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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a Windows Laptop? 898

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-a-dart dept.
jfruhlinger writes "I'm a Mac guy. When our 2004-era Windows XP laptop, which was used primarily by my wife, died last summer, I got myself a new MacBook Pro and she inherited my still serviceable 2008 MacBook. But after about six months, she hasn't gotten used to it, and wants a Windows machine. I don't have an ideological problem with this — it'd be her computer, and we've got a bit of money stashed away to pay for it. But trying to pick one out is my job, and I find the the whole process bewildering. Apple's product differentiation is great at defeating the paradox of choice — you have a few base models, the difference between which is quite obvious, and you can customize each. The Windows world seems totally different. Even once I've settled on a vendor for a Windows laptop (something I haven't done yet), each seems to have a bewildering array of product lines with similar specs. Often models that you find in electronics or office supply stores that seem promising in terms of form factor are exclusive to those stores and can't be found online. Obviously people do navigate this process, but I'm just feeling out of my depth. How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?"
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a Windows Laptop?

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  • by imashination (840740) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:13PM (#35633142) Homepage
    Just install windows on the mac?
    • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999@@@gmail...com> on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:18PM (#35633218)

      +1 to this.

      A Macbook makes a great Windows laptop, and since you already have it it'll be more cost effective to just buy a copy of Windows.

      Set up a bootcamp partition (Apps > Utils > Boot Camp Assistant) and give it the lion's share of the disk if it's going to be her primary OS and then install.

      Once you have Windows on there, the OS X software disks that came with it (or the ones for your MBP) have all the necessary drivers that are set up via install wizard - just pop it in after Windows boots for the first time.

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        Window is fucking expensive stand alone. Many multiples what the OEMs pay.

        If your wife or you happen to teach or go to a school, you might be able to get it for free from the school, or at a steep discount.

        But yea, install on the 2008. It should easily still be good enough. Max out the RAM too. At this point, it's as cheap as it will get for your model. Later on, it'll just become rarer and most places will then put a premium on it.

        • by peragrin (659227)

          exactly. I have been trying to find a cheap version of windows 7 for a while. I have even hunted down some wholesalers, and I can't seem to find it for less than retail, unless I am part of some ultra special group.

          You used to be able to buy XP OEM disks from certain builders but I can't even do that anymore.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Ask a student to buy it for you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Watch digital river for deals for students. I was able to pick up a copy of Windows 7 Pro X64 for $30 via digital river.

            There are more sites like that as well.

            It looks like the windows7.digitalriver.com is over, but they link to here:
            http://www.microsoft.com/student/en/us/office/default.aspx
            You can get the Windows 7 Upgrade for $80

        • by Cloud K (125581)

          Just buy the OEM version. Even Microsoft themselves can't agree on whether it's acceptable or not (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/is-it-ok-to-use-oem-windows-on-your-own-pc-dont-ask-microsoft/1561) but as far as I'm concerned after interpreting the license as best as I could (IANAL etc), it's absolutely fine.

          The crap about selling it with a fully assembled system is for when the EULA takes effect: which is when it's been opened. While it remains unopened, PC enthusiast vendors are just selling the package

          • The only downside (Score:5, Informative)

            by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @09:15PM (#35634166)

            Is that system builder licenses aren't transferable. It is 100% fine to use them on systems you do yourself, that's why Newegg sells them. However they are designed like OEM licenses that Dell et al sell which means that they are tied to that system, which in this case means a motherboard. So you install it, and life is good. However if you get a new computer later and want to transfer it, no deal, it is tied to the computer you put it on.

            That's more or less what you are paying for with retail Windows is a "transfer tax" if you like, or having the license be like a book. You can only have it on one thing, but you are free to change what that thing is.

            I'm not saying that is a big deal, just that it is something to know and recognize.

            • Re:The only downside (Score:5, Informative)

              by hedwards (940851) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @10:29PM (#35634580)

              Unless something has changed recently, that's not entirely true. An OEM disc which comes bundled with a computer frequently has 2 keys available, one is on the disc and is valid for any number of computers as a part of the OEM computers and the one which is stuck to the side for that particular computer.

              I've used OEM discs on upgraded computers many times and as long as you use the computer specific one on only one computer at a time you're fine. From time to time if you upgrade too quickly it will refuse to activate, but if you let it set for a period of time it'll install just fine. Otherwise you have to call MS for them to clear the previous install.

      • by Salvo (8037)

        Also, if she has only used XP, she my find Windows 7 as confounding as Mac OS X.

        Bootcamp it with a copy of W7, but don't Activate it until she is confidant she can adapt to W7.
        A lot of XP-Mac switches happened because XP-Vista was an infuriating learning curve. If they had to learn a new system, why stick with Windows?

    • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:25PM (#35633294) Homepage

      > Just install windows on the mac?

      That only works if you don't despise Apple keyboards.

      Try using the thing first. Then work from there.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Not to mention that Apple laptops have that stupid track pad with only one button. Meaning that it's not going to work correctly in Windows without extra work.

