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Which Laptop To Buy? 732

Posted by Hemos
from the where-to-drop-your-cash dept.
Misha writes: "In this day and age, it seems that the advertisement offers for desktop systems have slowed down in term of features. Everyone has agreed that AGP, DVD, >1GHz, etc. is what everyone will want. This does not seem to be the case with laptops. Every year, they manage to cram a bigger resolution screen, more system and graphical memory, more battery life into a less-than-two-inch thick plactic box. So, what are everyone's preferences as far as laptops go? What kind of features are most important? How does price enter the equation? Which one is best for the money? And especially, can you get a decent machine for under $1000?" I've been using the IBM Thinkpad T20 for the last year or so, and love the machine -- with the exception of the WinModem *sigh*. What else is everyone using?
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Which Laptop To Buy?

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  • When purchasing a laptop, you want the best features, but you want the best bargain in the process. I think the iBook meets this.

    Combo CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, 1024x1260, RGB, 20 Gig, 128MB RAM, OS X, 500MHz G3, wireless AirPort.

    All these for a price I can't match in the PC world, that's why I'm happy with mine. Imagine yourself on a hammock in your backyard with a laptop and an internet connection, running *nix apps. Ahhhhhhhh.

    If you need a PC card slot and a faster processor, and monitor spanning, get a TiBook.

  • Toshiba 2805-S503 [outpost.com]:
    1. 900 MHz
    2. 15 inch TFT
    3. Ethernet + Modem built-in
    4. nVIDIA GeForce2Go (16 MB ...so you can't have everything... yet)
    5. 20 gig HDD
    6. DVD
    7. 1394/i.Link/Firewire
    8. $1999, or $1899 after rebate.
    If I could get this and an iBook/PBG4, I'd be set for life. Or the next 6 months, whichever comes first.
  • I would spend the extra cash. A laptop isn't meant to just do what you do on the road, it is a portable computing device, therefor you simply do what you normally do anywhere.

    My Dell C600 runs linux and Win2k great. Infact RedHat 7.1 loves being docked, undocked and finds all my hardware including the MiniPCI modem, Ethernet, the Docked Ethernet and Docked SCSI adaptor as well as my different video modes for docked/undocked settings as well.

    I got the C600 with 256 megs of ram, 20 gig drive, 1600x1400 lcd screen, 1ghz, ethernet (3com), modem (3com), 2nd battery, cdrom and all for ~2k.

    This PC lets me play whatever game i want on the road, the Savage 128 bit video card runs great (does accelerated GL under NT, dunno about linux). Sound card is recognized from sndconf.. no "win" hardware on this machine.

    Don't just buy a laptop because you think you need to write a document on the road, if anything you can be compiling code, playing a game, working on the same stuff you work on at your desk.

    My laptop is great. It is what i use at work, what i use at home, and what i use on the road.

    Most importantly. IT IS USEFULL!

  • I bought a sony vaio pcg-505f a couple of years ago for $1300 and it's worked wonderfully. It's really small and light. The power adapter is also small and light, which makes a big difference.

    The only problem I've had is that the battery died. Not a big deal to me as I don't really use it on the plane while flying.

    I run redhat and I actually use it mostly for storage. It's great to save and distribute my digital camera photos when travelling - or to load my rio 500 with audiobooks and tunes.

    I would say less than the weight of a magazine if computer shopper was still in it's heyday, but nowadays it's about the size and weight of 2-3 magazines at the airport. It's always small enough to pack in my smallest bag.

    I think the price of the vaio family has steadily climbed as sony adds features. It looks like the average price has climbed to $2500 or so...
  • everything seems to work with linux.

    1600x1200 actual pixel screen (!), clean audio (kernel 2.4 native support), cdrw (ide-scsi works), pcmcia/cardbus (I'm using wireless ethernet right now as I type), suspend/resume, firewire and usb. ethernet 10/100 is eepro100 - one of the best.

    yes, it has a winmodem, but its also a LINMODEM too (at ... OK).

  • . . .

    Please don't flame me, as a helpful AC ( in this post [slashdot.org] ) has already mentioned this machine's existence.

    But it too me searching through 700 posts to fnd a reference and I don't have any mod points . .

    I've been thinking hard about this one. Byte Reviewed the new Libretto L1 here [byte.com] and it sounds awesome. Not only Crusoe based, but has Bluetooth too. Which may not be to your liking, or cause grief on 2.4ghz, depending on your air interface preferences. But hey, I got a Bluetooth GPRS mobile and it's soooo tempting :)

    The informed AC gave a very cool reference for Linux info : on Yahoo Groups [yahoo.com] to which I can only add this picture gallery [dynamism.com] froma company I found who sells the things properly localised, but, sadly, not with a distro.

    Please forgive me if my post already redundant, but this little machine could rock.

    If that ain't goodenough for you, tak a look at the reflective TFT models with NEC called Versa Daylight [neccomp.com]. I'm currently biased towards battery life, for reasons well posted in other arguments.

    Oooh - oo I just saw NEC have some MIPS based things [neccomp.com] that look like rebadged HP Jornada 720s, only nicer looking. Wonder if anyone can get Linux support on these???

  • Toshiba (Score:2, Informative)

    by SCHecklerX (229973)
    I've used everything from the Tecra 730, up to the Satellite Pro 8100. Beautiful machines, and they run linux flawlessly.
    • Agreed. I used to run Redhat 5.2 on a Toshiba 430CDT with 32MB RAM and the P-Tech theme for KDE (the one with the terminator face :) very cool and completely usable performance. That was until my company pronounced a moratorium on Linux installations on company PC's (which still stands BTW).

      I am soon going to install OpenBSD 2.9 on a Tecra8000 since BSD!=Linux. It should run sweet.

  • Go Dell (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nutt (106868)
    I have a dell inspiron 5000. It's very nice with a 15" 1400x1050 res screen. As far as the things that I want to get, it goes: Screen (res + size), Proc speed, ram, HD, vid card. Most people won't be using their laptop for games anyway, so a powerful video card wouldn't be very useful.
    • Re:Go Dell (Score:5, Informative)

      by Sethb (9355) <bokelman@gmail.com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:07PM (#2164428) Homepage
      I like Dell machines a lot, and use them exclusively at work (I buy all of our new systems). But, I just bought an iBook for my personal laptop. It's the first Mac I've ever owned, and I like it a lot. I got the DVD model ($1449 for Education users) and I'm quite happy in OS X.

      I'll be happier when the 10.1 update is released in September, but I love the small form factor, the light weight, and the AirPort wireless networking. The unfortunate thing about the Dell machines is that you can't have both an internal network card and an internal wi-fi card, at least not at this time.

      The biggest drawback to my iBook is the cost of the 3 year AppleCare warranty. $237 is a major rip off to extend your warranty two more years. OS 9.1 sucks too, but I don't use it except to play DVDs and to configure AirPort base stations.

      In short, don't sell Apple's iBook short, I'm pretty happy with mine, and I've been a Pee-Cee user since I got my XT in the 7th grade.
      • What many people here forget to mention is linuxpowerpc can run native mac apps like MS-word, and photoshop. This is diffinetly a plus. Macosx comes wiht some but not nearly all the tools that I am used to with linux. SuSE has linux powerpc with close to 2,000 apps and I believe Debian might have a stable powerpc distro or is working on one( don't know the anwser).

        Anyway if anyone who is reading this is thinking about buying an intel laptop, remember that you can't run windows apps wiht linuxX86. But with linuxpowerpc you can always stay in linux and still have all the apps like MS-word, IE, DOOM, photoshop, etc.

      • Watch out for the Apple service. they are the loosers in the industry. We fix apple's where I work, and they are the absolute worst. The best thing about them is that you can send them back to apple for little cost and get them fixed within a week if something goes wrong (if you call this a good thing). If you have an apple authorized service center near you, then it is a little easier.

        The main thing to watch out for is the 1 year warranty. Out of everyone i have ever known to own the Black keyboard Powerbook G3 (aka wallstreet) they have all had major repairs done to them. The worse thing is that the inverter board goes bad, and you have to pay apple $328.00 flat fee for any repairs. apple doesn't allow ASP's to work on their laptops anymore, so any time it breaks, this ~$330 fee applies (if its not covered on warranty).

