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Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens

by Boardwalk / November 30, 2004 1:05 AM PST

We are in the process of choosing a notebook computer as a backup to our Desktop. We have two teens who will be using it for homework, burning CD's, games (mostly Sims) and the internet. We are looking at a Dell Inspiron 5160.... just confused as to what we need on it. We'd like to stay under $1,500.00...... We'd also like to go wireless so will need a router. Any help here would be so appreciated. Thank you.

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by KenSanramon / November 30, 2004 9:13 AM PST

If you want to be untethered (not plugged into A/C) while using your wi-fi (wireless internet via DSL or Cable internet and a wi-fi router) you will want a Pentium M (Centrino) notebook.

Most Pentium M Centrinos (at least those with a 14" or 15" LCD) get about 3.5-4 hours of battery life using wi-fi or playing DVD's and up to 5 hours not using either of these.

A Pentium 4M notebook will get only about 2 hours of battery life and it is heavier as well.

The Athlon 64 notebooks are 64bit but current models are only somewhat lighter than the Pentium 4M's -- the new low voltage Athlon 64 notebooks will change all that but they aren't available in the US until 2005 probably.

By the way, Dell sells only Intel products anyway so if you are a Dell supporter you can forget the Athlon 64 for now but maybe not later (if being the best notebook cpu option forces them to offer it in the future).

The Dell 8600 is a 6.9 pound Pentium M Centrino with all the options you could want. The keyboard and case construction are not as good but overall it is still a great notebook. Read other posts here recently. This has a 15.4" widescreen for DVD's and spreadsheets and you should order at least the ATI 9700 video card with 64mb of dedicated RAM (128mb is better if you want to play the best games without lowering the settings).

Make sure you get a 54G built in wi-fi card. There are restrictions on many notebooks that keep you from upgrading the wi-fi internal card later cheaply so make sure you get the Intel 2200b/g or equivalent. Any name brand router than runs at least 54G wuill be fine (I like D-link but Linksys or Netgear or others are fine).

The Dell 600M is lighter and has a 14" LCD but it has some shortcomings relative to the Dell 8600 if you are not going to be traveling all the time.

See notebookforums.com for Dell notebook reviews (or Toshiba, etc)

I have a Compaq X1000 / HPZT3000 at 6.5 pounds with the 15.4" widescreen at 6.5 pounds. The keyboard feel and case construction are a bit better than the Dell 8600 but it maxes out at 64mb dedicated video (but that may be all you need). See X1000forums.com for details and custom order at hpshopping.com if you want this just as you would custom order a Dell (only option) for the best value.

Strong reasons for ordering HP/Compaqs online custom is their retail models often have only DVD+ burners while online you can get a multiformat (DVD + and DVD -) burner. Also, you can get the Briteview LCD on all models online while many store models still don't have them.

Do try out the keyboard, etc though at Circuit City etc or for Dells find a mall kiosk ........

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / November 30, 2004 1:42 PM PST

Thanks for the great info... not sure on the website where you get the wi-fi card though - I've looked the through the add ons and didn't see where this could be addd to the total package. I don't understand a lot of the computer lingo.... just want a good notebook we can all use at a decent price. Hoping Dell is the way to go.

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by KenSanramon / November 30, 2004 1:55 PM PST

You most definitely want to get a built in minipci wi-fi card with any notebook today and it is likely identified on the Dell ordering screen as an Intel 2200b/g which means it is the 54G wi-fi standard backwards compatible to b (which is older and slower and with less range. The Intel 2100 card is b only and you don't want to get that now.

If you make sure you get the 54G standard then buy any wi-fi router that is 54G (and on sale retail after rebates they can be as low as the $30 range or sometimes even in the $20 range) you are set to go (you also need DSL or Cable internet with a modem of course and the wi-fi router plugs into that).

If you really can't find this language on the Dell site go over to Hpshopping.com and do a custom order configuration and you will find the ordering options there (and I highly recommend the HPZT3000 or the HP DV1000 anyway based on your needs).

