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Which Laptop To Buy? 732

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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  • Toshiba (Score:2, Informative)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:00PM (#2164366) Homepage
    I've used everything from the Tecra 730, up to the Satellite Pro 8100. Beautiful machines, and they run linux flawlessly.
  • IBM (Score:2, Informative)

    by aaronl ( 43811 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:02PM (#2164388) Homepage
    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 ( 81360 ) <jake@ort[ ]om ['y.c' in gap]> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:03PM (#2164396) Homepage
    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): /0206-0799-A.html []

  • Compaq 1800T (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tim ( 686 ) <timr@alumni.was[ ... u ['hin' in gap]> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:03PM (#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...
  • Apple iBook (Score:3, Informative)

    by kb3edk ( 463011 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:04PM (#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?
  • Vaio XG700k (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:06PM (#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).
  • Re:Go Dell (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sethb ( 9355 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:07PM (#2164428)
    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.
  • Re:One Word... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:07PM (#2164430)
    hell, runs Linux on it's own under Yellow Dog Linux
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:08PM (#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)

  • Hey Hemos! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:10PM (#2164462)

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

    Download This File [] from 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 elflord ( 9269 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:12PM (#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.

  • Dell Inspirons (Score:2, Informative)

    by cap'nnapalm ( 470760 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:15PM (#2164496)
    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.
  • Re:Asus? (Score:2, Informative)

    by hajibaba ( 468067 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:18PM (#2164531)
    Actually Asus has been making laptops for a while now. I used an old Asus P/233 laptop at my last job, and it was excellent machine, considering the hardware specs (P/233MMX, 48MB RAM, 2.1GB HDD). Excellent screen and keyboard too. Of course, YMMV.
  • by Natalie's Hot Grits ( 241348 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:27PM (#2164597) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:Apple iBook (Score:2, Informative)

    by alfredo ( 18243 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:28PM (#2164604)
    YellowDog Linux will run on it. Take a look, they have an ibook on their home page.
    YDL []

    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.

  • iBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:33PM (#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 mliu ( 85608 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:37PM (#2164664) Homepage
    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:
  • What *I* look for: (Score:3, Informative)

    by solios ( 53048 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:40PM (#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.

  • by Simprini ( 173067 ) <(moc.dauqsqeeg) (ta) (inirpmiS)> on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:50PM (#2164739) Homepage
    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.
  • Re:Macs (Score:1, Informative)

    by company nuncio ( 29090 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:52PM (#2164745)
    More RAM may not be sufficient to make a G3 really happy with OS X. I've been running X exclusively for the last 3+ months on my 266 G3 PB with 192MB of RAM. It's a nice OS to use, and quite stable (some of the apps are another story). However, the poor little G3 gets overwhelmed occassionally, especially when running OS9 apps. I love the machine, after 3 years of daily use it's been very low maintenance. But I'd spring for an iBook in a heartbeat. Or as soon as the business starts making money, I guess.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:53PM (#2164750)
    Whatever laptop you buy, I've always been able to get good RAM, for less, from

    On a friend's laptop, the price difference we got was $483 for maxing the RAM out on a laptop. So he bought the RAM from Crucial, and not from the laptop vendor.

    Crucial is one wing of Micron Computing, which used to make really nice desktops. Dunno if they still are.
  • by sjonke ( 457707 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:53PM (#2164754) Journal
    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
  • Dell Inspiron 7/8k (Score:2, Informative)

    by AlXtreme ( 223728 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:55PM (#2164770) Homepage Journal
    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...

  • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @05:58PM (#2164781)
    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.
  • 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 [] 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 ( [])
    Sound: alsa-0.9.0beta5 ( [])
    PCMCIA: pcmcia-cs-3.1.27 ( [])

    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 xwred1 ( 207269 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:01PM (#2164798) Homepage
    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.
  • Secret of the trade (Score:5, Informative)

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

    for example, check out this link []

    "For example an ODM named Compal makes the Dell Inspiron 5000e, the ChemBOOK 3015, the 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:12PM (#2164853)
    I thought alot about this a few months back, and found much similarity in pricing and hardware between HP, Compaq, and Toshiba (retail), with Dell being just a bit more expensive. Long story short, I went with HP. All other things being largely equal, the HP Pavilions had 2 unique features that most others didn't: 1. Built-in composite TV-out (not heavily advertised but definitely present)....Great for presentations or TV-screen gaming 2. Built-in CD controls on the front, with LCD for track. Allows playing CD's without booting up (and wasting power). Great for airplane trips! Anyway, with everything else being equal between the others (screen size, hard drive, mem, price etc.), these 2 minor features stood out for me in a big way. Only Compaq and the hard-to-find-but-impressive Fujitsu Lifebook had the CD controls, but neither had the TV-out. Finally, I found installing Linux on my HP N5250 to be rather painless...and now you have the choice to go with AMD processors (which would have sealed the deal for me even more back then). All this retails around $1200 now.
  • Re:Go Dell (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:14PM (#2164869)
    The only thing missing from my Thinkpad T22 is the firewire port and slightly lower battery life. Considering the extra features I got over the more expensive powerbook, those are trivial concessions:

    1Ghz PIII CPU
    DVD drive (and it can actually play DVD's under Windows 2000... and soon under Linux too [])
    Titanium shell
    32GB drive
    2 Type I/II/III/Zv card slots
    4.7 lbs
    4 hour battery (self measured, w/speed step)
    built in ethernet and modem (the newer T23 model has a built in wireless modem and antenna)
    1400x1050 display (and will drive an external monitor or projector at 1600x1280)

    When I bought my machine, it also came bundled with a top-mount digital camera (the IBM ultraport camera) a leather case, and one of those 8MB USB memory keys.

    All that for $3999 Canadian, which at current exchange rates is about $2600USD.

  • Love my TiBook! (Score:2, Informative)

    by throatmonster ( 147275 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:34PM (#2164953)
    Don't buy it if you love Intel/Athlon processors. But this thing is fast, light, has a big beautiful screen, does everything I need a computer to do. X 10.0.4 feels fine on it - can't wait for 10.1. The case is incredibly sturdy - my boss dropped his and dented the corner and cracked the outer casing, but the innards (and the screen) came through unscathed. USB, FireWire, 10/100, VGA out (runs dual-monitor mode, allowing me to run a 1280x1024 2nd monitor at work). Looks nice, too (he he). Apple's desktop offerings leave something to be desired, but the laptops are really nice.
  • by pq ( 42856 ) <rfc2324&yahoo,com> on Monday August 06, 2001 @06:45PM (#2165008) Homepage
    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.

  • by Kirby ( 19886 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @07:19PM (#2165162) Homepage
    Some of you may remember Tuxtops, a linux laptop company. We stopped selling laptops at the beginning of the year, and I no longer work for them, but dealing with laptops and support issues on a larger scale has given me at least more data than most people have. Here's some observations:

    * Our best model was the Obsidian (Premium) 30w. This is the same as the Dell Inpsiron 5000, made by a Taiwanese company called Compal (the biggest laptop manufacturer in the world.) I'm actually typing this on one right now. It has a nice-sized keyboard, big screen, powerful components. It isn't lightweight (as far as modern laptops go), but they were by far the most reliable model.

    * The really cheap model we sold, made by ASUS, used mostly desktop parts to cut costs. It was inexpensive, but you paid the price. The units would easily overheat - when we started doing overnight cpu-heavy burn-in tests, it became apparant what the drawbacks of this approach were. For the sales-guy who does email and demos on the road, it'd be okay, but for anyone who knows what a makefile is, avoid these kinds of laptops. They're likely to go into Thermal Shutdown with virtually no notice.

    * We had a really cool model show up last year that was ultralight, with a detachable bay where the CD-ROM and floppy sat. If you could leave that behind, it was a phenomenal design. However, in practice, we found that there were frequently problems with the docking, and many systems were very delicate. Getting it to dock properly could be difficult, moreso than it should be.

    * We had one model that we sold for our first few months that had almost all the pressure from the lid on one hinge. Unsurprisingly, the case cracked easily through regular use - we lost money overall on this unit with all the replacements, and stopped selling it as soon as we saw the trend. This was just poor engineering.

    * An early ultralight we sold had a really awful keyboard and was also prone to heat problems.

    The morals? The quality of a piece of laptop hardware can vary greatly, much more so than in desktops. Our best experiences were with the more traditional designs (I know my current company is also going away from VAIOs and towards the Dell/Thinkpad designs, due to reliability problems in the field.) There are design tradeoffs to make things ultra-light and ultra-cheap, and in my experience, they weren't worth it.

