATA3 as well.

How big of an SSD do you need? OS and applications can fit as low as 64GB, so there's no need to go higher if you don't need a lot of work space for large files. Twice the size usually costs twice the price.

The HD currently inside can still be used as storage if you buy an external enclosure to put it in. Also make sure you know how to migrate the OS from the original HD to the SSD and that the SSD gets set up properly.
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December 31, 2011 4:22:42 AM

inzone said:
Something to consider and it all depends on your budget is to get a 240gb SSD. I remember laptops shipping with 160gb , 250gb hdd's and if you can swing a 240gb then you would have a lot of extra room. Since you are not into gaming and you don't have work intensive applications you can go with an i-5 cpu and 4gb of ram.
Check out these two SSD's from Corsair;

Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F240GBGT-BK 2.5" 240GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
$389.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Corsair Force Series GT CSSD-F180GBGT-BK 2.5" 180GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
$289.99
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I currently have three of the 180gb SSD's in my computer and they are fast.



Thanks for the recommendations but at this point I can't imagine needing more than 120 GB from an SSD. Maybe if I stumbled on an unbelievable deal on one, otherwise I think it would be overkill for my purposes. The Corsair GT is one that I was looking at in the 120 range though.

i5 and 4 GB RAM is what I have right now with the Asus and Gateway's I'm test driving (both i5-2430) and I'm leaning on sticking with that. I'm also testing an i7 HP Pavilion w/6 GB RAM but so far I haven't experienced that the performance is any better than the i5s so unless I start discovering virtues I hadn't noticed before I'm pretty sure that one is going back.
December 31, 2011 5:09:59 AM

kinggraves said:
If your needs are really just light web browsing and basic things like word processing, then you barely even need the lowest of what you're looking at. Even an AMD E350 netbook level could suit your needs. I wouldn't worry too much at CPU or GPU power, but avoid Atom based systems. I would recommend the 4GB of RAM because some of it will be used by built in graphics. If you want something to last a long time, getting a model with USB3 would be good as well. An SSD however is an upgrade that can help any system even if just a bit with load times. They are more durable if your laptop takes a hit and use less power.

If your intention from the start is to put in an SSD, there are a few things to consider with a laptop (assuming it doesn't come with an SSD).

Depending on your tech level, how hard is it to switch the HD on the model you're looking at? Sometimes it's as easy as removing a panel from the bottom and sometimes you might have to remove several parts to reach the HD.

What kind of internal connection is inside the laptop? Ideally it should be an SATA3, not SATA2 connection. SATA3 can fully take advantage of SSD speeds. The drive you get should be SATA3 as well.

How big of an SSD do you need? OS and applications can fit as low as 64GB, so there's no need to go higher if you don't need a lot of work space for large files. Twice the size usually costs twice the price.

The HD currently inside can still be used as storage if you buy an external enclosure to put it in. Also make sure you know how to migrate the OS from the original HD to the SSD and that the SSD gets set up properly.


The new laptops I'm looking at now are all SATA3 so I was intending to get a SATA3 SSD also. And I haven't checked out the drive placement and installation instructions for each but I will definitely do that before I make a final decision, so thanks for the tip.

You may be right that a 64 GB SSD is all I need. Going w/120 just seems like a good idea for future-proofing in case my needs change. Beyond that I'm inclined to keep my media files on my NAS and find other external storage options if my needs grow. (And thanks for the idea of getting an enclosure to keep the HDD I'll be swapping out -- I hadn't thought of that). What I haven't figured out yet is how much a USB 3.0 port is worth to me. The i5 laptops I'm looking at right now don't have one and at least through Best Buy finding the next model up that does involves a price jump that comes along with more RAM and a bigger hard drive (ie. things I already know I don't need). So so far I'm not convinced it's worth the extra investment.

Finally, you're right that I could do with a lower end processor. I certainly don't need the kind of setup I'm eyeballing now, however I'm enough of an enthusiast to want it, just without throwing money away at the same time. So if I do opt for something less than a 2nd generation i5 it will be because I'm persuaded that something less sexy + the right SSD = a laptop that will perform just as well for my purposes for less, not because I decide I'm okay with settling for noticeably less. If that makes sense. Yes I'm budget conscious but not more than I want to get my hands on the best toy I can get in my price range.

Anyway, thanks for your input. Much appreciated.
January 2, 2012 5:14:46 PM

Well here's a twist: I didn't realize the HP Pavilion I'm test driving (a 17") has 2 hard drive bays. So I can feel safe getting a 60-120 GB SSD as the primary drive and keep the HDD it came with for extra storage. My only question now is whether to do that w/the i7 version I've already got or return it for an open box i5.

current: dv7-6b77dx, i7-2670 processor, 6 GB RAM, 640 GB hard drive (5400 rpm), ~$550

or: dv7-6135dx, i5-2410 processor, 8 GB RAM, 750 GB hard drive (5400 rpm), ~$500

Right now I'm leaning to the i5 which also has a better graphics card (AMD Radeon 6490 vs. Intel HD in the i7) in addition to the extra RAM and hard drive space. What I don't know is if I'd finally see advantages of the quad core i7 running in an SSD+HDD setup that I haven't noticed in my HDD only setups so far. So if anyone has any input on that let me know. Thanks.
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