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Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:38 pm

As the title reads, I am in desperate need of a laptop.

I've never owned a laptop before and I think I've reached a point where I absolutely need one. The problem is, I have no idea what to look for (as I have no knoweldge whatsoever about computers).

What I want in the laptop is the following,

  • A small screen. From what I gather, 15'4" is small?
  • A large memory, hard drive, etc... I don't know what causes your computer to slow down, but I want to know that if I install different programs, it won't slow down (well, to a point where it's noticeable).
  • I want it to have good audio speakers. I listen to music each time I'm on the computer so I would prefer a laptop which has a good system.
  • Not terribly expensive. I would like to pay at the most, $1500.
  • I'm a University student, so a laptop which will also fit that aspect of my life.
  • Able to connect to the Internet. I know some laptops for students don't.

I was thinking about the following Dell laptops,

XPS 1530 - I heard it has poor sound quality

or

Inspiron 15

Personally, I don't care about different companies as much. I just went with Dell as my desktop computer is Dell and it works fairly well. Apple would be the only brand I'd be slightly hesitant to purchase as it's not the most user friendly type of computer.

Can anyone help me?

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:14 pm

Since you're Canadian as well, customer service with Dell is now a pain in the toosh as it is all handled overseas. My Dell hard drive crashed on my desk top and it took three days of back and forth phone calls to simply be told "you need a new hard drive". Customer service with dell is bad. BAD. But the waranty's at least are good.

Not sure if that impacts things. But Sonys are also very good to look into. I have a couple friends with Viaos (I think thats it?) and they love them. You should check and see if you have any deals in your University as I know my University offers deals on laptops if you're a student or if you are faculty.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:48 pm

ahoteinrun wrote:Not sure if that impacts things. But Sonys are also very good to look into. I have a couple friends with Viaos (I think thats it?) and they love them. You should check and see if you have any deals in your University as I know my University offers deals on laptops if you're a student or if you are faculty.


My friend has a Vaeo or what not, and it's a terrible laptop.

I will, however, check and see what my university has to offer. It can't remain closed forever.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:58 pm

Can I ask where you heard that Macs are not user-friendly machines? I have a Mac and I wouldn't go back to a Windows machine in a million years. Macs are so much easier to use than Windows computers. It might be a little tough at first as the operating system is different, but that's why Apple stores offer classes to help you learn to use your computer. I highly recommend a MacBook over anything else that's out there. But the best thing you can do is go to different stores (Best Buy, Apple, etc), play around with the various laptops they carry, and ask questions. And go to the stores more than once so that you really end up with a computer that you really like.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:14 am

May wrote:Can I ask where you heard that Macs are not user-friendly machines? I have a Mac and I wouldn't go back to a Windows machine in a million years. Macs are so much easier to use than Windows computers. It might be a little tough at first as the operating system is different, but that's why Apple stores offer classes to help you learn to use your computer. I highly recommend a MacBook over anything else that's out there. But the best thing you can do is go to different stores (Best Buy, Apple, etc), play around with the various laptops they carry, and ask questions. And go to the stores more than once so that you really end up with a computer that you really like.


Well, from personal experience, I would say Mac isn't as user-friendly as PC is.

Question about the MacBook, I heard it can carry Windows? Is that true?

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:30 am

Ammer wrote:
ahoteinrun wrote:Not sure if that impacts things. But Sonys are also very good to look into. I have a couple friends with Viaos (I think thats it?) and they love them. You should check and see if you have any deals in your University as I know my University offers deals on laptops if you're a student or if you are faculty.


My friend has a Vaeo or what not, and it's a terrible laptop.

I will, however, check and see what my university has to offer. It can't remain closed forever.


What can't be closed forever?

Why is it a terrible laptop? Most of the reviews i've heard have been good. Who knows.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:57 am

ahoteinrun wrote:What can't be closed forever?


My university is closed at that moment due to a union strike. I haven't been in school since November.

ahoteinrun wrote:Why is it a terrible laptop? Most of the reviews i've heard have been good. Who knows.


I know quite a few people with Vaio and they seem to hate it. While I do admit it does have some positives, I don't think it's a good laptop as a whole.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:12 am

Ammer wrote:Question about the MacBook, I heard it can carry Windows? Is that true?


Any current Mac computer can have Windows installed on it. There are two ways of doing it.

1) Buy a program called "Parallels" and install it. Windows can then be installed within Parallels. You can run both the Mac operating system and Windows at the same time and you can switch between the two operating systems. I do this on my computer because a game I play isn't Mac compatible, so I play it within Parallels.

2) Download a free program called "Boot Camp" and install Windows. When you start up your computer, you can select whether to boot up in Mac OS X or Windows.

It's quite convenient and my Mac actually runs Windows better than Windows machines do :P

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:13 am

Well, user-friendliness is, to some extent, subjective, but I know that some of the required programs (e.g., add-ons for MS Office programs, as well as some stand-alone programs) for my various classes were not compatible with Macs, and my classmates w/ Macs had to use the computer lab instead of their laptops at various points. That's why it doesn't hurt to talk to your uni.

I have owned 2 Dells: 1 desktop and 1 laptop. The desktop failed within 3 years (probably the motherboard), and the laptop harddrive crashed within 7 months (and I baby my laptop). Upon researching it, Dell had recently switched to a different manufacturer whose harddrives were rated the worst for catastrophic failures -- but suppliers and harddrive rankings change pretty frequently, so this might not be true anymore. I second that Dell's customer service is pretty worthless -- no matter what problem I've had, they want me to wipe my harddrive and reinstall everything.

