Laptop Recommendations

Will Rickards

Storage Freak
Joined
Jan 23, 2002
Messages
1,987
Location
Here
Website
willrickards.net
So as I indicated in another thread my main desktop is quite old and the location means it isn't used much.
So I'm considering a laptop.

I was looking the at 15" retina macbook pro and the xps 15 with the high res display.
Then I thought maybe just hook the laptop up to an external monitor as I already have one that is large and has good color reproduction.
So this opens up the pool of laptops.

So I'm looking for recommendations.
Maybe an okay screen for photo review? But use the monitor for retouching?

Surface Pro 3?
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
The Surface Pro 3 is nice, but the Surface Pro 4 is coming in less than two months, so if you want to go that route and can wait a little, don't rush the purchase.

The Dell XPS 13 is getting a lot of praise and I've read at least one positive review about the XPS 15 (on Ars Technica IIRC). I'll never, ever, recommend an Apple computer. Lenovo also has a nice slim laptop (Yoga 3 Pro), but only with the 3200x1800 screen, as they use a TN pannel in their FullHD laptop screen.

All of the above (except the XPS 15) have smaller screens than what you asked for (15"). All of them are compromise focusing on mobility. If you want more horse power and are ok to sacrifice portability by adding a little weight, you can't really go wrong with a Thinkpad T550. Best laptop keyboard on the market. With the higher-res screen only though, as the FullHD pannel on this one sucks too.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
Up sides to the MBP: Good overall specs and weight, lovely screen. Bad things about the MBP: No upgrade options, love or hate input devices and questionable support if you don't live within five minutes of an Apple store, expensive.
Good things about a Surface Pro: Amazing specs and weight, lovely screen. Down sides: Zero upgrade options, love/hate input devices. Pricing as bad or worse than Apple, being more or less stuck with Windows.
Thinkpad T: Modular. Can be repaired. Can be upgraded. Amazing Service. Potentially less expensive than a Surface or MBP. Ridiculously durable. Down Side: Screen will be meh. Weight. Ugly.
Dell XPS: No idea, but XPS machines are consumer hardware that might have the worst associated support of anything being discussed here, depending on your proximity to an Apple store and/or willingness to argue about Apple Store proximity.

Just in general I'd say that Asus ultrabooks are pretty sweet if you're looking for a lightweight machine with a good screen and decent performance.
 

Stereodude

Not really a
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Messages
10,865
Location
Michigan
Some of the Thinkpad T series machines now have IPS/wide viewing angle non-TN screens. My work T440s has one (14.1" FHD). The screen isn't quite as nice as the 14.1' FHD one in my HP Eliteboot 840 G1 though. It seems the screen Lenovo used has some enhancement films that noticeably narrows the light output in the vertical angle.
 

Will Rickards

Storage Freak
Joined
Jan 23, 2002
Messages
1,987
Location
Here
Website
willrickards.net
Just wanted to clarify, I'm planning to hook it up to my regular monitor for photo review/edit. So the high-res screen isn't a requirement.
It is what I initially wanted but I think I'm still asking too much there. It would just be too expensive I think.
So I'm looking for some processing power and an SSD. Probably a larger one like 512GB or larger.

This also means I need to put my main storage on the network. Any benefit to changing the OS on my old computer for that? Or just leave windows 7 (upgraded to 10 later) on there?
 

blakerwry

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Oct 12, 2002
Messages
4,203
Location
Kansas City, USA
Website
justblake.com
I recently replaced a 15" XPS laptop with a mac book air. I thought the 13" screen might be a compromise, but I'm very surprised at how legible the new laptops are. After experiencing the portability of the smaller, lighter units I don't think I'd go back to a 15". overall, I'm very pleased. Obviously, don't plan on upgrading a surface or a mac tablet/laptop; Get what you need upfront. Sell and replace when you need more horsepower. If you plan to be using it for several hours a day, I'd suggest a retina/HiDPI display.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
I was looking at this laptop: ASUS P2710JA-XS51
Any opinions? This is for a sub $900.00 budget.
I truly don't like 17" screens. They're too heavy, too delicate and they suck battery for what I'd call insufficient surface area benefit vs. a 14" or 15" screen. To my mind, either you need a portable device or you need some kind of a desktop-size screen and the 17" laptop is the worst of both worlds.
I don't think there's much difference between 13" and 14" either, but I find modularity important for the specifics of my laptop needs, which doesn't leave me many options.
I've had generally good experiences with Asus laptops over the last three years. It's like pulling teeth to get me to say nice things about consumer laptops generally, so that's probably the highest endorsements I could give.

For a $900 budget, I'd probably be holding out for a Broadwell (Core i 5xxx) part. The big generational changes at this point are for power efficiency and GPU capability, so if you're spending the money it makes sense to get as much as you can.
 

Will Rickards

Storage Freak
Joined
Jan 23, 2002
Messages
1,987
Location
Here
Website
willrickards.net
Thanks coug, merc and all.
I see that Broadwell is the new thing. But Skylake is the next thing. Do we know when that will be available in laptops?
I could wait till the end of the year probably. It's just my birthday soon so I was looking at what to get.
[Edit] I see from reading coug's link and the linked articles there that Skylake is expected late 2015. I guess I'll just wait for that.
 
Last edited:

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
It's coming in Q4 2015. It's probably worth waiting since it'll have actual architectural changes and tech improvements that will matter for the long term, like DDR4 support and a whole new chipset nomenclature.
 

Santilli

Hairy Aussie
Joined
Jan 27, 2002
Messages
5,077
I've been looking at upgrading my Panasonic laptops into this century. I've been waiting for either a reasonably priced i3 or i5, or the refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad.


The core duo processors start at about 150, and they come in some very expensive packages, like the X200.
At about 200 (these are newegg prices, current) you start finding specs like this:

Refurbished: Lenovo ThinkPad T410 [Microsoft Authorized Recertified] 14.1” Notebook with Intel Core i5 2.4Ghz, 4GB DDR3 RAM, 250GB HDD, DVDROM, Windows 7 Professional 64 Bit

In my limited laptop buying, mainly Panasonic, and Apple, I have found upgrading an operating system is usually stopped by no driver development.
So you spend 1200 dollars for your Panasonic CF-51, find another that has a processor twice as fast, but can't find drivers for the other, newer components in your machine.
I tend to view a laptop as an appliance you buy, get what you want up front, and then buy another when something is so compelling you either want, or have to change.

On the Mac side, that makes me never buy another. I've been through this with Macs costing 4000 dollars, and doing much what you are doing, but, upgrading them was intentionally
blocked by Apple.

Merc has long suggested the Lenovo Thinkpad line is the place to be.

With the i3 and i5 cores reasonably priced, and sometimes the i7, and the prices down, that would be my pick. Most are available with Windows 7. I do use Windows 8.1 with Classic Shell, and Start8
worked well, also.

I can't help but think whatever you buy now is not going to be able to run Windows 10, and that for that reason, you should minimize your laptop investment, if you are going to use Windows.

Can't find any SSD equipped Lenovos at newegg. I'm with you on suggesting this is mandatory.

If I decide to do this, I seen T420 and T510's with excellent specs. Also a T430S with excellent reviews, but it's 700 dollars.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA0AJ3267959&cm_re=lenovo_laptop-_-34-318-307-_-Product

Lenovo Laptop T430S Intel Core i5 3320M (2.60GHz) 8GB Memory 256GB SSD 14.0" Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit

Haven't priced the cost of an SSD, or if the refurbs come with any sort or restore system, or, if you have to clone the drive.