        Trust me, get the 3 year plan. it will save your day when(not IF) your laptop goes bad. Remember, this is the first model that has come out of that new style, and every single laptop apple has ever made that is the first of anything ended up being a POS (even the origional iMac is a POS)

        good luck, and get the warranty, itl make you glad in about a year or 2.
        • I have never had a Mac do anything but work great. My low-end 6100/60 first generation PowerPC Mac, purchased when they first became available and later upgraded with a 3rd party G3 processor, is still plugging along happily, albeit slowly in this day and age. Well, actually it stopped working once - wouldn't boot - but I found out on the web that this was due to a dead PRAM battery which I replaced myself easily enough. I have a 2000 model iBook purchased earlier this year. I will see how long it lasts, but it is built like a tank and plugs along happily with OS X (and lots of RAM, of course.) I just wish I had one of those new fangled ones.... Steve
          • Same here.

            I've supported Macs in Education for six years. 1400 500-5000 series machines, 500-600 Power Mac G3s and iMacs. I can count the number of machines I've had to send to a Apple Service Center on my hands.

            As for home, I did have an early iMac DV go south within a month of buying it. But I had a new one within an hour.
      • AppleCare is extremely well worth it.

        I have an iMac DV. its usb keyboard started doing weird things about four or five months after I got it. (IIRC every key but the space bar worked fine most of the time. the space bar failed to do anything, and sometimes garbage would spontaneously spew.) I took it to a local AASP. they plugged it in, said "Yeah it's broke" and gave me a new one in about 3 days. sure I could've done this without AppleCare, but my AppleCare # simplified things greatly (the guys I had bought it from were a few thousand miles away at the time :)

  • Used Laptops (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neuromantic (468525) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:00PM (#2164369)
    If you want something decent for under $1000, you've pretty much gotta go used. I got a PII 400, 256mb, 14.1", 12GB for $400 off of eBay. ~Will
    • Re:Used Laptops (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Splork (13498)
      agreed. anything new for less than $1600 will be a piece of shit that skimps on quality all over the place.

      New cheap laptops break easier under heavy use, from the keyboard wearing out to the display hinge failing. Used "cheap" laptops are more likely the higher quality ones that someone has put aside because they wanted a whiz bang upgrade. If they fail, they were cheap and you can generally find a replacement or the parts you need to fix for a low price on ebay.

      If you're buying a laptop new and plan on using it as your primary machine, the extended warranty is well be worth it so that repairs of such things are taken care of for at least three years.

      feature to not bother with: dvd-rom drive. how often will you use it for the extra $200+ it ads to the price (to pay off the MPAA)? Just buy a PS2, they're more fun and useful and plenty portable.
  • by geekoid (135745) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `dnaltropnidad'> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:01PM (#2164376) Homepage Journal
    which laptop dance to buy? and wheres the best place to get one?
  • IBM (Score:2, Informative)

    by aaronl (43811)
    IBM laptops are great, they work wonderfully. I *have* the T20 that was mentioned in the writeup. Winmodem or no, every piece of hardware works in Linux. The winmodem is Lucent based, and has Linux support.

    Best I've used is still a Dell Latitude CSx. Was metal cased, and very nice. Everything worked great and it was tiny.
  • Compaq 7800 (Score:2, Informative)

    by orty.com (81360)
    If you've got a Compaq Armada 7400 or 7800 (like I do), Compaq's got a good little white paper on getting it installed properly (it's a bit dated, but will help newbies out):

    http://www.compaq.com/support/techpubs/whitepapers /0206-0799-A.html [compaq.com]

    • Yeah, they're not bad little machines. The company that I was working at was sold to a competitor and they're getting rid of hteir old equipment. I bought my Armada 7400 (PII 266 MHz) for $125 and got 256 MB of RAM for it from Micron/Crucial for ~$80. It's a handy little machine for spending $200, and I don't really have any complaints. And wouldn't you know that right after I bought it I just found a Dell Latitude CPx (PIII 600) in storage that they're selling for $600. I may just have to upgrade since I like the CPx much better than the 7400s (not to mention the speed increase). But if I were buying a laptop new I'd definitely go with an IBM Thinkpad. They're by far the highest quality laptops that I've ever used. Unfortunately they'll set you back $1500-$2000 for the low-end machines. I've seen Compaq Presario (I hear they're junk) and HP consumer-level laptops in stores for $1200-$1300 + a rebate, but I can't vouch for their quality. What I can say is definitely go for something with a nice long warranty. A faulty LCD panel for my Armada 7400 is almost $900 to replace (I had to replace a few at work) if it's not under warranty. And being portable you're much more likely to have something break on a laptop than your desktop machine.
  • Compaq 1800T (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tim (686) <timr@NosPAm.alumni.washington.edu> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:03PM (#2164397) Homepage
    I've been using a compaq 1800T with linux and windows for almost a year now, with very few problems. At the time I bought it, it was easily the most feature complete laptop I found for the money. And the 1400x1050 screen resolution (which works under linux) is pretty stunning...

    One thing for potential compaq buyers: don't pay extra for memory upgrades from compaq. You can do far better at other places on the net (ebay included). I bought mine with 64M installed, and upgraded to 192M for *half* the price that compaq was charging...
    • That goes for just about all of them (though IBM seemed to have lower prices for upgrades and even has a "free" extra 64 MB upgrade for systems purchased). I just bought a pair of 128 MB PC100 SODIMMS for my Armada for ~$80 at Crucial [crucial.com], and I hate to think that Compaq was charging for it. Just make sure to the the correct specs (the Armada 7400 familiy uses CAS Latency 2 memory instead of the more common CAS Latency 3).

      Memory prices are ridiculously cheap right now.
    • I LOVE my Compaq1800T. It's great. Good integrated ethernet, BEAUTIFUL screen, strong speakers, etc.

      The only problem is the windows side. (I know we're not supposed to care about this, but I still play games on the go.)

      Compaq doesn't give you a Windows disc. They basically give you a CD with a Ghost image on it, so you can wipe your harddrive and make it factory-fresh if you need to re-install, but that's not exactly Linux-friendly.

      Otherwise, I LOVE my laptop.
  • Apple iBook (Score:3, Informative)

    by kb3edk (463011) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:04PM (#2164401)
    I was sold on this one after taking a friend's out on a test drive. One of the sleekest yet solidy built machines I've seen in a while. I'm planning to buy one within the next few months. It's not below $1000, though (I think it's more around $1500). I'm pretty optimistic they'll get the issues with OS X worked out so that more applications work properly. I haven't done too much research into loading Linux PPC onto the new iBooks, are there any hardware/driver conflicts out there to watch out for?
    • Re:Apple iBook (Score:2, Informative)

      by alfredo (18243)
      YellowDog Linux will run on it. Take a look, they have an ibook on their home page.
      YDL [yellowdoglinux.com]

      Of course it may be a rotating graphic, so trust me that there was an iBook on the page.

      YellowDog is my favorite and most up to date distro out there.

      I will have mine as soon as my ship comes in this fall.

      • Yup, it works. I installed it and then reinstalled OS X two days later.

        Just make sure you upgrade to the 2.4 kernel because the 2.2 kernel apparently doesn't support power management very well. --Bud

  • 3d... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by crandall (472654)
    I do a lot of 3d game programming and development, so I've been holding off for a decent laptop that can match our development systems. Basically, I want to get an Athlon 4 based system, with a geforce 2 go, and 256 megs of ram. As soon as I can get something like that, there will be a point to buying a laptop. Until then, I guess I'm just chained to my home and work machines.
  • Vaio XG700k (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chairboy (88841) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:06PM (#2164419) Homepage
    I just got a Sony Vaio XG-700K, and it's a pretty sweet package. It comes with seperate DVD and Cd-RW drives. The screen is 1024 x 768 XGA and pretty crisp and can be replaced with a privacy screen for cheap off eBay.

