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Need fast/reliable laptop for college

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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June 5, 2011 8:46:57 PM

I'm going to college in 3 months and I've been told that a lot of the software needed for engineering school isn't compatible with OSX so I can't use my macbook and I really don't feel like dragging my gaming rig into a dorm room so I need a new laptop.

I don't plan on gaming on this thing, I'll basically just use it for word processing, running whatever programs i need for engineering and listening to music.

I know I want the following things

-Quad core processor, preferably sandy bridge
-Small form factor. I like the macbook for 3 reasons and 1 is that it's small and easily portable. I don't care about weight, but I want to have something no more than 15in
- LOOONNNGGGG battery life, as in 6-8 hours while sitting idle with the brightness turned down. another thing i like about the mac is the battery lasts forever
- cool/quiet, pretty self explanatory
- solid construction

Things I would like
-Metal finish
- backlit keyboard
- multi touch gesturing (third and final reason why i like the mac)
- good sound card (idc about speakers, I wear headphones anyway)
- good screen


The main computers I've been looking at were the
Dell XPS 15z (though not a quad core and I've heard bad things about construction, battery life, screen)
Dell XPS 15 (hardware and price are fantastic but it's a beast and battery is still an issue.)
Alienware 14x (hardware is fantastic, smaller size, hot as hell though and battery life isn't great)
HP dv6tq (hardware is great, price is great, no backlit keyboard, poor battery life)
HP Envy 14 beats (beats for some reason is 100 bucks cheaper with the quad core, size is great, metal, but heard battery life is poor for it's size and processors aren't sandy bridge)

You may be thinking "just dual boot windows on your mbp" but the hardware has already failed on that thing once and I'm not at all impressed by the POS dual core. It's 2 years old already and I'd like to get something new and top of the line to last me 4 years, and because I won't be gaming on it i think that's possible.


Any comments or suggestions are more than welcome. I have a lot of time to make the purchase so I'm doing all the research i can.
a b D Laptop
June 6, 2011 3:16:22 AM

jcpwn3r said:
I'm going to college in 3 months and I've been told that a lot of the software needed for engineering school isn't compatible with OSX so I can't use my macbook and I really don't feel like dragging my gaming rig into a dorm room so I need a new laptop.

I don't plan on gaming on this thing, I'll basically just use it for word processing, running whatever programs i need for engineering and listening to music.

I know I want the following things

-Quad core processor, preferably sandy bridge
-Small form factor. I like the macbook for 3 reasons and 1 is that it's small and easily portable. I don't care about weight, but I want to have something no more than 15in
- LOOONNNGGGG battery life, as in 6-8 hours while sitting idle with the brightness turned down. another thing i like about the mac is the battery lasts forever
- cool/quiet, pretty self explanatory
- solid construction

Things I would like
-Metal finish
- backlit keyboard
- multi touch gesturing (third and final reason why i like the mac)
- good sound card (idc about speakers, I wear headphones anyway)
- good screen


The main computers I've been looking at were the
Dell XPS 15z (though not a quad core and I've heard bad things about construction, battery life, screen)
Dell XPS 15 (hardware and price are fantastic but it's a beast and battery is still an issue.)
Alienware 14x (hardware is fantastic, smaller size, hot as hell though and battery life isn't great)
HP dv6tq (hardware is great, price is great, no backlit keyboard, poor battery life)
HP Envy 14 beats (beats for some reason is 100 bucks cheaper with the quad core, size is great, metal, but heard battery life is poor for it's size and processors aren't sandy bridge)

You may be thinking "just dual boot windows on your mbp" but the hardware has already failed on that thing once and I'm not at all impressed by the POS dual core. It's 2 years old already and I'd like to get something new and top of the line to last me 4 years, and because I won't be gaming on it i think that's possible.


Any comments or suggestions are more than welcome. I have a lot of time to make the purchase so I'm doing all the research i can.

I sure hope that you are doing research because you've just managed to contradict yourself several times in your post. I'll explain...

Contradiction #1:

a) I don't plan on gaming on this thing, I'll basically just use it for word processing, running whatever programs i need for engineering and listening to music.
b) Quad core processor, preferably sandy bridge

For God's sake, why?! WTH is an i7 going to do for you if you're doing things that can be done with a Pentium-III? I'm pretty sure your macbook doesn't have an i7...lol

Contradiction #2:

a) Quad core processor, preferably sandy bridge
b) LOOONNNGGGG battery life, as in 6-8 hours while sitting idle with the brightness turned down.

I hope you realise that PC laptops do NOT last 6-8 hours, especially when trying to feed an i7!

Contradiction #3: (3 parts)

a) Quad core processor, preferably sandy bridge
b) Small form factor
c) cool/quiet

Ok, so you want to run an i7 Quad-Core in a small form factor (which means no room for a decent cooling setup or noise dampening) and you want it to be cool and quiet. Such a thing does not exist and will not exist for years.

