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Budget Notebook Help Required

by Shades11 / November 1, 2004 9:11 AM PST

I would really appreciate any advice on buying a cheap notebook.

First let me state that I'm in Europe so model numbers might not correspond to what's available in the US, and that the models here will probably seem a bit old for anyone in the US.

Second, I'm not too technical, that said my next purchase will be my fourth portable, so the basics I understand.

Brief history (for anthropologists):

I probably buy a new laptop about every 3 years. My first was a Toshiba T2130CT with (if a remember correctly) a Pentium 133 and 8Mb of RAM. For me that was the best I ever had. It got dropped, fed crumbs and drank coffee all without giving up. You could even glue the cracks in the plastic casing together again. On Windows 95 it could cope with Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Access (just) plus Internet. I loved it, but times changed.

Second was a Toshiba Satellite Pro 490 XCDT, another sound Toshiba which did a good job until software moved on, and even then I only buried it after it had a fatal fall which put paid to the screen.

Third (the one I'm using now) is a Toshiba Portege 7200 (Pentium 650, 256Mb). I went for this one because it was cool, and I had money. I still like it, but it overheats and is now very dated. I would probably have stuck with it longer, but it got drunk one night on red wine (notice the pattern, Toshiba's are accident prone!) and is now on life support, requiring to be permanently connected to the mains, and with lots of wires coming out of it to keep it alive. Life expectancy is in days, at best two weeks.

So, it's time to by something new. (By the way, to keep your minds at rest, all previous ones have found a decent resting place at the bottom of a cupboard) This time round, I don't see any need to go for anything fancy (and money's tight), so I'm looking at basic stuff which will still be twice as fast as what I'm using.

My usage ? nothing fancy. To play games I have a Playstation, to watch DVDs I have a DVD player. My notebook is mainly for work (self-employed). So I'm talking about spreadsheets, presentations, and the odd bit of watching video on demand, not much more. So something that works well with Office (actually Mozilla and Open Office, though still not persuaded to move to Linux), but can do a turn now and again. I've never done Wi-fi, but recognise I should opt for it. Don't feel I need separate graphics capabilities, but if they are included... 15 inch screen is important.

I am, however, looking for a genuine portable computer, I travel a lot and take my computer with me. It doesn't have to be ultra-portable. But weight and battery life are important.

After all that, I've spent the last week trying to work out what suits me. Toshibas now seem pricey, and the loss of the track point is a major blow for me, so I'm prepared to consider anything.

In my ignorance, I've narrowed it down to a few choices which I'll list below, but if anyone has made it this far in the message and wants to suggest something, I'd be very grateful.

Hope my ramblings haven't annoyed anyone, but I just wanted to be a bit different from the very tech orientated stuff. So here are my options (depending on configuration, all are around the same price range)

My doubt relates more to the series rather than specific configurations. In all cases I'd probably for a Celeron processor (1.4 to 1.7), a DVD dual drive and 512 RAM, with Wi-fi b/g. Unless someone suggests real advantages of something else

Fujitsu-Siemens: Amilo Pro V2000 or Amilo M (possible cheap deal locally)

IBM: Think Pad R50e (track point and better for future upgrades)

HP: Travel Mate 2300

Acer: Travel Mate 2300

Toshiba: A60

Dell: Inspiron 510m

LG: LS50

I just want something that will help keep me in work for the next two or three years, until the time comes to by the all-singing, all-dancing TV, DVD, Video, Home entertainment, Music system, laptop which will no doubt be the future.

If anyone has crash tested these, please let me know



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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by JK654 / November 1, 2004 10:09 AM PST

There are low priced notebooks with a mobile Athlon XP processor that provide great performance running business software.

I can't understand why you would want a notebook with a Celeron processor.

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by KenSanramon / November 1, 2004 10:20 AM PST

Based on your history with drops, I would highly recommend the IBM's for you. They also have the best keyboards. Touchpads have been proven superior ergonomically to pointing sticks but you should be using an external or wired optical mouse anyway for any serious work while on a desk or hard surface (via a USB 2.0 port).

IBM also has a technology that parks its hard drive head when it senses a fall or drastic angle change.

Yes, in late 2006 or 2007 Micosoft Longhorn will be out and you will want a 64bit processor (should have 2 cpus by then which will allow true multitasking) so you should not spend over $1500 US anyway and budget for that later.

I would not get a Celeron processor -- you should be able to get a 1.5 or 1.6 Pentium M Centrino or an Athlon 64 chip in the $1,000-1,500 US range.