    It's a 750 megahertz PIII, has built in modem but no ethernet. With two PCMCIA slots, though, you can jam an ethernet card and 802.11b card with no problems.

    Downsides? Everything is expensive. Battery is $250 (200 on eBay), extra AC adapter is $100 or so, and so on.

    It's a great laptop, and there are linux drivers for the custom stuff (like the Jogdial).
    • Modem? (Score:3, Funny)

      by ConsumedByTV (243497)
      Have you gotten your modem to work in Linux?
    • by pq (42856)
      My boss just bought a new VAIO - the high end, lightest one. Spent a packet on it too (~$3k), and I put Debian on it, and it worked like a charm. But it was noisy - even in our workroom full of humming servers, you could hear it when the fan came on, a tinny, harsh whine. And at 700 (750?) MHz, it came on often! I was annoyed, and my boss *hated* it. He sent it back after a week, and got a Dell Inspiron 8000, which weighs about as much, is a little thicker, and much quieter.

      I run a low end Thinkpad (i1400) and love it, but the new iceBooks are the best I've seen so far. Under 5lbs (barely), 5 hour battery life, clean, crisp screen, gorgeous machine, and then add OS X. I would get one of those before a VAIO.

  • Dell is good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daath (225404)
    I have a Dell Inspiron 8000 - The one with a 32MB AGP card, 15" screen with 1600x1200 res. Now there is a niiice machine!
    I had a hard time installing linux on it though - but since the 2.4 kernel came out I had no probs =)
    Pity that they (supposedly) don't support linux any more.
  • by lelitsch (31136) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:06PM (#2164424)
    This might not be a popular response for /., but I have a bunch of laptops and notice that I always carry the lightest one if in any way possible. For most of the things you do on the road, anything you can buy nowadays is plenty powerful enough. Another rather important consideration if battery life. I have pretty good luck borrowing power in airports and hotels, but a laptop that shuts down after less than 3 hours is annoying. As far as quality goes, I had pretty good luck with Dell, some with Sony and none with Toshiba and IBM. But YMMVW. If your company is buying, get the replace-and-send-back warranty.
    • I have an Inspiron 8000 (900mhz, GeForce2Go, 256megs ram, etc). It fills my needs very well. What I _need_, or rather find a major time saver, is to have one computer that I can use at work, at home, at my beach house. True portability here takes a secondary role to functionality. I need a machine with enough power to get all my tasks done (including, preferrably, the occassional 3d shooter). Furthermore, when I cannot get to an honest to god keyboard, having a near-full size built in keyboard helps a lot. I can type with most of those ultra-lights, but not nearly as well or as comfortably. [Not to mention the fact that most of them can't support 1600x1200 (or near) resolution, that I work well in]

      Although I would not want to lug around this if I were on the road as a salesperson, the weight difference is pretty irrelevant to me for the occassional trip. In short, neither a desktop system or an ultra-portable can do as good of a job as what I have now.
    • Another rather important consideration is battery life. I have pretty good luck borrowing power in airports and hotels, but a laptop that shuts down after less than 3 hours is annoying.

      A dead laptop is useless. If you travel further than your living room, pay special attention to battery life. Unfortunately, models change so quickly that magazine reviews can scarcely keep up, so you're at the mercy of the specs.

      One thing that sold me on the VAIO F-series is that you can take out the floppy and put in a second battery. That's good for about five hours, total.

  • Are there people our there running Linux on laptops that are under 4 pounds ? What are your opinions on these ?
    • Are there people our there running Linux on laptops that are under 4 pounds ? What are your opinions on these ?

      I run Debian Stable on a Toshiba Libretto 100CT. It's three years old, and I still use it because I don't think anyone's yet produced anything as good. It weight 2 pounds 4 ounces, is the size of a paperback book, and will happily run a full Oracle + Apache + Tomcat servlet setup. Downside is short battery life - about 90b minutes.

    • Here is a unit that comes in at 4.3 LBS, and is Linux Compatible. Great Guys to deal with as well.

      http://www.qlitech.net/products/laptops/king.html
  • by rho (6063) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:08PM (#2164445) Homepage Journal

    I've heard that this driving thing is pretty cool, and everybody agrees that a car is neccessary. Which car should I buy?

    Not to be persnickity, but what constitutes a good laptop under $1000? Well, it depends on what you do! Amazingly enough...

    For example, my main axe is a ThinkPad 760ED. It's about 5-6 years old, a P-133 with 48MB RAM, 4xCD, 12" 1024x768 TFT. Is it a kick-butt machine? Well, no... It runs Windowmaker, Emacs and Netscape 4.74 on FreeBSD 4 pretty good, though, and that covers everything I need a laptop to do.

    When it was new, it was a $6K machine, now it goes for $150 or so on Ebay. It makes it a pretty good laptop for throw-away purposes (for example, if you're particularly hard on your laptops).

    For others, Firewire, USB, etc may be important. You may need massive speed -- I dunno. However, if you don't spend a lot of time on the road, or need to take your machine with you when you go home, your laptop should generally be a generation or two behind your desktop as a general rule. Computers depreciate quickly, and laptops are fragile. You don't want a $4000 toy that spews sparks 2 days out of warranty. (at least, I don't -- others are different)

    • Laptops are a lot different than desktop machines, in that it's not just CPU performance, graphics performance, hard drive capability, and upgrade potential.

      As rho mentioned in his excellent post, a lot depends on how you want to use your laptop. But there's even more to it than that.

      For example, untll very recently, I've had a tough time finding a laptop with the right combination of a big keyboard, a useful pointing device, a crisp screen, and Firewire capability.

      Those things happen to be important to me, but to someone else, the equasion might be: big-ass hard drive, super light weight, a blistering fast CPU, and dual PC card capability.

      If you're really going to *use* your laptop, rather than just have it for bonus geek point value, figure out what the most important elements are for your particular needs, then research accordingly.

      No matter what anyone says, there's still no flat-out world-dominating laptop out there, since all laptops have to compromise one factor or another. It's just a matter of which compromises you mind less than others.

  • Macs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Prion86 (463800)
    if you dont have the $ for a Tibook, the g3 laptops are getting cheaper. especially the first generation ones. most of the problems with the first gen g3s are gone these days. not to mention, who wouldnt want a cheap laptop that can run osx?
  • Hey Hemos! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Accipiter (8228) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:10PM (#2164462)
    Hemos,

    The IBM ThinkPad T20 has the very popular Lucent Winmodem in it. My Acer Extensa 501T has one as well.

    Download This File [linmodems.org] from Linmodems.Org [linmodems.org]. Sure, it's binary only, but it works. Set up the modem with isapnp, unzip the file above, read the readme, and run the installer.

    You can add this to conf.modules:

    alias char-major-62 ltmodem
    install ltmodem insmod "-f" "-k" "ltmodem"

    I'm pretty sure this will work for you. Enjoy.
  • by Natalie's Hot Grits (241348) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:11PM (#2164473) Homepage
    Is an IBM Thinkpad i1400. It's a decent thinkpad, winmodem, but intel NIC (integrated). the screen is only 800x600 (blah!) but the newer low end (read: ~1,000-1,500$) all come with 1024x768 Active Matrix TFT.

    Mine is a celeron 500MHz (this is good, as it is the 100MHz FSB version, not the 66MHz Crap they put in desktops).

    I have installed linux on it, in fact, there are about 5 different websites out on the web that tell me how to install linux on this exact model. I couldn't get the modem working tho :(

    If you want the best laptop for LINUX, then i would have to say IBM and Apple's iBook are your best bets. Sure, the iBook has a shitty CPU in it, but, it uses very little battery life (compared to a p3). And apple is all about not being compatible with the rest of the world. Well friends, when it comes to laptops, there are only a few things that matter. and CPU architecture isn't one of them. If you are running Linux on an x86 machine, or Linux on a PPC machine, its' all the same. I bet, if you are a linux guru that wants to run all the latest beta shitware on sourceforge, you wont want the iBook, because it will take some porting to get it to compile/running properly. but if you stick with software that comes with your distribution, then x86 and PPC are all the same.

