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View Full Version : Which laptop to buy... Help!



Subzero
03-08-2014, 04:48 PM
Hey everyone!

So I'm looking to purchase a new laptop in the coming months, and I'm not sure which one to buy. Price range is no less than $800 and hopefully no more than $1400 (so $800-$1400). How I will be using this laptop are as follows...

Naturally, as I'm on here, I'll be using the internet a lot. This includes using forums like these, facebook, FA, skype, youtube, etc. Realistically, this is what I do the most on my computer. However, the most important reason for needing a laptop is that I will be a Computer Science student next year in university/college. Therefore, I'll be needing a system that can manage programming and other schooling tasks.

Currently, I'm using a Toshiba Satellite A505-S6960, Windows Vista (fml). It's about 5 years old now. This is kind of important to consider, because maybe the best option is to go with an Apple. This way I would have access to a Windows and a Mac when needed (with the go-to being the Mac, as it's much newer).

I don't know! Are there any good laptops I should wait for that are coming out in the spring or summer? Or is there something I should I go for something that's currently available?

Feel free to ask me anymore questions. Any and all responses are very appreciated. Thank you!

Socks the Fox
03-08-2014, 04:58 PM
On one hand, with a Mac, you can install both OSes on it and just dual boot (or triple boot with Linux if you're feeling cheeky). OTOH in general it's a lot more expensive than a similarly spec'd Windows laptop. If you plan on doing OSX or iOS programming, I vote get a Mac. If not, stick with non-Mac.

irick
03-08-2014, 06:11 PM
As above If you are going iOS or Mac development, go with a mac.

Otherwise, I might recommend going with System 76.

This model specificly ('https://www.system76.com/laptops/model/galu1')

I'd recommend that because it's not an entirely crippled 'ultrabook' but it's smaller than a 15.6 incher. This will be important especially if this is going to be your every day driver coming with you to and from class. The Intel Iris iGPU is pretty powerful, so light gaming isn't going to be a problem and it's going to have some CAD routines that are typically left out. Additionally System 76 does their own BIOS/UFI work and in general their hardware is top notch.

Considering you are going CS, I'd recomend bumping the ram up to 8GB (or 16GB if you can spring), putting in a 128mb mSATA SSD and picking up a 1TB storage HDD. This will give you plenty of room to run VMs, like windows 7 or even OS X (for educational purposes, of course).

With all of these upgrades, it will be under your stated ceiling. You'll have enough left over to buy a copy of windows if you decide to forgo Linux and System 76 hardware is very well sourced. On their wiki you will find links to windows drivers.

Runefox
03-08-2014, 08:10 PM
I'll be honest, a Mac is a pretty obvious choice at that price range, plus your college might qualify you for their educational discount (http://store.apple.com/ca/browse/campaigns/education_pricing). The only thing is, to run Windows, you would need a separate copy, and if you wanted to run Windows programs alongside your Mac programs without rebooting, you'd need a copy of Parallels. I'd recommend the 13" with Retina Display and a RAM upgrade to 8GB at minimum; The Retina Macs are faster than the typical non-Retina ones, but they're also unfortunately not upgradeable, so it's best to get the upgrades out of the factory. The same is true of the MacBook Air line if you were interested in those. Unfortunately, there's nothing larger than 13" at that price range at the moment, since Apple seems to have discontinued the non-Retina 15" MacBook Pro. It sucks, since the lowest price point for a 15" MacBook now is $2k.

Beyond that, I'm not too up on current models, but I'd recommend an Ultrabook with a newer Intel Haswell chip. They're the closest thing the PC world has to match Apple's designs, and they have some impressive minimum specs - 6 hours of HD video playback up to 9 hours of web browsing, 3 second resume from hibernation, Wireless Display, touchscreen, and a fast CPU with a maximum of 20mm (13" screen) to 23mm (14" and higher) thickness. I'd have to dig around to find some decent models though.

Moogle
03-08-2014, 08:43 PM
I've never owned a mac before, and I don't think I'd ever be able to get used to one ehe. :x3: I suggest getting a Gateway, they're really great all around. I think mine came to about 1000, and I've not once run into a problem since I got it.

Runefox
03-08-2014, 09:03 PM
Er... Gateway is Acer's value brand. Make of that what you will.

piņardilla
03-09-2014, 01:07 AM
If you don't get a Mac, I like Lenovo for their build quality. Get an X240 or a Yoga 13.

insanejoker
03-09-2014, 01:42 AM
I got a macbook for school. Never again. I'm sure the macbook airs and whatnot are better than the average macbook (which is still overpriced IMO), but if you're going to spend that much money try to get as much bang for your buck as you can. Another downfall I've seen with macs, is once your OS version is outdated, a lot of hardware and software will not be compatible (such as printers and scanners). PC's have just stopped support for Windows XP, and it's been around for 12 years. When I had my macbook my OS wasn't compatible with some softwares within 3 years (originally bought in 2007). It's not expensive to upgrade, but it can be a pain to constantly be upgrading every time a new one comes out. If you're going with a Mac, I highly recommend buying their protection on it, because replacing Apple products is not always cheap, though if you're lucky they'll do it for free.

