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mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/9/08 10:41 a.m.

I need a computer for college. I know it has to be a laptop.... And thats about it. I haven't looked at anything computer related in four years since I built mine; I have no idea what I should be getting. I don't game, I do watch movies, I won't be doing any CAD. About the most taxing thing it will be used for is movies and excel spreadsheets.
I would like to stay away from DELL, too many horror stories about them. Other than that, what should I be looking for? Any recommendations?

skruffy
skruffy SuperDork
6/9/08 10:53 a.m.

I came in here to recommend dell. Buy whatever special they have and don't expect a whole lot of support after the sale. You aren't going to have a real good support experience with any of the big players, so buy on price.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 10:57 a.m.

Also, the life expectancy on any non-Apple laptop is about 2-3 years.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/9/08 11:49 a.m.

I go with laptop specialist companies. Toshiba most recently, and I have no complaints. Heck, I think my old 8088 Toshiba still works.

Go to a Circuit City or Best Buy and get some hands-on time with the various models. Find which one has the ergonomics you like, such as the best keyboard or a well-designed mousepad. That's pretty important.

I bought my latest laptop based on hard drive space. For the sort of use I need, any processor is fast enough. Sounds like you're the same.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
6/9/08 12:22 p.m.

If you do go with a Dell, stay away from the home-based versions (inspiron) and try to find a Latitude series. The Latitude is the business based version and tends to be a bit more durable.

The Dell online outlet has some good deals every once in a while.

Lenovo's (IBM) are the some of the most durable laptops around, outside of purpose built "rugged" portables, period. Can't go wrong there.

If I were in the market for a newer portable machine, I'd probably look at tablet-style machines. Dell has one now and there are a number of others already on the market. Being able to use the machine like a notepad is one of the best things, plus you gain a lot of flexibility in the device. Just being able to use it without having the screen open is a plus in my mind.

Finally, with any laptop, make routine backups of the system and your USB thumbdrives to DVD-R/W, etc. Always shut the machine down completely before moving it around. The harddrive will last much longer. Of course you could pony up the extra $500 for a solid state hard drive but that isn't cheap and you lose some drive space.

The batteries, if they are not used will go bad much sooner than not. So don't be afraid to use the battery and expect to have to replace them shortly after the warranty expires. The standard hard drives last about 3 years.

Good luck!

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/9/08 12:24 p.m.

I'd stay away from Dell too, AND Apple (both have very fragile hardware). Since you don't do gaming or CAD, go with Ubuntu Linux for an OS and save a few hundred dollars and headaches.

Now that you are looking for a laptop with no O/S, that narrows your choices considerably.

One of these would be great for college, but it comes with the Microsoft Tax :(

I'll keep looking and see if I can find anything.

Brian
Brian MegaDork
6/9/08 12:30 p.m.

My base model Dell is just over 2 years old and starting to go. I still remember the looks I recived when using it for Photoshop in the digital photo classroom that had about 15-20 mac-pros. The profesor was not amused.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 12:37 p.m.

If you're heading off to college. I would actually encourage you to use Windows (but get Zone Alarm or another decent firewall). You'll be taking stupid computer classes and being given resources, but they'll assume that you're using Microsoft. Also, expect most instructors to have windows machines. It's much easier to be running the same software as everyone else. You can send in your Word docs, and eXcel sheets to your instructor and know they'll be able to read them. When you need to do a PowerPoint presentation (which you will) you can slap your file on a thumb drive and plug it in to the profs computer in the classroom.

Also, there's a potential to save money there. Generally, you can buy software through your school bookstore for super cheap. I think I got XP Pro for $70 from Sac State. You can probably get a full legit version of Microsoft Office for <$100. Plus, you're sure to meet some pirates in the dorms who can hook you up with good stuff... if you have a PC. And if you're going to be in dorms, be sure you've got something where you can play CounterStrike and TF2!

