Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Best Laptop / Important Laptop Specs?

  1. Jul 15, 2015 #1


    User Avatar

    Hello PF,

    I'm in the market for a new computer and due to my needs I've got it narrowed down to a laptop. My budget is about $1000, maybe a little more if need be.

    I'm looking for advice on what hardware specs would be most useful for the standard physics major. I run MATLAB, Maple, and a few other heavy applications, but nothing too crazy. Also, if anyone has any specific models that they'd recommend, I'd be open to that.

    A few constraints:
    - I'll be running Windows. Probably Windows 10 by the time I purchase this computer (as long as it's everything Microsoft promises it will be).
    - 15" range. Maybe up to 17" if I find a great one. I don't want a huge beast of a laptop, but I definitely want one with a number pad on the keyboard. My current laptop is 14" and the lack of the number pad is frustrating.
    - I plan on having an SSD. Probably at least 256GB. I'm not sure if it is possible/viable to also have an HDD, or the differences and pros and cons of Dual Drives and Hybrid Drives. I was considering doing an SSD with my OS and a couple most frequented applications, and then everything else on an HDD. I think this would require a dual drive, but I'm not really sure about these.
    - Either and i5 or i7. I've been sufficiently warned/advised to stick with these.
    - I'd like a somewhat "nice" design to the laptop. Basically, I don't want to be lugging around a beast of a gaming laptop. This isn't a major constraint, but I've looked at Lenovo Thinkpads and the like and I'd rather be working on a PC that feels a little more consumer oriented than business. With all this being said, I understand that functionality outweighs appearance, feel, and size.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Jul 15, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    You can also use a retailer site like Newegg.com. They feature a wide selection of laptops plus any hardware accessories you might be interested in.
    You can select a manufacturer and sort the different models by price, if you desire. There are also customer reviews so you can get a feel if your selection is a star or a dog or if there might be some quirks or problems to look out for.

    Most laptops these days have only so much space for peripheral devices. You are likely to find that either a SSD or a HDD can be installed, but probably not both.
  5. Jul 15, 2015 #4
    consider a sager www.sagernotebook.com that's what I'd get if I had the money.

    edit : check out http://www.sagernotebook.com/Deals/ [Broken]

    these are in your price range and ARE the best laptops for the money.:wink: your welcome.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Jul 16, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'd buy a refurbished Dell. or refurbished from some other vendor.
  7. Jul 16, 2015 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member
    2017 Award

    I would definitely go with the i7 processor and as much RAM as I could afford.
  8. Jul 16, 2015 #7


    User Avatar

    I have never heard of Sager before in my life but they seem fantastic. Have you ever used one yourself? I love how customizable they are right from market, because I might buy one with some cheaper specs and upgrade the drive and RAM myself.

    Any more insight from anyone on Sagers would be appreciated!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  9. Jul 16, 2015 #8


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    If the screen of your 14 inch is fine, you might consider another 14 inch system and buy a USB calculator. That calculator works as a keypad and a standard calculator. If I load my HP calculator App, it works directly with that too. There are several out there for $20-40 and they have various keyboard layouts, mine actually mimics an Hp with an enter key fairly well (doesn't have trig, but I can keyclick on the screen for those functions).
    I also suggest you look into refurbished higher end laptops as well as that can save you hundreds of $$$ and still get you a nice system. Often these systems are returned before their 30-90 day return policies expired due to customer dissatisfaction with some aspect of the system ie too big, to heavy, to small, no DVD, Screen not bright enough, slow compared to my high end workstation, hard drive not 1 terabyte,.... etc.
    I used to think I couldn't get by without the keypad either, but after using a big battleship 17 inch laptop, I went back to a smaller laptop that has the ports I need to plug into my office desk. That way, I can take my system easily where I want, have hours of remote use and still have a workstation like setup at home.
    However the smaller laptops often last 6-8 hours on a charge vs 2-3 hours for the 17 inch systems, but this is because of CPU performance and monitor size. The bigger laptops have a full size screen and often a desktop CPU installed vs the 14 inch and under laptops have a low power laptop CPU and a smaller less power hungry screen to get their extended battery life.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2015
  10. Jul 22, 2015 #9

    p k

    User Avatar

  11. Aug 26, 2015 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    With the fast processors in use within recent years, for most users, THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT spec for a computer should be the amount of RAM (memory). The next most important spec is the disk drive space and performance. A slower processor, or one with less paralellism, is generally less important. The reasons are complicated to understand, but basically, any programs which don't fit into memory get paged temporarily out to disk. The process of moving programs from the page file back into active memory is costly, so having lots of memory and fast disks (and fast and big cache memories sitting between the processor and disk) is very important.

    That said, most manufacturers are cagey or secretive about the cache memory. Just get a reasonably fast processor--but not the very latest, because that will cost you a premium amount of money--and spend the rest on getting as much RAM as you can into the system.

    Then, while Windows is still pristine, maximize the size of your swap file on the disk so that it does not grow or get moved around.

    This strategy will generally get you a fast workhorse of a machine at a reasonable price.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook