Advice on Buying a Laptop


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The first thing to consider when buying any new computer is how it is going to be used. The needs for someone doing heavy 3D applications is very different from a grandmother wishing to e-mail her family. The following advice is for people that are using their laptops for school, which means they use it for
  • MS Office
  • watching movies (DVDs or downloaded)
  • listening to music
  • doing digital photo stuff
  • instant messenger chat
  • websurfing and e-mail
  • some travel, but not too much
If these are the only types of activities you're going to be doing with your laptop then great, because you don't need a super fancy one and you can get a decent laptop for a great price now.
Personally, I really like the Toshiba brand of laptops. They have an incredible screen that they call TrueBrite or something like that, that just makes the colours very vibrant and crisp. I have a lot of friends with Toshibas and they're almost all very happy with them. There are a few problems with the batteries, but I don't know if this is isolated to Toshibas or is a common problem with all laptops.
A point-list of the rest of the specs that will meet your needs. All of these are a minimum, you can get MORE than these numbers, but you'll be paying more when you don't really need the extra power. However, don't get less because you'll experience the slowness of the machine which if you think about how often you use the computer over years can really have a long term negative affect.
  • 512MB of RAM
  • Greater than 40GB Harddrive Space, 60GB is good
  • DVD drive, with preferably a DVD burner
  • Integrated Wireless G, most laptops nowadays come with this, just take the 2 seconds to make sure it's there.
As for processor, it really doesn't matter, just get something greater than 1GHz. I think all processors are better than that now anyway, so it shouldn't be much of a big deal. The point is that you don't need something powerful, so don't let the salesman trick you for that.
I should clarify more on processors, because they can be very confusing.
Toshiba is all Intel, so that makes things a lot simpler. Now for Intel, there are different processors
  • Pentium M
  • Pentium 4
  • Celeron
Then there's another thing called Centrino, which refers to a set of technologies that includes a Pentium M processor. Pentium M processors are the best, they're just as fast as Pentium 4s, but they're smaller so you get longer battery life and the laptop will be smaller as well. Pentium 4s are fast, but big, so those are in the bigger laptops. That's why I suggest Celeron, even though they're the worst, they're more than enough for what you need, and they're the least expensive as well.
As for the extended warranty I'm still not sure if it's worth it or not. It's about $400 or so, so it's quite a bit of money. I think if you're going to be rough with the thing, like traveling with it a lot, and not treating it very well, then ya, I'd recommend getting the warranty. But if you're using it JUST as a home computer and it'll never leave your desk, then the warranty most likely isn't worth it. Still, it's tough to put a price on peace of mind so if you're going to worry a lot then maybe it's worth it just to calm any fears.
If you find a REALLY good deal on a Gateway, or Compaq like they have the same specifications that I laid out above, but costs like $200 less than the Toshiba, then ya, go for those. Gateway and Compaq are good brands, I just think Toshiba is the best. And if you do look at other brands, make sure you look VERY closely at the screen, I absolutely love the Toshiba screen on their laptops so make sure any laptop you get has that kind of screen.
Oh ya, as for size, I don't know if portability is a factor for you, 17" is a good balance between size and weight. If you're going for hardcore portable like super slim and small, then expect to pay a lot more money. Personally I hate the super slim and small laptops, though they do look nice, they're just not worth the money. So don't be taken in by their stylish looks!
anonymous
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Thanks Omar. This was very interesting and helpful. I recently bought the Gateway laptop with a 14" screen. I've now taken two back. On one, the pixels weren't all lighting up and on the other one, one of the keys is *buggered*...uh oh. Sooo, I've decided to go for a comparable Compaq computer. It has the Turion processor (equivalent to the Centrino)and is 100$ cheaper. Perfect for my scholastic budget, or lack thereof.
Thanks again.
admin
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Sucks about your bad experiences, probably a good argument for the product service plans :) I'm really interested in the AMD Turion technology, since I'm a big fan of AMD. I've had an AMD processor in my desktop for a while now and am very happy with it. It'd be great if you shared how you're liking the laptop after using it for a little bit.
anonymous
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haha..the guy at Futureshop *eek*, said I should not go for an AMD processor.. :( I'm thinking of going for a Toshiba..seems like the highest quality for a couple hundred dollars more. Good plan? It would be the Toshiba Satellite Intel Pentium M 750 1.86GHz Laptop (M50-MX5). If you have any final comments, that would be cool. I'm about to take the plunge tomorrow!
Thanks.
Sarah
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I have a Toshiba Satellite (A75-S211). It's a more powerful one at 3.2GHz, so it's pretty heavy - around 8lbs I think. I really like the screen and the way it works, but I've had a problem with the power connection that is really frustrating. It's fixable, so it's not that big of a deal, but just to give you the heads up, I've heard of other people that have had problems with Toshiba batteries. That being said, I would still recommend Toshibas as they're good quality and their screens are really impressive.
anonymous
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I also recently bought a Gateway laptop and had problems with it right away...So I brought it back and exchanged it for a Compaq Presario V2405CA with a AMD Sempron processor which was significantly cheaper. I'm very happy with my Compaq laptop. Has anyone else heard of problems with Gateway laptops?

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