Advice needed on purchasing laptop


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Not a gamer.  Mainly use it for web surfing, some light word processing and Excel work, and photo and video editing rarely.  I don't store much at all on the computer.  All photos and videos are stored in the cloud, so I don't need much storage capacity.  I'm not too interested in a Mac due to the cost and I've always been a PC user.

If you're suggesting one that has a touch screen or "flip" type, tell me why I should deviate from my old school PC.  I'd like to learn more about that option, and I hear more and more about the Surface and some other new technology but have no clue what the advantages of those are.

I would appreciate some suggestions on what to buy.

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Second the solid state drive recommendation. Make sure you get a solid state drive.

I don't see the utility in touch screen or flip for your requirements either, however there may be some.  We (as consumers/users) seem to use and like touch screens for cell phones and tablets.  Don't know anything about the Surface.

What kind of advice are you looking for?  Specific make/model? Best bang for the buck under X dollar amount?

 

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Something like the Surface is a great compromise between the portability of a tablet and the functionality of a laptop.  The keyboard doubles as a cover for the device so you would typically always have it with you, but it's attached with magnets so you can just pull it off if you are using the device for something like watching videos and don't need the keyboard.  But like everything, this all comes at a price and only you can decide if the extra portability is worth the cost increase.  

Based on the usage you outlined, you wouldn't need anything particularly powerful.  Pretty much anything with 8GB RAM and a 128GB hard disk would probably work for you.  The only question you haven't already answered relate to how much you intend to carry it around.  If it won't be moved much, I'd be looking at the screen size and quality to find something you like.  But if you intend to carry it with you regularly, portability, battery life and the general build quality of the laptop become more concerning factors and this is where the Surface starts to become a more viable option.

I feel like I've raised more questions than I've answered, but I hope that helps somewhat regardless.

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12 minutes ago, DeskSmkr said:

Second the solid state drive recommendation. Make sure you get a solid state drive.

I don't see the utility in touch screen or flip for your requirements either, however there may be some.  We (as consumers/users) seem to use and like touch screens for cell phones and tablets.  Don't know anything about the Surface.

What kind of advice are you looking for?  Specific make/model? Best bang for the buck under X dollar amount?

 

Yes, primarily looking for make/model under around $500 if I can get something decent for that price especially with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

6 minutes ago, MrGlass said:

Something like the Surface is a great compromise between the portability of a tablet and the functionality of a laptop.  The keyboard doubles as a cover for the device so you would typically always have it with you, but it's attached with magnets so you can just pull it off if you are using the device for something like watching videos and don't need the keyboard.  But like everything, this all comes at a price and only you can decide if the extra portability is worth the cost increase.  

Based on the usage you outlined, you wouldn't need anything particularly powerful.  Pretty much anything with 8GB RAM and a 128GB hard disk would probably work for you.  The only question you haven't already answered relate to how much you intend to carry it around.  If it won't be moved much, I'd be looking at the screen size and quality to find something you like.  But if you intend to carry it with you regularly, portability, battery life and the general build quality of the laptop become more concerning factors and this is where the Surface starts to become a more viable option.

I feel like I've raised more questions than I've answered, but I hope that helps somewhat regardless.

I travel with it infrequently and rarely without a power plug, so battery life isn't top priority.

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1. Spend the absolute maximum you can afford. Technology changes so much it will be outdated soon so going cheap doesn't help for longevity.

2. This means maxing out the ram and drive as much as you can. Honestly wouldn't go below 16gb unless you can swap it out. Most new thin machines have drives and ram soldered on the boards now so you can't upgrade later.

3. Ssd. Non-negotiable.

4. Portability. You are looking for a laptop, so this should be a no brainier. But the smallest for the money is key.

5. Screen size. Think about what works for you, but this affects portability. And if you have eyesight issues, get a 15 inch. You will thank yourself.

6. Processor. i5 or better. If you don't know what that is, reference 1.

7. Warranty, get the maximum warranty you can if you plan on keeping the laptop for more than a year. Use a credit card that adds to the warranty when it ends. You will use it and you can have a whole he new laptop by the end of the warranty if needed. Even if you don't, you can at least refresh the worn pieces, like keyboards. But you will need it if you have it for at least 3 years.

