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Well-built, minimalist-looking notebook for less than $900 (USD)

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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December 27, 2009 1:39:17 AM

Hello,

I will soon be in the market for a new notebook (replacing my old Compaq Presario V2000, which I've squeezed nearly every last cpu cycle out of). I will begin with the FAQ:

1_What is your budget?

As mentioned, I think $900 is a good budget. For the right notebook, I'd be willing to go higher of course, if the benefits were really there.

2_What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

15"

3_What screen resolution do you want?

Ideally, 1680x1080, but 1600x900 or 1440x900 are acceptable

4_Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

I'd like some portability. Not a desktop replacement, but I don't want an ultrathin notebook.

5_How much battery life do you need?

3-4 hours would be fine. The more the merrier, of course

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)?

Absolutely no games

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

This will be my "main" computer, though I do have a somewhat nice desktop (AMD 720BE). I do research in number theory, so I would like to get as fast as processor as I can afford without sacrificing built quality. Also, it is stricly computations, no complex rendering or modeling

8_How much storage (H.D.D Capacity) do you need?

I do not need that much. I have a separate external drive for media. I doubt a 15" notebook exists that has too little for me.

9_If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post the links to them.

This is really irrelevant to me

10_How long do you want to keep your laptop?

I made my crappy Presario last over 4 years, I should be able to do the same with this laptop.

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

DVD-RW

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.

I have a tendency to stray from HP, Dell, Sony etc. While I really like Sager and Lenovo.

13_What country do you live in?

USA

14_Please tell us any additional information if needed.

As I mentioned, no games will be played. While a modest dedicated GPU might be nice to keep the CPU less busy, I am sure integrated intel or nvidia graphics would be fine for me. I have found a lot of laptops that I like, but there is always a bit too much of a compromise. The Lenovo T500 is great. It seems like it pretty well built, and the hardware is ok, but the trackpad is simply too small. This is just too much of an issue for me. The Sager NP7650 is almost the perfect case, but stock it is not a very modern notebook (uses an Intel Core proc. DDR2 memory, very subpar hardware, while the GPU is simply too powerful for me, it is a mid-range gaming pc afterall), and updating any part of it dramatically increases its price. Basically, I want a nice, understated case, with a larger trackpad. For the processor, Core 2 Duo (unless there is some newer Arrandale that I don't know about). 2.26GHz is possibly enough, but 2.53 or 2.66 would be ideal. 2-4GB of memory are also desired. If only there were some mix between the Sager and the Lenovo, I would love that. I do quite like the aesthetics of macs, but I do not want a mac. Oh, and I should mention that I plan to use linux almost exclusively.

So to sum that up, decent modern hardware, decent cooling, well-built, and a nice understated case. I have looked around quite a bit, and simply not found exactly what I was looking for. So I thought I'd ask the community.

Thanks,
Ryan
December 27, 2009 9:31:14 AM

$900 for 15" 1680x1080/ 1600x900 is a though call. You need to go down to 1366 x 768 or larger display.
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December 27, 2009 10:09:06 AM

I was going to suggest the T500 but if you like using a trackpad and it is too small no go. I prefer the track point myself and don't touch the trackpad.

Perhaps the dell E6500 although that will probably suffer the same track pad issues as some of the space is like the T500 taken up with buttons supporting its trackpoint.
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December 27, 2009 2:16:10 PM

Thank you for the replies so far.

@Maziar: That Sager is great! Aesthetically, it's not exactly what I've had in mind, but it is closer to what I want than any other notebook I've seen yet. While the GPU seems a bit too nice for me, that might be ok. Do you think the battery life is compromised because of this?

@ibnsina: In my search of my ideal notebook, I am willing to budge on this price. I just want to make sure I'm not spending significantly more. Because if you budge too much, then it's $1200. Well if that is ok, maybe $1500 isn't so much. Etc, etc, I can always find myself getting caught in these traps. But ultimately, I just want the notebook that is perfect for me.

@strangestrange: To me Dell's have this aura of bad build-quality and horrible support. If this is not or has changed, please let me know. It's almost amazing though, they took the T series and made it look more minimalist and (for lack of a better word) nice. Again, this is almost exactly what I want, except it has Dell build-quality and does suffer a bit the same as the lenovo. The trackpad does seem a bit larger?

Ryan
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December 27, 2009 2:50:22 PM

Have you looked into Sony VAIO FW590? It's an inch bigger than you want - 16.4". Other than that the spec looks good; C2D, 4650m ati, 1080p screen, 4gb ram. In terms of portability, it might be clunky for some people. See the detail spec in the following link

http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/SYCT...
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a c 244 D Laptop
December 27, 2009 6:50:16 PM

measure said:
Thank you for the replies so far.

@Maziar: That Sager is great! Aesthetically, it's not exactly what I've had in mind, but it is closer to what I want than any other notebook I've seen yet. While the GPU seems a bit too nice for me, that might be ok. Do you think the battery life is compromised because of this?

@ibnsina: In my search of my ideal notebook, I am willing to budge on this price. I just want to make sure I'm not spending significantly more. Because if you budge too much, then it's $1200. Well if that is ok, maybe $1500 isn't so much. Etc, etc, I can always find myself getting caught in these traps. But ultimately, I just want the notebook that is perfect for me.

@strangestrange: To me Dell's have this aura of bad build-quality and horrible support. If this is not or has changed, please let me know. It's almost amazing though, they took the T series and made it look more minimalist and (for lack of a better word) nice. Again, this is almost exactly what I want, except it has Dell build-quality and does suffer a bit the same as the lenovo. The trackpad does seem a bit larger?

Ryan


Battery life should be around 1-2 hours i think,you better ask XoticPC too,they have great support :) 
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December 27, 2009 7:47:47 PM

You know, I think if you can get used to a trackpoint (haven't touched the trackpad on my notebook) then your problems could be solved.
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December 28, 2009 6:20:51 PM

As I said before, Brands such as Sony and Dell have this aura of cheaper quality. If this is misled about certain Dell or Sony products, I would like to become more informed, though. Specifically, for computers such as the Dell Precision and Latitude lines, is the build quality, cooling and such on part with Lenovo? I have researched this, but you cannot get a straight answer from the internet. As the Dell e6500 (as suggested earlier) and the t500 are quite similar, my natural instinct would be to stay clear of the Dell, for the sake of durability.

@strangestrang: You're probably right. In fact, I've become so attached to trackpads that I am faster with them than a mouse. The reason I like a nice large trackpad is that I either use the mouse only (or as much as possible) or use the keyboard only ( I use Vim and Math programs run in the terminal for my work, add that I use DWM and any use of the mouse is unnecessary); while not working, just surfing etc. I tend to keep my fingers on the trackpad, and enjoy a nice large one. I am sure I could get used to the trackpoint, but this is what I've found I like.

@JackNaylorPE: Thanks for this link. In reading about the Sagers I have come to learn that it is Clevo/Compal/etc. that I like, not Sager, as you have said.

The truth is I will probably settle on the t500 or see how the t510's are. I still am hoping that someone out there has that silver bullet that I have somehow just missed, but it is seeming less and less likely. It's most likely just that I know too well exactly what I am looking for (I am sure that is a problem with a lot of people on this site).

Thanks for your replies, and keep any suggestions coming.
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December 28, 2009 6:53:30 PM

measure said:

It's most likely just that I know too well exactly what I am looking for (I am sure that is a problem with a lot of people on this site).


You hit the nail right on the head, with 99% accuracy.
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