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / November 30, 2004 10:32 PM PST

Thanks again for your help! Is there a reason you recommend HP over Dell?

I configured the following two systems at HP....w/ 3 year main contract and wireless router....(free printer)- do either of these look good?


HP Pavilion zt3000 series customizable Notebook PC
- Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Home Edition with SP2
- Intel(R) Pentium(R) M Processor 735 (1.7 GHz)
- 15.4" WXGA Widescreen (1280x800)
- 64MB ATI Mobility Radeon(TM) 9200
- 512MB DDR SDRAM (2x256MB)
- 60 GB 4200 RPM Hard Drive
- DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive
- Intel(R) Pro Wireless 2200 802.11b/g WLAN
- Microsoft(R) Works/Money
- 8 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
- hpshopping in-box envelope


Or
HP Pavilion dv1000 Series Customizable Notebook PC
- Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Home Edition with SP2
- Intel(R) Pentium(R) M Processor 725 (1.6 GHz)
- 14.0" WXGA BrightView Widescreen (1280x768)
- Intel(R) Extreme Graphics designed for Pentium(R)
- 512MB DDR SDRAM (2x256MB)
- 80 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive
- DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive
- Intel(R) Pro/Wireless 2200 802.11BG WLAN
- Microsoft(R) Works/Money
- 12 Cell Lithium Ion Battery
- hpshopping in-box envelope

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / November 30, 2004 11:18 PM PST

This is what I came up with at Dell... I'm sure I can drop a few items to make the price more reasonable....
Inspiron 8600 Celeron Intel

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Ryan T / December 1, 2004 12:19 AM PST

Of the ones you configured, the best of the three is the zt3000. If your kids play games at all they'll appreciate the better video card that comes in the ZT. The DV1000 has shared graphics memory which is all but useless in gaming.

The only thing I'd reconfigure about that ZT3000 is the hard drive. You chose a 60 Gig hard drive which is probably big enough but I believe they offer an option which allows you to upgrade to a 60 Gig drive that has 5,400 RPM like the drive on the DV1000. That is a worthwhile upgrade.

Just out of curiosity, what were the prices on the two HPs?

The Dell you showed has a Celeron M processor, which is a waste of money in my and Ken's opinion. Where you really got hit on that Dell was the 4-year warranty. I'd go with a Dell 8600 that had a Pentium M instead of a Celeron. Oh, wait, I did. Wink Enough of that though.

Other than the Celeron M processor, you have configured 3 similar systems. You should go try the three computers out if you can. If you have a Dell store nearby (the nearest one for me is 30 miles, too far), go check out the keyboard, and see what you think of the screen.

Also try out the HP touchpad. It's not smooth like most touchpad's I've used. It's kind of rough, which is weird for me. That was a bit disconcerting for me. But it does have the advantage of having a button to turn off the touchpad, so you don't bump it while you type.

So go try them out. See which one you might like. As Ken said, the HP has a metal bezel on the LCD, instead of the composite case of the Dell. Depending on how rough your kids will be with the notebook, that may become a factor.

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / December 1, 2004 12:40 AM PST

Thanks so much for helping.... Somehow I lost the configuration of the DV100 series, but the HP3000 is $1847.00 including the 3 year warranty and after upgrading to 80 gig hard drive and adding the Microsoft upgrade software. I think the DV100 was a little less..

As far as trying them out we do not have a Dell near us... I think we would all be thrilled with anything. We're also thinking of a docking station but don't know if that's a waste of money. My kids wouldn't be too hard on it....they're both girls and fairly careful with things.

Another ? I have is should we go with the larger 17" screen in the other series?

Also, have I added anything unnecesary and should I go with the Pro software. If you had to choose what is the best system for the money?