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          Two finger tap to right click - OSX makes just as much use of context menus as Windows does, so it's not like they left the feature out of the hardware.

          • Two finger tap to right click - OSX makes just as much use of context menus as Windows does, so it's not like they left the feature out of the hardware.

            Actually, it's exactly like they left the feature out of the hardware. I disable the touch-to-click on trackpads, because I'll be typing and some part of one of my hands will hit the trackpad and the cursor jumps somewhere or clicks a button or something. A second mouse button is really easy to implement in hardware, and so is a third or fourth for that matter. It's not a question about how to use the hardware ("you're holding it wrong"), it's whether or not the hardware even works for what you need it t

            • by bryan1945 (301828)

              I have touch-to-click disabled also. You can still hold 2 fingers down on the pad and click on the button for a 'right-click.' No jumpy or clicky. I'm surprised you have not figured this out yet.

        • Wow. Slashdot really needs to fix this bug. It's pulling in comments from 1999! Everybody knows that Macs support multi-button mice now, and that their trackpads can be configured in one and two-button configurations. I mean, in this context it sounds like this poster has absolutely no idea what he's talking about. And that would just be absurd, right? So it must be a bug.
          • by bryan1945 (301828)

            What, debunk some ridiculous mistakes?! Are you insane! As with any group, there is a group-think that doesn't like Apple products, for a variety of reasons. I do find it funny that the anti-Apple and anti-MS posters are just as zealous in the promotion of Linux. Maybe one of these days everyone will just let everyone else buy what the heck they want.

            Nah.

      • by Cloud K (125581) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:56PM (#35633570)

        I love the keyboard, but the trackpad is crippled under Windows. It still has multitouch etc, but has funny issues like right-click taps requiring 3 fingers instead of 2.

        There's absolutely nothing wrong with the hardware and in general Windows is often better on a Mac than a PC. But it'd certainly be worth remaining aware of any issues - making your Windows experience superb and smooth is hardly Apple's priority so bugs go on for some time.

        • Apple doesn't seem to have good ACPI drivers for Windows so it cannot manage power as effectively as it should. So you'll find that Windows gets less battery than OS-X, and also less than on a comparable non-Apple laptop. It isn't horrible, but it is noticeable.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Windows is often better on a Mac than a PC.

          As a Mac is basically a reasonably well specified PC in a nice case for fifty per cent more money, it will run Windows better than a low end PC. Amazing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MobyDisk (75490)

        Agreed with that advice - Mac laptops are great, but try the keyboard on something real. If you are a coder - write code on that keyboard. If you are an accountant, type numbers on it. Don't just assume you will get used to it because it is very very odd.

        I bought a Macbook Pro as a Windows laptop several years ago and it has been a phenomenal computer. But I say that only because I *never* use it without an external keyboard.

        1) The keyboard is very small, compared to the size of the laptop
        Here is why: t

        • by Penguinisto (415985) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:12PM (#35633744) Journal

          You wuss... REAL coders use a REAL coder's keyboard [wordpress.com]!

          Seriously... why all those excess keys, anyway?

        • by breser (16790) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:58PM (#35634062) Homepage
          The newer Mac laptops replaced that second Enter with another alt key.
          Fn + up arrow = page up, Fn + down arrow = page down
          The swapping of the meta keys makes sense because the primary meta key you use is Command on the Mac.
          Don't really see what's wrong with more meta keys on the opposite side of the keyboard. My think pad has more than one Ctrl and Alt. Considering that Command is the Mac equivalent of Ctrl it's exactly equivalent. Except my thinkpad has that silly menu key.
          And virtually every PC has a hard eject button on the drive. So what?
          Yup Delete is Backspace and if you want forward delete hold Fn+Delete.

          I think if you actually bothered to learn how to use your Mac laptops keyboard you'd like it a lot better.
    • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:32PM (#35633354) Homepage

      Yeah, that's probably the best answer of all. Just run Windows on it. Also, I might say "make it dual boot" so that she has something to fall back on when her machine gets trashed and/or unusable... as we all know it will.

      • by mjwx (966435) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:58PM (#35634072)

        Yeah, that's probably the best answer of all. Just run Windows on it. Also, I might say "make it dual boot" so that she has something to fall back on when her machine gets trashed and/or unusable... as we all know it will.

        Actually it's about the worst answer.

        1. the laptop is 2.5 years old. The battery will be almost gone and there will likely be other HW issues developing.

        2. the wife does not like it.

        I can tell that everyone suggesting you just put Windows on the Mac has never been married, or probably had a LT girlfriend but if the wife wants something, a half arsed solution like slapping Windows on top of it wont help, in fact it will make things a lot worse.

