Going to school next year: need a laptop

  • Thread starter undrcvrbro
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  • #1
undrcvrbro
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I know this is such a vague question, but I really just want some ideas for a new laptop for school next year. I'm looking more at the average price range, but if there's a more advanced product that looks like it would be worth the dough, I might think about it. I'm open to any and all suggestions.
 

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  • #2
Dr Transport
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Dell has a decent selection. I bought a laptop from R-cubed ( www.shoprcubed.com ) which is dual booted for Linux & Windows which was not too expensive.
 
  • #3
robphy
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What kinds of things do you need it to do?
 
  • #4
Mk
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What is it that you want it to do? Do you want Macintosh or Windows? Most people probably don't want Linux. If you're going to be doing graphic design or video work, or word processing, or programming there's different specifications in hardware and then software you'll want.
 
  • #5
undrcvrbro
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What is it that you want it to do? Do you want Macintosh or Windows? Most people probably don't want Linux. If you're going to be doing graphic design or video work, or word processing, or programming there's different specifications in hardware and then software you'll want.
I'm only a Chemical engineering major, so I will be taking the intro programming courses, but nothing too advanced. I've used windows all of my life, but I'm willing to try a mac. I guess I'm a pretty simple guy..I don't need anything too advanced.
 
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  • #6
B. Elliott
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Your choices are astronomical so your best bet would be to follow the previously posted links. I will give one suggestion though, stay away from laptops with AMD processors. I've seen and worked on too many of them to be able to recommend one. The problem is that they always tend to run hotter than Intels.

Now, I will say this, if you never plan to have the laptop resting on top of your bed or any situation where the airflow will be restricted, AMD may be an option. AMDs are perfectly fine for standard home PC systems because the larger cases allow larger cooling methods... which keeps the high temps at bay. You could enable such things at CPU throttling, but why limit the CPUs available power when the alternative can perform at full speed without the need for throttling or any other handicaps.

Then again, that just MO.
 
  • #7
MeJennifer
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Dell has a decent selection. I bought a laptop from R-cubed ( www.shoprcubed.com ) which is dual booted for Linux & Windows which was not too expensive.
I do not like Dell at all. They have cusom versions for device drivers that they do not update as much as the original vendor does. And they make sure only their custom drivers can be applied. Furthemore they preinstall your PC with crapware that is hard to uninstall, there are even people who wrote special programs to get rid of it.
 
  • #8
Ksum006
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MeJennifer's comment may be true.

However, I don't know of any warranty serivce that is as good as Dell's. Their after sales service is really good. I have an inspiron 9400 laptop which my brother accedently dropped on my tiles. It refused to even switch on! The Dell rep. came to my house, took the laptop, replaced the mother board, power source n cooling systems and returned with the laptop 5days later without even asking me how it happend. He checked all the hardware, even replaced the lcd cover.

give me one company that does that without any fuss ...
Thats the reason why I buy dell ... by the way this is dell australia, I don't know about other countries.
 
  • #9
robphy
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You might like to check out the TabletPC, as I described here in an old entry to the PF blog:
https://www.physicsforums.com/blog/2006/05/20/tabletpcs-for-science-and-science-teaching/ [Broken]

(I currently use both a Dell laptop [for writing papers and doing computations while I travel] and an old Fujitsu slate-TabletPC [for taking notes, doing derivations, and lecturing]. I anticipate my next portable will be a convertible-TabletPC [hopefully with XP-TabletPC rather than Vista].)

Check out this subset of notebookreview.com: http://www.tabletpcreview.com/,
as well as http://www.gottabemobile.com/ [which isn't listed in the PF blog entry].

Many companies have an "accident protection" plan, which I took advantage of when I got my first Gateway/Motion slate.
 
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  • #10
pinestone
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If cost isn't a major problem, a new MacBook or MacBook Pro combines the best of all features. They use Intel processors, standard memory and hard drives- you can install Windows XP or Vista and split-partition the drive. The advantage to this is if you are on the internet, you don't have to worry about viruses and worms on the Mac partition. But, if you need Windows programs or have any compatibility issues, you can boot into the Windows partition.
I've been using this MacBook Pro for over a year with the dual-partition setup and have had NO problems at all. (hope I didn't just jinx myself)...
 
  • #11
mgb_phys
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What you do need is
Light - you have to carry this around all day.
Cheap - it will be lost / damaged / stolen within 3years, looking cheap helps with this.
Decent battery life - you probably don't have power at each seat in a lecture.

I would seriously look at an EEEPC.
You don't need a lot of horsepower - if you have to do modelling lab classes there will be lab PCs, all you need is something to browse the web, send email and write essays.

Check the dell outlet - the machines tend to come with 3years next day on site warranties.
 
