Multiuse laptop for school

Tarrosion

Weaksauce
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
110
Hello,

For the past two weeks or so I've been trying to find a laptop for school - and I'm completely overwhelmed. I'd appreciate any and all help I can get in finding an appropriate machine.

Budget: Less is always better, but $1500 is the absolute max. $1200 or less would be far preferable.
OS: Windows (hopefully Windows 7 when it rolls around)
Primary usage: schoolwork and web browsing. I should think that any machine which can support the secondary usages (below) will have no trouble here.
Secondary usage: non-gaming software such as Blender, GIMP, and mathematics/engineering/science software.
Third usage: gaming. I'd like to be able to play games on the laptop, though I don't care much about being able to play recent blockbusters. Since I won't have a lot of time for gaming while I'm at school (and at home I have a nice enough desktop), I'm more interested in playing older games such as the KOTOR series, Civ 3 (4 if the laptop will run it), Jedi Knight 2, Trackmania United, etc.
Battery: I'd like the battery to be able to last through playback of a full-length movie for plane flights and the like. At least two, and hopefully three, hours of word processing/web browsing would be nice. Any gaming, rendering, heavy mathematical lifting, etc would be done by an outlet.
Size: I've never owned a laptop before, but just from seeing some laptops in person at Best Buy and Microcenter, it seems that a 14 inch screen is a good size. I'd be quite happy to go bigger, but:
Weight: I'd like to keep the weight under 6.5 pounds.

I think that about covers my needs. Though I'd love to see a link to an already put together machine, I know nothing about laptops - so even comments like "XYZ manufacturer has very good build quality and their ABC series of laptops should fit your needs."

Thank you very much for your help,
Tarrosion

Edit: I forgot to mention that I don't need much hard drive space at all. A few basic programs, <4 GB of music, and a few old games are all I need. I don't know of SSDs are common in laptops these days, but perhaps that'd be an option for a less fragile and snappier system?
 
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spadefoot

Limp Gawd
Joined
Oct 13, 2000
Messages
424
ASUS N51 Series N51Vf-X1 6.49 lbs, $999 Not sure about battery life, Newegg doesn't seem to list it in the stats.

Dell Studio 15 will probably work for you, too. If you configure it with a better screen, and the better GPU, it will probably get you there for around 1k and 6 lbs.
 

Krycek1

Gawd
Joined
Aug 6, 2004
Messages
724
Lenovo t400 is good. Packs massive power and looks professional for work and school.
 

Bbq

King of Charts
Joined
Feb 21, 2006
Messages
12,272
Second the T400. Can you stand a few extra ounces of weight? You could save $1-200 if you go with the R400 over the T400, and you won't be missing too much. slight increase in thickness and a few ounces of weight.
 
Joined
Nov 24, 2007
Messages
574
I third on the T400 - Very nice Notebook PC and they are durable, as well. With my experience in usage they don't put out too much heat, either
 

Tarrosion

Weaksauce
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
Messages
110
Hello,

I apologize for digging up an old thread, but I need a tiny bit more help. I figure the thread gives a bit of background, so I may as well use it.

Below are the machines I'm considering. I realize it's a bit to ask for someone to look through all the specifications, so if you're not willing to do that I have a couple of basic questions:
- How do I know if the dedicated GPU can be switched off (other than on the Lenovo T400, where it's advertised as a feature)?
- How much weight does the upgrade from 6 to 9 cell battery add?
- I've heard mixed reviews about the T400 build quality (especially the plastic) and Dell build quality. Any comments on this?

Here are the laptops I'm looking at, roughly arranged in order of how seriously I'm considering them.

1) Lenovo T400 (Approx $1350 US [using a student sale discount])

Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor P8800 (2.66GHz 1066MHz 3MBL2)
Genuine Windows Vista Ultimate
14.1 WXGA+ TFT, w/ CCFL Backlight, Camera
ATI Mobility Radeon 3470 with 256MB
3 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1067MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)
UltraNav (TrackPoint and TouchPad) with Fingerprint Reader
320GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm
DVD Recordable 8x Max Dual Layer, Ultrabay Slim (Serial ATA)
Express Card Slot & 7-1 Media Card Reader
Integrated Bluetooth PAN
Intel WiFi Link 5300 (AGN) with My WiFi Technology
Integrated Mobile Broadband upgradable
9 cell Li-Ion Battery
Country Pack North America with Line cord & 90W AC adapter
Microsoft Office Ultimate 2007 Academic Edition [US only]

With this one I would consider the small SSD (+115) since I don't need much space and that would, I think, make the machine less susceptible to drop damage. I might also consider the 6-cell battery (-70) in the interest of saving space and weight; effectively all my heavy use - besides watching movies on planes - would be done by an outlet, and with switchable graphics the 6-cell might suffice (advice here would be appreciated).
Reading through the forums, the T400 seems to get very positive recommendations. However, the price is a bit on the high end (among the computers I'm looking at), and reviews such as this one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8sOO-8LP4E&NR=1 seem to suggest that build quality may not be all it's hyped up to be.

