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 Post subject: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one. Help
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:49 am 
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It doesn't need gaming capabilities but I would like it to be able to run a bunch of programs/processes simultaneously without being slow, SSD, good battery life, etc.

Where should I even start? I've built a couple towers but I know absolutely nothing about laptops. I heard newegg is bunk now. Amazon?

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 1:30 am 
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Amazon? I would never buy a laptop or computer on internet, in a shop you can get better advise, and try the laptops before choosing one. And if there is a problem afterwards, it's easier to go back for advise and/or repairs.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:16 am 
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There's nothing wrong with buying on the internet. It is usually somewhat cheaper than buying in a physical shop and warranty is a pain anyways: warranty/repairs are nearly always via the manufacturer regardless of whether you buy online. In the one case you drop it off at the physical shop, in the other case you mail it there. But what happens afterwards is always the same: the laptop gets sent to the manufacturer who will usually take a few weeks to diagnose the problem.
The purpose of "trying" a laptop is only to judge its looks (the performance can be judged better by looking at the specs) and the looks can also be judged by looking at pictures.
In any case, the internet is a good place to start your search and compare prices, you can always go to a real store once you've found the laptop of your dreams. Or you could go to a physical shop to look at various laptops, and then order your choice at a lower price online.

First off, you will need to make up your mind about two things: the first one being the size laptop you want (13", 15" and 17" are the most common sizes). This depends on your use case. 13" is relatively small and easy to carry, 17" is pretty big and pretty much impossible to take on the run (you would use a 17" as a replacement for a proper desktop computer and would only move it once per day or even week - it's definitely not for carrying everywhere between classes) and 15" is large, but still portable. There are also 10" and 11" laptops but that's ludicrously tiny.
Second thing: your budget. Laptops are priced anywhere from $500 to $2500. High end laptops cost $1000-$1500, anything above that is extravagant (like the retina Macbook).

Quote:
It doesn't need gaming capabilities but I would like it to be able to run a bunch of programs/processes simultaneously without being slow
This sentence describes at least 75% of the market.

Quote:
SSD
Having an SSD is nice, but there are very few laptops that have SSD's built in. SSD's are still expensive and have relatively low storage. In a desktop computer you can easily run a SSD (for the OS and programs) and HDD (for movies, pictures, documents) side-by-side but in a laptop this is harder. One option is to take out the optical storage device and replace it with a caddy for and SSD but I wouldn't bother: this option takes a lot of technical know-how.
Out of a SSD you're going to get your OS booted a few seconds faster and launch programs faster (actual running speeds is not affected) but that's it. If you have narrowed down your search to a few laptops then you could use the presence of an SSD as a deciding factor, but don't focus your search on it. There are also laptops that have a hybrid HDD. They combine a small SSD (8-20GB) for caching with a HDD for storage. This is a nice alternative.

Quote:
good battery life
Battery capacities are generally specified by the amount of (milli-)amphours (Ah/mAh) or watthours (Wh). The actual energy stored in the batteries is best compared by the amount of watthours as the amperage only is meaningful when combined with the voltage: a 1000mAh battery running at 5V will store more energy than a 2000mAh one at 2V.
But then battery life mostly depends on how much energy is actually consumed by the computer: by the screen (and this depends on how high you set the brightness) processor (energy efficient processors run slower) and other components. The only way to know is to look at reviews and see the results for various benchmarks.

You should also watch the screen resolution, especially if you have good eyes. The most common ones are 1366x768 and 1920x1080 (full HD). 1366x768 is sometimes referred to as HD ready or even as HD. A higher resolution means you can fit more on the screen and text will look better. 1366x768 is very common and you should not settle for something lower. Having full HD resolution is very nice and you should look out for this.

