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New Laptop for school/programming/life

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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September 23, 2010 6:27:16 PM

Hello all! Going back to school for computer programming and looking for a reasonably priced, durable, laptop to get me through the next 3 yrs or so. Kinda shaky on what I want at the moment as I know compromises will be necessary (battery life vs power, portability vs size, etc), but not sure which side of the fence to hedge the bet so to speak (do I want a behemoth, battery eating desktop replacement, or compromise on a little more battery life and small screen size). So, sorry in advance if the following details are less descriptive. Also, anyone who uses their laptops for programming, definitely appreciate your experienced opinions.

Here it goes:

1. What is your budget?

Preferably $1,200.00 USD or less (thought willing to make minor adjustment if the enhancement is worth a jump in price. Within reason: not jumping to $2200 or anything)

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

This is a toughy. I like the idea of a smaller notebook for portability, but worried about how big of a pain that could be for programming on the go (screen real estate). I have 2 external monitors I could hook up to, but would be nice to get away and work somewhere else. I guess I am willing to go to something the size of the m11x unless I get some persuasive arguments against it.

3. What screen resolution do you want?

1920 x 1080 is nice, but doesn't have to be (can always use an external monitor). Something that movies and games wouldn't look like complete crap on the go.

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

Somwhere in between but closer to a desktop replacement. I guess the answer being, as close as you can get to a desktop replacement, but with the build quality and weight to be portable without destroying my back. Would prefer to have some sort of graphics switching on the fly (whether it uses optimus or press of a button/ don't want to have to reboot for it to take affect).

5. How much battery life do you need?

3 hrs plus would be nice under regular use (surfing the web, email, MS office, etc).

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)?

Would like to at least be able to play SC 2, Civ 5, Diablo 3 at medium or better settings. Higher quality the better.

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

Will definitely use it to code. Photo and video editing would be nice, but is not something I do right now. Might use to watch movies. Would like to be able to game at a decent quality.

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

Looking at 500gb at 7200 rpm. Prob won't go solid state.

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

Would be willing to use newegg, amazon, etc. Don't have any experience with Tigerdirect, but would consider based on experience of others. Also willing to by direct from manufacturer (dell, etc).

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

At least 3 yrs ideally.

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

Does not matter to me. Willing to use an external drive if necessary (as in case of the m11x, etc). Blue ray is not a necessity but added bonus if it comes with it.

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.

Unwilling to purchase from Acer/Gateway or HP/Compaq. Based on reading on other user experiences. Is a shame with HP because they seem to have some compelling products in the envy line.

Interested in Asus, possibly Dell (but a little skeptical), Toshiba, Alienware (m11x specifically), interested in Sager (but a little nervous as I do not know much about them or xotic pc for customer svc), and Lenovo.
13. What country do you live in?

USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.

I was originally looking at the m11x. It's power vs portability/battery life/ build quality look intriguing. My main worry is that it might be underpowered (ULV processor, DX10 gfx card, and I see that it uses 800mhz RAM in its newest incarnation). I am not as well vs'd as those who use this site most likely. Know just enough about cpu's and gpu's to be dangerous, but not enough to make as informed a decision as I would like. For instance, I don't know how much cpu, gpu is ideal for debugging, running, compiling complex code. I do know that you can code on anything pretty much. But want to be able to do more than that. I know in the beginning that the code will be less complex, but don't want to buy something I can't use or will not run smoothly a yr or 2 down the line. Would also be nice to be able to run video editing or 3d software in the future should the idea strike me.

Def want something with a very durable build as I plan to lug it around a little. Needs a relatively strong chassis. Doesn't need to be a Toughbook though (I take care of my things.

Sorry if that is vague and any help or insight given will greatly be appreciated. Want to make the purchase within the next couple of wks. Also, any additional information I can provied to narrow things down or help you guys help me. Feel free to ask and I will respond the best I can!

Look forward to seeing your responses.
a c 244 D Laptop
September 23, 2010 10:38:12 PM

Hello and welcome to the forums
Well M11x is a good choice,its not as powerful as some 15/17" models but it offers a great performance for a 11" laptop.
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a c 244 D Laptop
September 24, 2010 11:26:37 AM

I don't think that would give the OP the battery life he needs, G51's battery life is around 1:30hrs
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September 24, 2010 4:26:17 PM

Maziar said:
I don't think that would give the OP the battery life he needs, G51's battery life is around 1:30hrs


true, i some how managed to not see that in the post
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September 24, 2010 11:41:40 PM

Thanks for the answers so far. In regards to battery life, I would be willing to give on that if the reason were compelling enough (won't run what I need it to with the specs of the m11x etc). That is my main concern with the m11x and my main reticence to pull the trigger on it (also, been reading a lot about a consistent hinge issue with the product across multiple msg boards). Being at an entry lvl myself in regards to hardware knowledge and how much raw power I will need for the type of software I might wish to run in the future, I guess I am looking for an answer from the perspective of someone who codes, compiles, does video editing on a laptop, etc. who would be able to give some examples through experience on just how much graphical, processor, etc. power I will need.