It's also a pain in the ass to mess with the Mac's hardware, and if you try that and tell them, the employees might not be nice to you. A friend opened up her iMac after the graphics card burnt out to see if she could replace it, but it was fused to the motherboard. So instead she took out the hard drive and took out her files and whatnot. Apple employees treated her like she was stupid for opening it, and said replacing the motherboard would cost as much as the iMac itself. For my macbook I upgraded the memory from 1gb to a whopping 2gb (it was amazing). Check the limitations on upgrades.

What kind of programming do you plan on getting? Is it going to be heavy stuff? Consider that to determine what type of RAM you'll need, the amount of hard drive space (bigger files means you'll need more space). Will you just be using standard programs or will you need to install specialized ones later on during college?

Right now I use an Asus laptop: 8gb (I believe I can upgrade to 16gb), 1tb HDD, Nvidia GTX 460 graphics (I think it's 460, can't remember, too lazy to check). I've had it for about 3 years? Still runs great, though I need to replace the battery (it was expected, this was built for power, not a long lasting battery). I did have some monitor issues (funky display, green running all over), but it turns out it was because I had interference from a walkie talkie since it always sat /right/ next to my laptop. Discovered if I moved it around the laptop a certain way my screen would turn pink. It was weird. At least I know I am able to open it up when I need to and replace it's innards if I decide to upgrade the memory.

irick
03-09-2014, 02:31 AM
Though, just a bit of additional advice. You really might want to consider getting a desktop.
Especially going into college. A desktop is going to give you a much better development environment and it's going to last you longer than a laptop. If I were you, I might kit out a decent desktop and grab a chromebook for note taking/remoting into your desktop.

Moogle
03-09-2014, 03:24 AM
Er... Gateway is Acer's value brand. Make of that what you will.

I actually wouldn't go as far as comparing a gateway to that of an acer. I've owned both, and acer was the worst choice I've ever made for a laptop. Though I know gateway had it's fair share of problems (mainly with their volume going wack), those were on older model.

Edit: Lol I just realized what you meant, I didn't know acer owned gateway. Either way, from my experience gateway is the way to go.

Runefox
03-09-2014, 02:15 PM
I got a macbook for school. Never again. I'm sure the macbook airs and whatnot are better than the average macbook (which is still overpriced IMO), but if you're going to spend that much money try to get as much bang for your buck as you can. Another downfall I've seen with macs, is once your OS version is outdated, a lot of hardware and software will not be compatible (such as printers and scanners). PC's have just stopped support for Windows XP, and it's been around for 12 years. When I had my macbook my OS wasn't compatible with some softwares within 3 years (originally bought in 2007). It's not expensive to upgrade, but it can be a pain to constantly be upgrading every time a new one comes out. If you're going with a Mac, I highly recommend buying their protection on it, because replacing Apple products is not always cheap, though if you're lucky they'll do it for free.

In all fairness, Microsoft had planned to drop XP much sooner than they did, but development issues and a focus on security updates for Windows XP due to things like the Blaster worm caused Longhorn (Vista) to get pushed back tremendously. Since Vista's release, we've already seen 7 come out 2 years later, and 8 come out 3 years later after that. Vista was dropped like a rock by software developers almost as soon as Windows 7 was released, and focus on Windows 7 only continues today because of consumer backlash against Windows 8. Whereas a machine released with Vista on it might not be able to run 8, a 64-bit machine released with OS X Leopard will run OS X Mavericks, making the software support argument pretty moot. In my experience, most software being developed right now is using 10.6 or 10.7 as a base for compatibility unless they're specifically using features from Mountain Lion or Mavericks. It's also highly likely that future OS updates will be released for free.


It's also a pain in the ass to mess with the Mac's hardware, and if you try that and tell them, the employees might not be nice to you. A friend opened up her iMac after the graphics card burnt out to see if she could replace it, but it was fused to the motherboard. So instead she took out the hard drive and took out her files and whatnot. Apple employees treated her like she was stupid for opening it, and said replacing the motherboard would cost as much as the iMac itself.
This is true of most laptops and all-in-ones, with few exceptions. With replacement parts like motherboards, it may seem like the price is extremely high (and it is), but when the computer's initial run is complete, they generally stop manufacturing replacement parts for them, meaning what they have in their warehouse is all that's left. Speaking from experience, this is again true of most laptops and all-in-ones. Parts to a specific model of computer are always insanely expensive to replace with new parts. Rolling the dice on eBay is one way around it.