My brother who had his own computer programming company for 10+ years (I think they had ~30 employees when he chose to sell his half) alternated between Dells and Gateways for the company computers because of the customer service. He has a non-name brand laptop now (the company starts with A, and was already building laptops for other companies before releasing its own), but recommended I go with the Dell b/c of their on-site same-day warranty thing (hah! Dell has never once honored said warranty). By the way, he picked out the Dell for me from their small business site b/c it was cheaper and more powerful than others on the "personal" site -- I just had to make up a business name ("last name consulting") and pay with my regular credit card. (I have a Vostro 1500, but it's probably a bit big for what you want; but it's got plenty of memory and speed.)

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 6:07 am

As a PC builder and general computer fanatic, here is my two cents.

Judging by the fact that you have high expectations and a very workable budget, looks like you want a decent amount of RAM for multi-tasking, and a large hard drive. If you really want a fast computer, you might think about going with a duel core processor.

Dell has excellent customer service from my experience, and towards the top of your budget, you might want to take a look at the Dell Studio XPS.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 9:15 am

We've had a couple Acer laptops as well as an HP one (that's the one that we've got at the mo)

The thing I like about HP is lightscribe. If you get the lightscribe dvds/cds, then your laptop (or desktop if it's hp) can burn a design on the front of your disc and let you turn the disc over and put whatever info on there that you want. This is ideal for me for CV's as my work is shown on showreel format and it means I can have all my contact info and a picture (in black and white) on the front of the disc.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Mon Jan 19, 2009 11:47 am

While Dell offer excellent price to parts, my brother has one, an Inspiron and it died from overheating. It cooked its hard drive the first time, actually caused the keys to warp, and finally died on Christmas day with the screen refusing to activate and the keys no longer working. Dell has very good customer service for replacing things like cooked hard drives, but once your warranty is up they ignore you.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Tue Jan 20, 2009 1:38 am

I gotta say that my wife's and my experiences with Dell Customer service have been really hit or miss. She bought a computer last year when they offered all those great new colors, but because they didn't bother to quality-check the paint process before ordering large numbers of them, they had to ship about 75% of the cases back to the manufacturer - so there were these huge wait times.

We ordered in june and got her computer in november. When I called in August (and again every two weeks thereafter) to ask what was up, they didn't offer a dime in refund - they said, "There's a line on the order page that points out that ship times are approximate." How five months is "approximate" in anything but a geologic timeframe is beyond me. Eventually, I think they ended up refunding everyone's shipping cost as a settlement after a lawsuit was filed.

But this past fall, we had our house broken into, and the thieves took the same computer. When I called Dell to report it and get a copy of the order receipt, they were on top of it, very helpful, and offered to contact the police department directly.

My own personal major problem with Dell has been related to upgrade parts - they seem to think certain parts (like, say, AGP-slot video cards) fit into machines, and they don't (my dimension doesn't have an AGP slot). Admittedly, I should have asked about the format before I confirmed the order. But after I called and told them the story, they were very good about it, refunded the shipping cost, and sent me the correct card before they'd gotten the wrong one back.

Back on topic:
You might consider waiting. HP has some great new microlaptops coming out, with 3G network cards built in, 30gig hard drives, and Intel Atom processors. Asus's EEE PCs are great for basic networking and word-processing, if that's all you need; they're the ideal company laptops because they keep employees from doing anything but work on them.

My wife loves her MacBook, but they're pricy. Don't be surprised if you reach the limits of your budget on it. I've got a personal affection for Toshiba laptops, which are generally well-priced, very aesthetically pleasing, and available at all major electronics retailers (usually purchasing a warranty isn't a bad idea with any laptop, but of course you don't even get the first year's coverage free at Best Buy like you would online direct through Dell or Gateway).

Go out, play a bit on some in stores, and ask around (like you are here). And hey, with your school on strike, you got nothin' but time.

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Tue Jan 20, 2009 2:55 am

Thanks to everyone for the helpful advice. As you can clearly see, I'm inept when dealing with computers.

I definitely will take your advice Shapu and head to some stores to fiddle around with what's there. I am leaning towards a MacBook or MacBook Pro but I have a question (if you or anyone else can answer it), is it possible to transfer documents from a MAC to a PC? I'd imagine printing the document should be no problem (or would I need to buy a Mac specific printer?) but if I want to send my professors copies of essays and the like, would they be able to open it on a PC?

Re: Uh, so I need a laptop. Help?

Tue Jan 20, 2009 3:36 am

Ammer wrote:Thanks to everyone for the helpful advice. As you can clearly see, I'm inept when dealing with computers.

I definitely will take your advice Shapu and head to some stores to fiddle around with what's there. I am leaning towards a MacBook or MacBook Pro but I have a question (if you or anyone else can answer it), is it possible to transfer documents from a MAC to a PC? I'd imagine printing the document should be no problem (or would I need to buy a Mac specific printer?) but if I want to send my professors copies of essays and the like, would they be able to open it on a PC?


It is easily possible to transfer documents from mac to PC, as long as they're either Microsoft Office or OpenOffice documents (open office is the open-source version of Microsoft office - it saves in its own format, or you can tell it to save as microsoft office documents).

The most common problem is software, not hardware. These days, it usually comes when using Microsoft Office 7 - it uses these new .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx extensions that don't work with office97 (which saved in .doc, .xls, or .ppt). So if you happen to have office 7, you'll have to save in the older version. Both OpenOffice and Office97 have plugins available that make the new office 7 documents work, but not everyone knows about them, so you'll get a lot of "I can't open your document" responses if you aren't careful.

Also, you won't need a Mac-specific printer. Any old printer is just fine.
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