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Laptop processors and other factors?

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by Shoeless, Mar 12, 2006.

  1. Shoeless

    Shoeless Gun Totin' Girl

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    First of all, I'm not super high tech so some of my terminology may not be exactly right. I'll do my best. (But I sure as heck won't call a magazine a clip, so I get some credit for that) ;)

    My present computer is a desktop with a nine, (count 'em NINE) gig hard drive and Win98. So yes, I'm in the Mesozoic Era in that regard. But in fairness, it works well for my needs, and it's very stable for the most part.

    On the one hand, I haven't really needed much more. But on the other hand, I also realize that I'm about two years past needing to upgrade my OS, and my computer will only last so long before it craps out on me. Naturally, I don't want to wait until that happens to replace it.

    Plus, I'll be traveling more often for my business, so I'd like a laptop to replace my desktop as my only computer so when I'm on the road, I have everything with me at all times. (I'm typing secretly, to keep my current desktop in the dark...shhhhhh don't tell it!)

    So, the laptop will be my only computer, and I'll be running my whole business from it. With that in mind...

    Software I presently use and will continue to use:
    Quickbooks accounting software
    ACT! contact management software
    Paper Tiger file mgmt software
    MS Office including Powerpoint
    Adobe writer
    Dreamweaver to update my web site


    Other things I presently run and would like to continue to run:
    Avast Antivirus
    AVG Antivirus
    ZoneAlarm (free) firewall
    Spybot Search and Destroy
    AdAware
    Crap Cleaner


    A few more factors:
    I have about 260MB of photos and about 240MB of Word documents that I'll likely keep most of.

    I don't do gaming.

    I don't use IE for surfing, I use Firefox if that matters.

    I won't keep music on my laptop, because Mr Shoe just bought a Mac Mini where we have begun storing all our music and video libraries for our iPods.

    I've considered switching to a Mac but I'd have to RE-buy all my business software packages for the Mac and I'm not even sure they all come in Mac-compatible versions.

    I considered a tablet PC but decided that the extra money isn't worth the added functionality. It's all about the ROI for me, and I can't justify another $600-$800 just for that feature, much as it would be nice to have.



    From my research so far, I'm pretty sure I should get a laptop with an 80G hard drive and 512MB of RAM, with wireless whateverthehell it is, and a CD/DVD reader and writer. Beyond that, I'm not sure what to look for in terms of type of processor and any other important components.

    Regarding processors, I talked to a friend of mine who is a computer guy in Texas and he said that it USED TO BE that Celerons were inferior to Pentium chips, but he says now they're just as good and they run much cooler than the Pentiums. Essentially, he said not to be wary of buying Celeron. Any thoughts on that? What about the varieties of Pentium such as the P4 vs. the Pentium M and whatnot?

    What about battery life? That's another area I'm concerned with.

    Regarding which brand to buy, I'm stumped. I'm hearing totally conflicting opinions from people, including from reading my search results here on the Tech forum. Everything from "I love it!" to "They're crap" about almost every brand.

    I've heard Dell and Gateway use inferior hard drives and other components. Then I've heard they don't.

    I've heard HP is quality, then I've heard they're crap.

    I've heard Toshiba is wonderful, then I've heard they suck.

    Acccck! It's all so confusing. The main thing I'm concerned with is long term reliability. I don't make what I consider to be major purchases without researching myself to death, and by the time I make a decision, there are newer models/technology in the mix, so I get paralyzed.

    I'm at the point where I just need to get as informed as I can, bite the bullet and and make a decision.

    Ideally, I'd like to have the laptop to take with me to my conference in Boston in ten days. I don't know how likely that is that I could choose it, get it shipped (or pick it up) and then have all my software and data transferred by then, but hey, it's a goal. :)

    Two last things...

    1. I'll need some sort of external backup device. What do you recommend?

    2. I'll need the ability to use my regular keyboard and mouse when I'm here at home. I have a curved keyboard and trackball mouse that I'm just NOT willing to live without, so I'll need the laptop to either have a docking station or somehow quickly and easily hook up to my full size keyboard and mouse.


    I know this is a lot to ask, and I thank you SO SO SO MUCH in advance for any insight you folks can share. This is a very big deal to me and given that my entire life will be stored on this new machine, I want to make the best choices possible and get it right the first time.

    Shoeless
     
  2. pyblood

    pyblood

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    I really don’t like Celerons/Semprons. I think that a lot of the newer Celerons/Semprons are pretty decent processors, but I like the Pentiums/Turions/Athlons a little more.

