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A Notebook for my Sister

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April 11, 2012 5:23:17 AM

Right, my sister's birthday is coming up and my family and I have decided to get her a new notebook she's been needing for a while. She has laid out some specifications of what she wants it to be like, and it's a pretty tall order; frankly, I don't think such a machine exists. So, I'm back again to enlist the expertise of my favorite computing community.

Here is what she wants:

17" screen
600+ GB HDD
"Lots of RAM" -- 4 GB will be plenty for her
DVD combo drive
"Fast" -- We want to get her an i5, preferably second gen. Dual core is enough, since it'll have HT.
And the kicker: 6+ hours battery life

I'm reasonably certain that such a long life is mutually exclusive with all the other things. The best I've been able to find is an MSI model on XoticPC with a 15" screen, 500 GB HDD, and an i3 with 8+ hours of life.

We probably are not going to spend more than $700.

Do you folks know of any machine that can meet her expectations? Close enough counts, by the way. It doesn't need to come with an OS (in fact we would prefer if it didn't), and it definitely doesn't need any sort of dedicated graphics hardware--the integrated processor on the CPU will be enough.

Thanks in advance for your assistance, and my family and I will be in your debt if you can lead us to a great machine.

More about : notebook sister

a c 572 D Laptop
April 11, 2012 6:20:06 AM

Hello StandardFiend;

6+hrs on a 17" notebook is a challenge. That larger LCD screen w/ 1600x900 resolution uses more power. But it does have a higher capacity 9cell battery.
The 'max battery life' rating is just meant to cover a minimal power draw with the LCD probably at 20% brightness and CPU pretty close to idle. That's classroom note-taking mode, and not much more than that. Is that what the 6hr+ requirement is needed for?

How portable does it need to be? The 17" models are pretty unwieldly size-wise and usually run close to 7lbs.
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April 11, 2012 6:43:26 AM

I'm sure she wants to take it to class with her, so perhaps she does not realize how unwieldly a 17" can be. My 15" gaming notebook is too heavy for her already. I also don't think she's going to get the battery life she wants out of one that large.

I'm trying to convince her to go for a 15" at most.

Of all the requirements listed above, the screen size is perhaps the least important. I don't think she'll be happy with a 17".
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 11, 2012 6:45:54 AM

Screen size is more than just physical dimensions.
You can get 1600x900 resolutions in 14" notebooks. That's the same 'space on screen' as the 17". It's just the same 1600x900 pixels in a smaller frame.

What's the most demanding type of work she plans to do?
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 11, 2012 6:50:08 AM

Here are a couple of 14" models with Core i5. 1366x768 on one and 1600x900 on the other.
HP DM4 models
Note that the more expensive model also has a small SSD that helped drive up the cost.
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April 11, 2012 7:03:14 AM

I wouldn't go with MSI. They have been in the hardware business and only recently ventured into laptops in the last couple of years. There have been a lot of instances of the sound chips failing among other things.

And HP laptops, while nice and reliable, are terribly overpriced for what you are actually getting.

About the best laptop I can recommend that comes close to what you are looking for would be the Vaio SA series VPCSA3AFX/SI. I have one almost exactly like this, except mine was a tad more expensive because it came with full 1080p and 6GB of RAM. This particular model seems perfect for your sister. Not only does it have excellent battery life, but the 4GB of DDR3 is actually 1333MHz as opposed to the standard 1066MHz we see in most modern laptops.

It's an excellent notebook.

Oh, and it also has dedicated graphics. The 6630m, which is a good mid-range chip for notebooks. I have the same and can max Far Cry 2, play Crysis on medium, etc, etc.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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April 11, 2012 7:04:07 AM

WR2 said:
Screen size is more than just physical dimensions.
You can get 1600x900 resolutions in 14" notebooks. That's the same 'space on screen' as the 17". It's just the same 1600x900 pixels in a smaller frame.

What's the most demanding type of work she plans to do?


Schoolwork mostly. Internet browsing, watching movies. Nothing particularly demanding on hardware. Her current desktop doesn't have the specs to run her Sims programs, so she may want to do that at some point, but that's nothing a modern notebook can't handle.

Resolution doesn't really matter. She claims she can't tell the difference between 480p and 1080p on a 50" television, so I imagine a minimum resolution of 768, which is what she has right now, will serve her just fine, whether on a 14" or a 17". What matters more to her is the physical dimensions of the screen, which is why I think she wants 17 inches. The problem is that's not practical for her.