Thanks for all of the responses so far though. Def wanna look more into that Asus in regards to reliability. Also, on the asus, the 1.5 hrs battery life, is that under load or while doing less intensive tasks (word processing, web surfing, etc.)?
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September 25, 2010 1:59:57 PM

Deinos said:
Thanks for the answers so far. In regards to battery life, I would be willing to give on that if the reason were compelling enough (won't run what I need it to with the specs of the m11x etc). That is my main concern with the m11x and my main reticence to pull the trigger on it (also, been reading a lot about a consistent hinge issue with the product across multiple msg boards). Being at an entry lvl myself in regards to hardware knowledge and how much raw power I will need for the type of software I might wish to run in the future, I guess I am looking for an answer from the perspective of someone who codes, compiles, does video editing on a laptop, etc. who would be able to give some examples through experience on just how much graphical, processor, etc. power I will need.

Thanks for all of the responses so far though. Def wanna look more into that Asus in regards to reliability. Also, on the asus, the 1.5 hrs battery life, is that under load or while doing less intensive tasks (word processing, web surfing, etc.)?


I was in the exact same position as you over the M11x and I decided that I just couldn't risk buying something with build quality issues when its going to be moved around alot. Especially at such a premium price.
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a c 244 D Laptop
September 25, 2010 2:14:40 PM

Deinos said:
Thanks for the answers so far. In regards to battery life, I would be willing to give on that if the reason were compelling enough (won't run what I need it to with the specs of the m11x etc). That is my main concern with the m11x and my main reticence to pull the trigger on it (also, been reading a lot about a consistent hinge issue with the product across multiple msg boards). Being at an entry lvl myself in regards to hardware knowledge and how much raw power I will need for the type of software I might wish to run in the future, I guess I am looking for an answer from the perspective of someone who codes, compiles, does video editing on a laptop, etc. who would be able to give some examples through experience on just how much graphical, processor, etc. power I will need.

Thanks for all of the responses so far though. Def wanna look more into that Asus in regards to reliability. Also, on the asus, the 1.5 hrs battery life, is that under load or while doing less intensive tasks (word processing, web surfing, etc.)?

That battery life is for daily usage and non-gaming purposes.
If you need something better in both specs and battery life,consider MSI GX660
http://www.xoticpc.com/msi-gx660053us-gaming-laptop-p-2...
Its slightly out of your price range,but its a great choice.
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September 29, 2010 5:43:54 PM

I know it is quite a bit more than I originaly intended to spend. But what do you guys think of the Thinkpad W510 (http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...).

Any advantages/disadvantages of this model?

Also, one more question. As I mentioned, I think I am a little to reticent to purchase the m11x. Are there any alternatives that are close to size, battery life, performance in relation to price that are similar in value?

Thanks for all of the advice so far.
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a c 244 D Laptop
September 29, 2010 6:24:03 PM

It looks a decent choice.
There aren't really any alternatives to M11x because its the only 11" laptop with a card like GT 335M
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September 30, 2010 4:05:55 PM

Guess I should have been more specific in my question in the last post in regards to the m11x ;-) I realize that there are no alternatives at the 11" segment as the rest are going to be netbooks in that size. I guess, what I should have asked was: Are there any good alternatives in the next size category that are not netbooks? 13- 14" that are going to have similar or better power/battery life in that price range (between 900 - 1200 usd)?
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September 30, 2010 8:13:18 PM

no worries, def appreciate all the advice thus far. What do you and other posters think about HP quality? Have heard a lot of remarks in multiple forums in regards to customer service and reliability. Also, do you know if Asus has anything similar in regards to size and specs?
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September 30, 2010 8:17:08 PM

I have looked at this one and several others trying to solve my similar delimma- and keep comming up short in the display department.. 768, 800 or even 900 are not enough vertical space to me- but anything better seems to skyrocket the price out of the park..
for photo editing and related you just need more.
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a c 244 D Laptop
September 30, 2010 9:34:38 PM

Deinos said:
no worries, def appreciate all the advice thus far. What do you and other posters think about HP quality? Have heard a lot of remarks in multiple forums in regards to customer service and reliability. Also, do you know if Asus has anything similar in regards to size and specs?

An ASUS alternative would be ASUS K42 with a slightly slower VGA
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
About HP,well you better check the owners lounge to get an accurate answer
http://forum.notebookreview.com/hp-envy-hdx/493715-offi...
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October 18, 2010 3:44:44 PM

Quick update. Got busy and my laptop hunt went on hiatus. I did have a chance to do a little hands on shopping and finally looked at the m11x. I'm sure it is a great machine, but wow, is it small. I knew it was going to be, but didn't realize just how much until I had one in my hands. Luckily, I looked before I leaped. Definitely too small for me to type on for any length of time.

I looked into the envy 14 more as well. Great machine, but they got rid of the 1600 x 900 display, and something just didn't "feel right" about the lower res.

Do you guys know if there is anything in the 14" segment with a better resolution than the current option on the envy 14?

I found that I like the chiclet style keyboard on the envy very much, and it felt very comfortable to type on. Just hoping there is something comparable in size, power, and battery life to that unit that is going to be built well and dependable.

Thanks again, and sorry to keep bugging you all!!! :) 
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