Frustrating search for a new laptop
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Thread: Frustrating search for a new laptop

  1. #1
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    Frustrating search for a new laptop

    Hello everyone,

    I have been searching the web now for a little while and made numerous trips to local computer stores and this forum seems to be a good place to get some input from knowledgable people. At this point I am not even really sure what kind of advice I am seeking but I felt it's time to let off some steam and point out a few observations.

    So, I was recently admitted to an MBA program. One of those great excuses to spent a good amount of money on a new laptop that will hopefully be sufficiant and functioning throughout the three years of school, be more than sufficient for all the necessary productivity tasks while adding some options for the little remaining leasure time. Just like anyone else, I am looking to get a laptop that is light, reliable, runs a stable OS (or two), can do all the necessary things, has good battery life, all the important connections and ports, etc.

    So far, so good. If I want to get on site support and good student discounts, I should get either an Apple, a Dell or a ThinkPad. Maybe there are systems out there that are better, but I have not looked really yet. I saw some Sonys that seemed ok, but that's it.

    I like my Dell workstations at work and home and they are reliable. I am used to XP pro and though not great, it does work and you sure learn how to fix things over time. Linux is still pretty new to me, but worth looking into. OS X looks fascinating but also scares me a little bit since certain things seem still not available there. That being said, the new MacBooks pros look very tempting since they allow to run XP as well for those tasks. Well, do they? The process of installing XP still seems rather complicated, especially with the student version of XP (upgrade version only). And no, I am not spending 300 bucks on the full version. So, it is possible, but rather complicated. However, I want to be open minded about it and may be just the right kind of person to more or less switch over to OS X. Since I am interested also in music recording applications, a Mac can be a good choice. Then again, I don't like the fact that some of the software does not run by itself yet and only in translated mode. That already starts with MS Office and I don't think there will be a new version before the hideous new Office 2007 will come out next year, which I will definitely not use because of the way the menus are then organized. So I will be stuck with Office 2004 in translated mode. I further believe that some of the hardware problems under XP won't be resolved before Vista, which I am also not interested in for a number of reasons.
    But then again: the Macs are beautiful, seem well made and I am sure are nice to use at least under OS X and probably under XP as well. But then there are all these reports about heat issues, swelling batteries and short battery life. And they are really too big. My preference would be a 14" NON-wide screen. The fact that the MacBook pro does not have a standard PCMCIA slot or at least a wide express slot, does not help. The white or black MacBook is out of the question for other reasons.

    So how about "normal" PCs than? Well, they are certainly good workhorses for all the productivity tasks, will run Linux as a backup and something to play with and come in all kinds of configurations. Other than the lack of OS X as a possibly "better" system, I am tempted by one of the ThinkPads T60 with a high res 14" screen. The only thing missing is the firewire port that I need for my camcorder when traveling, but I read that can be added via PCMCIA card. But how reliable are those now that they are under full controll of Lenovo? And also: do I really want to buy a $2000 computer from a Chinese company? They certainly seem slightly flimsier than the old IBMs. The Dells don't look sturdier.

    It seems again that no matter how much money you are willing to spend, you are looking at a mediocre compromise.

    What would I like to have? Well this could be ideal for me:


    a laptop in one of the old IBM cases
    14" normal high res screen
    IBM keyboard w/ backlight
    an architecture that runs XP, OS X and Linux equaliy well
    big hard drive
    min 1G memory
    any graphic interface (I don't play games)
    very good sound interface (I want to record things)
    USB, firewire, WiFi, bluetooth built in
    portable and tough
    all this under $2000

    I am dreaming, am I?

  2. #2
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    i cant wait till its time to buy a new laptop.. this one gets sooooo hot.. the newer chips will be nice and cool
    Worlds Loudest Subwoofers.... Nasa technology..
    They sound Great (they also make studio equipment)

    -= Digital Designs =-


    Disclosure Project

    The movement to end the coverup of advanced tech -see Scaler Waves

  3. #3
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    Eliminate Lenovo Thinkpad off the list due to non-existent/sketchy Linux support.
    "I know nothing."
    Cheers.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shinma
    Eliminate Lenovo Thinkpad off the list due to non-existent/sketchy Linux support.
    That's not a good reason not to buy a Lenovo. Dell is one of the few who supports linux, so are you going to exclude every brand because they don't support linux? How relevant is linux support to a windows user?
    Gilles Lussier

    HWC Folding@Home Team

  5. #5
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    Personally, I would not get a MacBookpro yet. They are still having some quality control issues on them, and they get really hot--to the point that Apple actually doesn't recommend putting them on your lap!

    You might look at HP's business class of notebooks. They are made for portability, and they even have a few 14.1" SXGA (4:3 aspect) models to chose from. Since you aren't a gamer, then a Core Duo or Pentium M is really all you need for a powerful system with a good battery life. Keep in mind that 14" notebooks are designed for portability, so they will not be configured to be a portable music studio. For that, you would probably need to look at a 15.4" or 17" DTR notebook.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by glussier
    That's not a good reason not to buy a Lenovo. Dell is one of the few who supports linux, so are you going to exclude every brand because they don't support linux? How relevant is linux support to a windows user?
    Quote Originally Posted by MBAstudent
    ...an architecture that runs XP, OS X and Linux equaliy well...
    Did you read requirements/ideal list set by the MBAstudent?
    or do you intend to provide the Linux support personally?
    "I know nothing."
    Cheers.