        My advice for the OP, let the wife choose. Pick about 5 different models that you know are good (Dell Latitude, Lenovo Thinkpad, Asus and Toshiba, wife will probably like the look of the Asus) put some pictures into a document and let her pick which one she wants. That way the onus is on her to like it, having her make the decision reduces the likelihood that she'll turn around and blame you for any issues (as she is currently doing with the Mac).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LodCrappo (705968)

          "I can tell that everyone suggesting you just put Windows on the Mac has never been married, or probably had a LT girlfriend but..."

          Don't know what kind of women you are dating, but your impression of women as irrational things that should be manipulated so as not to blame you in the future sounds awful.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "I can tell that everyone suggesting you just put Windows on the Mac has never been married, or probably had a LT girlfriend but..."

            Don't know what kind of women you are dating, but your impression of women as irrational things that should be manipulated so as not to blame you in the future sounds awful.

            Not sure why you see manipulation in this suggestion.

            Having been in an academic tech support job for a bunch of years (and an equally long-term relationship) and having shepherded though thousands of purchases and then supported those devices, I've found giving the person who'll actually be using a thing (laptop, printer, gps, phone, &c.) a set of known-good options and letting them decide is a great practice. If they really want you to pick it for them they'll usually say so.

            Users who select their own

    • +1 again.

      A 2008 MacBook, even non-Pro, is still a perfectly good Windows system for what you ask.

      A computer can always do serviceably well exactly what it could do when it was new. Windows 7 should be decently good on it, Office 2010 (or OpenOffice/LibreOffice) perfectly fine. Yeah, it won't do gaming very well, but it'll do anything a new $500 Windows can do - and for only the cost of Windows itself.

      • I agree it will probably do just about anything a $500 Windows laptop can do, but 2008 was 3 years ago. It will have a 3 year old battery, a T8300 processor (at best), probably 2GB of RAM (maybe he expanded it to 4?), 160GB HD and a 1280x800 screen. Putting Windows 7 on it (the "legal" way) is probably about $100, and putting a fresh new battery in it is probably another $65 (if you do it yourself). I just saw a Lenovo i3 380M @ 2.53GHZ w/ 4GB RAM, Dual layer DVD burner, HDMI output, 320GB HD, 1366x768 LED
    • Just install windows on the mac?

      I have a MBP 13" Unibody. The HW is pretty much ok, but the configured options of the era show their age. The battery has swollen, 2GB of RAM is little nowadays, and a 5400rpm HDD is slow.

      Do as the Parent sugests, install Windows Seven (not Vista, and certainly not XP) in the laptop, but upgrade Memory (check the manual to see the max ammount of ram supported, and check the forums to see if it can take a tad more ), change the HDD (here faster RPM or SDD is the name of the game), and buy a new (non Apple, t

    • by fermion (181285)
      I run MS WIndows 7 on my early 2008 macbook. It works as well as any of my dedicated WIndows machines. So bootcamp is a viable option. However, since it helps to max memory, and Windows 7 is hugely expensive, a new machine may be of value.

      I am partial o HP Computers. I have one that is 5 years old that is still good for basic tasks. These, though, cost $1000, so it will be cheaper to buy WIndows 7, home premium $200.

  • easy (Score:5, Funny)

    by cuby (832037) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:14PM (#35633166)
    The same way as a Linux laptop.
    • Re:easy (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:32PM (#35633356)

      ?

      Buy a MS Notebook, complain about having to pay the Windoze tax, install Linux, configure several small but nonfunctioning items (buttons) for several hours, wonder why it doesn't go out of sleep/hibernation smoothly, rave how awesome Linux is while having Windows booted so you can play that one game you like or use that one piece software that doesn't run on Wine? /jk

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:15PM (#35633170)
    and consider that i will eventually be wiping windows off and installing Linux on it...
  • by Cylix (55374) *

    Why on earth would you give your MacBook Pro to your dead wife?

    • by Cylix (55374) * on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:16PM (#35633192) Homepage Journal

      Furthermore, I'm troubled that you continue to speak to her about how she feels about the MacBook.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "Why on earth would you give your MacBook Pro to your dead wife?"

      I'm not a grammer nazi but this guy isn't helping Apple fans look good.

      " How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?""

      Is this guy for real? He just described every laptop since 2006.

      is this an early April Fools? "Uh... I'm a Mac Guy... uh, I can't form sentences... uh, can u halp me find laptop? duh...."
  • by thinbits (904652) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:16PM (#35633200)
    You say "she hasn't gotten used to it, and wants a Windows machine". Do you mean she hasn't gotten used to Mac OS X and wants to use Windows? Just use Boot Camp and install Windows on your MacBook, problem solved. If you mean she is using Windows on your MacBook and there is something about the MacBook itself she doesn't like, perhaps you should elaborate on what specifically it is she doesn't like about the hardware as that's probably something you should take into account in your next purchase.
    • by Bios_Hakr (68586)

      A Windows license is around $200. You can get a pretty decent laptop with Windows 7 for around $500. Sell the MacBook and buy a Toshiba or HP. You'll come out several hundred dollars ahead.