PCGamer: Thanks for the tip about MSI, and the suggestion. The only problem is she won't accept a screen that small, and Sony is infamous for drastically overcharging for their Vaio products anyway. We simply can't afford that kind of computer, even though it's a great machine. $700 has to remain our limit so we aren't eating out of tin cans for the next few months :p 
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a b D Laptop
April 11, 2012 7:16:06 AM

yea... if she can't get the concept of screensize and resolution you are in trouble. screen size vary rarly trumps resolution. And 6 hour+ battery life just doesn't happen except in business laptops with extra clip on batteries. "school work" and movies are vastly different. and movies suck power. and if she can't handle a light 15inch laptop... you don't have a lot of options. 10 pounds is nothing and that's really the heaviest so I don't get why she couldn't handle one... it should also be noted Intel integrated graphics are horrible sine you mentioned games....

Sounds like she's looking for a fantasy ultrabook
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April 11, 2012 7:32:23 AM

I mentioned Sims, I'm hesitant to call that a game lol. Either way Intel's integrated processor will handle it no problem. So I'm not miffed about that.

But yeah, like I said, she's come up with a very tall order and it looks like even between the four of us we can't come up with something that meets all her demands. She's going to have to make a choice between power and battery life at some point. Even at schools they have plenty of power outlets around the place so it's not like she'd be stranded with a modest 4 hours or some such.

It would help if she knew anything about computers and could come up with a more reasonable request, but she doesn't, so it's on me basically.

And I'm with you on the resolution thing, bro. But she'd take a crappy 360p resolution if it came on a 17" screen. Maybe she just doesn't understand the difference between size and res.
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a b D Laptop
April 11, 2012 7:50:41 AM

right. I have 3 sisters. I know the drill. not a dis on women at all LOL. computer ignorance goes both ways. and I mention games because I see lots of "game wont run" posts because of integrated GPUs and I have never played sims.

I think the battery life is the main hold up. my HP dv7 lasts at least 3 hours with a 17 inch screen on a plane. has she been to college yet? most of my classes didn't need laptops. and the good lecture halls had outlets at each desk...
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a c 572 D Laptop
April 11, 2012 7:50:46 AM

I think a trip to the local BestBuy or maybe Staples is a good idea.
I know it seems like a 17" notebook is 'only' 2 inches more - but it's actually more, overall than that. And of course lugging that around with a 1lb power brick is something you need to plan for - not just any book bag will handle a 17" notebook.
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Best solution

a c 572 D Laptop
April 11, 2012 7:54:56 AM

HP dv7 Entertainment 17" notebook ~$625 for Core i5 before extra options.

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April 11, 2012 8:37:23 AM

Wow, thanks WR2. That's actually a really good option. I'll let my parents know about that and see what my sis thinks as well. Normally I'd never spring for an HP (which is why I haven't bothered looking there yet) since, like Sony, they're always overpriced, but with those supreme discounts that is a sweet deal.

I have a personal bias against HP because of a really aweful customer service experience, too, but what the heck.

The base battery already is rated for over 5 hours, and it's only 20 ducks to upgrade to a hi-cap.

I still think she should think about a smaller machine, but hey, if she's sticking to her story then this might be the one for her.

unksol: She's at CC right now, getting ready to transfer. I never really needed a laptop for my classes, but it was always handy, even just for killing time between classes. I never go to campus without some kind of gadget because it's just too handy.
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April 13, 2012 2:56:28 AM

If you want cheap, the Lenovo G550 is actually a pretty impressive budget laptops. The only 3 laptops I have ever personally owned are the Vaio, the G550, and an ASUS gaming laptop that is way too expensive. I wish I could recommend more.

But it's is still a good machine.

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/laptops/essential/g-series/g5...

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April 17, 2012 4:59:18 PM

Best answer selected by StandardFiend.
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nThank you everyone for your input, once again. Tom's never ceases to amaze me with the breadth and clarity of the answers I receive, as well as the friendliness of the community.
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nIt looks like my sister has narrowed her choice down to the HP option WR2 posted or a custom Sager from XPC, so on that basis I have selected WR2's as the best answer.
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nI will look forward to seeing you all around again.
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