DD is REALLY good at that;-)

In looking at prices, it appears the SSD's are used as an excuse to charge a very high price for what otherwise might be bought under 250 dollars with a mechanical drive.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
There's an Amazon Reseller called Computer Upgrade King that typically offers SSD-equipped Thinkpads at competitive prices instead of nutso-bonkers Lenovo retail. The laptops are new and carry their manufacturer warranty. I haven't had any problem extending that warranty after purchase. I've used them and so has dd. I still think Thinkpad T and the T4xxs Ultrabooks are just about the best thing going for general purpose notebooks, though I'm well aware that they don't work with every budget.

There's not really anything wrong with buying a lease-returned machine if you're looking for a cheapie. I've actually been buying and reselling Tx20s for people who ask for a decent, inexpensive option. I've managed to get them as cheap as $150 and I can slap an SSD in them and sell for $300 using the OEM COA. That works out just everyone involved and I think it's a better option than buying an Acer at Walmart.

For what it's worth, Greg, Windows 10 runs on damned near everything. I haven't gone out of my way to try something as intentionally gimpy as a Pentium D, but I have tried it on an AMD E-350 (aka "The CPU that makes you wish you had paid the extra $3 to get an Atom") and several Vista-era Core 2 Duos. From a subjective perspective, it runs at about the same speed as Windows 8.1.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
The Surface Pro 3 is nice, but the Surface Pro 4 is coming in less than two months, so if you want to go that route and can wait a little, don't rush the purchase.
Unfortunately, I was a bit optimistic about the launch date of the Surface Pro 4. It looks like it will only be introduced in October.

Source.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
I would wait to see if the Surface 4 suffers thermal throttling like the Pro 3 first:

https://m.reddit.com/r/Surface/comments/28v4dz/the_surface_pro_3_thermal_throttling_thread/
It only happens when the GPU is quite solicited. Given how slim the design is, it's no shocker that some thermal compromises had to be made. I would also question the rational of buying such a thin tablet and use it for intense 3D gaming (pretty much any 3D gaming considering the very high screen definition). It's a tablet: Angry Bird yes, Crisis 3 no. You have to understand the intended use.
 

DrunkenBastard

Storage is cool
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
695
Location
on the floor
It seems that going to a significantly thinner form factor causes significant performance degradation compared to the previous Surface 2 Pro:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/8077/microsoft-surface-pro-3-review/3

Given this is billed as a full "Windows PC" as opposed to a limited function tablet I would think playing PC games on the integrated video isnt a corner case.

Frankly given Microsoft's history of hardware platform abandonment i wouldnt be surprised if they pull the plug on the hardware experiment after releasing the Surface 4 later this year. Pushing hardware seemed to be Ballmer's strategy whereas Nadella is pushing much harder for MS to be a services company. The margins on software are so much higher than hardware for MS...
 

DrunkenBastard

Storage is cool
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
695
Location
on the floor
My ideal laptop is the forthcoming Lenovo P50 or P70 workstation class units (P70 downside being a not easily swappable battery).
 

Will Rickards

Storage Freak
Joined
Jan 23, 2002
Messages
1,987
Location
Here
Website
willrickards.net
Still waiting for skylake myself.
Windows 10 basically crippled my wifes laptop though. Linux is the order of the day there. A cheap SSD might also be in order but we're trying not to put any money into it.
 

DrunkenBastard

Storage is cool
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
695
Location
on the floor
Ended up ordering an Asus ROG G751 with GTX980M for my youngest, he still has 4 years before college so weight won't be a problem. Eldest has one year to go and has requested something more portable in the 13" range. Asus did announce the successor to the 751 with Skylake at IFA but couldn't wait a couple months for it to hit retail.
 

time

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 18, 2002
Messages
4,871
Location
Brisbane, Oz
Need to find a replacement for a Lenovo X300 (13.3" 1440x900 1.3kg). To get the same screen height, it will need to be a 14" 1600x900 or preferably 1920x1080. IPS panel very much preferred. I think anything over 4.5lb (2kg) would be too much of a shock to a user who has had 1.3-1.6kg laptops for the last 10 years. Any CPU that is not an Atom and clocked over 1.8GHz will suffice. Prefer 8GB RAM but 4 would do at a pinch. Minimum 250GB SSD.