      • by znerk (1162519) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:59PM (#35633610)

        A windows license is considerably less than $200 here [newegg.com]. Dunno where you're doing your shopping.

        As for a laptop? If she really only needs it for email and surfing, then pretty much anything will do the trick. With the exception of some flash games, nothing accessible via browser or email client is going to require much in the way of processor power.

  • These days almost all laptops have sucky screen resolution (13xx x 768). Particularly at the 14" and 15" sizes. Find a machine with a decent screen and you'll find a decent laptop. A few months ago I got my wife a HP Envy 14 with the 1600x900 screen, i5 CPU, and 4GB RAM. Suites her needs quite nicely.
    • i think that res is perfect for an 11.6" - extreme portability. When at a desk, external display...

    • This is my biggest pet peeve with laptop sellers. I've been looking at Dell and Lenovo and all I want is a list of their highest resolution laptops. I haven't found any way to filter my searches this way.

    • by shish (588640)

      Find a machine with a decent screen and you'll find a decent laptop

      In my experience, find a machine with a decent screen resolution and you've found something less portable than a bag of lead bricks... but yeah, if there exists a lightweight laptop with high resolution, go for it.

  • Stores are a great place to start.. but I then tend to buy the model online, especially if I can custom build it. So, simply go to the store and have a look at what appeals to you..

    I think right now, the choice is between a low/medium spec Windows 7 32 bit laptop and a high-spec Windows 7 64 bit laptop. I bought a new one recently and opted for 64 bit and as much RAM as I could get.. it really is fast! But, I still prefer to do my real work on my Windows XP workstation..

    • This is my suggestion as well. Hands on with the units to get a feel of the keyboard, resolution size, weight and so on. Figure the specs out a head of time. Decided if AMD or Intel is a priority. Same with builtin Intel Video or Nvidia / ATI. Look at the non-crap bundled software as well, you might be surprised.

      Whatever you do, don't skimp on Ram. Either buy the laptop with it installed or prepare to shop for an upgrade to at least 8GB. Windows 7 needs minimum of 4, which quickly gets used up with all the

  • It doesn't matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747)
    It really doesn't matter which one you pick, unless you're running some kind of new-ish games on it, or something else that's super CPU or video intensive. The hardware is so ahead of what's needed for most people at this point, that just about anything made within the past 10 years works fine for most purposes. When I'm buying PC's (or laptops) for my company, I just find some refurbished model that has 2-4 GB RAM, and a decent hard drive. The rest of the specs really don't matter unless you have very s
    • by T-Bone-T (1048702)

      I know how you feel. I think it is sad that Marketing keeps all their materials and just updates the number. For example, a salesperson told me a Core i3 processor is only good for doing one thing at a time. I just built a desktop based on a Core i3 and it is significantly faster than what it replaced and multitasks just fine. Just because it is one of the slowest doesn't mean it is slow.

      • by Cylix (55374) *

        I built a reaaaallly cheap PC for a friend. I consider his computer to be a fire hazard and he is out of work. I'm a good friend, but I'm not a great friend. Thus, I did everything I could to build a stable, but extremely inexpensive system. (Minus the used expensive parts I had on the shelf).

        While it would have only cost $20 to buy a multi-core processor I actually opted to just unlock a Sempron. It was surprising to find how many of the little things start adding up to fairly decent cost savings. Once it

    • Concur, for the stated use, one step up from a Netbook should do the job for years to come.

      I bought my last Windows 7 laptop based on power consumption and computing power- I needed a little more than what you state (compiles take 1 minute on a desktop, 2 on my chosen laptop and 5+ on a netbook...) Having a low power chipset was important to me, especially after suffering through a lap burning MacBook Pro, and a similarly hot, noisy, and unreliable "high performance" laptop I was fortunate enough to win fr

  • Lenovo (Score:5, Informative)

    by garcia (6573) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:21PM (#35633248) Homepage

    I have always used Dell laptops or ones provided by work (HP). I purchased a Dell netbook for my wife assuming that during her time at home it would be portable and easy for her to carry around. After a couple of months she decided it was just too small and underpowered for her and she wanted something else.

    We only had a few requirements: built in mic and webcam (Skype with the grandparents), Windows, and a 10-key pad.

    NewEgg had a Lenovo laptop which met all those requirements for ~$475. We picked it up and it arrived a few days later. Widescreen, 10-key, mic but a bit of a lame webcam. The rest of the specs are irrelevant as my wife doesn't need anything except Firefox, Word, and Excel.

    But the important thing about Lenovo wasn't the hardware. The important thing was when it began shutting down unexpectedly and without warning after 30 minutes of heavy CPU usage (like when my wife was catching up on her shows on Hulu).

    I contacted Lenovo support. I explained the problem and what I had done to test it. There was no usual bullshit required script I had to run through with the person on the phone. Nope. They e-mailed us the instructions on how to ship it back and we did.

    It arrived at their facility in Texas on the 15th. On the 16th FedEx knocked at our door with the repaired laptop.