Recommendations.

Surface pro. Small lightweight and hardware/software All engineered by one company for maximum efficiencies. Ref. Apple.

Regarding the touch screen, if you understand the value of tablets, then you get the touch screen. Otherwise skip it. And if you buy a traditional laptop, skip it...if possible.

Dell XPS 15.

Others that are decent but I will never buy because they are wholly Chinese owned and engineered.

Lenovo x1 carbon.
Huawei mate book pro

Just my two cents. Good luck on your search.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk

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@mrmessy gave some pretty solid advice. Working in the IT industry for a living, all I generally sell is the Dell Latitude/Precision (stay away from Inspiron) line due to reliability and 3 year warranty. If a piece of hardware fails, most of the time they'll dispatch a Dell tech next day to repair it. With that said, when the X1 Carbon 4th gen came out, I maxed out the specs and ordered one because of its thinner form factor and better portability. Its been a great machine. 

Take a look through the Dell Outlet for refurbs. A lot of the time, you can get a pretty good refurb machine that actually includes a 3 year warranty. I wouldn't hesitate to purchase one personally. The below link is a filtered search of their Latitude line.

 

https://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineSales/Online/InventorySearch.aspx?brandid=2801&c=us&cs=28&l=en&s=dfb&frid=164&~ck=mn

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Not an IT person here but I found that a decent tablet with a nice Bluetooth keyboard has actually been a better option for me than a traditional laptop. I have a normal work laptop but have found that I can do 99% of what I need to do (work or personal) on my Samsung tablet, with a keyboard when desired. Plus I get the flexibility of a stand-alone tablet when I want that for the airplane, etc. I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab A which ran about $300 about 18 months ago. Not on the high end of tablets but seems to do routine tasks quite well.

Might be the opposite of the earlier recommendation to buy as much as you can get...I’ve come around the to idea of buying something reasonably affordable without the bells & whistles that I can replace in a couple of years vs trying to buy something with a hefty price tag to last 5+ years.

Just my 2 cents. Good luck!

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2 hours ago, mrmessy said:

1. Spend the absolute maximum you can afford. Technology changes so much it will be outdated soon so going cheap doesn't help for longevity.

2. This means maxing out the ram and drive as much as you can. Honestly wouldn't go below 16gb unless you can swap it out. Most new thin machines have drives and ram soldered on the boards now so you can't upgrade later.

3. Ssd. Non-negotiable.

4. Portability. You are looking for a laptop, so this should be a no brainier. But the smallest for the money is key.

5. Screen size. Think about what works for you, but this affects portability. And if you have eyesight issues, get a 15 inch. You will thank yourself.

6. Processor. i5 or better. If you don't know what that is, reference 1.

7. Warranty, get the maximum warranty you can if you plan on keeping the laptop for more than a year. Use a credit card that adds to the warranty when it ends. You will use it and you can have a whole he new laptop by the end of the warranty if needed. Even if you don't, you can at least refresh the worn pieces, like keyboards. But you will need it if you have it for at least 3 years.

Recommendations.

Surface pro. Small lightweight and hardware/software All engineered by one company for maximum efficiencies. Ref. Apple.

Regarding the touch screen, if you understand the value of tablets, then you get the touch screen. Otherwise skip it. And if you buy a traditional laptop, skip it...if possible.

Dell XPS 15.

Others that are decent but I will never buy because they are wholly Chinese owned and engineered.

Lenovo x1 carbon.
Huawei mate book pro

Just my two cents. Good luck on your search.

Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
 

I have the new Dell XPS 15. Absolutely love it. Heavier and chunkier than my old Samsung Series 9, though. Just don't listen to the salesman when he tells you the D6000 dockstation is suitable for it. The D6000 is only 65W, whereas the XPS 15 charger is 130W.

And I just picked up 2 Samsung Tab S4 in the Black Friday sales. I can finally get rid of this annoying iPad Mini.

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For a new laptop for what you describe. The only choice at the moment is the Dell XPS 9570

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3305056/laptop-computers/dell-xps-15-9570-review.html

Core I7

16 gB Ram, think about upgrading to 32

512 gb solid state drive, all you'll ever need if you use the cloud.