    For 1,300$ base end, and 1,900$ for high end iBook, i consider it a good buy for a linux laptop. (I paid $950 for my IBM 500MHz Celeron, 192MB ram, 800x600 active matrix TFT, NIC, winmodem, generic sound, i810 video (intel's), I think it was a steal about when i bought it 9 months ago)

    If you were you, i would stay away from Dell laptops. For one, they are not like Dell desktops. They arent the "stable" machine on the block like the optiplex is. Not only that, but Dell is dropping Linux support on the desktop, so you can forget getting a Dell that is gonna run linux any better than IBM or apple. All in all, with my experience with dell laptops (i service them, gateway, and Apple's laptops under warranty where i work), I would have to say that Dells, and certain models of Apple's are the least reliable. (apple PB g3 Wallstreet comes to mind! Don't worry, bronze kb is a good one)

    I hope you like my brief review, this is just my experience.
    • No, the iBook's processor really isn't bad at all. Even with the high-end PowerBook eight months ago, for a grand less? Not bad. OS X runs beautifully on mine (typing this from my iBook in OS X right now), although it's not the best system for the pretty demos you give friends. It has the top bang/buck ratio around (my only problem with it is the 'pretty' touchpad, which my fingers frequently tap while I'm typing - I had to turn off clicking with the touchpad because all kinds of crazy things were happening). It also has, IMO, a better keyboard than the TiBook, which command line fans (and /. posters) should keep in mind.

      On the other hand, there's hardly a bad word to be said for IBM laptops. I didn't buy one, but I didn't want to spend that much. The ThinkLight is very nice - I wish my iBook had one - and the hardware is top-notch, and widely supported (OS/2, Linux, any BSD, and BeOS is probably fine too). The T series is a phenomenal high-end laptop. And all of IBM's laptops have a fine keyboard.

      The X series from IBM is, IMO, the top-of-the-line ultralight - it's as thin as the TiBook without the media slice (which is a reasonable comparison), but can include the media slice when you need it. It also weighs a couple of pounds less, which is what is really important in an ultra-light.

      For cheap, get the iBook; for expensive, get the T22 (unless you wanna do a lot of Firewire, in which case a PCMCIA Firewire adapter might not cut it - get the TiBook); for ultralight, get the X21.

  • by elflord (9269) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:12PM (#2164474) Homepage
    If your time is worth any money, you will not buy from a vendor who won't preload Linux and set it up properly. Of course, if you got nothing better to do than waste time chasing up drivers for (poorly|un)supported hardware or you want to learn about kernel compilation/configuration, that's fine. But for those of us who have better things to do, it's much less of a hassle to get Linux preloaded.

    Here's my shortlist of vendors who preload Linux on laptops:

    I encourage other posters to add to the list.

    • The Toshiba Satellite 2805 series has been very good to me. I used to have a Toshiba Satellite 2805-S201. It was of quality manufacture, and everything worked with Linux perfectly. Except for the modem. Now, I have a 2805-S402. Updated hardware from my S201. It now has a P3-850, a Geforce2Go, a DVD/CDRW, a Smartmedia drive, a larger screen, and an i815 based motherboard. The onboard nics on these laptops are Intel Etherexpress 10/100 based, so the Linux kernel's driver works fine on them. The i.Link port on my 402 also seems to be supported by the kernel, although I don't have an Firewire devices to test with it. ALSA will drive the sound controller perfectly fine (Yamaha YMF-752). The GeForce2Go recently became supported under Linux with the latest 12.50 Linux drivers from NVIDIA. Yea, the GLX module is closed source, but its better than being stuck with a Rage 128. The 2805 series also comes with subwoofers in all the models. On the whole, this series seems very, very Linux friendly from what I've seen. In fact, there is Toshiba laptop support in the Linux kernel, although last time I checked, it couldn't handle all of the goodies in the 2805 series. Toshiba is also very good about putting out drivers for all of the stuff under Windows 2000 also. Otherwise, go with an IBM. They seem to be going out of their way to build machines that are Linux compatible. Heck, ESR uses an IBM Thinkpad X20, along with an Apple iBook. The only problem with the Satellite 2805s is that they seem to be excessively heavy by some people's standards (I think they're just wimps), and the shells may not be as aesthetically pleasing or shapely as competing notebooks.
  • It depends... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kphrak (230261) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:13PM (#2164479) Homepage

    It really depends on what you want. If power is what you want, you might sacrifice battery life and portability. If you want portability, you may have to sacrifice power, or might have to pay a premium. Cost also factors in. Who wants to buy a computer that has as much power as their desktop at double the price, even if it is portable?

    There are plenty of special designs in the notebook world that are made only for one purpose. There was a guy showing one at work the other day...it was an unbreakable laptop. He hurled it against the marble floor in the hall to test it...it wouldn't break....it blew my mind. Some of the subminis (Vaios and the latest Librettos) have digital cameras built right in... that's always a plus.

    I use a Toshiba Libretto [silverace.com] 70CT. It's possibly the smallest full-featured computer ever built; P120, 32Mb RAM, no 3D, no CDROM, no floppy, but dual-booting Linux and Windows on a 10GB HD. You can get one off eBay for about $300-$500 (of course, it's an older model; the new ones are far more powerful and cost $2500 last I checked). It's not powerful considering this day and age, but don't think of it as a small computer. Think of it as a big palmtop. ;)

    As you can see, I favor portability. In addition, I am hooked for life on Toshiba because they use a standard laptop HD. You know, the kind that you can plug into an adapter to connect to your desktop's IDE cable if you so prefer. Other than that, the only computer-to-computer I/O is done through a cheap PCMCIA card.

    Oh yeah, and all the chicks dig the Libretto because it's SOOOO CUTE! :)

  • Mac, No Seriously (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ritlane (147638) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:13PM (#2164484) Homepage
    Prepare to loose all Karma

    The PowerBook G4 [apple.com], and iBook [apple.com] are still impressive offerings.

    Even if you don't accept a little Apple FUD [apple.com] there is still one thing that can't be beat: These things are amazingly light, fast, and have a great screen. Besides that, they run many Open Source OSes (Linux [linuxppc.org], Darwin [apple.com]).

    Keep in mind, I am not posting this from a "Mac zealot" perspective. I am posting this as someone who admires the aesthetics of a computer, and who realizes that one of the powers of Open Source is that you can compile anything to your hardware. What ever it is.


    All I ask, is that you don't mod me down simply because you dislike macs, just keep it as an option for some people to consider
    • You don't have to be so defensive.

      The combination of an attractive GUI and the ability to run mainstream software with the internals of Unix have me convinced that the Mac's the only way to go nowadays.

      As others have said, it's really not at all expensive compared to other laptops. Although he doesn't address the Titanium PowerBook, which I'm about to buy, I thought this [aapltalk.com] was pretty interesting as a comparison between the Apple iBook and its rivals.

      D
    • Re:Mac, No Seriously (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SPK (8321)

      Not to be a "me too", but I totally agree. Actually, I look at it like this ...

      When it comes to desktops, for price-performance, it's hard to beat PCs. After all, $1000 (US) can get you a hell of a machine, and as much as I love those G4 towers, they don't compete very well.

      However, when it comes to laptops, where else can you get USB, Firewire, ethernet, modem, a 15" screen, a decent amount of memory, a DVD player and a fast little processor all for about $2500 (US)? Now, if you want an inexpensive (ca. $1000) or high end (more than $3500) model, then go with a PC, since there aren't many Apple offerings in those realms. Besides, the MacOS is cool in that hooking up an external monitor to your laptop gives you an extra screen/desktop (not just a mirror of your current desktop).

      In any case, if one is a hard-core PC zealot, then feel free to disregard this post.

      --SK

      • by jhoffoss (73895)
        FYI, I just setup a new Gateway laptop for the Veep of my division, and discovered (and showed to the boss) that you can set the laptop up to use Just VGA, Just CRT, Both VGA and CRT with the same desktop, or VGA and CRT in a dual-head setup. He still prefers the single screen, of course, but for the power-user at home, that could be a decent productivity boost.
    • by Onan (25162)
      There are two main reasons that Mac portables fare better against Intel systems than Mac desktops.

