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Need a cheap stop-gap notebook for web design/development

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September 13, 2011 12:38:18 AM

Hey guys,

I need to pick up a laptop. I have a desktop I do most of my work on and for now I need the laptop to handle buts of web development and occasional photoshop work when I'm away from my computer. I'm taking a road trip at the end of this month and I need something to take with me.

With Ivy bridge coming soon, as well as possibly a refresh to macbook pro's and not really seeing anything currently that would be a perfect fit for what I really want, I'm thinking about getting a cheap notebook to last me into the next year, then either sell it or give it to a family member or use it as a spare.

1. What is your budget?
low, $250 - $450

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
14" or less, ideally. will go 15/15.6 if the price is substantially cheaper.

3. What screen resolution do you want?
if possible, greater than 1366x768, but it will do fine for now I guess (resolution in current laptops is one reason I'm not making a bigger investment right now)

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
probably somewhere in between

5. How much battery life do you need?
more is always better, but I'm being cheap.

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.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
web development & graphic design (though for the web mostly so not as big a hit as for print)
but commonly running several photoshop mocks, a text editor with a dozen files, 3 different browsers with multiple instances each etc etc.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
not a whole lot. smallest hd will do.

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

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
a year, then will find other uses for it.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
not important

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.
open to anything for this one

13. What country do you live in?
California

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
I'm not sure how slow of a processor I can accept before it becomes unworkable to run photoshop on the occasion that I need it to. i3? i3UM? pentium class? amd's offerings? a screen with a resolution higher than 1366 would be great, but I'm doubtful in this price range.



thanks for your help!
a c 572 D Laptop
September 13, 2011 12:58:48 AM

Hello hotdogfingers;

Your budget/preferred size notebook is going to limit your resolution to the standard 1366x768 resolution.
You could get a 1600x900 notebook in your price range but only in the 17" size.

At the standard size resolution (15" 1366x768) you can find a $380 Lenovo G570.
It's got a Sandy Bridge based Pentium B940 (2.00GHz) CPU, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD and 15.6" 1366x768 LCD with Intel HD Graphics (Sandy Bridge).
WiFi surfing on battery above 4.5hrs.

Lenovo G570 Review (reviewed unit had different specs but the chassis is the same)
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a c 572 D Laptop
September 13, 2011 1:09:20 AM

An interesting option at 11.6" sub-notebook size. HP Pavilion dm1 $420
AMD Fusion E-350 1.6Ghz dual core, 3GB RAM, 250GB 7200rpm HDD, 11.6" 1366x768 LCD w/ Radeon HD 6310 IGP graphics.
It's not a multi-tasking powerhouse - but it will run everything you need to run. At 3.5lbs 11.6" and 6.5hrs WiFi surfing it has a lot going for it.

HP Pavilion dm1z Review
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September 13, 2011 1:17:24 AM

thanks for the quick input WR2!

as far as processors, how slow can I go? would something like:
core i3 ultramobile
pentium p6100
pentium b940

be going too far?

and yeah I'm ok with settling 1366 resolution. hdmi out would be a bonus

cheaper really is better, but I dont want to throw the baby out with the bathwater..
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a c 572 D Laptop
September 13, 2011 2:00:36 AM

The Laptop Mag reviews I listed had benchmarks that give you some good clues.
The AMD Fusion E-350 is the lowest I like to suggest. It will run Photoshop 'ok' but if you do a LOT of Photoshop work it's not the best choice. It's reasonably good for MS Office work unless you're multi-tasking (Word & Powerpoint for example) a lot. And it's really quite good at the usual email, web-surfing, social media and music/video/movie entertainment type stuff.

The C2D/Arrandale/Sandy Bridge ULVs would be a step up in CPU power from the E-350s and pretty much in the same ball park as the new Llano APUs (A4 dual, A6 Quad) A6-3400M 15" $400

The Pentium P6100/P6200/i3 Arrandales and B940/i3 Sandy Bridge would be the choice if you are going to be working a lot with PhotoShop and doing a lot of MS Office type multi-tasking.

If you're concerned about multi-tasking 'resale value' (and it sounds like you might be) one of these options with a 'good review' will help when it comes time to e-Bay the notebook.
Just above your price point but a really well rounded unit (IMO) is the 15" HP ProBook 4530s @ $475
HP ProBook 4530s Review
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a c 572 D Laptop
September 13, 2011 2:06:59 AM

Some more good options: Asus K53E 15" notebook $330 @ BestBuy
Pentium B940 / 3GB RAM, 320GB HDD 15.6" 1366x768 LCD.
IMO the 3GB RAM is nothing to worry about. It's plenty.
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a c 572 D Laptop
September 13, 2011 2:12:39 AM

HP g4-1117dx 14" A4-3300M $380
A4-3300M 1.9Ghz APU is a distant 2nd in CPU power to the Asus K53E above but it's the smaller 14" size.

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September 20, 2011 8:54:39 AM

Best answer selected by hotdogfingers.
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