There is a graphics card but it's not really a gaming PC. It's good for video editing though if you do some of that.

Aluminium body and carbon fiber wrist rest.

Great selection of ports. 4k screen

Small form factor for a 15.6 inch screen.

You should be able to get the spec you want for €2,000 or less.

It's the only machine I'd consider right now and I will be getting one very soon.

No laptop comes close at that price or even for €1,000 more.

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5 minutes ago, Ryan said:

For a new laptop for what you describe. The only choice at the moment is the Dell XPS 9570

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3305056/laptop-computers/dell-xps-15-9570-review.html

Core I7

16 gB Ram, think about upgrading to 32

512 gb solid state drive, all you'll ever need if you use the cloud.

There is a graphics card but it's not really a gaming PC. It's good for video editing though if you do some of that.

Aluminium body and carbon fiber wrist rest.

Great selection of ports. 4k screen

Small form factor for a 15.6 inch screen.

You should be able to get the spec you want for €2,000 or less.

It's the only machine I'd consider right now and I will be getting one very soon.

No laptop comes close at that price or even for €1,000 more.

About AUD$3k for the 16gb RAM model with 512gb SSD, here in Aus if you get it direct from Dell. 10% off for Black Friday, so $2.8k right now.

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2 minutes ago, Fuzz said:

About AUD$3k for the 16gb RAM model with 512gb SSD, here in Aus if you get it direct from Dell. 10% off for Black Friday, so $2.8k right now.

Thanks Fuzz. Here at the moment, it's about €2,000. I think it's about the same number of dollars in the US. I'm just waiting for my new financial year..

I'm not going to bother with the touch-screen version. Simple 4K is good enough for me. The only issue for me might be the camera angle, I do quite a bit of Skype and Webex. But there are plenty of cheap webcams out there. Speakers aren't an issue for me, I use a dock. But I think the sound is decent enough.

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I paid AUD$3k back in Aug for the 16gb RAM i7 touchscreen model (no need for the i9) plus a D6000 dock. You're right about the camera, stupid placement. Pick up a Logitech C920 on the cheap, as the new C922 model is out.

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To me, computers have always been about speed and memory. You might call them a highway system in virtual square miles.

I have changed somewhat with the times. The fact is, computers are so fast today you can do a lot of things unthinkable a few years ago on one without a lot of power.

I still see RAM memory as a bit of a weakness. RAM is still a good thing.

My company laptop is not high spirited by any means. However I can have Bluebeam running with at least 100MB of files open on it. Run Chrome with 20 tabs all looking at blueprints via a cloud based file system, and work out of 5 or 6 open folders, with several Outlook windows open at the same time. I spread it over three monitors. I will typically have both Word and Excel always open.

I bog the RAM down now and again. It only has 4GB and a SSD 256GB. It is way too heavy to travel with but I do it anyway. It is an i5 based computer.

For what you are going to do Rich, you don't really need a lot of PC anymore!

I guess I don't understand the long warranty thing. Perhaps I have really good luck with electronics. I keep a warranty on my phone and my iPad, I could drop those and toast them. But I don't spend a lot on warranties. I maintain my computers myself, except the company computer because that is administrated by the people who pay me.

I leave most of my computers on 24/7. This includes the Mac Mini that I am typing on now. It has run almost non-stop, short of power outages and some maintenance for about 6 years now. I have to wonder if powering them up and down is really what does damage to them...! I take it apart and blow the dust out at least once a year...! It also shares the 2 monitors I use on my work laptop via KVM switch. I just put a 1TB SSD, and a 2TB (2.5in drives) in it. Apple will allow you to fuse drives but I don't do that.

I have found Apple products to be far more robust than any PC product, unless I build the PC myself.

I use an iPad pro for a few things as well. It is mostly used when I travel to keep personal space separate from my company's computer and to view prints on my desk when working. However it is extremely useful at company meetings and when I work in the field. I don't need a table, it fits in the 'game pouch' of my safety vest and I have no need of a 30 lb roll of prints. I can run it all day! I can listen to talk-radio on it, play music on it, and even keep 50+ of my own movies on it. I can blow up prints so that I can actually see them, and annotate them while I walk, email, take pictures and everything else you can do on a computer on it. I can take it back to the hotel, and watch Casablanca on it too! The only draw back is that it won't take a wireless mouse. That would make it perfect.

