Physics undergrad looking to buy a new laptop

  • #1
starstruck_
184
8
Hey! So, I’m a first year physics student and I’m (finally) getting a new laptop. I bought an acer laptop with 4 GB RAM and dual core processing at the beginning of high school, just something to get me through, but it’s not working for me anymore. It’s super slow, freezes a lot ( I lost a 10 make question on an online assignment because the thing froze up), and can never seem to connect to the internet properly.

The problem that I’m finding is that what I’m going for doesn’t seem to fall under my budget unless it’s a refurb and I’ve never bought a refurb before so I’m not sure how good of an idea that is ( I am going to wait for Black Friday or cyber Monday though, if that makes any difference on a brand new one)

This is kind of what I’m leaning towards:

. 8 GB RAM
. Dual core processing
. Light weight (I commute)

I’m not really sure what other specs I require.
Uh I guess another important piece of information is that I have my computing for the physical sciences course next semester and we use MATLAB in that course. That’s about it.

I’m also not trying to go back to acer again, preferably dell or HP. I can’t afford a Mac.

My budget is a huge problem (we’re low income) so even this is kind of stretching it but uh $600-650 max
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
14,198
8,189
The general rule of thumb is to upgrade once every five years for personal machines and once every three years for business machines unless you work at a frugal business (university...) and then its whenever.

So it looks like you've hit the five year marker with your ASUS. Have you considered trying Linux on it? and upgrade the memory to 8GB?

That might give you some life back in the machine. Of course, that kills it as a gaming machine but since you're in college that shouldn't matter...

For a laptop, you've pretty discounted every major brand and you shouldn't go with one that's not a major brand. The only thing I can think of is a Lenovo machine.
Perhaps a thinkpad or an ideapad:

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-13-series/ThinkPad-13-Windows-2nd-Gen/p/22TP2TX133E

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/c/LAPTOPS?IPromoID=LEN246141

You could check out the reviews on Amazon or Google for them. You can check them out at Bestbuy if its nearby.
 
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  • #3
starstruck_
184
8
The general rule of thumb is to upgrade once every five years for personal machines and once every three years for business machines unless you work at a frugal business (university...) and then its whenever.

So it looks like you've hit the five year marker with your ASUS. Have you considered trying Linux on it? and upgrade the memory to 8GB?

That might give you some life back in the machine. Of course, that kills it as a gaming machine but since you're in college that shouldn't matter...

For a laptop, you've pretty discounted every major brand and you shouldn't go with one that's not a major brand. The only thing I can think of is a Lenovo machine.
Perhaps a thinkpad or an ideapad:

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-13-series/ThinkPad-13-Windows-2nd-Gen/p/22TP2TX133E

https://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/c/LAPTOPS?IPromoID=LEN246141

You could check out the reviews on Amazon or Google for them. You can check them out at Bestbuy if its nearby.

Oh I just meant anything other than an Acer, I didn’t enjoy my acer- I was looking into dell and hp because I’m also used to those.
Upgrading would have been a good idea if I didn’t commute, it’s kind of heavy to carry around on my commute.

The Lenovo thinkpad crossed my mind too, if I took that and then upgraded with Linux ? It would at least last me the duration of my degree, right?
 
  • #4
14,198
8,189
One would hope so. Ask around with students and profs who use MATLAB on a laptop and see what they have before you spill some bucks for it.

MATLAB can run on Intel based machine running Windows, Macosx or Linux.

https://www.mathworks.com/hardware-support/system-requirements.html

If you want something similar to MATLAB then there's FreeMat (my favorite), Octave and Scilab(?) or you can go the route of numerical python with scipy and numpy or the route of Julia (matlab like language) but each of these lacks the scope of Matlab and all it can do.

MATLAB has a cheap price for students as it hopes you will demand it when you start working and then the company will pay the big bucks via individual or site licenses to get it.
 
  • #5
I'm using an Ideapad 110 with Linux and for private home use (including a bit of CAS-calculations) it is totally fine. The cost effectiveness is high and using Linux you always save some system ressources compared to Windows. So if Ideapad or Thinkpad, Lenovo should indeed be a good choice for you.
 
  • #6
starstruck_
184
8
I'm using an Ideapad 110 with Linux and for private home use (including a bit of CAS-calculations) it is totally fine. The cost effectiveness is high and using Linux you always save some system ressources compared to Windows. So if Ideapad or Thinkpad, Lenovo should indeed be a good choice for you.

I’ve been looking and I found the Lenovo Ideapad 510s with i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, good enough? It’s like $624.99.
 
  • #7
Tom.G
Science Advisor
Gold Member
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I’ve never bought a refurb before so I’m not sure how good of an idea that is
Not very.

The two things that usually fail are the disk drive and the battery. If you have the time, experience, and budget to replace those items, a refurb is a possibility.

Refurb disk drives, even from reputable manufacturers, seem to be not thouroughly tested, even as bare drives. I've bought 5 or six refurbed drives and kept one; all the others failed a complete surface scan. The one i kept turned out to have a thermal problem above 81F (27C) that I discovered after the short warranty expired.

Batteries I'm just wary of. It only takes one or two times of full discharge and letting them sit that way for a few weeks.
 
  • #8
wle
336
158
I’ve been looking and I found the Lenovo Ideapad 510s with i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB hard drive, good enough? It’s like $624.99.

That should be more than enough. I don't think there's much reason to worry about specifications and performance unless you're planning to do a lot of compute intensive work (which it is unlikely you would be asked to do in an assignment). I run all sorts of software (including Matlab, occasionally) on my laptop (a ThinkPad I bought in 2011 and am still using) without any problems. If anything my experience is that the real resource hog is Firefox. So I think if you have a laptop that can comfortably play YouTube videos in HD then it should be able to run any science-related software you're likely to need it to.

It's also worth seeing if the problems with your existing laptop are fixable. I think Windows installations have a tendency to get cluttered and degrade over time, so it's possible that simply reinstalling Windows or installing a Linux distribution could get you a working laptop again.
 
  • #9
starstruck_
184
8
That should be more than enough. I don't think there's much reason to worry about specifications and performance unless you're planning to do a lot of compute intensive work (which it is unlikely you would be asked to do in an assignment). I run all sorts of software (including Matlab, occasionally) on my laptop (a ThinkPad I bought in 2011 and am still using) without any problems. If anything my experience is that the real resource hog is Firefox. So I think if you have a laptop that can comfortably play YouTube videos in HD then it should be able to run any science-related software you're likely to need it to.

It's also worth seeing if the problems with your existing laptop are fixable. I think Windows installations have a tendency to get cluttered and degrade over time, so it's possible that simply reinstalling Windows or installing a Linux distribution could get you a working laptop again.


Thank you! Gah I wish my laptop was commute friendly but I find it harder to carry my laptop than my James Stewart calculus textbook (supposed to last me 3 terms) [emoji22].
 
  • #10
Dr Transport
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
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look on microcenter.com for open box deals, you can usually get a decent laptop reasonably.

I used Linux on an old laptop for years and ran octave as a clone to MATLAB and was fairly happy with it. I now have a desktop that I run the student version of MATLAB on and only pay ~$100 a year to keep it running.
 

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