      The first is that no one's going out and putting together their own laptop from individual parts. Desktop Macs actually compare very favorably to pre-made desktop systems from Dell, Gateway, Sony, etc. It's self-assembled machines that get to be a lot cheaper than any of these, but that's not relevant for laptops.

      The other is that whole hardware/software harmony thing. Things like power management and docking behaviour are non-standardized enough that there are great benefits to having the same organization make the hardware and the software. Obviously this only applies if you're running Apple's software, rather than Linux, NetBSD, or OpenBSD.

  • The pointer is important (to me), I like the 'eraser' type that IBM has, and some others, like Dell who have dual. I hate those touch pad things(personal preference). So the laptop doesn't really matter as long as I can use some type of windowing system and ssh, and have the pointer.. it can be an old 486-66 thinkpad(which I had for a while) to a Gateway solo 3150 which I use now(pII-366, dvd, built in ethernet, a little over an inch thick).<p>
    For me, ergonomics plays a bigger role than the processor speed and all those fixins, next to that I'd like a nice clear screen, doesn't have to be big.<p>
    • The pointer is important (to me), I like the 'eraser' type that IBM has, and some others, like Dell who have dual. I hate those touch pad things(personal preference).

      Hell yeah. Down with the touchpad! Up with the Trackpoint! And I thought that I was the only one. Funny thing is, most laptop makers are slowly drifting towards the touchpad (at least in the consumer models). I'm sure IBM won't because it pioneered the Trackpoint, but it's irritating to see it going away everywhere else.
  • Dell Inspirons (Score:2, Informative)

    by cap'nnapalm (470760)
    I Just purchased and recieved a Dell inspiron 8000. Very nice, 1Ghz, 256mb pc100, 32mb geforce2go 3d card, a 8x DVD and a 8x CD-RW, a 15" screen. This thing can fly, and play with the big boys. And it wasn't too bad at $2,400.
  • Look no further. Expensive beast, but well worth it. This [ibm.com]page has a comparison of all the Thinkpad T models (or is that Model Ts?). You can get the T22 pre-loaded w/ Linux, but it's Caldera...ick. Check out the keyboard light, that one feature is worth the price of admission.
    • How am I supposed to get Linux pre-loaded? I look at the page. In the slot for OS, it says Win2k (or was it 98/Me??) with no drop down to select Linux.

      This is the same problem Dell had.

  • by smoon (16873)
    Best freakin laptop I've ever used. Great keyboard. Great screen. Great size. Not too heavy. I love this thing and it runs Linux really well.

    I don't use the winmodem, as I generally don't use a modem at all. If it came down to it though, I'd get a PCMCIA modem before I'd give up my T20.
  • I picked up this Toshiba about 2 1/2 months ago, and it has worked great with linux. Its a nice thin laptop too.

    For $1200 (almost 3 months ago.. price has prolly dropped) I got a 700Mhz Celeron, 64M ram (I added another 128M for $50), 13.3 Active TFT 1024x768 (really crisp), DVD, built in modem (haven't tried it out in linux -- use my pcmcia ethernet).

    The only problem I have had is with sound. I haven't found good support under linux for the cs4281. Upping my kernel to 2.4.3-12 helped.. but mp3s skip a lot. The OSS drivers work perfectly, but I refuse to drop them cash ($45!) because I'm too lazy to fix things myself. Anyone have this soundcard working well on a laptop?

  • by Rimbo (139781) <rimbosity@@@sbcglobal...net> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:19PM (#2164542) Homepage Journal
    ...is the kind that costs $50 at Cheetah's Totally Nude.

  • I really like my i8k. It was only $2200 for 900MHz + dvd/cdrom + builting ethernet + modem + etra battery. And best of all, it has 1600x1200. The Equivelent IBM was almost $4k.

    Of course, if you want to have a small, light machine, you are better off with one of the new Librettos...
  • by tjansen (2845) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:21PM (#2164550) Homepage
    Things to consider when buying a laptop:

    1. If you want to play (3D) games, make sure that you have a GeForce 2 Go chipset. It's the only one that allows you to play newer games at decent framerates

    2. For Linux you should check whether your built-in modem is supported

    3. Integrated WaveLan/WiFi is a cool feature if you know other people who have it, much better than an external PCMCIA card

    4. If you want to use external drives (CD burner, faster harddisks (Laptops harddisks are slooow)), make sure you have a FireWire/iLink/ieee1394 port

    5. built-in ethernet is always a useful feature

  • Dell Latitude (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jerkychew (80913)
    I say go with the Dell Latitude. My last two employers both made the switch to Dell Latitudes, and they are by far the best, IMHO. My last employer was previously an IBM Thinkpad shop, and we had nothing but problems - ever try to get serial, parallel, and infrared all working on a TP600 under NT? DON'T. Just burn the damn thing. The machines are a little better with Win2K, but they are still far from perfect (install Win2K on a TP 390. I dare you...).

    You can do a fresh install of NT or 2K on a latitude, load up the correct drivers, and you're off and running - with Thinkpads you had to install the TP utility (it's bundled with Win2K but still barely works) and then spend FOREVER tweaking the resources to get everything to play happy.

    However, if price is an issue, the Latitudes do come at a premium... they are geared for the corporate world, so they are on the pricey side. I had a Lat C600 with a PIII 750, 256MB, 10GB, and built in NIC/modem, and it cost roughly 3 grand when brand new (>6 months ago). However, Redhat 6.2 and 7.x ran flawlessly on the machine - once the 2.4 kernel came out, I didn't need to install drivers for anything on the box (unlike NT and 2K). Plus, the head of the Latitude design team previously worked on Apple's PowerBooks, so you know that they're gonna be more sexy than most other laptops, save the VAIO.

    You could go with a Dell Inspiron instead, as they are cheaper, and generally have more bells and whistles than the Latitudes (I believe you can get them with Geforce video), but in my experience they just aren't as stable as the Latitude.
  • I know, I know... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZeissIcon (67281)
    Just don't nail me as flamebait right out of the gate, please.

    The new apple iBooks are really, really nice pieces of hardware, particularly for the money, and they run Yellow Dog beautifully. See this slashdot article [slashdot.org] for more info.

    I keep telling people about them and they say: "But this Toshiba goes to 11."

    Yeah, and you can edit digital video on the road with this one, and it does everything that that Toshiba does.

    "But this one goes to 11."

    I administer a mixed office of macs, linux boxen and windows machines, and feel that all three machines have their place, it just seems sometimes that people don't give apple's hardware its due. Whatever else is wrong with them (and there's plenty, of which I'm sure I will be reminded in the posts that follow this one up) they do make really, really good hardware, and it's not as expensive as everybody thinks that it is. Go configure an iBook at the apple store, then configure a notebook from any other manufacturer to the same specs (if you can) and look at the price. I'd be surprised if there's $100 difference either way. And between OS X and Yellow Dog, there are plenty of configuration options.

    Don't take me for a mac zealot, I just hate it when people either (a dismiss apple just 'cause their apple, or, (b make an uninformed or prejudicial decision for any reason. Apple certainly has their shortcomings, and I am not blind to them, they often seem to forget that good design is: "form plus function, followed by meaning." But don't let that discourage you from looking.

  • Processors are fast enpough. My laptop (work's) is a PII, and is plenty fast. The battery will go 8.5 hours, which means I have to shut it down over lunch. Just a thinkpad 390.

    The small screen is my biggest issue. 800x600 doesn't cut it. I run 1600x1200 whenever I can. this is made worse by some programs I run requiring a bigger screen.

    wireless network is not an option. If you have a laptop and don't have wireless networking you are missing out. If you are a corporation you are penny wise and pund foolish. Wireless allows me to be productive nearly anywhere. I can attend class and fix bigs at the same time. (some classes anyway). I can attend a meeting and while someone else is giving status I can work. When I'm giving status and the boss has a detailed question I can look up the detailed answer. When my compiles fail I know now. There are security implications with wireless, but they should be overcome, not used as an excuse to not have it. Trust me, once you go wireless you won't touch a wire again.