It runs Outlook, Word and Excel, Bluebeam and even an abridged version of AutoCAD (Autodesk). I use a Logitech snap-on keyboard/cover. It will often sit on my desk with a blueprint set open on it all day long. As my eyes get weaker and weaker, it gets more and more useful. My iPad is linked to my iPhone so I don't need to take my personal phone when I travel. It gets my texts, shares my DropBox and gets my email.

I don't have make and model data for you. I don't know if it matters. I have had laptops from just about everyone but HP. The Dells seem to have nice keyboards, the Toshibas are cheap, and don't really last a long time. I love Macs.

My wife kills electronics. Yet once I bought her a MacBook, I have no more need to constantly fix her PC. I do the updates for her a few times a year. She keeps her computer in the kitchen, probably not the best place, but it does not bother it. It has been worth every penny because she no longer bitches about it not working...

I say look around and don't rule things out without spending some time playing with them.

Yes, my workstation is a mess... but that is my world...

IMG_0023.thumb.jpeg.3107cf9e18bc9c4921df16845cd03d13.jpeg

-R

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Highly recommend surface. It depends what setting you use it in. If you’re going to be sitting at a table for all of its use then can recommend a surface pro tablet of any sort and a keyboard cover (extra, not included in package). I say this because they are powerful for your use, compact, portable, good battery life. I have had my surface pro 2 tablet for 4 years now and it’s awesome! Been around the world with me. Never skipped a beat. Use it for a similar purpose to you.

If you will be spending a lot of time on the computer. I’d recommend a surface laptop (not surface book which is basically the highest end laptop). I recently bought one for my wife who is going to be doing a PhD for 3 years so the bigger screen of the laptop compared to the tablets is better for her. Also the laptop is good because it is rigid and can be used on your lap on the couch or in the park etc. where as the tablet with its backstand is bit of a pain the ass to use on your lap.

Highly recommend both options depending on your use.

As for touch screen. If you do stuff that requires you to take notes or draw stuff then it’s handy. Other than that not really much point. Sometimes as a tablet the touch screen is easy to do things you’re projecting for whatever purpose you’re doing it for. I’ve disabled the touch screen in my wife surface laptop cos it was kind of annoying and wasn’t needed.

Also other thing to note about surface is if you need hdmi you’ll need to buy seperate adapter cable. Also they only have 1 USB port, but the power pack has one as well for charging so you can charge your phone with the power pack and have a HD plugged into the computer for example.


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If you're somewhat handy and don't have very demanding power or resolution needs, you might consider refurbishing a used laptop. Put in an SSD, and upgrade the WiFi, and you could have a really fast and useful 1080p resolution laptop. A 256GB SSD these days is under $50, and an 802.11ac WiFi card is under $20. Older ram series are expensive, so if it has at least 4GB you'll be fine. 

Aside from that, take a look at TigerDirect.com, they had the HP 225 laptop for $330, with G6 dual-core processor, 8GB RAM, 15.6" widescreen, Windows 10 Pro, and Radeon graphics. TigerDirect also has Intel SSDs on sale, 256GB for $40, and 512GB for $75. At that price just get the 512G and swap the HDD for the Intel SSD, and you'll have a nice fast machine for a little over $400. 

If you want it all in the box, and don't want to mess with upgrading stuff, then try this REFURBISHED HP EliteBook with Core i7-4600U 2.1GHz, 8GB DDR3 RAM, 240GB SSD for $449. 

Another option might be a chromebook as long as you always have Internet access. 

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Different opinion, just to throw it out there, since most people are offering advice well over @stogieluver's stated budget.  Also, to expand on @Philc2001's final sentence.

tl;dr - In 2018, Chromebooks are a good, live option at the $500 price point, if you are willing to go online for your productivity apps.

At your price range and with your use case, if you are willing to go online for your spreadsheet use (e.g. Google Docs, or Office 365), consider a Chromebook.  Cheap, small, light computers for people who don't want or need to run heavyweight local apps, and they tend to offer all-day battery life.

