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Tech: laptops - what's standard now/

lefthanded guitar 29 Mar 12 - 07:32 PM
lefthanded guitar 29 Mar 12 - 07:36 PM
JohnInKansas 29 Mar 12 - 10:14 PM
EBarnacle 29 Mar 12 - 10:30 PM
EBarnacle 29 Mar 12 - 10:34 PM
framus 29 Mar 12 - 10:56 PM
GUEST,erbert 29 Mar 12 - 11:08 PM
Acme 30 Mar 12 - 12:17 AM
JohnInKansas 30 Mar 12 - 02:24 AM
EBarnacle 30 Mar 12 - 10:39 AM
lefthanded guitar 04 Apr 12 - 05:49 PM
EBarnacle 05 Apr 12 - 12:05 AM
JohnInKansas 05 Apr 12 - 03:32 AM
EBarnacle 05 Apr 12 - 08:45 PM
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Subject: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 07:32 PM

I'm almost afraid to ask this question,b/c I know there's really no one definitive answer - but - what are some standard specifications you need on a rasonably priced laptop - say in $5-700 priced range.

how much ram bytes, does this techonphobe need? Any particular brands to try or stay away from- should one go full size, or get one of those smaller ones.

laptop would be used to browse web, do email, write on word processing, possibly record a rudimentary CD, and be portable (how long should a battery hold a charge if it goes to barnes and noble for an afternooon?)

have at it kids, and while you're giving suggestions   to this twentieth century technoignoramus; why did all the caps go into lower case today?


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 07:36 PM

p.s. i forgot to mention i'm a pc person,   not gonna switch to apple


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 10:14 PM

The current crop of laptops in retail stores in my area are offering Windows 7. The very cheapest ones have Home Basic installed (I wouldn't recommend it, but it's an option) with very slightly more expensive ones having Home Premium.

I haven't seen anyone selling 32-bit versions preinstalled. You probably shouldn't consider anything but 64-bit.

All hard drives will be formatted NTFS (for Windows machines) and 64-bit Windows theoretically allows you to use up to something like a gadzillin TB of RAM, and the sales monkeys may brag about that number (whatever it is) BUT IT'S NOT ENOUGH THAT THE HD format or the processor has the capability.

The Laptop BIOS has to be able to handle the RAM, and you have to have slots to plug the RAM into. MOST OF THE LAPTOPS being offered now are using BIOS that can't support more than 6GB, with a very few able to go to 8 GB. The majority of the retail store laptops that have Windows 7 Home Premium preinstalled are carrying 3GB. Lower priced Desktops are seldom more than 6GB, and 3GB is common in the lowest priced ones. The 3GB probably is about all most laptop users will really need(?) ... and is about the Maximum 32-bit machines could actually use.

From retail stores here the best you'd likely find would be Windows 7 Home Premium, 64-bit, 3GB RAM, and 350 to 500GB Hard Drive - at about $500 - $700 (US).

You may be able to get a slightly better machine for about the same price via web sellers or from the factory, but some makers are quoting shipping dates about a month after you order. I don't know how prevalent the lag is, but I've seen similar info from 3 or 4.

If you order from the builders, you can get similar machines with Windows 7 Professional (previously called the "Business" version) preinstalled for close to the same price, and sometimes with a 750GB HD, for within about $100. The Professional/Business version has a couple of features I'd consider but they may not be worth the cost hit for most people.

To step up to anything much better than the "utility grade" (cheap) laptops, the jump is usually to close to $1,000 or a little more.

Note that many laptops now DO NOT have an optical drive (CD/DVD reader/burner), although a few in the price range do. Look before you buy, if it's important to you. You can get an external USB CD/DVD burner, probably under $50, if you get infatuated with something that doesn't have one built in. If you plan to burn a lot of disks, the external might be a better option, since you can replace it easier than getting inside to replace a built-in.

A few laptops, even in the cheap models, do come with a "full keyboard" that includes a NumPad and less "multitasking" of some of the other buttons. If you've been using laptops for a while that may not be a big deal, but if it's interesting you'll want to look at whether that's what you're getting. I've yet to see a "spec sheet" on any laptop that tells you which kind is on it.