    As far as brand goes, there are a lot to pick from. I like Acer notebooks. Their tech support/return policies are pretty good. They seem to be the best bang for the buck that I have found.

    Here are some pretty good deals from NewEgg. They all have what you’ll need. Since they’re in stock, you can get it in a few days at the most.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16834115327

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16834115321

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16834115328

    Depending on how much you’ll need to backup, I think that you can just use your DVD burner. Pick up a few DVD+RW disc and you can burn all of your necessary files to disc. If you need more storage, I recommend getting an external HD. An 80GB drive should be good enough for you.
     

  3. KG4IDA

    KG4IDA

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    We use mostly Dells at work and I have to admit that they have proven to be pretty reliable. I have also worked on some Sonys (too many custom Sony versions of things), Compaq's and HP's (They did not prove so reliable) and IBM's (they are nearly bullet proof). I looked hard at Dell's and Acer's then bought a used IBM T40 and I love it. As to specific problems: the only failures we had upgrading from W2000 to XP were on four Sony Vio's. We had a pool of about 25 Compaq's and HP's and have retired all but two due to motherboard problems, video problems and LCD failures. We now have about 35 Dell's and have had only 1 dead machine (motherboard). We have a couple of Dell Latitude LS's (P3-500) and the owners refuse to give them up because they are so light and handy for travel. We are currently buying Dell 610's. The IBM owners are equally loyal. I have one user that has a broken lcd and still uses the laptop with an external monitor in his office and another one at his house. I have a new Dell 610 for him but he doesn't want it. I would offer one suggestion, a laptop is probably the only device I would consider buying an extended service plan on. I believe I can fix any problem with a desktop PC but not a laptop and I have been at this for about fifteen years. Look at the warrentrys carefully.
     
  4. KG4IDA

    KG4IDA

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    I missed your last two items. You should be able to use any USB keyboard and mouse. Some laptops still have a PS/2 connection for either a keyboard or mouse. As to a backup device, an external hard drive is excellent. I have two usb versions that I use. You can build your own for far less than what they retail for. I bought a 40 GB 2.5" drive from Ebay and a usb case foir about $20. Total price: about $65.
     
  5. pyblood

    pyblood

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    Most of the newer laptops that I have purchased don’t have PS/2 connections. You can pick up an adapter that will allow you to use you PS/2 devices with an available USB port.

    Something like this will work:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16812188105
     
  6. berniew

    berniew Liberty

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    1) Software compatibility.

    Have you checked to see if your programs will run on Windows XP? How 'up to date' are you on software versions? If an upgrade is required have you factored the cost to upgrade the software into your decision?

    2) As far as manufacturer reliability, it depends. Our company switched about 7 years ago from IBM to Dell because of service issues. Dell has gone downhill and we are considering a switch to HP.

    All hardware in laptops varies in quality. You could have the same 'brand' hard drive and memory in different brands of laptops, and you can sometimes have different brand components even in the same brand and model of laptop. Therefore buy either the cheapest model you can, and backup regularly. Or buy a brand with highly rated tech support and backup regularly.


    3) Processor.

    Intel has recently released a new family of processors (CORE). If you buy a laptop and it has an Intel processor it is worth looking into. From what I've read it has better power efficiency and performance.


    4) Operating System

    If your costs to upgrade your current applications to run on XP are high enough I would have you look into a Mac

    Remember a new version of Windows is less than a year away.


     
  7. Blue59

    Blue59

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    First of all--if you are using any older programs that originally came out for Win98, I would advise you to NOT buy a laptop with more than 512 megs of RAM. Many Win9X programs will not work properly on computers at all with more than 512 megs of RAM, as that seemed to be the practical limit of Win95 and Win98.

    ------------

    The only brand I have heard was drastically better than the others was the Japanese-model Panasonics, such as the Toughbooks. These are rather expensive models; starting at $1500 and going over twice that. And you have to order them (in the US) through grey-market importers. And the documentation is in Japanese.

    My advice:
    1) if you need totally-portable-computing, then battery life is primarily important; consider it above all other factors. Some cheaper laptops will barely run over an hour on their inculded batteries. You can buy and charge/carry multiple batteries, but then you need to shut down to swap. And most bateries cost at least $120. (If you are using wall or cig lighter/car power, then this isn't nearly as much of a factor).

    2) Right now the preferred low-power chips are the Intel Centrinos. (the dual-cores might run faster, but they sure as s*** aren't going to use less power doing it) This of course ties into trying to get the longest battery runtimes you can. Slower processors use less power than faster ones, and even the slowest ~1Ghz celeron around with 512 megs of RAM will do all that you need.