Most laptops are plenty fast nowadays and you only need to ask yourself "how fast?" rather than "fast enough". In terms of memory, 4GB is standard and plenty (don't get something with less RAM) but memory is quite cheap so laptops with 6 or even 8GB of ram are common and it will make the laptop run faster, especially when you have more programs open.
Comparing processors is a true minefield. Intel's lineup is incredibly confusing. Core 2 Duo and Pentium are very low-end. Core i3, i5, i7 are the mainstream ones, with i3 being the lowest and i7 the fastest. The processors are further indicated with a number as in i5-XXX. Ordering the processors is basically doing a lexicographic sort (first on the i3,5 or 7 designation and then on the number). However, the processors are further designated with a suffix and a suffix such as UM (low-voltage, mobile) indicates an energy-efficient processor and an i7 with the UM indication can be slower than an i5 without.
AMD also has a very nice lineup of processors (which usually give you more value for money) but I don't have any idea about their naming.
Once you have narrowed down you selection to a few laptops you can compare the benchmarks of their processors but don't get tunnel vision: i5's can be really close to i7's in terms of performance and tend to consume much less power. In general, computers are very fast now and it does not matter too much what you get.

I think that by now I have spent far much more time on this than you, so please do your own research.
There's a very nice website, tweakers.net, which compares the specifications and prices of electronic products. Unfortunately it's only localized to the Netherlands so it's of no use to you, but perhaps there is something comparable for the US. You can basically dial in you're looking for a laptop with at least 4GB of RAM, a screen of 14" or more, at least 1080p resolution, etc... and it will show you all the matches and the shops with the lowest price.
Though, do you really need a laptop? I find working on a desktop computer much more convenient and productive. If you're on the move though a laptop may be your only option.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:19 pm 
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Wow! Thanks Tom. I've got an HP big thing. 15 inch I think. I hate it! Big bulky heavy and a bit slow but it runs my stats. I've a 10 inch HP that I take with me when I travel. Horrid to read anything substantial on but ok for Skype and emails, etc.

It's the annual "get your cheap laptop on campus" time and I'm looking to get a new something with a 13 inch screen that can run my stats and be portable as well. I was thinking Mac, but it's a brand new OS and fingerlings that I'd have to learn....compatibility with work is important too (windows all)

Your post is very informative and helpful. I'm glad it was long.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 5:35 pm 
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You're welcome. I should add the following:
- at 13", full HD is high impossible to find and not very beneficial. 1366x768 is fine in this case.
- Apple makes really nice gear (I love the aluminum) but I wouldn't recommend it for two reasons: you're paying for the brand, you can get much better (faster) laptops for the same price. Secondly, as you pointed out, the OS. I recently helped an elderly couple switch to Mac OS and they regret doing it. I was not impressed either. It's a fair OS but not any better than Windows so I don't think relearning everything is justified. Add to that windows is everywhere. Chances are stats software will run but why bother... You could dual boot windows but that destroys the purpose.

Something I forgot to mention but will add in tomorrow is something about graphics cards.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:10 pm 
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My advice is to find one in a shop you like. Ask about it and try it. Then go home buy it from Amazon. Big factor is whether you want to do video editing. For me that has been the thing that really tests a laptop. Oh, and don't expect it to last for long. Life expectancy is short, especially if do a Teraminx on it.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:14 pm 
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I am not sure "look local, buy online" is terribly fair to the local merchant, but they are at a terrible price disadvantage (sales tax, rent, hours spent helping online shoppers choose...) so it is sometimes difficult to want to pay that premium.

It isn't necessarily much more defensible, but I tend to do my research on line then stop by a big-box store (where experience has shown me I won't get any competent assistance so I don't waste their time by asking) for a physical look/feel check to choose between a few preselected few.

Sometimes I buy there, sometimes I buy online but that can be an opportunity cost (now beats next week) vs. online + shipping decision. The last laptop I bought for my wife I got from the store directly as they were running a deal, in fact.

In defense of Macs: The aluminum body is sturdy. I didn't appreciate this nearly enough until I bought my wife's computer (Toshiba Portege), which I am afraid of breaking. And it isn't especially delicate in the field of laptops. Feeling the flex of the plastic body and worrying about the power adapter plug breaking etc. is something I don't think about with a MacBook Pro. A friend of mine who repairs computers says broken laptop power adapter sockets is a very common call for him, as well as video connector problems (the joint between the body and screen). So a "cheap" laptop may fail at these physical points well ahead of the normal lifespan of the underlying hardware.