    Tough is important too. A laptop that is never droped belongs to someone who should just get a desktop since it isn't leaving his desk anyway. There is no way to use a laptop like they are ment to be used without dropping them by accident once in a while.

  • I've had a number of laptops, all of varying degrees of performance, depending on what my employer thought I needed (or had available).

    I started with a Toshiba model several years ago, which was decent at the time (when it was one of the few NT approved laptops), but quite heavy, and slow by modern comparison.

    Last summer I moved into a HP Omnibook 9000, which was really pretty sweet, but it tended to run hot if I left dnetc running all the time. (Not a problem if you put it on a desk/table, but when you unhook it from you monitor, keyboard, etc, and plop it on your lap, it can be a bit uncomfortable.) My only complaint about this one was that the disk was a touch small, and the default partitioning was really poorly laid out.

    Since then I've switched companies, and I'm living in a Gateway Solo Pro 9300. A decent machine, but I can max out the memory on it pretty easily. The DVD player is entertaining, but I haven't had any real "business" use for it yet. ;-) And something happened to the sound drivers when the SysOps upgraded it to Win2K SP2. (Don't flame me, it's company policy to use Win2K even though it makes an expensive X-Term.)
  • I bought myself an Acer Travelmate 521TE for christmas last year (cost $2700 Cdn = $1800 USD back then), and I have absolutely no complaints so far. Builtin ethernet, 600MHz P3, 1024x768 display, 4 hour battery life, and it is quite light as well (4lbs I think?).

    It doesn't have toys like DVD or CD-RW drives, but let's face it, how often do you watch DVDs on your laptop anyway?

    PS almost forgot, the 64MB RAM it came with was a bit low, but with memory prices as they are now it is very easy to upgrade that.
  • iBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones (18351) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:33PM (#2164640) Homepage Journal
    For an entry level laptop, I have been VERY impressed with Apple's new iBook. It has the small form factor of the VAIO's (though not quite as thin), but with all of the goodies (10/100 enet, modem, dual USB, firewire !!!, a 1024X768 screen, pretty decent graphics performance, damn good battery life, and DVD for those long flights, iTunes which really is pretty cool, iMovie which I must admit blew me away in terms of the power given to a consumer level package, and some other software in the package as well) which taken together make for a pretty compelling package. Plus you throw in OSX and you have that UNIXy goodness as well.

    Even though OSX is not by any means a mature OS, I see great things for it in the near future and I am kinda stoked given the fact that never before has one really had access to a UNIX laptop with all of the goodies one gets here.

    The real world advantage that I have really seen with these things over the two weeks I've used it is that for the price, you get a laptop with a small form factor that you can actually use in coach class when flying without getting crammed. You can put these things almost anywhere and not worry about getting the thing tweaked, because its so rugged. And it is significantly lighter than the Dell or the Compaq systems that I have toted around before this. You really do get so many more features for the money than anyone else provides in a form factor that truly does exude good design. (compare this to the PIII Acer laptop I used that had the fsking fan on the bottom of the case exactly where your left thigh would be causing it to overheat if you used it on anything other than a perfectly flat table surface. Unbelievable.)
  • by torpor (458) <ibisum@gmail. c o m> on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:37PM (#2164659) Homepage Journal
    Simply the best you can get, right now.

    I know, it's not Intel architecture - that's just fine. Cram it full of RAM (1Gig) and fire up a few Virtual PC windows.

    It's extremely well made - except for the hinges, which flake paint after a while, but you can just brush that off and it looks fine.

    Definitely a well-made piece of gear. Mac OS X runs great on it, too!
  • My biggest suggestion to you would be not to underestimate the importance of size and weight. I'm on my second laptop now, and I have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. My first laptop was your standard sized laptop, a Hitachi Visionbook Pro, which had good power-wise specs for the time, and was only of average size and weight, because I completely blew off the importance of these factors. I thought to myself, p-shaw all the laptop owners who complain about how heavy their computers are and don't actually carry them with them to places are trippin', it's only 5-7 pounds we're talking about here for heaven sakes. But 5-7 pounds gets surprisingly annoying when you have to carry it around with you whenever you go anywhere where you'll need it, especially with all the support equipment (power, carrying-case, batteries, etc.). That computer got stolen, and now after having owned a laptop, and wanting to buy a new one, I made a more informed choice and purchased a Sony Vaio super slim model, and I could not be happier with my choice.

    I think you'll find there's an exponential return between the size of the computer you choose and how willing you are to take it with you to places where it'd help. With a PDA you'll probably be willing to carry it with you everywhere you go, just in case. With a superslim style computer, you'll probably be willing to carry it with you whenever you have good reason to believe that you'll need it. With some monster oversized 15" screen desktop replacement laptop, you'll probably find that that's exactly what you bought - a replacement for your desktop. And that's all well and good, but most people who are thinking about buying laptops do so with the expectation that they will be using the computer on the go, not just buying a small desktop with poor expansion options.

    These days, every damn computer has so much power and video speed and such. I would suggest that these factors can be minimized unless you absolutely, positively need to play games or do something else very video/cpu intensive on your system. For what you need on the run (word processing, internet, mp3s maybe, etc.) it's important to keep in mind that you're not buying a desktop, and not to think like you are. So realize what you need and buy with those in mind. Every laptop will fulfill what you need from it application wise, so try and maximize the other laptop-specific attributes, such as battery life, size/weight, storage space and screen. I'd even go so far as to suggest that these days almost every laptop has a pretty decent screen, so you probably don't need to worry about that too much, but I haven't owned one of those laptops with a truly huge (14"+) screen yet, so this is just speculation.

    As far as price is concerned, I would suggest that around ~1300-1500 is the sweet spot these days for slim computers. But if you absolutely, positively, need to have it be bargain basement priced, you might want to consider going used.

    If it has to be new, I don't know about other manufacturers, but Sony has a pretty decent super tiny laptop for 999 here:
    http://www.sonystyle.com/vaio/sr/index.html
  • Laptop (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CFBMoo1 (157453)
    I'm running a Dell inspiron 8000 myself... Great for Diablo 2 and such. *What a reason to buy a laptop*

    Anyhow I like it a lot. P3 700, 192 megs of mem, burner, 2 batteries, big screen, 20 gig drive, and a 32 meg ati graphics card.

    I do have some problems though. The pointer stick in the middle has got to go. That thing is a total waste, especially after as it gets older and ya tilt the laptop and it grabs the pointer on the screen because it's not working right. Nasty problem, Dell's solution is not to have a bios switch to turn off the pointer stick, but Windows software to turn it off *Sucks big time.*

    So if anyone knows of a Linux utility that can kill pointer sticks on laptops, especially ones like mine, let me know. I have a copy of Mandrake 8 that's itching to get on their.

    *And keep a small windows partition for Diablo 2* *Waves cash at Loki to have a diablo 2 port to linux* God I'm a sad case. :)
  • ASUS, KDS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bogey33 (446712)
    It is possible to get a decent laptop for just over a $1000. You just have to buy the models made by several asian manufacturers to compete with Dell, Combaq, etc. Laptops are beginning to push desktops aside, especially with the current sales slump that has hit the market. Laptops have higher margins and are still susceptible to branding (the whitebox social order hasn't hit yet). Manufacturers such as ASUS and KDS(not sure about them?) have been producing OEM laptops for the big boys for years. Now that desktop sales have slumped they are trying to push they own systems into the channel independent of their OEM partners. Basically they want to see a larger piece of that profit pie.

    What this means to you:

    • Cheaper Laptops
    • Local Computer Dealers Selling Their Own Line of Laptops (based on the ASUS,KDS base models)
    • Laptops WILL bump out desktops for the mid-low, mid markets
    • Desktops WILL be around for a while yet, as the ultra-cheapies (family room PCs *for the Youngins*) and high-end (power hungry video cards, huge fast hard drives that are needed for video editing, CAD design, game playing, music archiving, etc.)
    Check the notebook listing on pricewatch [pricewatch.com] for ASUS and KDS models. Should see a lot more activity (maybe new suppliers) in the not to distant future.
  • (Other than a Mac iBook, which I realize is an option.)