    Lenovo will get my laptop business again and again until they break the trust level they created with that wonderful service exchange--arguably the best service I have ever received from any manufacturer in my 25 years of dealing with these things.

    Good luck.

    • ThinkPad. (Score:4, Informative)

      by traindirector (1001483) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:54PM (#35633554)

      I second this. I can't comment on Lenovo's consumer-focused IdeaPad line, but the ThinkPad line is top notch.

      If hardware quality, good engineering, and support/warranty service are what is important to you, ThinkPads (at least the T, X, and W series) are still untouchable (even by Apple). And they're less expensive, too.

      If you want a good general-purpose laptop, take a look at the T410 (which is on discount as it's being replaced) or the newer T420.

    • The University I used to work at had similar experiences, they were used to getting shafted by Dell tech support and eventually the head of IT switched to Lenovo. Although the machines were a little uglier (the keyboards especially so) their tech support was better and actually I don't think we experienced many problems with the machines in the first place... Unfortunately they were running Vista though. Ouch. Meanwhile the remaining XPS machines in the 'high end' computer lab experienced some truly hilario
    • by Naurgrim (516378)
      Seconded. Thinkpad, always. I've been doing front-line small business IT for twelve years. Over that time, the Thinkpad line has proven itself. Yes, hardware is a commodity and you do pay a bit more for a Thinkpad. The difference is in the support and service. Lenovo has done a fine job keeping up their end of the bargain. You may be able to find a cheaper laptop from HP, or better specs from Toshiba, but when it needs fixing, and it will, Thinkpad.
    • I concur. I bought a Lenovo T61 a few years back because of the quality of the hardware and support. And I worked for Sony and used a co. issued VAIO. (I bought it with SLED as the OS, tired of it and installed XP, and then upgraded to Win7. Solid with all of them) The support software that comes with it is top notch and the support site is easy to figure out. I do not know whether the same support software is available on the consumer laptops, but I would definitely keep Lenovo on your list to look at.
    • Re:Lenovo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lophophore (4087) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @09:04PM (#35634112) Homepage

      I will throw out my vote for ThinkPads.

      If you travel through a major airport, and watch the business people go through security, you will see a ton of ThinkPads. Why? The damn things are nearly indestructible. When it came time to buy my kid a laptop for college, we looked at the deals the school had (a major university) and they had Mac, Dell, and Lenovo. My kid now is using a Lenovo T510 with an i5 and Windows 7. Her friends' Dell machines have all had to be serviced in the first semester. That's right, the Dells did not even make it through a semester.

      At work they recently bought me a fancy-schmancy Dell notebook. I compared the build quality to my personally-owned T61 Thinkpad, and thought to myself "this Dell is junk". The Dell did not make it three months before it had to be serviced. I've been using my three year old T61 for the duration, and I cannot imagine why the three year old $1000 thinkpad is superior in almost every way to the brand new $1000 Dell laptop.

      Here's another thought. Just like cheap tools are not worth the money, unless you plan to use them only once... cheap laptops are not worth the money, either. Buy a commercial strength unit. Don't buy a consumer-class laptop. You can usually tell the difference by looking for a docking connector. The consumer class laptops don't have a dock, the commercial strength ones do. Sure, it is a few more bucks up front, but after a couple years the consumer grade laptops are junk, but the commercial ones are still kicking.

      Good luck with your purchase.

  • by Animal Farm Pig (1600047) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:22PM (#35633258)
    Just buy a Latitude or Thinkpad. You can't go terribly wrong with either.
    • by ani23 (899493)
      while i agreed with latitudes for a while some of the ones i have recently seen in our firm like the e5500 have sub par build quality. the lid has become wobbly already and many have run into multiple issues. not that thinkpads dont have these at all but latitudes just dont seem as solid as before.
  • See which keyboards/track pads/screen/etc she prefers. Then buy whatever specs you need on that model.

  • Business laptop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by loosescrews (1916996) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:23PM (#35633272)
    Almost all consumer laptops are terrible. Get a business laptop if you want something that is any good. Some examples are HP's EliteBook and ProBook lines, Dell's Precision and Latitude lines, and Lenovo's ThinkPad line. Generally speaking, if a laptop doesn't have a trackpoint/pointing stick, it isn't worth having. It doesn't matter if you want to use it or not, it is a good indication of the quality of a laptop. Business laptops generally have: Better Battery life Better reliability No crapware More durable designs Higher performance Better keyboards and Anti-Glare screens Better conductivity and support for a docking station Better and longer warranties
    • by awyeah (70462) *

      Yep, +1 to that. The HP EliteBook (8530p) I have from work is a very solid machine. I don't know how tough it is - I've never dropped it - but it does seem as though it's built really well. Specs are good. And it doesn't look too fancy, which I like.

  • Confucius say: Choosing Windows Laptop Easy! Open Window First!