2) Dell Studio 15 ($1350)

Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1, 64-Bit
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz/1066Mhz FSB/3MB cache)
No Microsoft Office
Classic Protection: 3yr In-home Service after remote diagnosis + Complete Care
15.6” High Definition+ (900p) Bright LED Display with TrueLife™ and Camera
4GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 800MHz
Speed: 250GB SATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) with Free Fall Sensor
512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4570
8X Slot Load Super Multi (DL DVD+/-R Drive + RAM support)
Intel® WiFi Link 5100 802.11agn Half Mini-Card
85 WHr Lithium Ion Battery (9 cell)
High Definition Audio 2.0
Standard Keyboard
Black Chainlink

With this one, I've the same concerns about the 9-cell vs. 6-cell battery as above. Also, can the GPU be disabled here? If not, I'd downgrade the the 256mb card (assuming it has lower power consumption).

3) Dell Studio 14z ($1200 [not including an external optical drive])

Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1, 64-Bit
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8600 (2.4GHz/1066Mhz FSB/3MB cache)
No Microsoft Office
3 yr In-home Service after remote diagnosis + Complete Care+Failsafe
14.0” High Definition+ (900p) Bright LED Display with TrueLife™ and Camera/Facial Recognition SW
3GB Shared Dual Channel DDR3 at 1066MHz
Speed: 320GB SATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) with Free Fall Sensor
NVIDIA® GeForce® 9400M G
Dell Wireless 1397 802.11g Half Mini-Card
No Internal Mobro Selected
74 Whr Lithium Ion Battery (8 cell)
High Definition Audio 2.0
Standard Keyboard
Black Chainlink

The warranty options on this one really got me - it seems like adding failsafe to the warranty made it $169 cheaper.

4) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834115592

5) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220521

Here's the interesting bit. Usually in a choice like this, I'd try to evaluate all the options and choose as rationally as possible. However, after reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, it seems like when deciding between products with a large number of attributes (such as laptops or cars), trusting snap emotional responses tends to lead to better decisions than forced rational decisions. Though your comments may change my thinking, right now the seemingly rational choice is the Lenovo T400, but the Dell Studio 14z gives me the most positive emotional response (that could just be because it's a sleeker looking machine, but I suppose that's a criterion as well).

I'd like to thank you in advance for all your help. I've never owned, or considered owning a laptop before. Though I consider myself reasonably tech-savvy, the variety of options has somewhat overwhelmed me. I'm lucky to have found [H]ardform - I've never seen a more helpful group of people.

Thanks,
Tarrosion
 

Dangman

Ninja Editor SuperMod
Joined
Dec 15, 2005
Messages
46,062
- Whether or not the dedicated GPU can be turned has to be advertised. If it isn't advertised, it's generally safe to assume that you cannot turn the dedicated GPU off. AFAIK, only a select few Sony, Alienware and Lenovo laptops have the capability to turn off the dedicated GPU and use the onboard GPU. No Dell laptop has that capability AFAIK.
- At least another pound. Maybe 2 pounds average
- No real comment: You're always gonna see mixed reviews for most products. The youtube review you linked to about the T400 can be countered by this more professional review:
http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=4946&review=lenovo+thinkpad+t400

Just a couple of notes
- For the T400 setup: The P8800 is a not a good buy IMO. The extra $120 you pay for the P8800 over the P8400 only nets you an extra 400Mhz in clock speed. That extra 400Mhz does not provide that much of a real world performance increase to justify the extra $120 over the P8400.

- For the Acer and Asus laptops: The Acer and the Asus laptop you linked to has the fastest mobile GPUs out of the five laptops you linked to. The Asus comes with a standard two year warranty. However the relatively odd LCD resolution of the Asus and Acer is a bit offputting to me. From a price to performance perspective, The Asus is not worth the extra $250 over the Acer. However I dunno how much more it'll cost for a longer warranty with the Acer laptop.

- Out of the five laptops you linked to, only the T400 has the capability to switch between the onboard and integrated GPU.

- For the Dell Studio 15 setup: The HD4570 512MB is not worth the extra $50 over the HD4570 256 from a price to performance perspective as the HD4570 is too slow to take advantage of the extra RAM.

- In terms of gaming power, the T400's HD3470 video card is slower than the Dell Studios' HD4570 video card AFAIK.
 

Cyclone

Limp Gawd
Joined
May 2, 2001
Messages
503
Reading through the forums, the T400 seems to get very positive recommendations. However, the price is a bit on the high end (among the computers I'm looking at), and reviews such as this one, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8sOO-8LP4E&NR=1 seem to suggest that build quality may not be all it's hyped up to be.

that youtube review is very old
lenovo has long ago fixed the keyboard flex issue on the t400
lenovo is the type of company to actively listen and respond to its customers
 

Pylon

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
1,299
I'd also agree on the T400 recommendations.

If you want better graphics than a 3470 though go for the 15-inch Lenovo T500, which is equipped with switchable HD 3650 graphics.
 
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