For my macbook I upgraded the memory from 1gb to a whopping 2gb (it was amazing). Check the limitations on upgrades.
Apple says mine caps out at 8GB, but I stuffed 16GB in and it's fine. They're usually talking about what you can get out of the factory at the time of release when they talk about maximum memory size.

piņardilla
03-09-2014, 02:18 PM
Though, just a bit of additional advice. You really might want to consider getting a desktop.
Especially going into college. A desktop is going to give you a much better development environment and it's going to last you longer than a laptop. If I were you, I might kit out a decent desktop and grab a chromebook for note taking/remoting into your desktop.

You can't drag a desktop to the library or a study group. School and business is where laptops really do make a lot of sense.

Runefox
03-09-2014, 02:26 PM
You can't drag a desktop to the library or a study group. School and business is where laptops really do make a lot of sense.
Well he does have a point with the Chromebook, but in reality I doubt a Chromebook would be appropriate there. You can't actually store files on one, not to mention support for things like networked printers (I'm pretty sure I didn't see an option for that when I was playing around with ChromeOS; Just Cloud Print). I just personally don't see a Chromebook as a viable option in scenarios where you'd have to do actual work on them.

irick
03-10-2014, 01:14 AM
Well he does have a point with the Chromebook, but in reality I doubt a Chromebook would be appropriate there. You can't actually store files on one, not to mention support for things like networked printers (I'm pretty sure I didn't see an option for that when I was playing around with ChromeOS; Just Cloud Print). I just personally don't see a Chromebook as a viable option in scenarios where you'd have to do actual work on them.

Your working knowlege of ChromeOS is a bit outdated. There is now a local file system, support for USB mass storage and there are offline viewers for documents and the like.

As for printing, it's not a concern on modern campuses. Most universities and colleges don't let students hook up directly to the printers because... well... printers are computers and are rather exploitable resources if unfettered access is allowed. Instead they typically let you log onto a provided computer with your student ID so that their system can keep you to your school provided print quota.

If you are talking about his personal printer: if it's hooked up to his desktop it doesn't mater. This sort of set up (Good desktop, cheep netbook with ssh and basic shell access for remoting/notes) is what best worked for me as a computer science student.

Runefox
03-10-2014, 05:06 PM
I think at that point then, it'd come down to OP's preference as to whether they'd like to carry around a less capable but lighter weight laptop that's dependent on a home PC or a single computer that they do all their work on. For me, I'd prefer both, but not everyone really has space for a desktop at home, or wants to run it all the time for electricity concerns.

Subzero
05-13-2014, 04:15 PM
Well... I guess it's about time I replied to this haha. I went on vacation the day after I made this thread and forgot all about it x3. Thank you all for your replies so far, I really do appreciate it!

Anyhow, I'll probably be working mostly in java, C++, maybe a small amount of python as well for the first little while. After that, well we'll see what happens. The University I'm attending does recommend a strong processor, and of course anything else to improve the system's memory will be a perk. I think I'll stick to a laptop to just keep all my work in one place (while potentially backing it up onto something else for safety here and there). I'm also staying in residence, and so a desktop isn't really an option.

piņardilla
05-13-2014, 04:39 PM
Some new information that's come out since this thread was started: Intel's putting out a "Haswell Refresh" line of chips with a modest clock speed improvement over the existing Haswell line that should start coming out in the back-to-school season, and a lot of notebooks have been getting updated with NVidia 8XX series GPUs which are a considerable improvement over their 7XX counterparts. If you haven't bought one already I'd suggest playing the waiting game until just before you start school.

Yotipo
05-14-2014, 04:27 AM
I'd get a mac for school so I wouldn't be distracted from all the Windows games out there. My sister used her mac all the way from start to end for college. I got some expensive gaming peripherals and I didn't even finish my first year before I went into the workforce :B

Saiko
05-14-2014, 01:47 PM
If you're doing C++ and Python, then I strongly recommend an Asus Zenbook with Linux either dual-booted or in place of Windows. That's the setup I've used for over a year now, and it's worked excellently for school, personal, and enterprise development.

Even with just Windows and not Linux, the model is wonderfully easy to pack around and such: http://www.amazon.com/Zenbook-UX31LA-DS71T-13-3-Inch-Touchscreen-Laptop/dp/B00IUXLS0U/ref=dp_ob_title_ce . Note that I have an older 128 GB Windows 7 model, and there are a lot of variations on that. I'll let you figure out which specifications are best for your tastes.