  • The best way to pick one is to find out the minimum basics of what is wanted (screen size, and whether it will be "gaming" or just basics - web, email, an office suite, and light gaming). Then, write out minimum specs. If you have a processor brand preference, a minimum processor speed, I wouldn't go with less than 4GB RAM and a discrete 256 MB or better video card. HD space in a laptop doesn't matter to me because by the time I've picked everything else I wanted, they have more than my minimum as their
  • by PCM2 (4486) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:26PM (#35633310) Homepage

    First question to ask yourself is: What does your wife want to do with her Windows laptop?

    • Does she carry it around a lot? Take it to the gym in her purse? Look for models with smaller screens that are lightweight.
    • How much does she use it while she's on the go? If the answer is "a lot," then maybe you want to look for models with features designed to wring the most life out of the battery, which includes LED backlit screens and solid-state drives.
    • Does she like to play CDs and DVDs on her computer? Make sure it's got an optical drive, then (which can increase size and weight).
    • What applications does she use? Do they use a lot of RAM? Does she keep all her data on her laptop hard drive? Make sure she has enough RAM and storage (or make sure it's upgradeable).
    • Does she pretty much leave it sitting at home all day like a desktop? Maybe she wants a model with a bigger screen, and maybe battery life isn't important.
    • Does she do a lot of gaming? Look at models marketed to that audience.

    There are a bunch more factors you can consider (for example, maybe you're not planning to give Sony any more money). But until we know what your wife wants a Windows laptop for, it's pretty difficult to point you in any specific direction.

    BTW, you might want to make sure she's comfortable with Windows 7, too. If all she wants is Windows XP, you might skip the stores and start looking other places (eBay, Craigslist).

  • decide on how much disk space and RAM you need, what screen resolution you want, then go to one of the big retailers and find one with a keyboard a trackpad you like. This is what I generally do (with the added check for Linux compatibility). That last 4 I've bought (for myself and others) have all been less than $500, and the only one with a problem was a Dell (screen inverter is going). These are home machines, but are used every day.

    They're almost at the point of being disposable, which kind of bothers

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      I should add that these machines really won't be obsolete in 2 years, but neither will they be high-end machines. I would expect to get 4 years out of them. It's not worth getting a warranty though. An acquaintance who a Mac user paid more for his warranty than my laptop at the time cost. It was worth it as he seemed to have gotten a lemon that was in for repairs 4 times in 3 years before being replaced. Lemons sometimes happen, and the problems usually start to show up in the basic warranty period.
  • Unless your wife has some very specific needs I'd say just hit Staples or Best Buy and see what's on sale. Any off the shelf name brand laptop will run Windows Fine. Strip off the factory supplied junkware (read: Norton/Symantec), add MS Office, and likely she's good to go.

    Of course, I then installed Ubuntu via a Windows installer, and haven't looked back...
  • You don't need a new machine and protect against obsolescence if you are just doing email and web surfing.

    And, you could always Boot Camp Windows onto the Mac Book provided it is an Intel processor.

    Staples, Best Buy, Fry's - what ever is cheap and has a decent comfortable keyboard for her.

    If she's mostly at home and plugged in to power - get a bigger screen.

    If she's on the go - get a screen that is readable but smaller to extend out battery life.

  • In the L500 or L650 ranges. Get an extended warranty - they're not so much more likely to fail, as bl@@dy expensive to fix when they do. Also, Toshiba's extended warranty means courier pick-up and return.

  • by Wrath0fb0b (302444) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @07:38PM (#35633424)

    I get this all the time from my family/relatives. Here's the rundown:

    Get your preferences in order: Screen size, discrete graphics (must/may/must-not), battery life (min) and then just browse Fatwallet's laptop section or slickdeals until something that matches comes up. These days, any intel i3/i5 processor and 3-4GB of RAM will crush light-office-type tasks. I don't worry too much about the brand so long as I've heard of them before. You aren't investing enough to make spending tons of hours on research pay off.

    Next up, I want to share a contrary attitude that many of us in the non-Apple community feel. I hasten to mention that I'm not saying your attitude is wrong, but I want to share a different point of view. You said you don't want something that's obsolete in 2 years, but I kind of wonder why? Spending $600 every 2 years gets you a lot further than spending $1200 every 4 years. If you had bought a $1200 laptop 4 years ago, you'd have a first-gen Core2Duo (Merom), 1GB of RAM, 802.11g whereas $600 was a first-gen (Yonah) Centrino, 1GB of RAM, 802.11g. Meanwhile, 2 years ago $600 got you a Arrandale i3, 3GB of RAM and a far better Intel GMA (one that can accelerate h264@1080p) with 802.11n and +50% battery life. So you got 2 years of a slightly faster laptop in exchange for 2 years with a much inferior one all at the same price.