Displays start at 14 inch and can be found up to 18 inch in moderately priced laptops; but there is a slight price difference for the bigger ones - from what I've seen. All of them are the newer "wide screen" aspect ratio, which takes a little practice to get used to; but since there's not much choice it can't be allowed to matter much.

Note: This is all opinion, with only what I see in the shops and poking around on the web for a pretense that it's even a little "informed." The lower (reasonably) priced machines seem to be all pretty much "cookie cutter copies" of each other, and finding "real specs" is almost as hard as talking to a car saleman about rear-end ratios and towing capacity. Useful info = ZERO in either case.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 10:30 PM

I like my HP mini. It's underpowered for the heavier jobs you are defining but has good portability and, with the oversized battery, lasts for about 6 hours at B & N without running out. You can max it out on RAM and use external hard drives and CD/DVD players and burners as peripherals, plug 'em in when you need them. I run my DVD burner from mine and the sound quality is fine. I also operate digital projectors and oversized monitors when doing demonstrations from it. I like it better than I liked my favorite XP machines although there was some learning involved, especially with the new version of Office.

I really miss Borders. They had real conversation pits and plenty of electrical outlets.

My mini uses W7 Starter and has a full set of Office, Adobe, Audacity and Nook for PC for when I wish to download books. I've been enjoying it for about 8 months.

There are plenty of similar machines on eBay for 2 to $300. If you go to the higher end, make sure that you get a full suite of software with it.

These machines have full size keyboards and, even with my big hands are easy to use.


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: EBarnacle
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 10:34 PM

I also have a machine with W7 Ultimate and like the features of that, too.


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: framus
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 10:56 PM

I'm pretty new to this too.
John in Kansas seems to have covered most bases (knowledgible barsteward!).
I reckon that you need at least 4Gb RAM and the fastest processor speed you can find. Storage memory size depends on what you want to keep - obviously the bigger the better, but memory cards aren't all that dear.
Personal experience was a Hewlett Packard was a bit iffy (2Gb), 2 Acers since,a 4 and an 8, have been trouble free.
Amazon can be good for buying, as can Ebay, but I'm writing in Norn Ireland. The U S could be totally different.
Good luck!


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: GUEST,erbert
Date: 29 Mar 12 - 11:08 PM

"Fujitsu Lifebook" AH530 / AH351 series are pretty good well specified mid price general purpose laptops;

with respected reputation for [Assembled in Germany] component and build quality.

Plenty of bargain deals on internet.


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: Acme
Date: 30 Mar 12 - 12:17 AM

Dell is going to stop making their small netbooks. It's interesting how the marketplace is scrambling right now. At home, I don't want to work on a slow puny laptop, I have have a desktop (several, actually). The laptop is good when portability is an issue. And the smart phone is when it isn't practical to take the laptop, but I sure couldn't work on it all day long.

SRS


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 30 Mar 12 - 02:24 AM

We have a Dell mini that Lin got to run her sewing machine. It has Win7 something on it, and is probably capable (with the USB Optical drive) of doing about anything most people would want to, but the usable display area is about the same size as her Nook and is too small to do much text work with.

The moderately priced laptops have nearly the same features as moderately priced desktops, with the exception of slightly less RAM (2 or 3 GB vs 3 to 6 GB) and generally a little smaller HDs.

Although you can "get used to them" - sort of - there are NO LAPTOP KEYBOARDS that are close to a $19 USB plugin if you like to coast along in the ether at 50 wpm or so, and I haven't met anyone who can prove their bragging about even 90 wpm on a laptop. I like being able to sprint at around 130 occasionally but at my age I have to get pretty excited and I can't stay mad enough to be that excited for long enough to produce that kind of smoke for more than a paragraph or so.

A caution about external (USB especially) plug-ins: The USB ports on laptops often don't have the power capacity you expect if you've been running similar externals on a desktop. They're probably close to the "spec" capacity, but don't have the kind of reserve capacity as the ones usually in desktops. I'd recommend running nearly all USB devices you hook to most laptops through an external USB port that has its own wall wart plugged in to provide the milliamps. I may be a little over-cautious, but lots of holes to plug into doesn't necessarily mean it's a good idea to stuff them all at the same time.

