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Old April 19th, 2006, 03:58 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
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Laptop Questions!

Hey guys and gals, since I'm the last person in Vancouver who doesn't own a laptop yet, it is time for me to get one. Now, I've never owned one so I'd like some opinions from y'all to help me decide what to get. I'm exclusively looking for a PC system, sorry Mac guys!
Primary use: Writing
Secondary use: Editing photos and video, travelling.

My questions:

Any particular brand that stands out for reliability? Any that are notoriously bad?

Screen type, are all screens created equal? Widescreen vs. regular aspect?

Overall size? Is slimmer better, or is something bigger easier to work with? I know this will determine screen size as well.

Anyone ever seen a laptop with an ergonomic keyboard? Acer makes one with a curved keyboard, so far my favorite choice.

So many processors, so many names, no idea which is faster these days.

Do all laptop batteries last around 2.5-3 hours?

Anything else I should look for in a good laptop? My budget is up to $1000.

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Old April 20th, 2006, 01:57 PM   #2
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Well most laptops are slower than desktops (processor, and HD speed), so video editing may be a bit slow :-).
I have not really seen any particular machines lately that are dogs, but then again I currently have been using tablet pcs, Acer and Toshiba are my favorites, and I know a couple people that have Sony laptops and are happy with them. The best way to look at laptops for performance is by processor speed, hd speed and amount of ram. Ideally in HD speed look for models with 5400 rpm or higher speeds and the minimum amount of ram should be 512mb, otherwise you could see general performance issues, slow to start up, slow launching programs etc. On another note, graphics cards in most laptops are not as good as the desktop models, something to keep in mind. Find models with the features that you need, ie built in dvd or whatever and of course easy for you to type on.... Each brand/model can have keyboards that are not quite standard or the keys are too small etc. The best recommendation that I can make is to try it out.
As for screen type, I can't really say as I dont have any experience with the wide screen models yet. Bigger is usually easier to use, but it depends on how much you carry your machine with you and how heavy it is. When I travel I use my Acer C110 as it is very small and around three pounds, but in the office I like the Toshiba M4 as it is nice and big. Batttery life typically depends on what your settings are on the machine (and if you are playing for example a dvd), and remember that batteries tend to degrade with time and how you use them. If battery life is critical to your use, then I would suggest another battery for extended use.
I hope this helps.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 01:59 PM   #3
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Screen size is very important. If you're editing video, you want as much screen real estate as you can get.

$1000 is going to be a tough slog for anything more than something very barebones.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 02:56 PM   #4
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$1000 might get you something decent as a refurb from Dell or HP with limited warranty -do a search under "refurbished". (Although we've had issues with overheating on the Lattitude D600's).

I would not even consider Ebay for used. Too risky.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 04:48 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dylan Couper
Do all laptop batteries last around 2.5-3 hours?

Anything else I should look for in a good laptop? My budget is up to $1000.
Hey Dylan,

You might get that battery life while writing, but when the processor kicks in for realtime video work your battery life will go down sharply. Most battery life estimates are based on the computer consuming as little power as possible: dimmed screen, slow processing, etc. Actual battry life tends to be significantly lower if you are doing anything of substance with the machine.

Check the reviews of whatever laptop model you are concidering. I haven't kept up with PC models at for a while since I'm not in the market, but my impression is that these days the actual model is more important than the manufacturer. I used to be able to say stuff like "Dells are good, Gateways are pretty good, and avoid Compaqs..." but its not true anymore- if it ever was. Each model has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Happy hunting!
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Old April 21st, 2006, 06:44 PM   #6
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Thanks guys. Can anyone suggest a good website for laptop reviews?
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Old April 24th, 2006, 07:42 AM   #7
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In my experience, there's a big trade off with laptops. The big boys that "do it all" are heavy and you get sick of taking them anywhere. The "small, thin, light" don't do it all so there's not much reason to take them anywhere.

If you just want to do some writing, I would look at the iBook (I know, no Macs). but they are $999 and brand new. You could do some picture editing on it too. I don't think it's any good for video though.

If you insist on PC, I think any name brand would do fine. I personally have a strong hatred for Compaq for some reason. I feel they pre install way too much junk software on them. I have an Alienware that I LOVE. It came bare bones. No junky software came on it at all besides Windows XP (hehehe I'm a Mac fan). No stupid answering machines and other endless useless garbage come on them.
Just make sure it has some recent technology. I (me personally) just would not buy a used one over the internet, especially not Ebay. You should look for a reputable place that sells used laptops.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 08:15 AM   #8
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I just got a Dell Inspiron through an employee purchase program. I went on the site and registered, put one together and saved it to the shopping cart.(didn't buy it though). About three weeks later I got a cupon in my e-mail for 35% off Inspirons as long as over $999.00. I maxed out every feature. 7200rpm 100GB harddrive with dual core processors, the most memory available, highest video card, etc. The best feature though is the protection plan. If I drop it, I get a new one. pretty neat.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 08:21 AM   #9
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If you are sticking to a PC (instead of a Mac) then get one with a Pentium M
processor in it. It will be more quiet and use less power which means longer
battery life. Lots of laptops can be outfitted with dual batteries as well (like
most DELLs for example).

Rob Lohman,
DV Info Wrangler & RED Code Chef

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Old April 24th, 2006, 11:51 AM   #10
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personally, I've had a Dell inspiron for 2 years now and it has been okay. For the price I paid for it then, it was really good, but now I'm really sick of how everything is just going wrong with it.
In the past couple of months, the firewire port has stopped working, the ac adapter has become intermittent, and worst of all, when it's on battery it just randomly shuts off (I think there's a loose connection in there somewhere). I don't know if it's just me, but if you get a dell, get the extended warranty which I'm so glad I got. I just have to wait until I'm done my classes to send it in for repair since I need it for them.
In all honesty, I'll be the second to apologize for recommending it, but seriously consider a Mac - I've had a desktop from them since last August and I've been so happy with OSX, the quality and their support for the very minor things that have happened (and were resolved in about 5 minutes).
If you still want to stick with PC, friends have told me that HP and Toshiba are pretty good, as well as Alienware but those can get a bit pricey.
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Old April 24th, 2006, 01:47 PM   #11
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While I didn't set out to get one, I just got a good laptop for editing.

I've had a Dell Inspiron 8600 for 18 months. It has an intermittant problem and I've sent it in four times to get fixed. Since they can't permanently fix it, I asked to have it replaced. After more than three hours on the phone and a half-dozen emails, they agreed. They explicitly stated I would receive the same model, not a new laptop.

Well, today I received a new Inspiron E1705 with 1GB RAM, a 100GB 7200 RPM hard drive, 256MB video RAM, Intel Centrino Duo 2GHz processor, 17" wide-screen UXGA, TV tuner/capture device and DVD burner. Plus it came with an extra battery, which would be nice if I decide to do the same day edits.

I priced it at the Dell website, and it would have cost me $2800.
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