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Looking to buy a good quality laptop. Any recommendations?

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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July 19, 2011 3:10:36 PM

I currently own a Dell XPS M1530 which I believe has reached its final days. I've enjoyed this laptop (seems high quality), but within the past year or so I've been having a lot of trouble with freezing, crashing, start-up problems, errors, cannot run Windows updates, and blue screens (this may be due to my heavy computer use/abuse, due to the computer's age, or some combination). I'm currently in grad school taking online courses, so reliability is important to me. I've seriously been considering the new Dell XPS 15, but have been doing a lot of research lately and I'm concerned about all the talk I'm hearing about Dell's customer service declining.

I've been using the laptop buying guides and laptop choosers on several different websites, but I'm having difficulty deciding what is best for me. Essentially, I'm looking for a computer that is of equal or better quality as the Dell XPS 15, but I'm uncertain what other computer brands are equivalent/comparable. Or maybe the Dell XPS 15 is best for me, I don't know?

Of utmost importance to me is reliability, but I would also like speed, decent memory, multitasking capabilities, good graphics, good customer service, and if possible, cooler temps.

1. What is your budget? Would like to try not to go over $1,300 (including any custom add-ons and service plans/warranties). I would prefer to stay under this total cost, but would be willing to spend more up to $1,500 or so if it was worth it (but it'd have to really be worth it!).

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering? 15-16"

3. What screen resolution do you want? I would like decent, high resolution.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop? Mobility isn't that important to me. The laptop will be plugged in most of the time and will only be moved occasionally when traveling.

5. How much battery life do you need? Not as important to me.

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)? No gaming.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
- I do a lot of multitasking (e.g., researching w/ a lot of windows open at once, sometimes multiple programs running at once)
- Frequently use Microsoft Office (Word, PowerPoint).
- Frequently use Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Adobe Acrobat (I do a lot of photo editing and designing)
- On rare occasions use Autodesk: AutoCAD, VIZ 4 (3D Studio Max), Revit Architecture (drafting and 3D modeling programs).

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need? 4GB Memory 500GB 7200 RPM Hard drive (at least, I believe this is what I'd like to have).

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
I've been looking everywhere: through cnet and pcworld, newegg, bestbuy, tigerdirect, amazon, manufacturer websites (e.g., dell.com). Would like to buy from somewhere with the best price and best warrantee options.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop? As long as possible. Would like at least 3 years.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ? Not as important. As long as I can play and burn CDs/DVDs.

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've been looking at and comparing: Dell, Lenovo, Asus, Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, and Apple (although w/ Apple I'm concerned about cost, incompatibilities w/ my existing Windows programs and costs associated with making them compatible, and the nearest Apple store is at least 1 hour away/hassle to get to). However, I'm open to recommendations.

13. What country do you live in? USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
- Prefer a laptop that runs cooler, if possible.
- Would like a good service plan (e.g., 3 yr hardware and accidental damage service)
a c 450 D Laptop
July 19, 2011 4:07:31 PM

I like IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads. My 1st and only laptop is an IBM ThinkPad T40 from 2003. I am still using that laptop, however, I am looking to replace it. It's more of a want than a need for me though.

IBM sold the PC side of their business to Lenovo and I think Lenovo has done a good job maintaining the high quality and durability of the ThinkPad series of notebooks based on reviews over the years. Lenovo has the IdeaPad and Essential series of notebooks, but they created those series of notebooks, they did not originate from IBM.

The ThinkPad series is the only line of laptops that Lenovo allows you to choose a screen resolution so if you want something more than 1366x768, then go with a ThinkPad. Choosing the 1600x900 option is not expensive, however, the 1920x1080 option is pretty expensive. There LCD screens have a matte finish rather than a glossy screen which is highly reflective; something I prefer.

Here a link to the 15.6" ThinkPad T520 laptops. Lenovo currently has a sale going on, but it ends tomorrow, July 20th. You can also use the eCoupon code GOOGLESHOP to get an additional 10% off; basically saving you tax. The code expires either tomorrow or the following day.

http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/Len...

I can't personally say how good IBM's/Lenovo's tech support is since I never had an issue with my ThinkPad. However, IBM was renowned for their tech support.
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July 19, 2011 5:28:57 PM

jaguarskx, Thank you for the advice and letting me know about the sales/coupons available! This is all very helpful. I have been seriously looking at the Lenovo Thinkpads. I've never had a Lenovo Thinkpad before, so I'm uncertain about the quality. How are the graphics on these computers?
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a c 450 D Laptop
July 19, 2011 5:57:11 PM

Very basic. They are meant for business rather than for games. Therefore, the only use the Intel HD 3000 graphics core that is integrated into Intel's current Sandy Bridge series of their Core i3/i5/i7 CPUs. That is as powerful as the entry level desktop Radeon HD 5450 for games; that's actually 2x more powerful than Intel's previous GMA 4500MHD integrated video. However, since you do not play games, that should not be a concern. But if your current Dell XPS M1530 has the nVidia 8600GT video card, then the Intel HD 3000 would be less powerful than that.

The LCD panel is most likely a TN panel since there is no available information on any of the screen options. The vast majority of LCD panels used in laptops are TN panels which means they are not so good for color accurate work. The only exception would be the "premium LCD panel" option for the 12.5" ThinkPad X220, and HP's Elitebook 8000 series with the "DreamColor" option and those have a starting price of $2,000 before adding "DreamColor" and prices goes up very quickly if you are looking for something beyond the base model. Those screen are IPS panels which is best for color accuracy.

Since the 1920x1080 panel for the ThinkPad T520 is a $250 upgrade I suspect that it might be an IPS panel, but I need to have it in front of to determine that. You can call Lenovo and ask to find out, but you will probably have to speak to several people before finding out that answer since I really doubt that is common knowledge for their customer support.
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April 11, 2014 5:47:31 PM

Alien ware makes really nice laptops if you can get over the huge price tag! Also Asus ROG laptops are great! But since you aren't really going to be gaming and mainly just a work station you can always go over to Apple.... They have great customer support, thin and light laptops, Amazing for photo and video editing, you can get certain Microsoft software for them and they are also kinda customizable to your needs. The only thing is the Apple owner ship fee....
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April 12, 2014 5:06:03 AM

I would get a custom built one from a website like Cyber Power. You will get so much more bang for your buck, even if it takes much longer to make.
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