Sorry...kind of long-winded...but wanted to give as much info up-front as I could so you understand what I need.
1. What is your budget?
2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
15-17" (15.6" to 17.3" is what I've seen most frequently)
3. What screen resolution do you want?
1080p minimum... 1960X1080. Also to drive secondary monitor at least a 1080p, extended desktop
HDMI out... also need a way to connect to VGA for classroom projector at 1024X768 (the only connection available to us)
*Need to know difference between WLED and B+RGLED in terms of brightness, contrast, black level, ability to profile for color accuracy when editing photos.
Odd thing right now...XPS 15 can be had in 1080p, but XPS 17 only 900p. Perhaps shortage of screens...
4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
In between, I guess. Will be primary computer at home, but will occasionally travel with it.
Weight doesn't bother me that much (I had a 12-lb Sager a number of years ago)
5. How much battery life do you need?
Not a big deal. Nearly always plugged in...can carry extra battery. Anything over 2 hours playing DVD/some light Lightroom editing/MS Office
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 interest in gaming (truthfully...just no time for it).
7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo / Video editing,watching movies, Etc.)
40% Office Suite/Web browsing,
30% Adobe 64-bit Lightroom with various external editing plugins (like Nik HDR, dFine, Viveza) working on RAW and TIFF 15 megapixel files,
20% Photoshop with multi-layer editing of TIFFs,
10% Playing DVD/Blu-Ray, re-encoding DVD to watch on Droid X (with Handbrake or DVDFab).
8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
*The bigger the better for all those RAW and TIFF photos...minimum 640GB, 7200 RPM
**Need to know pros/cons of 2X320GB vs single drive 640GB
Perhaps 2X500GB for 1TB total (7200 RPM)
Can't afford SSD right now.
9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Dell XPS 15 or 17 customized at Dell.com (after getting latest deal info from LogicBuy)
HP ENVY 17 or 17 3D customized at HP.com. Perhaps a Pavillion dv7t could work.
--Can't seem to find preconfigured ones with exactly what I want
Alienware seems too expensive, and I'm not interested in games
Would consider others such as Asus if quality of build is good
10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
If it makes it 3 years, I'd be more than happy.
11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
Bluray reader (don't need to burn), and DVD+RW/-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.
Despite others' experience, I've had few troubles with Dell & HP...though Dell paint on Inspiron 9400 and Latitude E6500 wore off pretty quickly with my palms resting...would rather have bare aluminum..or something without paint to wear off.
Alienware is appealing, but perhaps overpriced because of brand name...and targets gamers more.
Regarding 'Bloatware,' I'm likely to make sure I've got backup of additional system tools included, then do full hard drive wipe, and install Windows 7 Professional x64, and enable Bitlocker.
13. What country do you live in?
14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
*Like the idea of more solid aluminum body for sturdiness (my current Dell Latitude E6500 just seems like a bunch of individual parts screwed together...no feel of a solidly built computer)
*Need sturdy screen hinges
*Can't decide on whether a 2-core like i5-560M or quad core like i7-740QM would be better considering the time I spend on Office/Web where the i5 could switch to integrated graphics...cooler, longer battery life and faster Turbo Boost...but Lightroom/Photoshop may work (significantly?) better with more cores?
Switching to i7 (for Dell) requires extra $80, but also forces upgrade to higher-end graphics:
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 420M 1GB graphics with Optimus with the i5-560M
NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 435M 2GB graphics with the i7-740QM
Add another $100.
...but maybe the extra $180 would be worth it...
I don't think I can afford to jump into the i7-8xx or 9xx series.
Ultimately I want 8GB RAM, but upgrade prices on the initial configuration seem steep.
Also can't tell whether 4GB is a single 4, or 2+2, if 6GB is 4+2 or 3+3 (does a 3GB exist?)
Seems that after-market RAM is quite a bit cheaper (2 X 4GB for $130-$180)...but I also don't know the clock-speed of the DDR3 the the manufacturers use in these (doesn't show up in tech specs...1066 or 1333? Timing? Buffered/Unbuffered?
*Better to get minimum memory from manufacturer, then buy my own from NewEgg?
Need WiFi b/g/n with both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz bands, and bluetooth.