This laptop will will be used every day and spend quite some time in different countries, particularly China. It's expected to last 4 or 5 years.

The Asus models I've seen seem to always come with Windows Home - this will need the Pro version. We have access to fewer models in this part of the world, but I'd be grateful for people's suggestions regardless. I assume Acer still sucks for reliability? Is it still worth mucking about with HP Pro Books? Is Lenovo T series the only game in town?
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
The Pro Book are a no go IMO. Way too fragile, keyboard sucks, screen can be bent easily, feels flimsy, etc. A Lenovo T Series would be too big, but the X1 Carbon is a very nice and small laptop. On HP side, I've recently bought two HP ZBook 15 G2 and they were quite nice. However, even the ZBook 14 G2 would be too heavy for your user and except for a very few selected SmartBuy models, they are quite expensive.

There's also the Lenovo Yoga Pro, but it's a notch below the X1 Carbon. It is, obviously, more affordable too.

I wouldn't buy an Acer laptop with my own money for sure. All the Dell laptops I've been in contact with felt like maintream consumer-grade products, not business-class. I admit that I have not seen one of the most recent generation, but I'd be quite worried about Dell's support in China.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
Acer tend to have decent hardware specs for the money but they are way too delicate, especially for travel. Acer also doesn't have a business-grade machine. It's strictly consumer products.
Lenovo should be an option (X-series or maybe Txxx-s series), but Asus Ultrabooks are another choice to put on the table if they're available. An Anytime Upgrade to Windows is probably easier than spending days or weeks looking for a better/cheaper machine that has Pro Windows already.
The Dell XPS13s are widely admired for size, weight and screen quality, though I've only played with one for long enough to put my collection of internet safety tools on it.

Having recently field-stripped one, I'm almost positive that Probooks are rebadged Pavilion notebooks in much the same way that Vostro notebooks are rebadged Inspirons. Definitely nothing to get excited about.

Toshiba has Tecra T40 and T50 models, but I've never actually seen one. The specs and pricing seem to be similar to Asus however.

And the Surface line, which are at least credible for your needs.
 

Howell

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Feb 24, 2003
Messages
4,740
Location
Chattanooga, TN
I love my S1 yoga. Just don't have all the specs at hand but it might suit your needs. I would expect support in China to be good. ;)
 

Chewy509

Wotty wot wot.
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
3,099
Location
Gold Coast Hinterland, Australia
Having played with a new HP Probook recently, I have to agree with Coug, they have really lost their appeal.

About the only real options are either the Lenovo X1 or T-series...

As for Asus models, haven't been impressed with them for a while...

Another option are Fujitsu Lifebooks? eg S904 or T904? (13.3" screens, but with 2560 x 1440 IPS panels). Always been impressed with them, just are hard to come by in retail, therefore can't say exactly what they are look today... (Umart has some in stock).
 

Stereodude

Not really a
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Messages
10,865
Location
Michigan
I like my personal HP Elitebook 840 G1 more than the the Lenovo T440 I have for work. The HP has 2 SODIMM slots, not soldered RAM + one slot like the T440. Both have the FHD wide viewing angle screen. The one in the HP is better though. The Lenovo still end up with a narrow viewing angle due to the enhancement films in the backlight which keep the light distribution quite narrow. Contrast doesn't fall off, just brightness. The lack of physical buttons on the touchpad on the T440 is a giant misstep. I think the T450 addresses that. The HP has a better keyboard backlight. Lenovo's backlight keyboard solution is a joke. When enabled the HP turns on when type something or use the touchpad and then turns off after about 10 seconds if you stop typing or using the touchpad. The Lenovo one when enabled stays on all the time even if you're not typing for 15 minutes.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
How about the T450s?
I've checked the weight specification and at 4lbs, it's within your limit. Having used an X1 Carbon aside the T440 (haven't seen a T450 yet), I prefer the X1 Carbon. The screen is better and being 1.23lbs lighter, it's much more portable. You do what you want, but the smaller model felt superior to me.