    My ideal laptop would be a cheap, lightweight x86 laptop, on which I would install Linux myself. Becuase I won't be running Windows on this machine, I really do *not* want Microsoft getting a kickback for my purchase of it.

    I've figured out how to buy naked desktop machines, without a pre-installed Windows bought and paid for that I'm going to erase. That's quite easy. But what place will sell me a laptop without selling me Windows? I guess that Dell used to do this, but does anybody any more?

    (And, I don't want them just to pre-erase Windows for me. I really want this not to count as a Windows sale and not feed back any $$$ to Microsoft. As an anecdote, some four years ago we were looking for quotes on systems from various different vendors. We were going to run Linux on these machines. We called a local CompUSA (I think it was), who at first told us that they couldn't sell us a machine without Windows on it. Later they called back to relent. But, the quote they then sent us was *identical* in price to the previous quote... it just didn't list an OS at all. I'm pretty sure what was happening there was that we were effectively paying for Windows, but they were going to do us the "service" of pre-deleting it, and they weren't telling us we were buying Windows.)

    -Rob

  • What *I* look for: (Score:3, Informative)

    by solios (53048) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:40PM (#2164690) Homepage
    First, as a Mac user, you can kiss the sub-1k$ range goodbye, unless you're willing to snag something older and a hell of a lot heavier.

    I want the following features in a laptop- from most important to optional:

    1. Weight. If it weighs as my Powerbook 180, forget it. Four, five pounds- tops.

    2. Battery life. Lithium Ion batteries whup the llammas ass- four hours of "office" use, two hours of Quake III / Photoshop / Internet use, maybe an hour on the DVD player.

    3. Modem AND Ethernet. All or nothing- I dump downloads onto a server on my home LAN and a crossover cable is far more useable than IRDA or lugging a zip drive.

    4. Battery CAPACITY. My Pismo powerbook can ditch the DVD/CD drive module in favor of a second battery, if and when I need it. This has saved my ass many, many times! (forget the TiBook- and don't get me started on slot-loading drives in portables)

    5. A responsive, reliable keyboard. Something that I can pick apart and clean if I need to. (the Pismo is a nightmare from this respect, but Apple seems to be sticking with the "wishbone suspension" on their portable keyboards....)

    6. Any sort of Video Out. (fortunately, the pismo runs S-video and VGA out. :D )

    7. Audio out.

    8. Millions of colors @ 1024x768. Bigger is better, but this usually means that the *case* gets bulkier, and who needs that?

    9. Accessability. Upgrading laptops is a nightmare, and not recommended for amateurs.

    Fortunately, one can run MacOS X or Classic MacOS on a Pismo, and I have a friend who's running DebianPPC on his Lombard (one model lower). Linux PPC installs, as does MKLinux.

    My opinion? You want a Pismo or a Lombard powerbook. The only *real* differences between the two are that the Lombard has SCSI and the Pismo comes with Firewire and is slightly faster.

    A quick features list:

    14.5" LCD @ 1024x768, millions
    VGA out, supports some wicked high resolutions as a second monitor
    S-Video out, treated same as VGA.
    2 USB ports
    2 Firewire ports
    Audio out
    Audio in
    Ethernet (10/100)
    Modem (56k)
    Expansion module comes with CD or CD/DVD drive, they make burner modules. And the expansion module can swallow a second battery.

  • Dell I8000 & GF2Go (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fragbait (209346)
    I purchased one of these in May. PIII 900, 256MB RAM, 15" XGA, 32MB DDR GF2Go, 20GB HD. Built in Firewire, modem, ethernet, 2 Card slots, SVGA port. It weighed in at ~8lbs and just over US$2700. The only thing I wish the laptops were up to speed on is HD transfer rate. If you are used to ATA100, you can definately tell the difference when you have to drop to ATA33. Quake 3 runs great and looks just as good as my desktop even when I turn up the settings to 1024X768, 32bit color. Diablo II does chug a bit when the top of the Palace in Act II or multiple streams of water in Act III come on the screen.
  • I first used a Satellite system in Nicaragua a few years ago and we had Gateways, Dells, Sagers and Toshibas and the only ones we never had to send in were the Toshibas. All the other ones were real finicky about the abuse being dished upon them. We had lots of dust and humidity down there which was a real killer. The one I used had a crack down the backside of the monitor and still never gave me a problem. I am back in America now but still buy Satellite systems for their durability. I had a Vaio provided to me by work and proceeded to loose all my external port flaps and get a crack down front of the screen. Not to mention the fact that I never could get Win2k installed on it properly. The driver support was iffy. I am not nice to my laptop. It gets tossed in my bag which in turn gets slung, thrown, bounced and slid from here to kingdom come in my wanderings every day. The best part, as far as I am concerned, is the money aspect. I just bought a 700Mhz with 64MB Ram and a 8 GB HD from Circuit City about a month ago for $899. You can't beat it with a price like that. Also the pieces and parts are relatively inexpensive ($120 for a battery, $15 for another 64MB memory)
    There are two caveats, however.
    1. They aren't the lightest laptops I've ever seen (allthough way lighter than the gargantua Dells I saw last week)
    2. They aren't the fastest laptops even accounting for it's clock speed. Laptops always seem slow to me and Toshibas just a hair slower.
    I am definitly an evangelist but that doesn't blind me to the facts. For my money Toshiba wins, until they start to suck.
  • Titanium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:53PM (#2164748)
    G4 Titanium 400 with 384 MB of RAM and a dual-boot OS 9.1/10.0.4. Airport, DVD, Firewire, 15.2 inch screen - everything I need in a laptop.

    And I have an iBook (Tangerine 300) running just 9.1 and 96MB of RAM. Works well as a sit around and surf machine.

    My work got some IBM A21s in, pretty nice for a Windows PC, not sure how well Linux or BSD works on it though.
  • Dell Inspiron 7/8k (Score:2, Informative)

    by AlXtreme (223728)
    Viao's are sweet, but Inspirons are the real workhorses: rocksolid and 100% linux(able)!

    The main thing about laptops are the screens. my 7500 bosts 15,5inch with 1600x1200, which make it very nice, not only to use on the road but also as a workstation at home or work. I couldnt bare to stand quinting at a 12inch screen, but this screen is just great, giving a 19inch a run for its money (who needs CRT, btw? ;)

    Besides the screen, memory should be the second most important item on your list (leaving out keyboard and overall shineyness to impress your geeky pals). In my baby, i have 256 MB of thumping ram. If you have less, try to get more, but laptop RAM is hard to come by, so get as much as possible when you buy one.

    3rd on the list? a good videocard. Most lt's have a crummy 4/8 meg card, enough for software, but we all know we want at least to be able to frag people at the local LAN party. 3D-support highly recommended, check out linux-support first.

    DVD is last on my list. This just rocks with a beamer or widescreen tv (you do have svhs-out, do you?). I find myself not really using it much, but its a good show-off feature ;)

    Last few ideas:
    builtin NIC. PCMCIA-cards are okay, but dont take one with a cablethingy. they break too soon (learned that from experience :|
    HD? get one as big as possible. dont whine. my 20gigs are the limit. Think of a reason, and fast. You dont want a laptop as a wordprocessor, you want one to blow all those workstations away...
    CPU? dunno. just dont get a Celeron. Those are for wuzzies ;)

    And dont buy a laptop for less than $1000. Get a good laptop or dont get one at all. A medicore laptop gets used every once in a while on the road, but a PDA serves this better. And dont get a 12inch screen. trust me...