So the price premium isn't all for style and brand, there is value you are paying for as well (my 8 year old 12" G4 PowerBook is physically durable and strong today even though technically quite out of date). The specs of the minimal Mac laptop are respectable, in contrast to plenty of cheap laptops just not worth buying. So it is like starting at the middle of the range, Apple just doesn't offer the lower range.

Battery life is very related to the processor and motherboard chipset your latptop has. This makes a huge difference (a laptop that can't get you through watching a 90 minute movie without being plugged in isn't of much use!). Power efficiency was a big part of the decision on my wife's model. Trust independent measuring, not the manufacturer, of course.

One more pitch for Mac: They don't come loaded up with crapware. What you get is generally a few useful tools and nothing spamming you daily to sign up for services.
The state of new PCs today is awful. My first step for my wife's machine was formatting it and installing Win7 Ultimate fresh. It took some doing to get the right drivers but at least I have some understanding of what is running on it. With my father-in-law's computer it is an absolute mess: Tons of unwanted services, apps, and nagging to buy, buy, buy. Knowing what you can and can't safely remove isn't obvious to most and even if you do it is a massive pain.

Years later my Mac runs just like it did before with the same apps I liked back when I bought it. PCs seem to grind to a halt over time under the burden of all the crap they started with and all the crap they accumulate through every interaction.
So part of the Apple premium is not getting the "allow us to spam you" discount from most PC manufacturers these days.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:33 pm 
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I'll chime in here with a few comments.

Dave hit on a good point, you want something sturdy. The Macbook Pros are fantastic solid machines and the magnetic power connector is one less thing to break. I've manually soldered replacement power connectors onto friends motherboards enough times to know I never want to do it again.

The business-targeted Lenovo ThinkPads are also quite sturdy. Aesthetically they're the polar opposite of a Macbook Pro but they're also quality machines.


With regard to buying a laptop in a store or online... Sometimes you get good advice from the in store clerks and sometimes they're idiots. Just because somebody works for a retailer selling machines doesn't mean they actually know what they are talking about or qualified to give advice. I'd say that if you use a store to view the machines then you should buy it from that store. It's the only fair thing to do if they've provided you a valuable service.


With regard to fast disk, don't buy a laptop with an SSD because 1) OEMs charge much more for the SSD than the after-market cost and 2) you don't have a choice of what SSD you get and usually don't get a fast one. I'd buy the SSD after market and pop it into the machine. If you have no use for the replaced laptop hard drive then eBay it. The best priced SSD for the performance is probably the Intel 320 series.

The same is true of RAM. It's inexpensive to buy after market but expensive from the OEM. I'd go for minimal RAM and then drop as much as you can in. Shoot for 6-8 GB on the low side.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:42 pm 
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A lot has been said already, so I won't repeat. I am not a big fan of Mac laptops as I find them overpriced (yes, I do know everything you might ever wanted to say about this, but that's still my opinion). In the US it's important that you plan your purchase if you want to save. Do your own research and decide what exactly you want in terms of the brands and the specs. For instance there are always excellent deals around Thanksgiving, not so much for Christmas. Last year around Thanksgiving I bought a Dell notebook for my wife - Dell Inspiron 14z, i5 CPU, 500Gb hard drive, Sandy Bridge architecture (it's all Ivy Bridge now), 4Gb RAM - all for $450. Even now, so much later, it still costs $50-$100 more. Extra 4Gb cost me another $20 on sale from Newegg, and the notebook has 8GB RAM now. Dell 14z is lighter than a 15" model, quite sleek and almost like a 13" model in overall dimensions.

For me it's a different story as I am not satisfied with mainstream screen resolutions, and those with higher screen resolutions are not getting any discounts. Now it's a bit easier as they start to offer full HD resolutions, but it had to be a special order before.

If you want a very lightweight, sleek and powerful notebook like many 13" models, those are going to be very expensive. You pay for portability in combination with power.

Anyhow, I'd been happily buying Dells for many years, albeit the models with higher resolutions in a 15" screen, like 1920x1200 and 1680x1050. Certain higher-end models of HP and IBM (well, Lenovo) also have their appeal. I've never bought a notebook in a physical store, always on the internet.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:07 am 
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My recommendation for your first laptop would be something along these lines: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6834230457

I actually bought one of these a few days ago to use as a schoolwork laptop.