I really do think you had better go back to the drawing board and conduct more research because there is no laptop out there that will fill the requirements you have. Not even a macbook meets these requirements. I'm not trying to bust your chops or put you down, I'm just trying to bring you back to earth. To a laptop expert, what you have just posted is like posting "I want a Hemi V-8 that gets 60mpg" to an automotive expert. With the expectations you have, you will be unhappy with your laptop, even if you spend $2000 on it. It is apparent that you've never purchased a PC laptop before and I have just the thing for you to read to give you the vital information you seek.
http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/60098-35-general-lapt...
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June 6, 2011 3:10:15 PM

I want an i7 because I wan't the computer to last for 4 years and I'm not sure what programs they'll need me to run so if I need to throw the kitchen sink at something i'd like to have it. and I was thinking 2630QM territory, though if you know of a dual core which will offer performance close to that chip then by all means tell me. If I need to buy an extended battery to get 6 hours of life so be it.

as far as form factor goes, They offer 14.5 and 15.6 in computers with quad cores and by cool and quiet i mean as long as it doesn't raise the temperature of my room by 5 degrees like my gaming rig does fine with that

so yes it is unreasonable to ask for 60mpg from a v8 hemi but I can ask for 30 from a v6 ecoboost.

now if you are quite finished insulting my intelligence could you please recommend a viable option?
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a b D Laptop
June 6, 2011 4:24:42 PM

Just curious about where you got your info on the XPS 15z? Notebook Check thought the case was rather good, with hardly any plastics and mostly aluminum. Battery life was in the 3-5 hour range under moderate load, a lot less under full or heavier loads but that will be the same for just about any laptop. The screen, well you got me there. They said it had good brightness and contrast, but the color gamut was only mediocre. One major complaint were the thermals though.

Here's the review: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Dell-XPS-15z-Notebo...

cnet review: http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/dell-xps-15z/4505-3121_...
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a b D Laptop
June 6, 2011 5:04:50 PM

jcpwn3r said:
I want an i7 because I wan't the computer to last for 4 years and I'm not sure what programs they'll need me to run so if I need to throw the kitchen sink at something i'd like to have it. and I was thinking 2630QM territory, though if you know of a dual core which will offer performance close to that chip then by all means tell me.

as a recent engineering program graduate I will tell you that you will NOT need an i7 to run any of the programs you will be required to use for class. Unless ofcourse you're going to school for graphics design or some video production and even then, ram is a larger factor. the most you will run is Matlab/Mathcad/analogous and maybe solidworks or similar, considering both of those at the same time, still don't need an i7. Oh and one more thing, if at any point in time you will need significant computing power to do your assignment you will have school lab desktops available to you for free, which as you must know beat out a laptop any day.

If you get an i5 I'm more than sure you will be fine. As far as solid builds, you already looking at dell, take a look at Lenovos, you might find a suitable idea pad for yourself.

Also, I really don't think you need an alienware, since you said you won't be doing gaming on it, you'll be overpaying for the brand alone. Unless you really want the looks.

I think that xps could work fine for you since, ostandwande says it's a good case. The only concern I'd have with dells is the paint finish that they use, unless it's a completely black plastic all around.

And for majority of the laptops you listed, yes they get poor battery life because majority of them come with 6-9 cell batteries, as you said if you get a 12 cell for them as a spare, and make sure to turn the bringtness/etc down when on battery power, I'm sure you can manage them pretty well. The big problem with this though is to make sure that the laptop has an option for a bigger battery. About 5 years ago I got a dell xps, when the original battery died and I wanted to get a bigger one, well guess what, dell didn't have any bigger for that model. So, do your homework on that.
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June 6, 2011 5:28:40 PM

Oh ok, if the most intensive thing I need to run is solid works then I'll step down to the i5. I just read that HP will put the SB i5s into the envy starting june 15th so I'm curious about that. Only reason I looked at the alienware was because they offered it at a great price with the student discount.

btw, I read a 15z review on endgadget and gizmodo.
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a b D Laptop
June 7, 2011 12:05:52 AM

jcpwn3r said:
I want an i7 because I wan't the computer to last for 4 years and I'm not sure what programs they'll need me to run so if I need to throw the kitchen sink at something i'd like to have it. and I was thinking 2630QM territory, though if you know of a dual core which will offer performance close to that chip then by all means tell me. If I need to buy an extended battery to get 6 hours of life so be it.

as far as form factor goes, They offer 14.5 and 15.6 in computers with quad cores and by cool and quiet i mean as long as it doesn't raise the temperature of my room by 5 degrees like my gaming rig does fine with that

so yes it is unreasonable to ask for 60mpg from a v8 hemi but I can ask for 30 from a v6 ecoboost.

now if you are quite finished insulting my intelligence could you please recommend a viable option?

I believe I did say that such a thing wasn't my intent. I stand by that regardless of what you wish to believe. Really, really, I'd recommend something with a fast dual or triple core in the $500-$750 range. If you need to throw the kitchen sink at something later, buy the kitchen sink then when it will be half the price it is now. I don't even believe it will come to that. Non-gaming apps don't need anything more than a dual-core to perform admirably. Hell, most of them don't need anything more than a single core like my laptop although, admittedly, I use Windows XP on it which is much more hardware-friendly than W7 or Beelzebub's Operating System of the Damned (VISTA). Even so, I'm not aware of any programs that cannot run on Windows XP Pro SP2 (I don't like SP3 at all) so I'm still sitting pretty here almost 2 years later and nothing has really changed. Firefox works perfectly and so too do MS and Open Office. If you want a recommendation, my recommendation is this:

MSI FX620DX-256
http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E1683...
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