Frankly, I don't see the need for a laptop at college. I had one my first two years (before it crapped out). It got used as a desktop machine with bad ergo. I thought I'd use it for mobile stuff, and never really did. Computer labs are ubiquitous.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/9/08 12:47 p.m.
Salanis wrote: You can send in your Word docs, and eXcel sheets to your instructor and know they'll be able to read them. When you need to do a PowerPoint presentation (which you will) you can slap your file on a thumb drive and plug it in to the profs computer in the classroom.

You can do all that with a Linux laptop with OpenOffice just as easily as with a Windows computer. MS Office is a complete waste of money, OpenOffice is actually better IMO. Running any special utilities you might get (if you're doing any kind of computer science-related thing) and playing games are bigger concerns...I'd recommend a dual-booting setup for that, 'cuz when Windows goes down in the middle of crunch time because it got a virus or deactivated itself because a memory module came loose and now you're a damn dirty pirate, it's not going to be nice.

PeteWW
PeteWW Reader
6/9/08 1:07 p.m.

Consider ASUS EEE: http://eeepc.asus.com/us/index.htm

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 1:18 p.m.
GameboyRMH wrote: You can do all that with a Linux laptop with OpenOffice just as easily as with a Windows computer. MS Office is a complete waste of money, OpenOffice is actually better IMO. Running any special utilities you might get (if you're doing any kind of computer science-related thing) and playing games are bigger concerns...I'd recommend a dual-booting setup for that, 'cuz when Windows goes down in the middle of crunch time because it got a virus or deactivated itself because a memory module came loose and now you're a damn dirty pirate, it's not going to be nice.

Open Office people like to say that. That has not been my experience.

Yes, I was damned dirty pirate all through college and still sort of am (having a job, I now buy 90% of the software I use). I've had no significant problems with XP. I wouldn't buy Vista even if I wasn't a pirate. I'd launch into my arguments against Mac OS, but that's about as contentious a subject as, and less likely to be resolved than, FWD vs. RWD. Only time I ever had a major crash on a PC was when a power supply went, and took a hard-drive with it.

I'd still say you'll need something that will run the popular multiplayer games in the dorms.

Osterkraut
Osterkraut UberDork
6/9/08 1:23 p.m.

There is but one solution: Lenovo. Seriously. They're that good.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/9/08 2:39 p.m.

I already recommended a nice convertible Lenovo...but if you want something used:

http://forums.delphiforums.com/maxcommport/messages?msg=206220.3

billy3esq
billy3esq SuperDork
6/9/08 4:59 p.m.

If I wanted a PC, I'd get a Lenovo. (Actually, I'd get one of those itty-bitty Sony Vaios, but I'm not on a college student budget and travelling for me means several hours on an airplane so smaller is better.)

However, don't discount the Mac for college stuff. Thanks to some aggressive marketing to colleges/education users they are widely used in some colleges and/or departments. For example, when my wife was in school (10-11 years ago, now), the Education Department at UofH still used a lot of Macs. You might find that the professor you want to be compatible with is a Mac fanboi.

I'd wait till I showed up and see what people are using. It's also likely that your campus bookstore and/or computer store will have some sort of cheap, semi-officially supported solution. It'd be tough to go wrong with that.

Tim Baxter
Tim Baxter UltimaDork
6/9/08 5:13 p.m.

Actually, according to some study I heard, Mac is the best selling brand on college campuses today, and 1/3 of all laptops sold today are Macs. There's undoubtedly cheaper laptops, and there's probably better laptops, especially as you get into specialized needs. But Apple's laptops really are amazing machines.

AutoOccultist
AutoOccultist GRM+ Memberand Reader
6/9/08 5:24 p.m.

You might want to wait until you've enrolled to buy a laptop. Most colleges offer student discounts through dell or apple and maybe others.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 5:24 p.m.

PC fanboi though I am, let me qualify some of my statements. I have been more impressed with the quality and longevity of Mac laptops when compared to the PC's that I've used (notice my 2-3yr life prediction was for non-Macs). My experience has been that Mac's are significantly more expensive across the board.