  7. #7
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    Did you read requirements/ideal list set by the MBAstudent?
    or do you intend to provide the Linux support personally?
    It's not because Lenovo doesn't install linux on their laptops that you can't install it yourself. In fact, at the office we have 3 Lenovo laptops on which linux is installed. On the office laptops we install Suse, on my own laptop I install Slackware.
    Gilles Lussier

    HWC Folding@Home Team

  8. #8
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    Thank you for all the valuable input. I am still undecided and will probably over the weekend check out a few more models. I am not sure about the HP advice since I had some bad experiences with a HP laptop and printers in the past, but I will certainly have a second look at them.

    The issue with Linux and the ThinkPads caught my attention though. I am testing the Fedora 5 distribution right nonw on an old PC. If I really buy a PC laptop, I am pretty sure that that is what would like to have as a second system next to XP for the above mentioned reasons. Has anyone experienced hardware related problems with a T60 and Linux?

    Otherwise, my rant was, as I stated, coming out of pure frustration. It seems to be not an ideal point in time to buy a new laptop. The new macs are obviously a great new alternative for a "normal" business/broader interest user and I am sure it will happen more often now that a business person pulls out a MacBook pro in front of client. But then again, I feel they are not quite there yet: no feasable PC card slot for access to international wireless networks, the heat issue, the battery issue and some incompatibilties under XP, no right click. Close, but not yet.

    On the other hand, the "IBM"s seem less sturdy now and I am bummed by the fact that you can't get the T60 with a firewire port. To what extent a PCMCIA firewire card would solve the issue, I am still unclear (does it work at all? can you connect some music hardware, cameras? is it fast enough as a PC card? does it work under Linux?).

    My statement regarding the three systems was ment to show what probably a lot of users would like to see: an easy choice between the three major operating system on a stable and fully finctioning platform. As I said, the MacBook pro comes pretty close and I have a feeling that the next revision together with the new OS X and Vista may solve the current issues. If they added either a PCMCIA slot or made a G3 modem for their slot available, I would run to the store and even live with the widescreen and the idiotic "mag safe" connector.

  9. #9
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    i personally hate the sugercoatedness of all mac products.. it seems like they are designed for 8yr olds... (i want the GREEN one mommy)
    Worlds Loudest Subwoofers.... Nasa technology..
    They sound Great (they also make studio equipment)

    -= Digital Designs =-


    Disclosure Project

    The movement to end the coverup of advanced tech -see Scaler Waves

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Da_man
    i personally hate the sugercoatedness of all mac products.. it seems like they are designed for 8yr olds... (i want the GREEN one mommy)

    :-) What gets me most are these "I'm a Mac. And I am a PC" ads. So, dude, you wear T-shirts instead of suits and you have a goatee. Way cool. And you have all these -like- awesome features out of the box. Wow. So there is a -like- video editing toy. And something to move other people's music samples around. Dude, you're -like- the creative type (and stuff).
    Dude, wait till you actually have to -like- work for a living...

    But the Japanese girl in the ad campaign. She's hot. And I really don't care if my computer speaks her language as long as it shows her legs. ;-)

    Yes, and Apple, please keep your free iPods, ok? I really don't want one. Just lower the price on the Mac.
    Last edited by MBAstudent; June 29th, 2006 at 02:14 PM.

  11. #11
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    I've put Ubuntu on two notebooks, a Compaq and a Toshiba, without any issues except for the modem. I don't think you need have undue worries about any brand handling linux.

    Note that ToTT said business class HP models. Those would be the NX-xxxx models.

    Also note that both IBM and HP/Compaq alter the firmware on their mini-PCI wireless cards and put code in their bios to prevent regular cards from working. If you hope to upgrade the wireless card in the future, you'll either have to buy an overpriced OEM card or overwrite the firmware in linux.

  12. #12
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    Seems like Lenovo has backtracked and you will be able to get Suse linux preinstalled on a purchased thinkpad: http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl...36205&from=rss
    Gilles Lussier

    HWC Folding@Home Team

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanceMan
    I've put Ubuntu on two notebooks, a Compaq and a Toshiba, without any issues except for the modem. I don't think you need have undue worries about any brand handling linux.

    Note that ToTT said business class HP models. Those would be the NX-xxxx models.

    Also note that both IBM and HP/Compaq alter the firmware on their mini-PCI wireless cards and put code in their bios to prevent regular cards from working. If you hope to upgrade the wireless card in the future, you'll either have to buy an overpriced OEM card or overwrite the firmware in linux.
    Thank you DanceMan. Which mini-PCI wireless card are you talking about? I am looking to get a laptop (e.g. the T60) with built in Wifi and bluetooth and then use a PCMCIA card from T-Mobile or Cingular for internet access when travelling. Any conflicts there due to the bios settings?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by MBAstudent
    Thank you DanceMan. Which mini-PCI wireless card are you talking about? I am looking to get a laptop (e.g. the T60) with built in Wifi and bluetooth and then use a PCMCIA card from T-Mobile or Cingular for internet access when travelling. Any conflicts there due to the bios settings?
    There are two methods of wireless in a notebook. Older models could add it by a PCMCIA card, now called pc card, in the external slot. For the last several years notebooks have had an internal mini-PCI slot under a cover on the bottom of the unit. You can buy a mini-PCI wireless card for a notebook that has the slot but didn't originally ship with wireless, or upgrade from wireless B to B/G because the interface is standard.
    Your built-in wireless will be from a mini-PCI card. If in a year or two when the new wireless N standard becomes commonplace you decide to upgrade your card, an IBM or HP/Compaq will force you to buy one from them, or modify a regular card at your own risk. The HP will not even boot with the non-HP card installed because of code written into the notebook bios. Dell, Toshiba and Acer don't do this, to the best of my knowledge.

  15. #15
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    Some of those business class HP's come with a three year warranty. Mine does-an NX6125. I like factory warranties, especially on laptops.

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