  • #12
Moonbear
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If you're planning to buy it for school (do you mean you're starting college and need a laptop for college?), I'd hold off and see if the school you're going to attend has an particular requirements. For example, all of our med students are required to buy the same laptops for classes (on one hand I see the need to standardize what they have since they use them for exams and other course material we provide online that we want to be sure will work for them, on the other hand, if I was in their shoes, I'd want to strangle the IT department for the model they're forced to buy...it might be small and portable, but it's so teeny tiny that they look very uncomfortable to type on). So, you might be required to get a specific model, or you might have courses that are going to require you use software that you'll want to be sure your laptop will run.
 
  • #13
undrcvrbro
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If you're planning to buy it for school (do you mean you're starting college and need a laptop for college?), I'd hold off and see if the school you're going to attend has an particular requirements. For example, all of our med students are required to buy the same laptops for classes (on one hand I see the need to standardize what they have since they use them for exams and other course material we provide online that we want to be sure will work for them, on the other hand, if I was in their shoes, I'd want to strangle the IT department for the model they're forced to buy...it might be small and portable, but it's so teeny tiny that they look very uncomfortable to type on). So, you might be required to get a specific model, or you might have courses that are going to require you use software that you'll want to be sure your laptop will run.

Thanks Moonbear, and yes, I'm starting undergrad next fall. I didn't realize that certain schools did that, and I will definately check out my schools website for more info on that. I suppose I should hold off anyways, because I just recently found out that my school's bookstore gives discounts to students who buy laptops there(and they would probably carry the recommended or required product if there is one).
 
  • #14
CRGreathouse
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I suppose I should hold off anyways, because I just recently found out that my school's bookstore gives discounts to students who buy laptops there(and they would probably carry the recommended or required product if there is one).

I would be cautious about that. I know at least one school that sells 'discounted' computers to students/faculty/staff that are actually more expensive than the comparable model on the market...
 
  • #15
mgb_phys
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Yes - there is very little margin on hardware to offer discounts with.
The campus shop may be able to sell cheap educational licences for Windows but they aren't going to get the parts as cheaply as Dell.
 
  • #16
CRGreathouse
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Good point on educational discounts. That can be substantial for Windows, Office, Mathmatica, and such.
 
  • #17
striker5585
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here is a tip DO NOT get an Alien Ware computer. i got one and have had nothing but problems. there award wining tech support is crap. i spent hours on the phone with them not getting anywhere. i sent the computer back to get fixed it came back in worse condition than when i originally sent it. don't be fooled by cool looks and BS claims of good customer support.
 
  • #18
undrcvrbro
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here is a tip DO NOT get an Alien Ware computer. i got one and have had nothing but problems. there award wining tech support is crap. i spent hours on the phone with them not getting anywhere. i sent the computer back to get fixed it came back in worse condition than when i originally sent it. don't be fooled by cool looks and BS claims of good customer support.

Haha, damn as bad as you say these things are, they look sweet.

https://www.alienware.com/profile_pages/sfpplogin.aspx?source=INT0008
 
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  • #19
mcknia07
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I have a Compaq, I like it. I need it for pretty mcuh everything I do, and because the memory was good enough, I was able to get my CAD program on here too :) I would suggest to go to a computer store near you to find any good sales, that is, if your school doesn't have a specific one you need. I paid about $300, and it came with the everything I need, and then some, lol. You will want to make sure it will have enough memory to store a lot of things too, plus have a few jump drives to be safe.
 
  • #20
undrcvrbro
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here is a tip DO NOT get an Alien Ware computer. i got one and have had nothing but problems. there award wining tech support is crap. i spent hours on the phone with them not getting anywhere. i sent the computer back to get fixed it came back in worse condition than when i originally sent it. don't be fooled by cool looks and BS claims of good customer support.
Actually, after doing a little searching(googling) I found that Dell actually now owns Alienware, so that many of the issues with customer support may be alleviated slightly.
I have a Compaq, I like it. I need it for pretty mcuh everything I do, and because the memory was good enough, I was able to get my CAD program on here too :) I would suggest to go to a computer store near you to find any good sales, that is, if your school doesn't have a specific one you need. I paid about $300, and it came with the everything I need, and then some, lol. You will want to make sure it will have enough memory to store a lot of things too, plus have a few jump drives to be safe.
It's good to see that you're not having issues with your Compaq. It seems Compaq might be one of the cheapest brand I could buy. I'll be sure to look into it.
 
  • #21
B. Elliott
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I'd advise against getting an Alienware for a school app anyway. They tend to be more power-user oriented and the prices are usually in the upper register.
 
  • #22
Moonbear
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I would be cautious about that. I know at least one school that sells 'discounted' computers to students/faculty/staff that are actually more expensive than the comparable model on the market...