    Apple gets you into the habit of spending a whole heck of a lot of money for a really nice machine, I'm trying to suggest that in the Windows world, buying less laptop more often nets you more bang for your buck over time. What's more, the commodification of the laptop means you have so much less at stake regarding breakage. I love not caring about cases, biking with laptop in a backpack, traveling around with it, not investing in a laptop-lock-cable, not caring if my nephew spills apple-juice all over it (the keyboard tray got most of it, the laptop lived on). There are people for whom spending more makes sense: graphic designers need a color-accurate IPS LCD, road-warriors need something super portable, gamers need the latest mobile video cards. For the rest of everyone, get a cheapo laptop, beat the crap out of it and then replace it.

    Finally, for those that suggest I'm creating a bunch of unnecessary waste (leaving aside that I'm getting tangible utility out of shorter cycle here), every one of my old laptops has been DBANed and sent over to FreeGeek (where I volunteer) to further their service. It's not waste if you can find a use for it!

    • by turing_m (1030530) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:17PM (#35633786)

      Spending $600 every 2 years gets you a lot further than spending $1200 every 4 years.

      Or spend $600 every 4-6 years. I guess it is laptops we are talking about here, but for a lot of people, most of what they do can be done well with processors 4 years old or more. And in the Linux world, the rate of bloat increase is slower than that of the Windows world, since features are added because they are cool and not to make your existing machine feel slow so that you want to upgrade.

  • If I were going to buy a Windows laptop right now it would almost surely be a ThinkPad. Probably their new X220 when it comes out. All the other manufacturers' stuff seems cheaply made and ridiculous to look at. It's like they're trying to add as much "bling" as they possibly can. ThinkPad's "all black" is as close as I can get in Windows-land to Mac's "all white".
  • I would suggest a Thinkpad T series or X series as her primary machine. The 420, 520, 220 series are quite modern but still rolling out. For a little less money you can get the yesteryear model which offer more choices of features. Dell Latitudes are also solid machines in my experience and I have heard good things about HP's Elite book line but lack first hand experience. As a rule of thumb if you see it in a big box store stay away; the build quality is often compromised for cost, and the Windows install

  • My advice would be to go to a Microsoft store, a brick and mortar one if there's such a thing around where you live, or http://store.microsoft.com otherwise. It's a one-stop display of the best models for each niche and market segment. The redundancy will be very reduced and all the non-competitive models will be filtered out. And when you buy from them, you get your laptop with a custom system install without the brand bloat/crapware, which enhances the out-of-the-box experience considerably.

  • my experience with laptops is this - if you really take it on the road a lot I have found that it is more likely to break before it becomes obsolete

    on my list of craptops that are not well made and break easily:

    1. Dell - most of the affordable ones are pretty cheaply made - we got a deal on a master program I was in where all the students got them, in the end I offered mine up as parts help other keep theirs running - the final straw on mine was when the internal voltage regulator literally went up in smok

  • > "... that won't be obsolete in two years?"

    I'm sorry, I thought you said a XP Laptop.

    They come that way out of the box.

  • My best advice is the same advice I give on buying ANYTHING from a new car to an ice cream cone: once you've made your decision and bought something, just enjoy it and quit shopping them. Watching for sales, trying out the display models in stores, comparing prices and features online, even asking your friends what they bought and how much they paid -- all that is for before you buy and continuing to do that after the fact will only lead to frustration (because there's always going to be a lower price
  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:15PM (#35633766)

    To send you a new wife.

  • by XiaoMing (1574363) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:18PM (#35633794)

    In my opinion, keyboard and touchpad characteristics are probably the most important factors in PC laptops. Other than that, good internal hardware hardware is very cheap and similar among brands (Caveats being Intel chips tend to run a bit cooler for the same performance vs. AMD, and if you care about discrete video go for one that has that, otherwise ram and hard drives are easily accessible/upgradeable, but I'm sure other threads are covering that).

    Keyboards:
    One of the main things about PC keyboards is the Ctrl vs. Fn key. You will find yourself using the Ctrl key very often (less so than in a mac since right click is built in, but still); it's generally more ergonomically comfortable to use the leftmost edge of your left hand to hit the ctrl button if that's where it's located. I know for many laptops I've purchased the Ctrl and Fn key are swapped, and getting to do anything like copy/paste ctrl + C, Ctrl + v, Ctrl + tab, ctrl + click, ctrl + whatever is a minor hand-cramp inducing PITA. If you like keyboard hotkeys, best advice is to find one with the Ctrl keys taking the spotlight.

    Mice:
    Not only do the designs vary by quite a large bit between manufacturers as far as hardware implementation--Some that have one smooth metallic surface that only does tap response, some that have rough textured surfaces for tactile response, to Thinkpads with a nipple and touchpad and about six different ways to click and doubleclick--but it's also important to keep in mind that the mice action will almost NEVER feel as intuitive or as good as a Mac. The hardware is assembled from various OEM distributors, and depending on who they sourced their touchpad to and how good their driver development is, you will either get basic "scroll bars along edge of pad" functionality, or very poorly implemented pinch-zoom. On top of that, I have an Ideapad G-560 with a touchpad so insensitive slash oversensitive at exactly the wrong times you'd think it was steam driven. One HUGE annoyance is the cursor clicking to some random spot when your palm touches it while you're typing an essay. Have that happen a couple times and your document gets swiss cheesed with sentence fragments.
    Unless every review you read for the lappy you're about to get has no qualms about keyboard or touchpad, definitely try to poke around, maybe play solitaire to test out the tap-click-hold-drag functionality, and try typing a couple paragraphs in a word document to make sure the cursor doesn't go Ouija board on you.

