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Buying first laptop, help please.

by lisa.s.25 / January 20, 2008 2:48 AM PST

Hi, im just now starting my research for my first laptop that i am going to be getting later this year, probably this summer. I was just hoping that maybe i could get some tips. Like maybe what brands would be the best to look into. It doesnt have to be a really simple easy to use laptop, i am actually pretty good with computers and figuring out how to do stuff its just that im used to using them at school so im not sure how to go about getting my own. I appreciate any tips that you give me cause i have no idea where to even start.

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RE:Buying first laptop, help please.
by marsdta / January 20, 2008 3:11 AM PST

heres a couple of questions to help you get started.

What is your budget?

How are you planning on using the laptop? (school,work,entertainment,gaming, editing video/pics)

Screen size?

Preference of OS? (Vista,XP,OSX)

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by lisa.s.25 / January 22, 2008 8:18 AM PST

budget= like up to $2,000

usage= school, entertainment(digital photos, movies, and music mostly), and dealing with videos/pics/music player(i have a digital camera and i have an ipod classic so i have to be able to put music and videos on it quickly

screen size= somewhere in the middle, not the big 17" ones but not the 12" ones either preferably something in between

OS= os??? what is os exactly?

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OS= Operating System
by marsdta / January 23, 2008 9:23 AM PST
In reply to: ok....

i mentioned this because there is several to choose from and depending on your choice will limit which laptop you can get. If you want to stick to windows xp the only one i can think of that still offers it is dell, but i could be wrong.

If you want to give vista a try than any new computer will do. And if you choose OSX than you got three choices (macbook, macbook air, and macbook pro)

As to specific brands i prefer HP. i really like there dv2700 series. ( i own the older 2200 series) the screen is perfect at 14.1 for me but you may want to go up to the 6700 series for the 15.4 its your own personal preference. Other brands i recommend it the sony CR series and ASUS has great machines too .. Dell is another reliable brand, but again its personal preference it might be for you but i don't like them.


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forgot too add
by marsdta / January 23, 2008 9:25 AM PST
In reply to: OS= Operating System

depending on you Operating system there are system requirements for each. if you do choose vista( i like it but its not for everyone) you need 2 gb of ram


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get an xps
by alice_b0wie / January 25, 2008 12:11 PM PST
In reply to: ok....

if you want a good notebook in your price range get a dell xps with vista ultimate. don't listen to these long winded posts. why get confused by babblings? a 15" to 17" screen is perfect. if macs ran for more than a month i would recommend them, but why waste money on something that will be repaired more than you'll be using. get the xps!

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Macs are more versatile - less vulnerable
by varase / January 27, 2008 3:27 AM PST
In reply to: get an xps

My experience is that Mac laptops (and Macs in general) last longer than PCs ... more or better quality control, and less commodity components). In addition, the system itself feels more current because each succeeding generation of the OS gets more efficient, not less. The one exception to this is when Apple goes an makes some kind of quantum leap - like when they jumped from the 68K to the PPC or PPC to the Intel architecture when performance of new machines increase exponentially and the software developers started taking advantage of that fact.

You wouldn't believe some of the stuff we've seen inside Dells (circuit board traces missing, but a wire soldered on in parallel to where the trace should be). I don't think such things would make it past Apple's QC.

Apple's offerings don't have quite the granularity of those of Dell or Gateway (and don't drop down as far in terms of capability), but at their performance and feature points they're very competitive with anything else out there.

In my experience, a heavily used consumer PC lasts somewhere in the area of 2-3 years before it expires due to performance-related issues (which make it feel like an old PC), and has to be reimaged once a year for causes ranging from misapplied updates (which cause some critical component to malfunction) to malicious software attacks - as evidenced by the fact that you must run an antivirus package and keep it up to date if you're going to connect to the internet.

Macs on the other hand pretty much keep on chugging, and have embedded services built-in which you can enable on need - like ftp, ssh, telnet, cifs, nfs, etc. The software which comes with a Mac would cost you more than half the cost of the system if you wanted or needed them on a Windows system, both at a consumer level (iLife) or the server level (unix daemons).

