Student Looking for Laptop

Alright, I'm looking for a laptop, and I need some help.
First of all, I know very little about laptops. I've educated and educated myself about desktops, but so much of that has relied on knowing what part brands to look for and knowing how to see about them fitting together and whatever that I'm at a total loss when it comes to laptops. I hardly know where to start.
On top of that, as a gamer and computer enthusiast, my temptation is to immediately throw out lower level things as silly, even though I know that I should not really be focused on dedicated graphics or powerful processing while on a tight budget.

The laptop will be, primarily, for college use - writing papers, lugging it around, searching internet, and some coding and graphical work since I'll be majoring in a Computer Science program. I'd like to be able to create some more powerful applications on the laptop, but I will still have a desktop (and will likely upgrade it the moment I can) that will probably be the focal point of any big projects.
The main things I'm seeking out are:
- At least two cores. I understand that it is a laptop, so it doesn't have to be blindingly fast.
- A good battery life. I've been told I should look for 3 hours (actual time with moderate use, not theoretical), but I'd prefer on the order of 4-6, and higher is always better.
- A 13-15 inch screen size. Leaning toward the higher end, though I don't really want to go over the 15" mark, so I'd take a 14" before I would a 15.6".
- Good material quality. Particularly a sturdy keyboard, look, and feel.
- A 320GB HDD or larger. Preferably at 7200rpm.
- 4GB of memory. I could be convinced of less in a pinch, but I won't like it.
- Other minor preferences include a 1600x900 resolution, around 4-5 years of life (you see part of why I want the build quality yes?), and a preference toward something fairly quiet and cool if possible.
- I don't really care too much about the graphics card (partly since I'm after that battery life and I know it would get drained), webcam, optical drive, wireless strength (it will mostly be used in a large college, so lots of wifi around), or Bluetooth (unless this is super-awesome and I just don't realize it).

As you might be able to tell, my main issue is that I have no firm idea of what to look for for the material quality, and in generally I just don't know which brands should be catching my fancy over others, though I do tend to prefer customization over prefabs. Also, it probably looks like I don't actually need much help, but please take all the above with a grain of salt. I'll readily listen to any suggestion about me not needing this much of that or me needing more of something or me being kind of dumb. I probably am.

Finally, my budget on this is basically $700, and there isn't much worry up to that point. After that, I'll start getting apprehensive, particularly past $800, and will definitely put my foot down at $1K.
Thank you very much, anyone who takes the time to read this, and especially anyone who responds.
7 answers Last reply
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  1. alright seems like you don't need a beast.

    CPU: i think an i5 will work fine for you, just have to pick whether you want first gen or second gen ( you can compare the differences on the intel website, obviously, 2nd gen is newer)
    GPU: since you want portability, you can probably go with an integrated graphics or look for nVidia Optimus Technology cards. supposedly they help save up power by selecting which applications to run through integrated GPU and which through dedicated card. (i haven't had the personal experience with those so just going by what's advertised)
    Material quality: this is kind of at the eye of the beholder. but out of my personal experience if you want sturdy casing Lenovo does a good job on that, since they expect you to be lugging their laptops around. But if you're careful any laptop will be fine for you.
    Ram:you are absolutely right about 4Gb, I wouldn't go lower myself. Higher, probably don't need to either. Ram is cheap nowadays, can always upgrade later if need be.
    HDD: 320Gb is a pretty standard size, I haven't seen many with lesser. 7200 rpm, keep in mind it will take away from battery life to spin the thing faster.

    So my recommendations, take a look at: - thinkpads are the most common ones -14" asus laptops
  2. I've been looking at Lenovo as my current choice, since they are reported to have great battery time and construction. My only problem with that is that I'm being forced to wait before buying, and a deal that I was sort of relying on is at least supposedly vanishing today. Though, the deal seems a little shady in terms of if the actual $1K tag on the laptop normally is real, or just to make the sale look big.
    Aside from that I'm looking at Dell, really. They tend to get good reports for laptops, from what I've seen, though I'm not sure I trust the battery life on them. At the same time, I should be able to get a good deal through the college I'm going to.
    Oh, forgot to mention, I'm feeling like the Sager laptops are essentially out of my price range. For those within it, I'd worry about the battery life. And for Asus I'm not against it, I just prefer the by-part customization that other brands are offering.
  3. Asus isn't offering by part customization? o.O
    Other than that I think you doing fine, as long as make sure the components that you are getting are good and will serve you for what you need you'll be fine.
  4. AntiZig said:
    Asus isn't offering by part customization? o.O

    Not that I've seen! Sure hope I did't miss something.
  5. umm, on the link I gave you, it has the customize option... but yes, since asus is europe based, unless you go to custom boutique vendor like xoticpc, everywhere else it will be prebuilt models.
  6. AntiZig said:
    umm, on the link I gave you, it has the customize option... but yes, since asus is europe based, unless you go to custom boutique vendor like xoticpc, everywhere else it will be prebuilt models.

    Oh, yeah. My problem with that was that the prices all seem to be just out of the range I'm wanting. I'll double check, naturally.
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