New Laptop

  • #1
0rthodontist
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I need to get a laptop in addition to my desktop computer for doing presentations/demos and general academic use--carrying it around all day every day in a backpack while cycling/walking a few miles. I'm still undecided. I am torn between a model from Sony's TX series--unfortunately I do not know exactly which one this is--which is on clearance for $1500, and a model from HP that is $900.

Sony TX series advantages:
  • Very light (2-3 pounds). I had a previous laptop which was destroyed in an accident a year ago, which I am now replacing, and this older laptop was too heavy (7.5 lbs).
  • Very small. The previous laptop was too large. In combination with its weight, this meant that I didn't get a lot of mobile use out of it and just used it as a desktop most of the time. Combined with my books and papers it was too much strain and often I just didn't have any remaining backpack space to take it with me since it was 1.8 inches thick. In contrast, I would automatically be able to take the TX with me without even thinking about its weight or bulk, which could mean I would get more use out of it.
  • The touchpad has a good feel
  • It has a carbon fiber case which will make it more accident-resistant

Sony TX series disadvantages:
  • only 512MB ram. I have a habit of keeping a lot of browser tabs and applications open (~20-30 tabs, ~20-30 applications though many are just consoles or text editors) and noticed a little while ago that I was using 1.2 GB of virtual memory in addition to the 512MB of ram on my desktop. This slows things down, sometimes painfully.
  • Slower. I don't know that this would be a big problem since I think the way I use computers memory is usually the bottleneck, not speed. I don't play performance-intensive games.
  • price = $1500
  • The small keyboard and screen could be uncomfortable and cause me to use it less. This is one area where I am really seeking advice--do you get used to a small keyboard?
  • Shorter battery life (4-9 hrs). But I think it should be enough to last me through a school day without plugging it in.

HP model advantages:
  • 1024MB ram.
  • price = $800
  • larger keyboard and screen, could be more comfortable
  • Longer battery life (upgradeable to 16 hours)

HP model disadvantages:
  • larger and heavier (5.4 lbs). If it turns out to be uncomfortably heavy and I find it more convenient to leave it behind, then it is almost worthless.
  • The keyboard is of a type that tends to lose keys, judging from the missing keys on store demonstration models and the fact that it is identical to my old laptop's keyboard which lost 4 or 5 keys before the laptop was destroyed.
  • Might damage more easily

So, have you bought a similar laptop to either of these, and carried it around with you all day, and liked it/disliked it? How much use did you get out of it?

I think I would go with the TX if I weren't worried about being bothered by the small keyboard & screen and a little about adequate battery life.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Evo
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2,700
For banging around, I'd only go with Toshiba. Those things are built like tanks. They are the best of any computer I have ever owned.
 
  • #3
0rthodontist
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Any laptop I get probably will get damaged (in addition to losing keys, the old laptop's CD-RW and floppy drive somehow broke before the fatal fall) but I'm not so worried about damage. I can get an accident warranty. What I am concerned about, in rough order of importance, are:

Portability (weight & dimensions small enough so it's not a pain to carry around constantly)
Ease of use (keyboard & screen large enough so it's not a pain to use)
Battery charge (ideally one full day)
Price
Performance (I think primarily RAM)
Durability

Just to summarize the longer first post, I'm comparing an ultra-small roughly 2.5 pound laptop (a standard-type laptop with built in screen and keyboard, not a pad or anything) versus a 5.4 pound laptop.
 
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  • #4
Dr Transport
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The chances that you're going to get a full day out of your battery is slim at best, if possible get a system that allows for two batteries to be installed. I had a system years ago that had interchangeable drives (CD/Floppy) which allowed me to install a battery in place of the them which gave me about 6 hours on the set of batteries.
 
  • #5
0rthodontist
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Well, Sony says the TX series will give a 5-9 hours charge. If I get the HP "Ultra Battery" it is supposed to "add up to 10" hours to battery life. What I'm really hoping for is someone who can testify whether a very small 2-3 pound laptop gets uncomfortable to use, or if you get used to the smaller keyboard.
 
  • #6
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If you get the Sony you get 1-explosive hours of battery... unless they fixed them all recently, haven't checked. Are you not a fan of Apple? Or is budget cutting out Apple?
 
  • #7
0rthodontist
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Well, Apple is more expensive and that is certainly a factor. Basically the 5.4 pound HP model looks like it meets all my needs except for (possibly) size and weight, and unless Apple sells its own 2-3 pound model there's no reason to switch.
 
  • #8
Dr Transport
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If you get up to 9 hours of battery life, they have really done some good development lately.

As for the weight thing, the difference in the weights is approximately a book or two. If you have a backpack which is designed for hauling a computer around, I'm sure your not going to feel it until the end of the day.
 
  • #9
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If you get up to 9 hours of battery life, they have really done some good development lately
I second that. My Dell only got 30 minutes but that was a few months before it died.
 
  • #10
0rthodontist
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There have been great improvements in battery time. Four hours is the typical to expect from most laptops now, with options to increase.
 
  • #11
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There have been great improvements in battery time. Four hours is the typical to expect from most laptops now, with options to increase.
With 2 batteries maybe, when you have all the powersaving options configured to reduces the amount of power you are using...