Now days, you can run Windows on a Mac either via dual-boot or via virtualization software like VMWare Fusion or Parallels (for Win software you can't live without) - though your Win OS still has to be protected and coddled like a normal Win system.

The funny thing is, once you've set up your Win environment it become more clear how few things you actually need Win for - usually games or some specific work-related proprietary application only available under Windows. Anything based on standards usually has one or more Mac native solutions available.

The nice thing about owning a Mac is that you can run Windows if you need or want to, but you always have MacOS X available - and when that Win image/system dies yet again, you have a productive system you can fall back on and decide if you really want/need to rebuild it yet again (something which I think terrifies Microsoft).

It's no wonder they'd rather sell you Windows running on a PC (where you've basically got no choice) than on a Mac (where you can discover you don't really need Win any more).

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Not just your first laptop, but your first computer
by gurnx / January 25, 2008 1:22 PM PST
In reply to: ok....

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're buying your first computer, not just your first laptop.

Here's what I would do-
- find out what your school recommends

- look to my friends. If I had a friend who was really tech-heavy I'd lean on him; what does he like & why? Would he be willing to help when (not if!) you have problems, etc. Agree on a rate (even if it's pizza & beer) for his time when he helps out.

If you were my friend and asked for my insights-

If your school is heavy-PC; I like the Lenovo thinkpads. I've owned 5 of 'em over the past few years, very reliable, rugged, easy to update, etc.

If your school is mac-friendsly I'd point you toward a Macbook Pro; expensive on the front-end but keep their resale value very well.

If all other things are equal I'd point you toward a mac as it seems to be an easier OS to learn on.

Thanks for asking and happy computing!

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kinda yes & kinda no
by lisa.s.25 / January 27, 2008 5:51 AM PST

Well i mean have a desktop computer at home which is actually the one im typing on the forums on cause our school has the forums blocked but anyways, i had mainly nothing to do with buying this computer. My parents bought it, with the help of my cousin who is really good with computers.

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How to buy a laptop
by gary_hend / January 21, 2008 11:46 PM PST

I recently wrote an article about how to buy laptops, so the following should help you out.

Some of the things you need to consider when buying a laptop include:

1. Processor
One of the first things you need to consider in a laptop is the CPU. The latest laptop CPUs include Intel's Core Duo and Core 2 Duo processors which outperform older single-core Intel processors (e.g. Pentium M). Other laptops use the AMD Athlon Turion 64 X2 dual-core processor - which is also a good performer. In general, however, if you're looking for a laptop, I'd advise you to look for one with an Intel Core Duo processor. You can also read this guide to find out more.

2. System memory
The amount of RAM in the laptop is very important. If you're not short of cash, my advice is to get at least 1GB of RAM - that is the minimum you need to get newer PC applications to run fast. Also remember that you can always add more memory to your existing laptop. You may be interested in this short guide on how to install new memory modules into a laptop.

3. Graphics memory
Laptop graphics are another feature you will want to consider. Typically, I'd say you should go for 128MB of dedicated video RAM. Also, ensure that the graphics memory is used solely for graphics use and not shared with the main memory. If you intend to play games on the laptop, then look for advanced 3D graphics chips with about 256MB to 512MB of dedicated graphics memory. Be prepared to fork out a lot more cash though.

4. Screen
You will also want to take a look at the laptop screen. Laptop screens have recently become bigger. Most of them have gone widescreen so you can watch movies or edit spreadsheets more comfortably.

If you intend to use the laptop from home a lot, then I'd go for a 17-inch wide screen. If you are more concerned about portability or if you travel a lot, then laptops with screen sizes of 12.1 or 13.3 inches might suit you better. There are also 14.1- or 15-inch screens for laptops, but I believe manufacturers are shifting away from these models.

5. Battery
Here's another critical factor - laptop battery life. I personally find it very frustrating to have my notebook power run out after 15 minutes at Starbucks. What you need to do is to buy a laptop that has about 3.5 hours of battery life, running on a Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processor. Make sure you question the retailer on how long the battery can last - a short battery life is usually a deal breaker for me.