An X1 Carbon with an i5 5300U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Windows 7 Pro (or 10, same price) and the QHD (2560x1440) IPS panel cost 1871$CDN. It shouldn't be much more than that in AU$. A well configured T450 will cost about the same price. Maybe 100$ to 150$ less at most.

I haven't seen a Fujitsu laptop in years.

We bought Toshiba Tecra Z50 last year and while better than the HP ProBook, they aren't up to the level of the Lenovo T series or HP ZBook. They were very easy to scratch too.
 

Howell

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Feb 24, 2003
Messages
4,740
Location
Chattanooga, TN
The S1 has a 12.5" display and I assume is a fair bit lighter than the 14" Yoga 500. Do you think the extra weight would spoil the experience?
There is a fair bit of border around my screen before the bezel. I would not be surprised if the 14incher is mostly the same machine. There would of course be a slight battery life penalty.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
The HP has 2 SODIMM slots, not soldered RAM + one slot like the T440.
Just a tiny correction since I just noticed this: The full-on Txy0 or Txy0p models DO have two DIMM slots. The Txy0s models just have one slot. They're the slimmer/lighter guys and lack some of the modular characteristics anyway, so that's not wholly unexpected.

I really don't like the keyboards on new model Thinkpads. I have a pair of T450 laptops sitting here and there's a lot of weird, stupid defaults. You have to install Lenovo's keyboard control before you can turn god-damned F-lock off and I miss the LED on the screen for keyboard illumination. It's actually been gone for a while, but looking at the backlit keyboard they're using now and... no, I can't say I'm impressed either. The actual light had a much greater overall utility. I also don't like the chiclet keyboard, but that fight has already been lost, as have the physical buttons for the touchpad.

The screen in general is definitely a lot nicer than my T420 though. I don't have a Tx40 to compare with. I wonder if there's been any subjective improvement just since last year. One would hope so. Thinkpad display quality has always been a weak spot.
 

Stereodude

Not really a
Joined
Jan 22, 2002
Messages
10,865
Location
Michigan
I suppose I should have been clear that I have a T440s for work, not a generic T440. That was an oversight on my part. I also noticed the keys on the keyboard leave marks on the LCD on the T440s. They stick up far enough to contact the screen when it is closed. Also, I see that the track-nipple on the T450s has physical buttons again, but still no physical buttons at the bottom of the trackpad.
 

Tea

Storage? I am Storage!
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Messages
3,720
Location
27a No Fixed Address, Oz.
Website
www.redhill.net.au
I think the new Thinkpad keyboards are better than the old ones; much nicer feel, very practical.

I don't much like the idea of a backlit keyboard instead of the Thinklight, but haven't actually tried it.

The new Thinkpad touchpads are really, really horrible. Maybe you get used to them if you own one (I've only used them, on a variety of new Thinkpads, for very short periods - usually I plug a real trackball or mouse in of course) but don't like them at all. What were they thinking?

"Thinkpad display quality has always been a weak spot." Sure has! My last T Series ... er .. T400? has a shockingly bad screen. My current one (T530) is vastly better, perfectly usable - but still nothing to write home about.
 

CougTek

Serial computer killer
Joined
Jan 21, 2002
Messages
8,692
Location
Québec, Québec
The new Thinkpad touchpads are really, really horrible. Maybe you get used to them if you own one...
No, you don't. They are horrible from the first day to the last. A mouse is mandatory with a Thinkpad. Few people are good with the trackpoint, but even for those who are (like me), fatigue comes a lot quicker using this than a mouse.
 

Mercutio

Fatwah on Western Digital
Joined
Jan 17, 2002
Messages
20,329
Location
I am omnipresent
Website
s-laker.org
The only touchpad I've ever had difficulty with is Apple's. The T450's doesn't bother me a bit, though I do think it's bigger than it needs to be.
 
Top