It's a cheap laptop, but I don't really think you need anything better that that if you're not gaming. Small (320GB) harddrive is the biggest drawback here, but even a hard drive that size can fit hundreds of HD movies. I don't recommend an SSD, they're simply not price efficient for the amount of space you get yet.

CPU architecture is far more important than clock speed these days, and AMD A-Series processors are very price efficient compared to an intel. This A-Series has a 4 cores, while mobile i5's only have 2. This means you suffer less of a hit from multitasking.

RAM speed is more important that amount. Even 4GB of ram is hard to overwhelm unless you're loading hi-resolution gaming textures, which you won't be doing without a dedicated video cards anyway. Make sure you get DDR3 or better. I'm not even sure it's possible to buy a laptop with DDR2 theses days, so it's not much of a concern.

If you have a budget of $1000, by all means grab an ssd and and 8gb of ram, but if you're mostly planning on web surfing or, like me, running computational programs like Matlab, Maple, Mathematica, or MathCAD, a laptop like this will easily meet your needs.


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:10 am 
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I use both desktop and laptop Macs for many years and have been pleased. One of my sons is also a solid Mac user, but his boss has been pressuring him to get a Windows laptop. My son did a lot of research and determined that if he does get a Windows laptop it will be an Asus. Anyone buy one recently? How are they?

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:20 am 
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When I get the Asus I posted above in the mail tomorrow I'll post a full review for you all. Asus has always had a good reputation for components. I've been building desktops with my father since the mid 90's and we've always preferred Asus mainboards. Build quality on their laptops varies from model to model. I had an EEE pc 1008 series, which fell apart after 3 years of (heavy) use, but I saw an earlier EEE pc 1001 still chugging along in near perfect condition in class today.

While I love Macs too, I can buy a $400 laptop every four years and still spend less money than getting a new Macbook every 10. And while their warranty is great, my girlfriends macbook saw far too many trips to the apple repair booth after being carted around in a backpack nonstop; 10 years might be a very positive estimate.


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:41 am 
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URodent wrote:
RAM speed is more important that amount. Even 4GB of ram is hard to overwhelm unless you're loading hi-resolution gaming textures, which you won't be doing without a dedicated video cards anyway. Make sure you get DDR3 or better. I'm not even sure it's possible to buy a laptop with DDR2 theses days, so it's not much of a concern.
You're clearly coming at this from a completely different perspective than I am but I couldn't disagree with this statement more.

If you're trying to maximize pure performance of a low-memory task then sure, higher memory speed and lower timings is all that matters. Game is one of the very few applications where this is the case. For broad computing performance though, paging to disk is millions of times slower than memory. I'd rather go consistently 15% slower and avoid paging rather than go fast most of the time and then stall paging.

A modern OS will use all of the memory in your system as file and buffer cache. Avoiding hitting disk is crucial and the more RAM you have the more occasions you'll avoid the disk.

On the topic of memory and speed, avoiding hitting memory is even better. The Intel CPUs have massive L3 caches and the AMD A-series don't have any L3 cache (but their L2 cache is bigger and might help make up some of the difference).

Estimating computer performance is hard because there are many non-linear factors involved. More RAM (and more cores) is generally better than faster but less RAM or fewer but faster cores.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 3:35 am 
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Intel core i5 processor (2.5GHz), integrated graphics, 6GB RAM, 500GB HD, 15" LCD (Full HD), DVD Writer, Windows 7 = £420 in the UK, probably much cheaper in the USA. This is a good spec machine which will do everything except play hi-spec 3D games. Good brands are Asus, Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell. Less money = less spec e.g. core i3, smaller HD, less RAM, smaller low res screen. You have to decide what is most important for you, but get the best that you can afford, it may not be very easy to upgrade later. For Windows 7, RAM is critical to performance.