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by KenSanramon / December 1, 2004 4:05 AM PST

If you are going to be using it mostly at home (so you do not value the fact that the DV1000 is 5.3 pounds iwth a 14" widescreen LCD to 6.5 pounds for the HPZT3000 15.4" LCD) then it is nice to have the larger LCD. Also, as Ryan said, the ZT3000 with 64mb dedicated video RAM will allow you to play many newer games or have better video performance than you will get with integrated graphics/shared video on the DV1000.

However, the DV1000 has 2 headphones for listening in the car, etc and it has instant on for the DVD and CD functions and a built in remote control. So, if you want to use this in the car as an entertainment device the DV1000 size and features are superior for that.

As Ryan said, I would advise getting the faster 5400rpm hard drive in either notebook as it is up to 50% faster in seek time and is only $25-$50 more usually ordering custom.

Make sure you see X1000forums.com for all the discounts you can get (this is the site for the HPZT3000 and Compaq X1000 sisters) and you can do a search there for the dedicated HP DV1000 website.

Also, make sure you DON'T buy a Celeron Pentium M.

Also, to get the full Dothan Pentium M cpu with 2mb L2 cache (slower versions have only 1/2 the L2 cache or 1mb -- 1.5ghz and below except for the 715) get the 1.6ghz Pentium M 725 or higher (this is the best value).

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / December 1, 2004 4:54 AM PST

Thanks Ken...! You guys are really helping me. I just went to the Costco site and you can custom design there, too... and you can return it to Costco within 6 months if it doesn't work. Have you had any experience with them? Thanks

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Ryan T / December 1, 2004 4:58 AM PST

Not personally, but I have heard very good experiences with their lengthy return policy.

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by Boardwalk / December 1, 2004 5:17 AM PST

I guess I won't go with them... cannot extend warranty past one year and I like the no interest financing...

Again, you've both been so helpful. Any other clues for getting the best deals...? not much out there for coupon codes, etc. I want to make sure we get it in time for Christmas so I will be ordering in the next couple of days.

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One more ? - Am I better off purchasing in the store?
by Boardwalk / December 1, 2004 5:44 AM PST

Last ? - I noticed you can go to Comp USA and a few others and have them build one for you. My only concern with online is service.... any thoughts there?

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by KenSanramon / December 1, 2004 6:19 AM PST

Boardwalk:

The only reason not to order through Costco is if you take advantage of a discount you can't get through the Costco portal to hpshopping (like the 3% Fatcash deferred discount) or if you can avoid sales tax by ordering from hpshopping directly (CA for example has nexus so you pay tax either from Costco or hpshopping directly) so ordering through Costco in CA is attractive. You still can use the 30 day HPshopping return policy (return shipping paid) and in addition have the Costco 6 month return policy on top of that.

You can go to hpshopping and order an extended warranty for any retail purchase. The Costco site is just a portal to hpshopping as well so you should be able to extend the warranty if you want.

Note that is you have the Costco American Express Platinum Card (the only major credit card brand accepted at Costco and they put the Costco membership on the back) not only gives you cash back (1.5% on purchases over 5,000) but you also would get 2% cash back from Costco if you are a Premier card member ($100 a year versus $55 a year).

Note that on the American Express cards or certain Visa or Mastercard Gold or Platinum cards you can extend the 1 year limited HP warranty for 1 additional year for free. Thus, you get a 2 year limited warranty for free (just keep receipt in the event you need to use the 2nd year through the credit card company). If you are using the notebook at home then that should be enough unless you are so damage prone you want a accidental damage warranty.

Note that Windows Longhorn 64 bit will be out within 3 years maximum likely so you will want to replace this notebook as your primary system within 2 1/2-3 years anyway.

If you want the 1 year no finanding from HP then that might be the reason you want to order directly (in addition if you can save sales tax or use some other discount)

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Re: Need Help In Purchasing Notebook for home with teens
by TechNewbie22 / December 2, 2004 1:48 AM PST

Well I would suggest checking out either www.slickdeals.net or www.newegg.com if you are looking to stay under $1500 either of those sites usually has some pretty good deals. I would go with slickdeals.net first off then if you can't find anything newegg.

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