Disclaimer: I am employed by a company whose name letter begins with the letter "g".  This isn't an attempt to shill, but to report on a few years of solid dogfooding.  I'm pretty discerning about hardware, and have preferred Macbooks (except for the latest gen keyboards -- good heavens) and Thinkpads, for reference.

After some rough early generation machines, Chromebooks are much better these days -- quite capable of getting the job done **if** most of your life is in the cloud and you play well with the Google ecosystem.  These machines are all over the edu market (at least around my neck of the woods), due to price/performance, and use case fit.  With most people going online to do much of anything these days, the use case for machines like this is if not fully materialized, at least 80% of the way there, for most people.

General advice, if you want to consider this option:
* Get a model with an Intel Core processor of some kind.
* 4 GB RAM is reasonable for this OS, and for most people.
* Don't go below 1920x1080 (full HD) on the screen!

Specific models I might suggest:

* Pixelbook, if you can find a screaming deal -- maybe for a bit more than you're willing to spend.  But the hardware is top notch.  Keyboard beats the Macbook (not hard to do), and even the trackpad rivals the Macbook, IMO.  And I'm super picky.
* Samsung Pro.  12.3" QHD (!) screen.  
* ASUS Flip, particularly the C302CA-DHM4 model.  12.5 inch full HD screen.  Smaller trackpad.

There are some 15" models out there if you want the screen size.  My >40 year-old eyes are starting to favor such machines, so I would understand.

Any of these (generally, touch screen models) will also run Android apps, if that's your jam.  I don't make much use of that feature, but it's nice to run the occasional game which wants to grab the full screen, or etc.

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I am power laptop user; 2 TB SSD's 32 GB RAM, etc...  been using workhorse monster laptops for a long time...  That being said, Dell and Lenovo are the go to brands in the corporate world...  Apple and Microsoft are good alternates.  I really love the Microsoft Surface Laptops.  I feel based on your needs the Surface 2 or the like will be plenty.  As other mentioned, get it with an SSD and as much RAM as your can afford.  Invest in a paid cloud storage using Dropbox, Box, etc...  and you'll never worry about not having access to your data.

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I am both a Mac user and pc user. I can’t recommend the MacBook pros enough for everything you listed as wanting to use the laptop to do. But since you said that you don’t like macs, I’d highly recommend the Dell XPS 15. Great laptops.

And@PigFish - at least according to my computer hardware class professor back in college, turning the computer on and off IS hard on the hardware and will reduce the lifespan. He always said to just use the soft restart option if a problem was noticed with how the computer was running rather than just using the hard off button and turning it back on.


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If possible, get a feel for the touchpad/keyboard before you pull the trigger.  Personally, I won't touch anything with a buttonless touchpad, but it's preference.  1080p screen resolution is a must, as is a SSD.

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Mac user here, Mac PowerBook up until beginning of October. I am an illustrator for a living so not necessarily the highest end like this puppy required, but the Power iPad and the pencil is so refreshing! You feel like old days when you had a pad of paper and you took notes.

Then, you put that pencil away when you want to just use the 15” or smaller model for regular stuff. Or reading, watching a movie or whatever. I whip this thing out wherever I am.

The MacBook Pro is my usual computer. Still is for Adobe program use. But the thing weighs a ton.

CB

 

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32 minutes ago, BrightonCorgi said:

You should have an offline copy on your fixed disk that will sync up when connected to internet again.

But then you still have access to your data, without the need for Dropbox, as it is on your fixed disk! :P

I kid, I kid. I know what you mean. Whilst you do have an offline copy, an internet connection only matters if somebody else shares the Dropbox and updates the files.

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9 minutes ago, Fuzz said:

But then you still have access to your data, without the need for Dropbox, as it is on your fixed disk! :P

I kid, I kid. I know what you mean. Whilst you do have an offline copy, an internet connection only matters if somebody else shares the Dropbox and updates the files.

The internet connection is your redundancy (what if laptop dies or gets stolen)  and yes makes it available for collaboration. 

I also suggest full disk encryption along with a poison pill solution to brick the machine should it get stolen.

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