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Laptop for a College Freshman

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
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July 26, 2012 8:19:09 PM

Well it feels good to post something on Tom's again. After being out of the tech loop for a good two and a half years I again return to the delirious labyrinth of computer research. I will be entering college as a freshman in the fall and I need to get a laptop. This can easily turn into one of those things where my OCD kicks in to waste hours upon hours of computer research.

So I would like to ask for your opinions on what laptop(s) would be good for me. I will use Tom's laptop format and then include some comments of my own at the end:


1. What is your budget?

Depends on the choices, but I wouldn't imagine spending over $700 or so. Again, depends, I don't know prices to tech too well.

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?

I am thinking the 15" range, give or take, would be good.

3. What screen resolution do you want?

Whichever fits that dimension.

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?

Portable

5. How much battery life do you need?

Enough to not worry about constantly, over a few hours would be nice though.

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)?

Not really.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)

Not sure yet, but definitely MS Office.

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?

I don't think I would need that much. My old comp. has 320 GB and that seemed like enough.

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

N/A

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?

Until I absolutely need a new one. My desktops are a several years old, they are just fine.

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?

I have been hearing that optical drives aren't really needed anymore (cloud and internet), so not sure if I would need one. If I do, I wouldn't need a Bluray, maybe just a DVD drive.

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.

N/A

13. What country do you live in?

U.S.A.

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.


Okay, here is where I can put my personal preferences. All in all, I think I can put up with minor inconveniences. A few examples:

I looked in some stores and I found that 5 pounds is acceptable. The only laptop I found to be heavy was 9 lbs., but if it needs to be a bit heavy then so be it.

I will be leaving my desktop at home.

Okay my biggest concern of all: I am not sure but it just seems to me that we are becoming "accustomed" as tech. improves. Take my old desktops. The one I will be leaving at home has 1.5 GB of DDR or DDR2 RAM. It works just fine. I can have multiple tabs and windows no problem. A single game takes about a GB at max. It seems to me that 4 GB is the "standard" now. Is that really necessary?

I will be entering as an Engineering major but I will most likely not be gaming whatsoever, and I may watch a movie here and there (I don't do that now so perhaps not, and even if I do, I'm not an aficionado of quality). I tried to do a little research on processors but I am started to get confused. The bottom line: I feel that a budget machine is right for me, but then others tell me otherwise. I am skeptical of everything so I am not sure what to believe.

I will be looking at random reviews on Amazon and such of random laptops, but if anyone could please help me with this process that I have gone through before, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for reading.
July 26, 2012 8:32:37 PM

Wow, well your requirements don't really harbour any problems, it seems as if almost any laptop will do for your requirements.
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July 26, 2012 9:24:31 PM

Please don't get the HP G6, they are sweet for elderly people and non-tech savy parents, tha's about it...

Hi there, coming from an Engineering student who will be a senior next year, (my girlfriend who is also an engineer just bought a laptop, and my brother will be a freshmen in engineering this year as well) I've done a ton of research o nthe best laptops for "budget engineering" students. I paid about $1200 for an HP Envy 14 2 years ago and my girlfriend just bought a Dell XPS 14 ultrabook.

I know these are out of your price range, but you don't HAVE to spend that much to get similar performance. Spend a little bit more now to save the hassle down the road when you want to run some 3D CAD programs for engineering. Take a look at the new HP DV6t on their website and customize it to what yooure willing to spend. I'd recommend the following:

CPU: any Ivy Bridge i5 is fine ie. i5-3xxx processor

GPU: since you will not be gaming the GT 630 will be fine, CAD programs don't like intel integrated graphics and don't need a lot of speed to run. It's more of a driver support issue

Hard Drive: Upgrade to a 7200 rpm drive, its a cheap upgrade and will make a nice little difference (unless you plan on upgrading to an SSD later)

Display: Upgrade to the 1080p anti glare display! this is a must and the most important thing I can recommend for an engineering student

RAM: to save money now just leave this at the basic option, if you find that you're running out of memory you can upgrade this later with qualit after market ram

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July 26, 2012 9:36:03 PM

turbineTom said:
Please don't get the HP G6, they are sweet for elderly people and non-tech savy parents, tha's about it...