6. Keyboard and Pointing Device
Some people believe that the keyboard and pointing device on a laptop is important. If you have big fingers, you might be more comfortable typing on a larger notebook keyboard than a small one. Make sure you try the laptop out - get the feel of typing and navigation before you buy the laptop.

7. Optical drives
I'd usually recommend getting a laptop with a rewritable DVD drive as a minimum. One thing you need to know is that some laptops sacrifice a DVD drive in exchange for a lighter weight and portability. If you don't think you need a DVD drive all the time, then you might want to get a model that doesn't have one.

8. Hard drive
In the laptop hard drive department, what can I say? More is better. These days, you can get a notebook hard drives coming in sizes of 160GB or more. You can also get SATA hard drives if you have more cash.

9. Weight
Another thing to note is the weight of the laptop. Now, when you buy a laptop, always remember that the total weight includes the notebook AND the AC adapter, any external modules, and their cables. These can add up to quite a bit of weight.

10. Communications
These days, you will find that most laptops come with at least two USB 2.0 ports - I'd recommend that as a minimum. If you do a lot of video editing, then a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port also becomes essential.

You should also check for good network capabilities. Make sure your new laptop has built-in ethernet capability, a built-in wireless connection and also built-in Bluetooth (if you need to transfer data between your mobile phone and the laptop).

Some of the laptops also include card slots for removable media such as CompactFlash, Secure Digital and MultiMediaCard. If you take a lot of digital photos, then this feature might matter to you.

Hope this helps you out.

Best Regards,
Gary Hendricks

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buying first laptop
by clubsteward / January 25, 2008 2:25 PM PST

i have found the ACER ASPIRE 9300 comes with windows vista preloaded to be a good buy have had mine for 9 months with no problems comes fitted with web cam/daul core/17 inch screen/160gbhdd/2gb ddr2/dvd-super multi double layer/802.11b/g wireless lanand upto 400mb nvidia geforce[tm]go 7300 turbocache i hope this has been some help to you. merv.w

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first laptop
by jik47 / January 25, 2008 3:04 PM PST


If I were you I would get a Dell. For screen size I would get a 14" or 15", I have a 14.2" Dell Latitude and it is alright for size. Not too big but not too small and nice size package to carry around. On your operating system get Windows XP and not Vista. Read up on Vista and you will see all the bad posts about it. Uses way too much RAM and what people all say it is too slow. At Dell you can still get XP loaded onto a machine and it is a much better operatings system with less headaches that Vista has.Get a good graphics card on the machine and a 80-120 GB. hard drive. The 120 GB is what I would try to get. Make sure it has WiFi on the machine to connect wirelessly. Do some research on the Web but the main thing is the operating system and I stress getting XP versus Vista. You will enjoy the XP much more and get the XP Professional. Hope this helps and I not a techno file, just a average user of my laptop. I bought a refurbished corparate machine of eBay, with warranty and it is great machine and saved a ton of money. That is not a bad way to go especially for your first machine so you can get the feel and using one to then know your likes and dislikes and not out a lot of money. Then later you can buy your dream machine. GOOD LUCK!

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All good points and great responses
by vewert / January 25, 2008 10:37 PM PST
In reply to: first laptop

However, the new age of college students like myself have began a switch it seems toward the Mac computer systems. My college already has a computer lab full of iMacs and I live in I do not know, since we are "technolgically insufficient". As of now, I have an HP dv6000 laptop and I am comfortable with it; yet, the one aspect which causes its downfall is the battery life. 2 hours of battery life for the standard 6 cell battery unless you upgrade to the 12 cell which protrudes out the bottom of the laptop significantly. Comparable Macs I've heard get from 3-5 hours. I'm sure other laptops do get great battery life but for me, 4 hours of back to back lectures is not cutting it for my HP.