I guess I'll rephrase my suggestion with: get what is readily available and discounted at your bookstore, and that will be compatible with everything your fellow students and profs are doing. That will almost certainly mean Windows or Mac.

I would not want a unix or other machine as my primary machine at college.

I encourage you to have a game that you can waste time fragging your friends on. The school is paying for massive bandwidth. You should fully utilize that for pWn1nG t3h N3wBz!!!1!

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
6/9/08 6:14 p.m.
jezeus wrote: You might want to wait until you've enrolled to buy a laptop. Most colleges offer student discounts through dell or apple and maybe others.

Exactly what I was going to say. Check with your college's bookstore, they may well have some special offers.

billy3esq
billy3esq SuperDork
6/9/08 6:22 p.m.
Salanis wrote: I guess I'll rephrase my suggestion with: get what is readily available and discounted at your bookstore, and that will be compatible with everything your fellow students and profs are doing. That will almost certainly mean Windows or Mac. I would not want a unix or other machine as my primary machine at college.

Unless he's a computer science major, in which case *nix or "other" is likely to be compatible with is fellow students and profs.

Of course a comp sci major probably wouldn't be asking for laptop advice on an automotive bulletin board. Even though this place is good for so much than car stuff.

Full disclosure: My desktop at work is a PC. My laptop and home computer are both Macs, both of which run Windows and/or Linux just fine when necessary (which is rarely). Parallels is a cool thing.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 6:39 p.m.
billy3esq wrote:
Unless he's a computer science major, in which case *nix or "other" is likely to be compatible with is fellow students and profs.
I agree and figured it was a safe bet he wasn't (for the reasons you gave). I still say it's going to be important to have gaming capability. Even if you don't game now, chances are good you'll want to when you get to the dorms. I will reiterate that you do not need a laptop as badly as you think you do. For full disclosure, I work on a PC at work... and for personal machines have 3.7 grassroots built franken-puters that were all constructed from spare parts and are the computer equivalent of an old 240sx, E30, or Civic cobbled together from 3 donor cars, and forced into track duty at which they perform admirably although they'll never set the same sort of times as the fancy new corvettes that others like to run. All of them run windows.
mtn
mtn MegaDork
6/9/08 6:42 p.m.

Thanks for the comments. I do not like Mac. I don't like it, i don't know why, i know its easier, i just don't like it. I will do windows. Don't want to do Linux yet, I will eventually at some point in college.

Looks like it will be Lenovo.

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
6/9/08 7:00 p.m.

I hate Macs too. I think the "easier"/"more stable" thing is just marketing. I'll skip the rant though.

That Lenovo looks cool. Solid state disks are nifty... but probably more than you need and expen$ive.

Edit: Actually, some quick looking leads me to recommend you stay away from solid state drives. The technology isn't mature yet. They cost a lot more, offer less space, and are not nearly as reliable as a regular HD.

Grtechguy
Grtechguy MegaDork
6/9/08 7:18 p.m.

From an official geek.

for the cost, get a Dell.

with the next day accidental coverage.

rebelgtp
rebelgtp UberDork
6/9/08 8:00 p.m.

Yeah I have a Dell Inspiron 1501 with a turion 64 x2 that serves me quite well. It was dirt cheap (bought under Dell's small business side ) and is holding up well. I'll more then likely need to get another laptop before I'm out of school, granted I'll more then likely be getting a Toughbook considering the type of work I'll be doing after school is out, and well during the summers. Hmmm actually I'll more then likely pick up a year or two old Toughbook and buy another "civilian" machine for when I'm home and in the city.

Osterkraut
Osterkraut UberDork
6/9/08 9:43 p.m.
grtechguy wrote: From an official geek. for the cost, get a Dell. with the next day accidental coverage.

From a guy who walked into the local DHL's shipping department and saw STACKS and STACKS of Dell computers waiting to be sent out for warranty work...

Don't get a Dell.

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