Usually the best deals aren't through the bookstore, but through the educational stores on the various websites, at least for hardware. For software, sometimes you can get MUCH better deals through a bookstore, but keep in mind you may not be getting the full software, but whatever they've licensed for distribution to the students. It pays to shop around anyway...get the bookstore price and then see what you can get if you buy it somewhere else.
 
  • #23
MechaMZ
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you may try acer..
cheap.. but not realiable
 
  • #24
striker5585
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you may try acer..
cheap.. but not realiable

Acers are Poor Quality Computers. go to Best buy and test them out, there flimsy and made from cheep plastic. i had a friend that had one, the thing got so hot it melted the case.
 
  • #25
B. Elliott
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Acers are Poor Quality Computers. go to Best buy and test them out, there flimsy and made from cheep plastic. i had a friend that had one, the thing got so hot it melted the case.

I have to agree with you on Acers quality... and i'll be willing to bet your friends laptop had an AMD cpu.
 
  • #26
striker5585
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I have to agree with you on Acers quality... and i'll be willing to bet your friends laptop had an AMD cpu.

yeah it was an AMD
 
  • #27
joeseppe
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Get a mac. Reliable, which is important for class data.
 
  • #28
Mk
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A MacBook or MacBook Pro I think is a good option. Plus, you can even play real games on them now with 150 Mb of VRAM :tongue2:

You said you were majoring in chemical engineering, maybe you should check out Apple's featured Math/Science applications:
http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/math_science/

And "Papers" is very good:
http://mekentosj.com/papers/ [Broken]
 
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  • #29
Tacomablack
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Dell and HP have good laptops for decent prices. They will most likely drop there prices later on in the summer.

You should also check out ecost.com/ecost/shop/countdown and slickdeals.net
Check slickdeals periodically you be surprised at what you can get.

Things want out of a laptop:
- 1gb of ram or more
- wireless card
- Mac OSX, Linux, or XP
- plenty of hard drive space
- good battery life

Things you want to Avoid:
-Vista
-Price software packages

If you look around you can find a good laptop for around $500-600.
 
  • #30
DavidWhitbeck
351
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Dell is terrible, I've had problems with them ditto friends

HP is great, laptops, desktops, printers, cameras they work and work and work for years and years very dependable

Acer Aspire is what I have right now for both laptop and desktop. Yup they are cheap, which is both good and bad, but I also like that their bundled software is useful instead of loads of garbage that pcs usually come preloaded with.

I have gone with amd processors because they are cheap, but mid and hi end processing power is completely dominated by Intel. AMD used to be competitive across the board, but not any more. It doesn't make a difference for bargain level processors, but after that you're better off with Intel.

This will make me enemies, but I don't think that Vista is that bad. I don't like the poor compatibility between xp and vista, and the higher footprint, but it's easy to tweak vista to be speedy enough, and it does have cool features that I like. Any new laptop that is $500 or more will have the necessary hardware to run it find after tweaking.
 
  • #31
blimkie.k
130
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Im a big fan of tigerdirect.com or tigerdirect.ca if you live in Canada, I got mine from there refurbished last august and i haven't had any signifact issues with it. Most of them you get off of there will be loaded with Vista however, i have had vista since it came out and i have gotten used to it. It looks way better has some cool new apps like the voice recogntion and if you can just turn the visulualizations down if your machine can't handle it.
 
  • #32
striker5585
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i do not suggest tiger direct i have ordered three items from them all at different times including a laptop and i have had problems every time. i do not suggest them. try New egg i highly recommend them.
 
  • #33
vociferous
248
6
Laptops are manufactured by three or four companies in China and Taiwan (if I remember correctly), so the brand name is not going to matter as much as the engineering of a particular model.

I know a lot of students like Macs, but, considering that an Apple is going to set you back approximately twice as much as an equivalent brand name PC (for instance, a $4400 Macbook Pro has features similar to that of a $2200 HP), I would steer clear of them unless you have money to burn. Granted, Macbook pros are probably some of the best engineered laptops on the market, but the quality difference in no way justifies the price difference. It is true that Apples are less prone to viruses, but the same can be said of a $450 Compaq or Dell laptop running Ubuntu.

My general advice would be to:

A) Define what you need.
B) Define how you would like to use your computer.
C) Define your budget.

Then pick out a computer that meets criteria A and C, and comes closest to meeting criteria B. If your only computer is a laptop, you should consider buying an external drive to back up your data (because laptops get damaged or stolen), buy a keyboard and a mouse, so you can spill your coffee on them instead of your $2000 laptop, and consider buying an external monitor (which will make you able to work more efficiently).
 
  • #34
striker5585
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It is true that Apples are less prone to viruses, but the same can be said of a $450 Compaq or Dell laptop running Ubuntu.

What is Ubuntu and where can i get it?
 

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