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Buying 1st Laptop
by frugum2 / January 25, 2008 11:24 PM PST

If you haven't received this advise yet, after lots of input from those "in the know" here's what I did...
Go to DELL'S web site - search for "outlet" - You'll find refurbished computers - don't be afraid of the word "refurbished" on this site -- it's the official DELL site - you're not buying from an untrusted name.
All of these offerings are up to all DELL factory specs, and if you didn't tell anyone - you'd never know it wasn't new.
I got an Inspiron 1420 laptop (Rated tops on Consumers Reports) with everything I wanted. I first checked to see what a "new" one would cost me -- $1,123.00. The exact same "refurbished" cost me $669.00. You don't get as long a warranty, but at a savings of $454.00 it's really worth it... Good luck.

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Don't cut corners
by gkamer / January 26, 2008 12:16 AM PST
In reply to: Buying 1st Laptop

Gary and the others have offered excellent advice. About the only thing I can add is this.... There are a lot of things in life you can cut corners on to save some money. Buying a laptop is NOT one of them. You should figure out how much you can afford to spend on a laptop, and than spend that amount. Dont settle for a less powerful video card now to save a few dollars only to find out a month later you should have gotten the better one from the start.

Unlike desk top systems, laptops are not very easy to upgrade and when there is something you can upgrade it usually ends up costing more that it would have cost to get the upgrade in the first place. I speak from experience here, if you have'nt noticed Happy

Here is another suggestion. Recently in a CNET forum I was reading about the new Mac operating system that came out. There was a link to a review of it and I checked it out. I have to admit I was pretty darn impressed by some of the features of the Mac. I would definitely give Mac a serious look if I were in the market again for a laptop.

Anyway. I hope this helps a little in your decesions.....

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Anything but acer
by jp200069 / February 1, 2008 12:42 PM PST
In reply to: Don't cut corners

I suggest HP!!!!! I've had three HP's and never really had any problem with and matter of fact i'm on one right now thats 3 years old. I bought a acer 9100 notebook 18 months ago and it has been nothing but a problem. I sent it in for repairs to the usb ports and since then gave it to my nephew to play games on it. Well just last week I opened it up to install 120gig kingston harddrive and 2 more gigs of corsair ram and to my suprise there was 9 screws missing (only one screw holding the fan in place). I notified customer support and the told me that I had to send it in to place the screws in but I had to pay the shipping. Well all I have to say is customer support is important!!!!! HP is the way to go in my books. LOL they had HITACHI ram in it

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Great Laptops in your price range!
by diesel503 / January 26, 2008 12:23 AM PST
In reply to: Buying 1st Laptop

Check out the TOSHIBA QOSMIO! This is a great laptop for all uses. Weather it is for school,gaming,entertaimnent or whatever you need this machine is a powerhouse. The model I have in mind is the G35-AV600. Priced anywhere from 1300 to 1700. This model has dual hard drives. 80 gigs a piece. NVIDIA graphics card. HarmonKardon speakers. TV tuner for watching and recording tv shows. FAX MODEM, Wifi etc... You can purchase this model at or go straight to the Toshiba website. This is one of the highest rated laptops by CNET if the the highest. This also has a 5 in 1 memory card reader, 17 inch screen, bluetooth and too much for me to include. I own this machine and love it. DVD burner works fast and reliable for burning movies,songs,tv shows, etc. GOOD LUCK!

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After the basics, what feels good to you?
by prov2001 / January 26, 2008 2:00 AM PST

Good discussion. So much depends on what you want to use it for, and WHERE. I currently have a Toshiba Satellite which I like, and I had no trouble switching from XP to Vista. A few points from my laptop experience.

- My laptop is my only computer. I love being liberated from sitting at a desk...and, in my three-room apartment, it's great to have a wireless network. I can do computering anywhere in the house... connected to AC or on battery...including in bed, or in the kitchen, if there's a recipe on the screen that I need to consult. And, with the wireless network, friends can visit with their laptops and use them at my place.

- Weight is important to me, and probably will be to you if you are going to travel, or carry the computer when you are out and about. My first laptop weighed nine pounds and it was drudgery carrying it all over Europe; and the weight was a disincentive when I went out to cafes, etc. I find 4 to 4 1/2 pounds a good weight for me...including CD/DVD drive. (Some laptops have detachable CD/DVD drives, which is a nice idea.)