    Go for the big brick with the big screen. Buy from someone who has good tech support - you can't replace parts if they go bad yourself, like with a desktop. Pay attention to what people are saying in places like this thread - laptop models are definitely susceptible to design flaws. From my experience, physical flaws (ie, cracked cases) and overheating are issues to be very sensitive to. (Note: getting warm is different than overheating. Most laptops get warm. Most of them do not regularly go into Thermal Shutdown. That's what you want to avoid.)

    Good luck!
  • by Matthew Weigel ( 888 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @07:48PM (#2165278) Homepage Journal

    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 tb3 ( 313150 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @08:14PM (#2165366) Homepage
    He, he. I know there's been a lot of gushing about the Mac iBook already, but no one's mentioned this: it has no fan. The G3 doesn't need one. It's a stealth laptop. My Dell at work sounds like a jet engine compared to my iBook.
  • by FrankieBoy ( 452356 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @08:23PM (#2165396)
    We use the following where I work:

    Panasonic CF-71 ToughBook - Heavy duty, impossible to break, believe me I know. My users made a weekly event of at least one person breaking their screen on their Toshiba Tecras. Since we started using the Toughbooks for the well-traveled user we haven't had a single break. Also, the tool-less hard drive swap-out is always nice for those remote users.

    Dell Inspiron 8000 - True desktop replacement. DVD player and seperate CDRW, swappable hard drive, huge screen with 1280x1024 or even 1400x1280, very nice for the developers.

    Apple G4 Titanium - What can I say? The coolest notebook this side of the planet. The screen is stupendous and I don't mean just for DVD's. The G4 make OSX useable (no flames please, it's a dog on the G3's). Our execs love them as well as our graphics people.

    IBM ThinkPad T20 - If this thing had a touchpad instead of the freakin eraserhead it would be my favorite. The ThinkPad has always been the Cadillac of notebooks (Gateway being the Ford Fiesta). Tough and with a lot of lovely built-in accessories, it's always a great choice.

    Some features that I like:

    1) Built-in antenna for 802.11b like the G4.
    2) Tool-less removable hard drive.
    3) Built-in Ethernet, modem, USB, FireWire.
    4) Big battery with real-world runtime expectations.
    5) NO MORE AD/DC CONVERSION BRICKS! With some kind of universal power cord like desktops.
    6) Combo DVD/CDRW drive, maybe even a combo with DVDR or DVDRW.
    7) Multiple swap-out drive bays like the Inspiron.
    8) More than 2 PCMCIA slots.
    9) Linux, BSD and Solaris/Intel friendly.
  • by pbryan ( 83482 ) <> on Monday August 06, 2001 @09:42PM (#2165630) Homepage
    Sure, it's binary only, but it works.

    If you want the source to this modem driver, go to []. On Debian, I simply modprobe ltserial and ltmodem, with no options on the IBM ThinkPad X21. SB the same on the T20.

    BTW, it's been updated significantly since 5.68 (6.00 was just released). I'm currently using 5.99 without any significant issues, except sometimes long initial handshaking.
  • Re:Toshiba (Score:2, Informative)

    by HangHigh ( 183020 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @10:39PM (#2165896)
    Toshiba's are great for Linux.

    I'm running the current Slackware on:

    Tecra 750cdt

    Portege 3400 (250MB Disk & 20 MB RAM)
    Portege 620ct
    Portege 320ct

    Yes, I do love notebooks. Worth noting, the same floppy disk will work with all of the above machines. Toshiba's are good with standards within its line.
  • Re:IBook (Score:2, Informative)

    by plastik55 ( 218435 ) on Monday August 06, 2001 @11:26PM (#2166045) Homepage
    Uh huh. I hate to say this, seeing as how I'm typing this on a brand new DVD iceBook, but that 5 hour battery life is only if you turn on all the powersave features and, unfortunatly, that does not work if you are watching a DVD. DVD viewing will give you about 2 hours of battery life before it dies. Enough for most movies, but not all, and certainly not two.

    Well, when you're watching a DVD, the hard drive should turn itself off, and the processor isn't really doing much since the video decoding happens in the graphics chip. So if you have "allow processor cycling" and "reduce processor speed" (which isn't a big penalty, it goes from 500 to 400 MHz) checked, you'll get another boost. I *did* get about 4 hours out of it under those conditions. I was in a dark room though, with the screen brightness set low (this screen is really bright, another thing I like) so that might account for something.

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