Hi there, coming from an Engineering student who will be a senior next year, (my girlfriend who is also an engineer just bought a laptop, and my brother will be a freshmen in engineering this year as well) I've done a ton of research o nthe best laptops for "budget engineering" students. I paid about $1200 for an HP Envy 14 2 years ago and my girlfriend just bought a Dell XPS 14 ultrabook.

I know these are out of your price range, but you don't HAVE to spend that much to get similar performance. Spend a little bit more now to save the hassle down the road when you want to run some 3D CAD programs for engineering. Take a look at the new HP DV6t on their website and customize it to what yooure willing to spend. I'd recommend the following:

CPU: any Ivy Bridge i5 is fine ie. i5-3xxx processor

GPU: since you will not be gaming the GT 630 will be fine, CAD programs don't like intel integrated graphics and don't need a lot of speed to run. It's more of a driver support issue

Hard Drive: Upgrade to a 7200 rpm drive, its a cheap upgrade and will make a nice little difference (unless you plan on upgrading to an SSD later)

Display: Upgrade to the 1080p anti glare display! this is a must and the most important thing I can recommend for an engineering student

RAM: to save money now just leave this at the basic option, if you find that you're running out of memory you can upgrade this later with qualit after market ram




For under $700 there's no laptop on the market which has a 1080p resolution

This is about the closest thing I can find under $700 that's worth the money

coupled with

http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-DDR3-Laptop-Memory-CMSO4G...

so he'll have loads of ram for cad and such
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July 26, 2012 10:48:34 PM

The Sony Vaio S on clearance is at $750 with a matte, ips, 1080p display on sony.com

But other than that, you could go with one of the base Lenovo T430's which is on sale for like 650 right now and is a pretty decent deal - with its amazing build quality.

Take a look at some of the Asus laptops, like the X53 and R500. They are close to your price range and deliver good build and decent specs.
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July 27, 2012 1:14:06 PM

rubbateckie said:
The Sony Vaio S on clearance is at $750 with a matte, ips, 1080p display on sony.com

But other than that, you could go with one of the base Lenovo T430's which is on sale for like 650 right now and is a pretty decent deal - with its amazing build quality.

Take a look at some of the Asus laptops, like the X53 and R500. They are close to your price range and deliver good build and decent specs.



The sony would be a good option

He said he'd didn't imagine spending more than $700, but I was juat making the point that (especially for an engineering student) he needs to spend a little more now to avaoid having to buy a new computer in two years when he needs to run CAD software. I recommended anything with a discrete Nvidia graphics card, doesn't need to be high end or even mid-range. Just a discrete card because intel graphics don't perform well with CAD software.
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July 27, 2012 10:23:20 PM

Wow everyone here is so helpful and nice, thank you all so much for your suggestions. I will definitely look into those. My brother said he recommended an i5 our of the i3,i5, and i7. I will look on reviews, coupons, and whatnot. I'm not sure if a 1080p screen or a "higher" end i5 is necessary, but I will take it into consideration.

Thank you! =)
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July 27, 2012 10:32:00 PM

linkfreak4 said:
Wow everyone here is so helpful and nice, thank you all so much for your suggestions. I will definitely look into those. My brother said he recommended an i5 our of the i3,i5, and i7. I will look on reviews, coupons, and whatnot. I'm not sure if a 1080p screen or a "higher" end i5 is necessary, but I will take it into consideration.