I recently spent a day in a hospital waiting room which was a WiFi Hot Spot....very, very nice to be able to pull my computer out of my backpack and be online!

- How do the keyboard, screen and touchpad (mouse) feel to you? It's important for me that all three feel "just right".

- A word about extended service plans. I've been happiest with an American-based 3-year comprehensive ESP, which includes one replacement of the display screen...which I purchased at Staples.

Within two and a half years, I had a couple of electrical power issues for which the laptop had to be sent to the shop; a problem developed with the screen and it needed to be replaced; and, finally, something happened (I don't know what it was) and the computer could not be repaired so, under the 3-year ESP, it was replaced (free of cost to me) with an excellent Toshiba notebook. The cost of the ESP was repaid several times over in this case.

You should know that, in many cases, a laptop needs to be shipped somewhere to a regional shop for repair. This ESP always shipped pre-paid packaging materials to me by OVERNIGHT EXPRESS; the turn-around time was usually about 10 days. Obviously, this is far more inconvenient than dropping it off at the neighborhood repair shop but, all told, this service plan offered so much that I found it worthwhile to send it out for repair.

Good luck to you!!


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First Laptop
by Zouch / January 26, 2008 5:26 AM PST

Hi Lisa,
some great advice here, so I won't repeat it but just add a further thought. I'm biased - I think that IBM/Lenova Thinkpads are the best around for features and reliability. IBM have a factory refurbished outlet

You might like to check it out if you are in the USA. There are some rather nice examples of T4x and T6x machines that are 25-60% of your budget.

But as others say, if you are still at school, getting one similar to theirs is a good idea, especially if they use Macs. If you've finished school, the same applies to your employer.

Good luck.

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Do the research and shop til you drop...
by jbm1113 / January 29, 2008 10:23 AM PST

I have purchased 3 of my college aged children their first lap top as they were freshman and am on my personal 2nd one. I used to believe that bigger and totally loaded expensive laptops were the way to go. I have bought Dell, Vario and Toshiba's for them and myself. Not being a techie of any type I grew tired of throwing money at these machines after 3 years as they became slow and gummy to open files, boot up and process todays more memory laden programs. I have finally learned to concentrate on the guts and leave the flashy, big ticket names behind. I just bought my wife an ACER laptop with a 2.2mg AMD core duo processor(I would only buy Intel in the past), 2 gigs of dram memory(a must!), 320 hard drive and 256 of installed(not shared) video memory with a 15" screen and vista premium OS. I paid $598.00(not $1500+ like all the others I bought) at Walmart of all places. Very unfancy enclosure but fast as all get out. I'll pitch it in 3 years if it starts to act up and be way ahead. The conclusion: my laptops aren't long term investments anymore, the technology outdates them to quickly. Good luck. Hope this helped!

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Just what I was looking for...
by jw_2103 / February 1, 2008 7:21 AM PST

... a forum on buying a first laptop/computer. I have just started to research buying my first laptop and all this advice is perfect. If I may, can I throw another few quetions out there?

I am intending to use my laptop as my only computer in my condo, and will be using it primarily for email/SKYPE chatting, surfing, downloading music. I don't play games (and therefore don't need a fancy video card?) and won't be doing any editing or even any work on the computer.

What should I be looking for? I want to spend as little as possible and have seen what I gather to be good machines for as little as $599 (Lenovo 2GB Intel Dual Core) and $699 (Toshiba 1GB Core 2 Duo)
Specifically -
1GB vs 2GB? will it make that much of a difference?
Windows XP vs Windows Vista preloaded?
Brand? I'm leaning towards Toshiba, Sony and Lenovo

I appreciate any advice!

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2GB Intel Dual Core) and $699 (Toshiba 1GB Core 2 Duo)
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / February 1, 2008 8:24 AM PST

In short, when you get Vista, go for the dual core machines and 2GB RAM.


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