Also - if you intend to use the laptop's USB ports to charge your phone (or camera - if they're separate), most laptops turn off the power to nearly all USB ports when the machine goes dormant. Some, but not all, laptops have a single "powered USB" hole that doesn't shut down (but even the ones that have one of these may not tell you which one it is).

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: EBarnacle
Date: 30 Mar 12 - 10:39 AM

I agree with John about the peripheral power issues


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: lefthanded guitar
Date: 04 Apr 12 - 05:49 PM

Thank you all for this excellent information. I printed this out and will refer to it for a future purchase.

Aggg..lots of info to absorb , but one thing I've heard repeatedly is needing at least 4 GB Ram. And most of the laptops I've seen Do offer Windows 7, which I think should be enough for my needs. I agree about the plug in keyboard btw, as I can type 80wpm on a desktop but not a laptop and glad to know of an inexpensive addition.


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: EBarnacle
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 12:05 AM

You can also plug a USB keyboard into a netbook of almost any flavor.


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 03:32 AM

In my local market, the laptops available in the retail shops don't generally have more than 3 GB RAM installed, and so far as I can tell they're limited to 4 GB for the maximum that you can install. That's for the ones priced under about $700 (US).

At the moment, Win7 is the only Windows version being offered in places where I've looked.

There are a very few models on the shelves with 32-bit innards, but nearly all are 64-bit. Most of the 64-bit models have Win7 Home Premium. Some of the 32-bit, if you come across one, have only Home Basic and the cheapest 64-bit ones may have only the Basic. You need to make sure you get the Home Premium, at least.

In order to get 4 GB RAM in a "stock" model you'll probably have to get the 64-bit and you'll probably need to pay something more than $790 (the cheapest I've seen here). You must get a 64-bit machine in order to use all of 4 GB RAM.

A 32-bit machine can't use 4 GB of RAM, but you have to install 4 GB in order to get the 3.7 GB or so that's the maximum usable by a 32-bit machine.

For most laptop users, the 3 GB preinstalled on the lower priced machines probably is sufficient, provided you get a 64-bit machine. Memory management is a little better with the 64-bits. More RAM than that is probably only justified if you're into games (3-D, high res graphics, and "fast action" display) in which case you'd also probably want a better graphics system than you're likely to find in "integrated graphics" built into the motherboard. You're probably looking at close the $1,000 for a really significant improvement over the basic machines.

If you're concerned about having enough RAM, you may want to check how much RAM the particular machine can use, in case you want to upgrade the RAM, but you're unlikely to find a laptop that can use more than 4 GB without going to a pretty high-dollar model. And if you want to know what maximum RAM a particular machine can use, get it from the builder's manual, and not from the kid at the computer shop - because the kid doesn't know (no matter how old (s)he is).

If you're going for enough "more machine" to be worth worrying, you can probably get one with Windows 7 Professional pre-installed, or for a "gaming" machine you might want to go straight to Win7 Ultimate, but the little $-$-$-$ increments add up really fast.

Lower cost ($450 - $700 US) desktops are generally coming out here with 64-bits, 6 GB installed, 8 GB max installable, and Win7 Home Premium. The step up to the "next better level" is about the same price difference as for the laptops, although at either level the desktops have a little more "guts" built in. You need the better "usability" of the desktop (decent keyboard and a comfortable work chair, if nothing else) to push the computer enough to actually need the extra, so the slightly "weaker" system in the laptop should keep up with your less efficient inputs about as well as the stronger desktop model can handle what you could do with a "real" computer.

John


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Subject: RE: Tech: laptops - what's standard now/
From: EBarnacle
Date: 05 Apr 12 - 08:45 PM

Dell's website is always offering discounts which will bring you in under the prices John is citing. Be choosy, however, and make sure you get what you want. Sometimes a cheaper machine ends up being more expensive than a more expensive one. Any software must be full license, not trial versions.


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