  • by freeweed (309734) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @08:40PM (#35633962)

    How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?"

    Think about this for a second - you're looking for something that does the most basic, routine tasks out there. A bottom-of-the-barrel laptop these days ($3-400?) has about 1000x the power you need to surf the web and run MS Office. And it won't be obsolete in 2 years. The same software you run today will work just fine in 2 years, and will take care of any web/office task you could possibly conceive of.

    These days, spending more than $500 on a laptop is pointless unless you use it for games, or as a fullblown desktop replacement (video editing, etc). But web use? Office docs? Email? A 5 year old laptop would suffice.

  • by kimvette (919543) on Sunday March 27, 2011 @10:07PM (#35634460) Homepage Journal

    I would first suggest dual booting or virtualizing Windows on the Mac. Boot Camp, Parallels, and Virtualbox are all good solutions.

    If the goal is to run Windows, with a real two or three-button touch pad or trackpointer, I would look for a notebook which is solidly built, for which you can get decent customer service, and parts are available well out of warranty.

    Build quality limits you to Dell (Latitude and Precision lines only), HP, Lenovo, and Sony.
    Customer service limits you to Dell, HP, and to a lesser extent, Lenovo,
    Long-term (post-warranty) parts availability limits you to Dell and HP, and to a lesser extent, Lenovo.

    What are her requirements? If she needs massive storage or wants mirrored storage, look for a notebook with internal RAID - like the Dell Precision M6500 (I have the M6400, which is the M6500's predecessor, and I love it - desktop chipset, RGB-LED backlit display, it's built like a tank, and is uber-serviceable so easy to upgrade and maintain) or if you don't want to spend that much on a notebook, consider the Latitude line, which generally use the same chassis as the Precision line (so they are also built like tanks) but with mobile chipsets and tend to be slightly lighter. Another option to save money is to call the Dell Outlet and see if they have the model you want as an "open box" return. It would still be marked with a refurb SKU but would be in perfect, as-new condition, and you can save up to $3K on the notebook like I did. Availability from the outlet can be spotty though - I had to call to get the configuration I wanted. They could have 20 of the exact config you want on hand today, and zero tomorrow, and three the next day. People often scour the outlet and flip them on feeBay and at computer fairs.

    The items you want to check:

      * How solid is the chassis? Will the screen hinges hold up?

    On consumer models if you are not careful opening and closing the screen by grasping it at the sides near the hinges you will flex and eventually break the frame. On business models, you can just press down at the top of the screen and it won't flex, and it will close properly. I actually dropped my M6400 at a customer site, and it fell 3' to the tiled-covered concrete floor. It didn't damage it at all but for a consumer chassis I would have had to buy a whole new screen/lid/hinge assembly

      * How serviceable is it? Download the service manuals of the model you are looking at. Are you going to hate the tedium of the four-hour project of upgrading the processor and hard drives, or will it be a 15 minute task? How accessible are the SO-DIMM slots?
      * Does it offer all the connectivity you need?
      * How easily can you get at the heat sinks to clean out the inevitable dust and lint?

    You really didn't mention her needs in detail other than "it needs to run Windows" so if she is happy with the virtual second button and no middle button, just install Windows on the Mac (see first paragraph above). My next notebook will most likely be another Precision mobile workstation (but will check out Lenovo again), and my next desktop an iMac (why no macbook pro? I have one and never use it - I like the three-button layout, numeric keypad, screen, performance, and trackpointer + touchpad on the Precision)

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Sunday March 27, 2011 @11:55PM (#35635000) Homepage Journal

    But trying to pick one out is my job, and I find the the whole process bewildering.

    Let me get this straight: You say you're a "Mac guy" and you need to buy a laptop that will run Windows and you find the process "bewildering". In fact, the author uses the term "bewildered" or "bewildering" at least three times in one paragraph.

    I don't want to say that your statement confirms my belief about most Mac users, but it's really not all that hard. The only difference is that instead of relying on advertisements alone, you can peruse some of the extensive and exhaustive reviews of current laptops from various manufacturers that you can find online. I'm betting that if you Google "Windows laptops reviews 2011" you'll get exactly what you need. Or you can use Consumer Reports if you find the reviews "bewildering". They have little green or black dots for things like reliability, and features and so forth. You can even visit a Microcenter or Tiger Direct in your area and let your wife look them over. The ones that run Windows have these stickers on them that say so.

    You'll be pleased with the prices.

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