Thank you! =)



Actually your i7 is going to be best for video editing/picture/auto cad etc.... i5 is good for gaming because the extras that i7 provide are not utilized by games today.
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July 29, 2012 10:01:29 PM

turbineTom said:
The sony would be a good option

He said he'd didn't imagine spending more than $700, but I was juat making the point that (especially for an engineering student) he needs to spend a little more now to avaoid having to buy a new computer in two years when he needs to run CAD software. I recommended anything with a discrete Nvidia graphics card, doesn't need to be high end or even mid-range. Just a discrete card because intel graphics don't perform well with CAD software.


Agreed! The sony does offer a lower end discrete card, but sadly is above that $700 mark. If he was willing to go to around $1000 or even $900 there would be a lot of decent options.

linkfreak4 said:
Wow everyone here is so helpful and nice, thank you all so much for your suggestions. I will definitely look into those. My brother said he recommended an i5 our of the i3,i5, and i7. I will look on reviews, coupons, and whatnot. I'm not sure if a 1080p screen or a "higher" end i5 is necessary, but I will take it into consideration.

Thank you! =)

unoriginal1 said:
Actually your i7 is going to be best for video editing/picture/auto cad etc.... i5 is good for gaming because the extras that i7 provide are not utilized by games today.


Agreed for the i7 vs i5 debate that the i7 is better for the more intense tasks other than gaming. But from his descripton of use, he shouldn't have much trouble with the i5 even for engineering applications - I mean it is undergrad engineering. Other than the engineering stuff, even an i3 looks like it would be plenty for his usage because the occasional game on low and HD movie streaming can be handled by an i3 easily!

Honestly, I am just gonna say the Vaio S on clearance looks like a solid bet: i5, 1080p, discrete/dedicated graphics (a decent card for your usage probably)

The Dell XPS 14z would probably fit too (there is a Dell education discount to make it a bit cheaper) though it doesn't have a discrete card.

If you want the i7 - this is probably the best performance for price machine I have seen (it also has a pretty decent video card), but it is $800: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...
This is the above with i5 a weaker card for $730: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...
An i7 with integrated graphics :(  is $699: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...
And the above with i5 and another weak card is $679: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

Those weaker cards are GT 610M, which are ok for moderate usage. The $800 one is a GT 630M which is good for up to casual gaming and will perform the best of all the laptops listed on this thread so far - but is more expensive and no 1080p like the rest of the computers i listed.
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July 29, 2012 11:48:43 PM

I am notorious for being unable to decide. I can spend countless hours on picking just ONE. I might end up going with an HP since my parents are buying it and they trust that brand, plus I can get a free xbox to sell.

I'm just skeptical of everything. Just the other day, my college's computer store clerk was saying that I need at least an i5, maybe i7, HD screen, big resolution, lots of memory, dedicated video card. I mean, o.k. its CAD. It has a black screen with a bunch of white lines (as far as to my knowledge). I always think people overestiimate what is needed. But thank you very much for your recommendations. I might just have my parents pick it out, or else I'll end up in an asylum. As long as it has 15", 4GB, and i5 equivalent power, and can RUN engineering programs.

Thanks for the help! I really do appreciate it.
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July 30, 2012 1:48:57 AM

There are 2 good choices if you want to go a little into the Funky side.

The Asus Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Tablet/MID
Which is basically a tablet slash laptop contraption on steriods, receiving very high praise, its going through FCC testing right now, will probably appear in 1-3 months on store shelves, its probably going to be 600-1000 dollars, its a very pricey toy, but you will probably get what you pay for highest quality marks.

Another option is to take advantage of the short 3 day sale HP.com has right now and nab yourself an Ultrabook or my personal preference, the Sleekbook
the A-Series AMD CPU's are very competitive and the Graphics performance is really heads and shoulders above the intel graphics, especially if your into Music or think you will use the Eyefinity (3 monitors showing 1 picture at the same time)
you get much more bang for the buck with AMD

Intel doesn't excel by a great enough margin on heat reduction nor in actual real world performance, unless your into, Graphics design where every single process counts or you plan to take this laptop with you to extremely hot places, the extremes is where the intel CPU wins core for core, especially with gaming.

