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Buying a new laptop for programming

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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September 19, 2011 9:18:18 PM

I am a new Computer Science major and I am looking for a new laptop to suit my needs and to make programming easier.
S&S = short and simple answer.

1. What is your budget?
S&S: Around $1000
I would prefer to stay within $1000 but am willing to go over a few more hundred dollars for extra features I may want detailed below.

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
S&S: Does not matter.
As long as the screen is large enough for coding, refer to screen resolution details.

3. What screen resolution do you want?
S&S: At least 900 vertical.
Anything that makes it easier to see various lines of code.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
S&S: Portable.
I already have a desktop, but I need a powerful enough laptop to use in my long hours on campus.

5. How much battery life do you need?
S&S: Does not really matter.
I would prefer a long enough battery life to last me a couple hours for when I have breaks between my courses. Maybe 3-4 hours? My longest break is 2.5 hours. But I may buy a second battery so this may not be an issue.

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)?
S&S: Not a primary concern. Programming first, entertainment second.
I do game ocassionally (whenever I have days off or slow work weekends) but it isn't my primary concern. I would only use it to play MMOs (maybe the upcoming Guild Wars 2) with fellow colleagues from time to time. Highest I would go is medium settings on a laptop. Wouldn't want to tax it, too, much.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
S&S: Nothing really.
I may use gimp from time to time, but not sure if this pertains to photo editing.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
S&S: 500gb HDD at least and/or a low priced 250 GB SSD.
I am willing to sacrifice a bit more in price for an SSD, am not sure as to the amount I need. I could also buy a cheaper laptop with a HDD and buy & install a SSD, at a later time, in which case I would need some SSD's to be recommended and a laptop which would allow the upgrade/swap.

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
S&S: Does not matter.
I have only bought from Best Buy and Newegg, but I am open to anything.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
S&S: Another 2+ years.
I bought a laptop about 3-4 years ago and it become obsolete the following months as new processors arrived, I admit I was not exactly the smartest consumer then, but I am researching now. If I am not mistaken Ivy Bridge are the next processors from Intel and Bulldozer (not sure if this name has changed) is AMD's new processors. Would it be wise to wait another year to buy a laptop knowing this? (Also with talk of Windows 8 as well, refer to additional information)

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
S&S: DVD R/W.
Blu-ray would be nice but I'd prefer to keep this as a last option for an extra feature.

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.
S&S: Open to all brands.
I have only owned HP brand computers, but have worked with various brands: dell, macs, acer, sony and so on.

13. What country do you live in?
S&S: California, USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
S&S: Needs to have a back lit keyboard. Maybe, looking for a laptop with a touch screen.
I am concerned with what I have seen of Windows 8 and its emphasis on touch. Because of this I am thinking of buying a laptop with a touch screen, though I am unsure if this is a wise investment and need insight on this. Would it be recommended to buy a touch screen laptop or should I just wait for Windows 8 and buy a touch screen monitor for my desktop later on? If it is recommended I am willing to sacrifice graphics capability for the expense of a touch screen, seeing as I already own a desktop for gaming on the side.

Thank you.
September 20, 2011 1:18:41 PM

Well for the best brand, with a good resolution, two things came up. First being Asus.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

15.6", 1080p resolution, has a 540m so any games will run fine. Powerful i7, too.

And a Toshiba.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

17", 1600x900 resolution, 540m, stated 4hour 11minute battery.

I would recommend the first one, the Asus, has a smaller screen but higher res. The only thing is, I don't know the battery life.

Touch screen laptops, I assume, are going to be pretty expensive. I honestly can't see myself using one, even if it had windows 8 on it. For all practical purposes, it's just not as good as a mouse and keyboard. But that's just my 2 cents.
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September 20, 2011 6:55:33 PM

Thanks abyssalx. I am interested in the first one, battery life is mentioned to have 3-4 hours (depending on use), but it does not have a backlit keyboard. I tend to work late into the night so it would be really useful if it did come with that feature. I found another laptop:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

It's 17.3", 1920 x 1080 resolution, GTX 460M, 8gb ram. And the reviewers mention a back lit keyboard.

How does the GTX 460M compare to the GT 540m?
Any other back lit keyboard laptops that can be recommended?

I have also decided with buying a 250 GB SSD to replace the hard drive in the laptop, primarily this one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I've heard only good things from Samsung and Intel, but Intel is a little far from my budget range so I went with Samsung.
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September 20, 2011 7:45:28 PM

The 460m totally blows the 540m out of the water. The 540m will be good for modern games on medium - high but the 460m will get high in almost every game and very high in a good majority. It's in another class completely, it's a very good mobile gaming card. The only drawback is that using it will cut the battery life much more than the 540m, but with optimus it shouldn't be too bad. Searching for a backlit keyboard is a little tough but I'll look into it and see what I find. And yeah, from what I've seen, samsung and intel produce the best SSDs. Kingston's tend to be very slow compared to them.

Also - Keep in mind. I saw that Asus you posted, in best buy the other day(not the exact model but the same actual laptop case, etc) and it was huge, seriously a behemoth compared to so many other laptops.
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September 22, 2011 6:12:02 PM

I own that ASUS N53SV-XV1 that was linked earlier. See my comments on NewEgg from "Shadamus" on 8/15/2011.

It's perfect for what you want to do with it, but I totally understand if having a backlit keyboard is a deal-breaker for you. You can find after-market backlit keyboards for many models, but I have no experience in using them.

Also, note that with just about any of these units, you can put an SSD in, and move the HDD to a caddy in the optical bay for about $45 (See NewModeUS.com), then use the optical drive via USB adapter or enclosure. I so seldom need optical media, that I have done this to my last two laptops. I keep a USB DVD burner around the house for those rare occasions when I need to re-install an OS from bare-metal.

Good luck.
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