  • I'm the president of a company that only installs Linux on laptops and most of our customers are university researchers or Linux-developers who have done done their own Linux laptop installs in the past but now do not have the time to spend doing it and so they want the preload. Our website is www.EmperorLinux.com [emperorlinux.com] but I will draw the following conclusions generally about Linux laptops:

    1. If you're willing to get a year-old machine, almost any distribution will support almost all the features on any Sony, IBM, or Dell. Specifically we have had good luck with all IBM ThinkPads, Dell Inspirons, and Sony Vaios.
    2. The best machine for the ultimate power user is unquestionably the Dell Inspiron 8000. The 1600x1200 display works perfectly in X4. Many of our university astronomer customers opt for this system. For a powerful machine that you can port around daily, the IBM ThinkPad T20 series is expensive, but very nice. Its 1400x1050 display works perfectly in Linux. Both of these machines have an Intel eepro100 ethernet which works perfectly in Linux. They both have the Lucent winmodem which can also be made to work in Linux. They both have CDRWs which will burn CDs in Linux.
    3. By far our most popular machines are the Sony Z505 and R505 machines which weigh 3.75 pounds and are still very fully featured. APM can be a problem with these systems, but X runs at 1024x768, the USB floppies work, the memory sticks work, and they also have the internal eepro ethernet. Their winmodem is worthless in Linux.
    4. Of extreme popularity lately has been the Transmeta Crusoe chipped Sony PictureBook (C1VN/C1VP). It weighs just over two pounds and also runs Linux very well. The camera works. Due to its small size, it does not have internal ethernet, serial or parallel ports.
    On all of these systems which are newer and don't have especially good support in any distribution, the primary thing you really need to make them work well, is to recompile your kernel (and to get a very up-to-date kernel.) We specifically keep up to date with every minor release of the kernel, and frequently with patches in between. You should never use the PCMCIA services in the kernel, rather use the separate pcmcia-cs package. To get sound to work, you will almost certainly need the ALSA drivers. Our current set-up snapshot as of 8/6/01 is:

    Kernel: linux-2.4.7 + 2.4.8-pre-3 + kerneli patch (kernel.org [kernel.org])
    Sound: alsa-0.9.0beta5 (www.alsa-project.org [alsa-project.org])
    PCMCIA: pcmcia-cs-3.1.27 (www.pcmcia-cs.sourceforge.org [sourceforge.org])

    My personal machine upon which I have done all of my development work for the past year is the IBM T21. The person who does all of our web and Perl development uses the small C1VN. My wife, who has to carry her computer in a backpack all over downtown Atlanta, uses the Z505.

    • by dublin (31215) on Tuesday August 07, 2001 @10:32AM (#2129099) Homepage
      You suggest Sony, IBM, or Dell. I'd add Toshiba to that list and drop Dell, since they once again exhibited their commitment to being Microsoft's #1 lackey this week by pulling support for Linux on the desktop just when Microsoft's new licensing scheme for XP is making many customers take a serious look at alternatives. (Linux desktops are now only available through "DellPlus" custom orders, which have a 50-unit minimum - mark my words, Dell will make it increasingly harder to get a desktop Linux box, since they march ONLY to Bill's tune. How do I know? I used to be point man for software for both Latitude and Inspiron at Dell, and I can tell you first hand that they really care much less about their customers than they do about keeping MS happy.)

      The IBM's are weird but work well - I especially like the old 550, 560, and 570, which are truly portable and can be had used at pretty decent prices. Many of the laptops of a couple of years ago have the longest battery life readily available - the reason is that there were already low-power CPUs then, but the clock rates had't gotten so insane as to more than use up the savings as is the case in current laptops, some of which have pitiful battery life. (Realistically, is there anything you'll be doing on a laptop that requires more than say, 233 MHz? I doubt it.)

      The larger Sonys are pretty good, but have the usual frustrating proprietariness of all Sony gear, and often Linux drivers only "sorta work" on Sonys in my experience. Like Compaq, Sony insists on "adding prporietary value" in ways that actually decrease the value of the hardware for those of us clever enough to try to use it in new ways. (FWIW, I think Compaq laptops aren't worth the trouble or the money for this very reason.)

      Toshiba has been making good strides back after slipping for a few years. The new ones seem about as tough as the old ones that built their reputation, and they have some pretty good deals now. Avoid HP like the plague. Fujitsus are surprisingly good, but harder to find good deals on.

      Sadly, no laptop vendor seems to be interested in building what I think most laptop users want: A true thin and light notebook with a good screen and a *slower* processor that would allow battery life of 8 hours or more. This is now easliy do-able, and would sell, as I think most people are wondering what they need gigahertz CPUs in their laptop for, since they can't use even a quarter of that power in their desktop machines. That and built-in 10/100 Ethernet, which still seems maddeningly rare in today's world.
  • IBook (Score:5, Interesting)

    by plastik55 (218435) on Monday August 06, 2001 @04:58PM (#2164787) Homepage
    I love my new iBook. I spent a long time comparing specs on new laptops and came to the conclusion that the iBook packs the most features in for the least money.

    I got mine with a DYD-ROM and 256MB of memory for $1500 -- I looked at what Sony and Compaq etc. had to offer, and the nearest offerings wre usually lacking something big (like, say, the CDROM) or had about 50% of the battery life (or, even worse, didn't mention the battery life at all.) I can watch two DVD movies on this, back to back, before the battery runs out.

    It works well with Linux too. The hardware is almost entirely supported now. There's a preliminary sound driver, and a daemon for answering requests from the volume/screen brightness/eject CD buttons on the keyboard. Wireless networking is fully supported, and since the iBook has an antenna built in to the case, you'll get much more range than with a run-of-the-mill 802.11 card. Power management on Apple laptops under Linux is actually better supported with pmud than with the APM support on most other laptops. Hmm, what else... the latest XFree86 supports the ATI chip with DRI support, so the video is fast. Since it's a new machine, a lot of the drivers are floating around as kernel patches on linuxppc-dev, but I fully expect them to be rolled into benh's kernel tree in the next couple weeks.

  • Todays kicking, expensive laptop will be junk in 2 years, and depreciate the moment you open the box. For half it's price, you can get a great 6 month old laptop every year.

    For example: if you want a good machine on the cheap, I recommend getting a refurbished IBM thinkpad 600x via ebay for about $900. Only 500mhz, but it can handle 576 MB or RAM. Still under warranty. Lots of folks using these for Linux. http://nav.webring.yahoo.com/hub?ring=linuxthinkpa d&id=6&list

    Add a DVD for $150, zip for $50, mondo hd for $150 and push the ram up, you have a nice cheap box.

    =brian
  • Secret of the trade (Score:5, Informative)

    by RainbowSix (105550) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:09PM (#2164835) Homepage
    One important thing is to do research! Many "OEMs" actually buy their laptops from other OEMs.

    for example, check out this link [powernotebooks.com]

    "For example an ODM named Compal makes the Dell Inspiron 5000e, the ChemBOOK 3015, the PowerNotebooks.com PowerPro III:16, the Sceptre SoundX S6600 (14.1") and S6900 and 6902 (15")...and they are all the same laptop, just with different names on them!"

    Buying from lesser known companies could potentially net you the same laptop for less. I bought a Umax T333, and I thought it sucked. Umax support was crap, and replacement parts impossible to find. Then, I found out that it is the same model as the Kapok 1100 and the ProStar 1200, then finding BIOSes, drivers, and batteries was simple.

    If you are looking for an older laptop, consider one with a cpu that has multiplier controls. Mine is a K6-2 333, so everything is configured via dip switches. I can run the 333@166 and lower all the voltage settings for a cool running laptop that still runs Linux and E with ease. I've gotten my battery time from 2.5 hours up to 3.5-4.0 hours. I'm glad I ordered the cheapest laptop that money could buy two years ago. I now have no regrets.
  • iBook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by green pizza (159161) on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:02PM (#2165089) Homepage
    Aside from the P233MMX machine I bought for $150 in 1998, I haven't made a better purchase choice than the new (white) Apple iBook. It's small, it's light, it's fast, and the battery lasts a good 4 hours. Though perhaps my favorite feature is the keyboard... the keys are full size and have normal spacing, and the travel is decent. Best laptop keyboard I've ever used. Mac OS 9.1 works great, OS X is coming along nicely, and YellowDog Linux works like a charm -- even has zippy fast XFree86 acceleration via the RageMobility128 right out of the box.

    Get an iBook, you won't be sorry. (Now if only the 3 year extended warranty was cheaper...)

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