IBM makes extremely high quality laptops known to last for 15+ years with absolute ease, remember, not lenovo, now they are very different from IBM which built the legendary name, with all honesty I don't think the Chinese government owned products will last up to especially over the coming years.
but they do demand a premium price, with them you will get what you pay for.
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July 30, 2012 1:44:03 PM

Quote:
Agreed for the i7 vs i5 debate that the i7 is better for the more intense tasks other than gaming. But from his descripton of use, he shouldn't have much trouble with the i5 even for engineering applications - I mean it is undergrad engineering. Other than the engineering stuff, even an i3 looks like it would be plenty for his usage because the occasional game on low and HD movie streaming can be handled by an i3 easily!

Honestly, I am just gonna say the Vaio S on clearance looks like a solid bet: i5, 1080p, discrete/dedicated graphics (a decent card for your usage probably)



See, we all agree on this. Go with the Sony. I've used an i5-450m all through engineering undergrad and it has been perfect. Much faster than all the computers provided by the university for general student use when rendering CAD objects. I've run Pro-E, Solidworks, and even Siemens NX (Unigraphics) which is one of the more demanding and least optimized programs out there.

So yes, obviously an i7 would be better, but there is a big price margin between the two and it is not necessary.

userxvi-JOE said:
There are 2 good choices if you want to go a little into the Funky side.

The Asus Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700T Tablet/MID
Which is basically a tablet slash laptop contraption on steriods, receiving very high praise, its going through FCC testing right now, will probably appear in 1-3 months on store shelves, its probably going to be 600-1000 dollars, its a very pricey toy, but you will probably get what you pay for highest quality marks.

Another option is to take advantage of the short 3 day sale HP.com has right now and nab yourself an Ultrabook or my personal preference, the Sleekbook
the A-Series AMD CPU's are very competitive and the Graphics performance is really heads and shoulders above the intel graphics, especially if your into Music or think you will use the Eyefinity (3 monitors showing 1 picture at the same time)
you get much more bang for the buck with AMD

Intel doesn't excel by a great enough margin on heat reduction nor in actual real world performance, unless your into, Graphics design where every single process counts or you plan to take this laptop with you to extremely hot places, the extremes is where the intel CPU wins core for core, especially with gaming.

IBM makes extremely high quality laptops known to last for 15+ years with absolute ease, remember, not lenovo, now they are very different from IBM which built the legendary name, with all honesty I don't think the Chinese government owned products will last up to especially over the coming years.
but they do demand a premium price, with them you will get what you pay for.


Sorry, but completely missing the point of the discussion. And the AMD APUs are cool for watcing HD youtube videos and playing WoW or LoL, but will be laughed at if asked to do anything intense. Again, CAD programs need graphics with better driver support. Especially if using consumer as opposed to business graphics. This is why a standard (even if it's lower end) GPU is best for his goal.
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July 30, 2012 1:51:02 PM

linkfreak4 said:
I am notorious for being unable to decide. I can spend countless hours on picking just ONE. I might end up going with an HP since my parents are buying it and they trust that brand, plus I can get a free xbox to sell.

I'm just skeptical of everything. Just the other day, my college's computer store clerk was saying that I need at least an i5, maybe i7, HD screen, big resolution, lots of memory, dedicated video card. I mean, o.k. its CAD. It has a black screen with a bunch of white lines (as far as to my knowledge). I always think people overestiimate what is needed. But thank you very much for your recommendations. I might just have my parents pick it out, or else I'll end up in an asylum. As long as it has 15", 4GB, and i5 equivalent power, and can RUN engineering programs.

Thanks for the help! I really do appreciate it.



It's all about your budget, you will be fine with an i5, 4 GB ram, and any low-mid range discrete graphics card. That's what I've used for 4 years. Mine is a 1st gen i5 too, which is noticeably slower the sandy bridge or ivy bridge. 8 GB of ram can be added later if you want. I highly recommend a 1080p screen though on a 15" laptop, it's much more necessary than an i7
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