My old Dell did about 4 hours, maybe 5.. But that was with 2 batteries, and it cost 3* your budget
 
  • #12
0rthodontist
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Yes, my old laptop got about an hour and a half before its screen broke so I had to use it as a desktop. But unless the salespeople and the vendor websites are lying about their benchmarks, 4 or 5 hours is pretty common now. For example
http://www.toshibadirect.com/td/b2c...th=COM2-0015&COMP_Standard+Warranty=WARR-0001
says its MobileMark benchmark is 5 hours. Reading the MobileMark site, they do seem to put their laptops through a full range of activities--dvd playing, internet browsing, office work.
 
  • #13
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Hmmm I see its says 5 hrs... But I want to know; doing what... My MacBook (brand new) will do about 2 hours max when I am *actually* using it.

I wonder how MobileMark does the tests.

I dont think I will believe it until I witness it.. Seems like a Marketing ploy.

Actually I just did some googling on Macbook Battery life, and apple like to say it can also last up to 5 hours... Its a load of rubbish, if you USE your Laptop you will get about 1.5-2hrs of life out a charge. If you put all the settings on minimum, and hardley use the proc, then you might be able to get 4-5 hrs...
 
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  • #14
0rthodontist
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Hmm, well that's mildly disconcerting, since what I eventually decided to get was a MacBook (reasonably small and light, about 5 pounds, and there was a sale). The small laptop's keyboard was uncomfortable once I got into an actual text editor and started typing, and I just decided that I would rather try a mac than another PC. It looks like I should try to upgrade the battery, if I possibly can. Unless, perhaps, you have a MacBook pro or something with some heavy duty stuff on it that uses up power?
 
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  • #15
0rthodontist
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Hmm. This computer is oddly slow at times despite the fact that I have some free memory (30 mb) and I'm not using much CPU time. The virtual memory is 5.56 GB, but that can't be completely accurate, can it? Also any idea what the process "rcd" is for?
 
  • #16
0rthodontist
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Well, I've been doing the battery calibration on this thing where you power it down, and I'm on the high performance/energy use setting and have about 15 programs open, and I've been getting almost 4 hours, with an hour and a half left. If I was on the lower power setting the battery timer said it would have done 5+ hours.

I like this computer, particularly the operating system. It comes with a lot of stuff: dashboard, the f9 ability which is very useful, the dock, four-direction touchpad scrolling by holding down 2 fingers, a whole lot of nice system tools that are installed by default, and useful applications like stickies. It has a magnetic power plug which comes out pretty easily, a good safety feature. It has a unix terminal. Two things that I am finding annoying:
--If I try to use python from the terminal, I can't press up to get the last command I entered. That's trouble, but I guess I can just get IDLE.
--I've tried twice to download a 300 MB operating system update, and failed because of some temporary connection disruption. That's really annoying. There is no option to continue the download, you have to start from the beginning at every interruption, and there is no good reason for that.
Overall though I like the mac. I have not owned a mac before but I can see that they have a very well considered user interface.
 
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  • #17
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good choice :-)

Buy some more memory, and you will be very happy with the performance.

http://www.macsales.com/

I put 2 gig in mine, and it is very fast now.

I guess you arent *using* your laptop as much as I do. I usually have multiple OS's running and other funky stuff like this.
 
  • #18
0rthodontist
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I think I'm going to put Linux on it if I can. I just did the battery calibration process. Though I like the Mac, it does trouble me a bit that the Mac OS X takes about 350 MB of memory. I wonder, does more memory reduce battery time because the memory must be powered, or does it increase battery time because the hard drive does not have to be used as much?
 
  • #19
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run parallels with Linux virtualised.. But seriously get some more RAM first... I coulnt get debian/umbuntu to load up with 512MB
 
  • #20
0rthodontist
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What stops you from putting Linux directly on the computer as a separate boot option? Is it hard to get it to work with all the specialized hardware on the notebook?
 
  • #21
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I have a macbook 1.83ghz for school, sadly right now with only 512 ram, It is very usable and i can watch a full dvd 2+hrs and have atleast 50% battery left over afterwards, so the battery life is not terrible. I would highly recommend upgading the ram, that will be the first upgrade to my laptop. Expecially if you plan on using linux or windows on your apple.
 
  • #22
0rthodontist
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Linux should use much less memory than OS X, if you can get it as a separate boot instead of virtual. Those are my specs too, 1.83 ghz core duo, 512 mb SDRAM.
 
  • #23
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I dont like having to shutdown... :)

Code:
$ uptime
20:48  up 4 days,  2:08, 2 users, load averages: 0.72 0.79 0.77
Hmm I rebooted recently

Linux will use just as much ram as osx, u are aware that osx is based on *nix? It just uses aqua as its windowing system...

Anyway yeah u can install *nix..
 
  • #24
PerennialII
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What stops you from putting Linux directly on the computer as a separate boot option? Is it hard to get it to work with all the specialized hardware on the notebook?
.......have had such in my last 4-5 laptops (dual linux / XP)...... [although they've been Dells & HPs] haven't had any hardware issues really, wireless config and such may take bit more effort but have been more than satisfied with the hardware support. Of course worthwhile to check the support with respect to whatever distro plan to use.
 
  • #25
0rthodontist
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I have ubuntu on my other computer and it is using only 250 mb RAM with a lot of programs open.

One thing about the user interface that I really DON'T like is how it doesn't want to tell me the absolute pathnames of things. There's no way to configure Spotlight to do that, for example. Also in general I do not like Spotlight except for its speed. If I make a text file, save it, then search for some of the text inside that file, Spotlight will not turn it up! What's the problem, it doesn't look inside files, or what?
 
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