You can save a bit of money by getting less RAM now and addding your own later for less $ (but remember you have only 2 RAM slots in a notebook so don't fill them upfront -- try to get 1 slot 256mb or 512mb if you intend to go higher than 768mb total).

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by Shades11 / November 1, 2004 8:56 PM PST

Great reply Ken,

I had been coming round to the idea of the IBM, as it seems the best for spares and repairs (Toshiba excepted) and well built, but wondered if it was true that they'd got their act together.

Yes I use an external mouse when I can, but I'm on the road a lot. I don't know about ergonomics, but I'm so used to the pointing stick. With the IBM I can at least try the touch pad whilst having the back up.

I'll worry about true multitasking when it comes, and whether I can do it, let alone the computer!

Good tip about the RAM, especially as I've seen quite a lot of 2x 256mb "deals".

Incidentally, none of my "drops" have ever let to hard drive problems, it's been keyboards (2), a screen, and the power supply to the battery. That said, I suspect there's a sub-concious process going on, as terminal drops appear to happen at three yearly intervals, just when I'm thinking I want a new one!

Oh well, IBM, another nail in the coffin of my "coolness". I guess I must be getting to the age where I'm looking to be solid and dependable.

Thanks a lot for the advice,


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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by Shades11 / November 1, 2004 7:49 PM PST

Sorry, meant to say Centrino.

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by JK654 / November 2, 2004 11:19 AM PST

Centrino? Those notebooks aren't so cheap. I was under the impression that you wanted a $700-800 notebook. If you want a thin notebook with long battery life, you might want to wait for the thin and light Athlon 64 notebooks to appear. AMD has a new version of the mobile Athlon 64 that only uses 25 watts.

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by Shades11 / November 2, 2004 3:11 PM PST

Thanks for the info, and yes I do want something cheap. I know a lot more about software than hardware, so your advice on the Athlon is great, but buying in Spain means any new technology will take around 6 months to appear. For that reason I was looking at a Centrino based unit to last 2-3 years. Do you know when the new Athlon is due for release?

Battery life is very important to me, and I had read that the Centrino was best for this, but I'm very grateful for any advice.

I'm not Intel dependent, but thought the Centrino was the best option to buy in the next two weeks (I really need something now) and for something that only has to last three years.

In terms of price there is actually not much diference in Spain, so battery life swings it for me, but (I repeat) I stand to be corrected.

Thanks for the info,


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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by JK654 / November 4, 2004 2:32 PM PST

AMD started shipping the low power mobile Athlon 64 chips for thin and light notebooks in August. Some models are are already for sale in Europe.

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Have yo looked at the iBook?
by 19877542544404221679077984052348-freebe / November 4, 2004 3:01 AM PST

You could get an Apple iBook for $999 with:
1.2GHz PowerPC G4
512K L2 cache @1.2GHz
12-inch TFT Displays
1024x768 resolution
30GB Ultra ATA drive
Combo Drive
ATI Mobility Radeon 9200
32MB DDR video memory
AirPort Extreme built-in

They are very rugged (polycarbonate plastic), have best-in-class battery life, and come with everything you have described. You mentioned that you use OpenOffice...that is availble for the Mac too. iBook come with AppleWorks..which can handle Word files without a problem. As far as presentations, Apple Keynote Software is $100 (or $30 with student/teacher discount) and is superior to PowerPoint on many levels. Keynote can export presentations to PDF, PowerPoint, and Quicktime. Microsoft Office is also available on the Apple platform and is fully compatible with Windows version. There are literally thousands of very high quality freeware and shareware apps available for the mac too.

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by gw1sxn / November 8, 2004 7:29 AM PST

HI Kieth,
Actually i need some help as i bought a TOSHIBA T2130CT Laptop last weekend, it works great but as i have never used a laptop before, i am looking for a Manual or User guide or Instruction book for it ? can you assist me ? i don't suppose you still have your old T2130CT ? if not maybe you know of a website to download a manual ?

Patrick in WALES UK.

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Re: Budget Notebook Help Required
by Shades11 / November 8, 2004 11:25 AM PST

You BOUGHT a T2130CT? For how much? Are you winding me up?

Anyway, I don't have the manual anymore, nor do I know of anywhere that would, but I dug it up from it's resting place and it still works!

There is a manual, but it's more like an actual program than a single file. I don't think the program files would work on any modern computer, but maybe they would work on your one.

There's a slight problem in that the main file is bigger than one floppy disk, but check back here (bookmark the thread) and at the weekend I'll see if I can find a way of transferring the files and then I could e-mail them. Don't know if it will work, but I'm happy to try.

Incidentally, what RAM have you got in it? Just the 8Mb it came with?


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