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selecting a laptop

by AKQJT / November 15, 2004 12:32 PM PST

Hi all,

I've been browsing around the reviews for the last couple of hours looking for a new notebook. My only real absolute requirement is that the notebook have a 17" screen with 1600x1200 resolution or better. That actually narrows down the field quite a lot.

I don't really do anything multimedia, and don't play video games. I might watch an occasional movie on the computer but the resolution requirement is really only for work purposes. I'm looking for just solid performance and a proven record of reliability. Size/bulkiness is not much of an issue because while I travel, I'm not constantly in an airport. I'm looking for a true desktop replacement.

I first looked at the Inspiron 9200 with the upgrade to the UXGA Display (which costs about $85 more). However in reading around, I got a feeling that a lot of users were weary of new Inspirons with respect to their reliability and quality. The reviews here are big on the Sony VAIO VGN-A190, but I'm not sure why - it comes with a high price for what seems like less performance than its competitors. I also am less familiar with Sonys than I am with Dells.

Are there any other 17" UXGA notebooks I should be considering? If not, which would you pick?

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Re: selecting a laptop
by KenSanramon / November 15, 2004 12:43 PM PST
In reply to: selecting a laptop

Sonys have very high pricing and they have the worst service for desktops and notebooks for any major manufacturer. They are #4 overall and $3 in PC notebook quality (Apple is #1 in quality and service so their pricing is justified but not Sony with this lousy service).

If you truly don't need battery life which would necessitate you looking at the new Dell 17" Pentium Notebook or Sony Pentium M notebook 17" (both over $2,000 and Sony over $2500) then look at the HPzd7000 series (17" Pentium 4M notebook). See (dedicated free user forum -- see for best pricing and specs at -- you can get the SXGA or UXGA resolutions, you can get 128mb dedicated video (still a good idea if you ever think you will play games or run high end video programs) and you can get a faster 5400rpm hard drive, etc.

Battery life is very poor (under 2 hours with the Pentium 4M and 17" LCD) but it is a high 8.4 rating at CNet (find how many other models get higher than this rating -- over 8.0 is very good and recommended)and it is excellent if you truly want a desktop replacement.

Note that if you didn't need to sync with work the Apple 17" powerbook is in the same price range as the Sony and Dell (over $2500) but weighs an amazing 6.9 pounds -- the HPzd7000 and similar Toshiba Pentium 4M model weigh about 9 pounds and the A/C adaptor is huge as well (12 cell battery versus 8 cell for efficient Pentium M notebooks)

The HPzd7000 has a wide range of customization options -- you can even spend more and get a multiformat DVD burner custom order, utilize it as a DV-R (TIVO like digital video recorder in hook up to TV (requires Windows XP media center edition instead of XP or XP pro, etc).

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Re: selecting a laptop
by KenSanramon / November 15, 2004 12:46 PM PST
In reply to: Re: selecting a laptop

By the way, Dell, Toshiba, and HP had nearly identical mid-pack service ratings (below Apple and IBM but above Sony at the bottom). Toshiba has a higher overall quality rating than HP/Compaq if that makes a difference to you but note that all major components (LCD, hard drive, etc) are made by outside sources so you should focus on the keyboard feel and the case construction to decide between the Toshiba 17" Pentium 4M and the HPzd7000 if you really want a quality desktop replacement notebook that does not break the bank.

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Re: selecting a laptop
by AKQJT / November 15, 2004 12:54 PM PST
In reply to: Re: selecting a laptop

Thanks for the detailed answer, Ken. I will consider the HPzd7000 with the option of UXGA resolution.

To follow-up, I indeed really don't consider battery life; I imagine it will pretty much always be plugged into the wall. The best way to describe my usage would be to say I'm using it for my home office; it's just that I will need to pack up and move that home office every 2-3 months, but I will settle down in that location for at least that period of time.

Thanks again for the recommendation.

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Re: selecting a laptop
by AKQJT / November 15, 2004 1:08 PM PST
In reply to: Re: selecting a laptop
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Re: selecting a laptop
by KenSanramon / November 16, 2004 5:11 AM PST
In reply to: Re: selecting a laptop

On my HPZT3000 / Compaq X1000 series (15.4" widescreen Pentium M Centrino notebook -- 6.5 pounds) - they have the SXGA and UXGA resolution options.

I made an assumption that the 17" LCD would have the same custom order resolutions but as you have found out that is not the case (only SXGA I guess).

Try checking out the Toshiba 17" LCD equivalant at their web site and see if they offer it.

If you want to ever set up a wi-fi network at home (which is amazing once you have DSL or cable internet -- you will never want to go back) you may want to have the extended battery life that a Pentium M Centrino like the new 17" Dell and the 17" Sony Centrinos offer --even if it is just to use the notebook out on the back porch or on the coffee table in front of the TV (as I do -- may coffee table has a hinge to pull it up to table level), move it around at will while still connected to the internet without rebooting, etc.

Also, it gives you the ability to join the Starbucks Tmobile or other free wi-fi areas and not have to be plugged in.

Based on the service issue I told you about, unless the Sony has absolutely what you want (and the others don't) the Apple or Dell notebooks would be better choices in my opinion.

Are you sure you need the 17" LCD if you are not a gamer ??? The 15.4" widescreen or 15" square screen is still equivalent to a 16" CRT monitor (as they are do not measure the bezel around it as a CRT does) and that size allows better portability (and the use of a notebook backpack -- can't do that with a 17").

There are multiple options for UXGA at the 15.4" widescreen or 15" square screen level with a Pentium M Centrino including the HPZT3000 (see and other models, the Dell 8600, the Acer Ferrari, the Toshiba M35 series, etc.

The 15.4" widescreen gives you more spreadsheet area to the left and right (more columns, a bit less rows than a 15" square screen which is taller) for Excel even before getting a higher resolution and also it is outstanding for the occasional widescreen DVD.

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