    3) Most-all laptops are built pretty much the same. If you can, buy a "business-class" machine, especially from Dell. The support and waranties are better on their "business" machines than on their "consumer/home" machines.

    4) Laptop DVD burners used to be a big bragging point. Some laptops have DVD-burners of course, but most-all will burn CD-R's and play DVD's at the least. A CD-R will transfer up to 750Mb, and WinXP has a data-CD burner utility built-in. And even if you wanted to transfer a couple gigs of files--most corporate places will have wireless or bluetooth networking around anyway--and it's posible to do file transfers through them, wirelessly (and DVD-lessly too). So for a business-use machine, being able to burn DVD's is rarely necessary now.

    Re: Two Last Things:

    1) you can buy an already-made external drives, but many of the "big names" tend to overcharge for what little they do. Check the prices against those of external enclosures and bare drives, (or ask here) before spending money.

    2) Home keyboard and mouse: most laptops now have at least two USB ports; the $600 Toshiba I got a few months back has three. Your home mouse and keyboard should plug right in and work, with a USB adaptor (matter of fact--most keyboards and mice I've seen in the last year or two were ALL USB plugs, and needed a PS/2 adaptor for that use).
    ~~~~~
     
  8. rwojcik

    rwojcik

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    Fact is that there are only actually a couple of manufacturers and the rest are cosmetic clones. As for inferior parts; that may be for proprietary designs but most all internal components regarding HDD's and such, many are standard design and issue. Now there have been some issues with HDD's and such but that is just that... an issue with the Hard drive and not the type of notebook computer. As for your preference in type of processor; this isn't real difficult. Just look at your current and future needs and base your decision on what you might be needing (type of work and demands on computer. Initially the Celeron was a nuetured down version of the Pentium with limited cache and other pathway enhancing designs and it still is. Celeron isn't recommended if you plan on any intensive number crunching or high end graphic work or gaming (hence - laptop). Athlon systems have been around for a while now and have actually taken a bite out of the Intel market. I personally have not had any issues with these systems and will also do the job at a lower cost. If considering a brand name system then what you really should look at is their policy on repairs and warranty work in addition to reputation. In my opinion and 20 years in the IT field has shown that most will do the job fine but some manufacturers lack in the service area. Also don't base your battery capacity on any printed advertsiments as I have not seen any hit that mark. These are not realistic figures since there are many factors that will determine your actual battery life, like chip design, usage, power manangement and the like. One thought though, look for a modular design and have a spare battery that can be hot-swapped in the event of one loosing it's charge at the most critical time. IMHO I haven't had major problems with Dell and Gateway (at least in a corporate environment)with service and reliability. One more recommendation, spring for a second power adapter, it sure beats crawling around & taking yours from home. Try to get the latest and greatest since you will eventually run into a feature that you wish you had and your software or hardware has limitations that will keep you from that.
     
  9. berniew

    berniew Liberty

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    It isn't quite that simple. There are plenty of slow laptops that are hot and not power efficient

    http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/01...battery_life_for_quicker_response/page10.html

    The whole article deals with the issue.

     
  10. kAr

    kAr Netware Rocks!

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    If you are planning to do any serious powerpoint presentations, I'd look into faster processors, more video memory, and a high rpm hard drive. The little artifacts that show up when your powerpoint slide animation taxes the laptop don't look too bad on a 16" screen, the same can't be said of a 15' x 20' screen at a conference in front of a crowd of people.
     
  11. srhoades

    srhoades

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    Like you said the practical limit of the operating system, not the programs. The flaw was that windows could not handle large amounts of memory, programs are designed to eat as much as they need/available. The addage still holds, buy as much RAM as you can afford.

    Shoeless one thing I noted on your list of software. Two anti-virus programs. That is generally a bad practice, as they do not work synergistically, but work against each other and can report false positives or even try and report the other virus scanner's database of definitions as a virus.
     
  12. Blue59

    Blue59

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    -It's the RAM I tells ya. If you have an OLD program you need to run, make sure the PC has less than 512 megs. You won't need no stinkin' compatability mode.

    -This is true.
    But my point is to get one that has a longer battery runtime and not worry about the CPU speed--because unless you cough up an extra $200 for a 7400-RPM hard drive, it's not going to run as fast as a desktop with the same CPU speed and RAM anyway. Laptops now usually ship with 5400-RPM drives--and that is what makes them seem slower compared to desktops.
    ~~~