As to the battery, I wouldn't worry too much, you'll rarely use it; 2-3 hours is usually sufficient in practice.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:52 pm 
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bmenrigh wrote:
URodent wrote:
RAM speed is more important that amount. Even 4GB of ram is hard to overwhelm unless you're loading hi-resolution gaming textures, which you won't be doing without a dedicated video cards anyway. Make sure you get DDR3 or better. I'm not even sure it's possible to buy a laptop with DDR2 theses days, so it's not much of a concern.
You're clearly coming at this from a completely different perspective than I am but I couldn't disagree with this statement more.


Defer to this guy's judgement. My knowledge of these matters is anecdotal. I'm an engineer, not a computer scientist, and I can recognize that I'm technically outclassed in this discussion. I will say that RAM is the easiest aftermarket upgrade, I wouldn't let it make or break your decision. 8GB of ram runs about $40.


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:37 am 
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Remember, if you are running Windows 7 64 bit you essentially need twice the RAM than for 32 bit. As to the amount, Microsoft say that the minimum is 2GB (64 bit). Although this is technically true, if you were running anything other than Notepad you would be accessing the HD all of the time, affecting HD and battery life. Since RAM is so cheap these days, go for at least 6GB.

As to the speed (DDR2 vs DDR3), unless you are running a high end server, I really don't think you'd notice the difference, certainly not in a laptop.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 3:41 am 
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Quote:
Remember, if you are running Windows 7 64 bit you essentially need twice the RAM than for 32 bit.
This is thankfully not true. While a 64 bit OS will use a little more memory for storing pointers than a 32 bit one, this difference is quite negligible. There is absolutely no reason why you should opt for a 32 bit OS today.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:07 am 
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murderouslyrics wrote:
It doesn't need gaming capabilities but I would like it to be able to run a bunch of programs/processes simultaneously without being slow, SSD, good battery life, etc.


Dell XPS. Definitely.

I use Dell XPS since one year at a rate of about 8 hours a day average (class and out of class) and I can still open CATIA, Solidworks, and AutoCAD as well as Counter Strike Source and two word files simultaneously, without it lagging when using one of those programs. The graphics card is really good for games and the sound quality is amazing, iPod quality except it can go extremely loud :D

It's a 17.9 incher with an i7 core etc. really good and effective. I would recommmend this one with all my heart.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:31 am 
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TomZ wrote:
Quote:
Remember, if you are running Windows 7 64 bit you essentially need twice the RAM than for 32 bit.
This is thankfully not true. While a 64 bit OS will use a little more memory for storing pointers than a 32 bit one, this difference is quite negligible. There is absolutely no reason why you should opt for a 32 bit OS today.
From Microsoft (minimum specs):
Microsoft wrote:
1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
I agree with Tom though, you should be using 64 bit.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 6:45 am 
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I've been looking at getting a new HP Envy 17 as a desktop replacement.


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:06 am 
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We are veering off-topic now, but this quote from the Microsoft website does not validate your statement. A 64 bit OS does not need twice as much memory as a 32 bit one. The difference is that memory locations are numbered differently: a 32 bit OS uses 32 bits to store the memory location, so you can address roughly 4 billion memory locations. This limits you to using at most 4GB of RAM. In a 64 bit OS, you can address 16 billion billion locations so you can address virtually unlimited amounts of RAM (though for licensing reasons, you can only use up to 16GB in windows home edition and up to 192GB in professional).
A side-effect of this is that it takes twice as much space to store a memory location, so for instance the page table and certain data structures will take up more space. However, any data stored (pictures, programs) does not take up any more space.

Apparently, Microsoft deems you need at least 1GB of ram to run Windows 7 smoothly. Once you switch to 64 bits, the memory requirements rise slightly so 1GB is no longer enough, so they recommend that you use at least 2GB. However, your statement "if you are running Windows 7 64 bit you essentially need twice the RAM than for 32 bit" seems to imply that if you have a computer with 4GB of RAM running 32 bit windows then to get the same performance when running 64 bit windows you need 8GB of RAM. This is not the case and the 8GB, 64 bit computer will run far much better than the 32 bit 4GB one.

Again, there is absolutely no reason why you should buy a computer with 32 bit windows.

As for Greg's recommendation, I am sure the XPS lineup (he's not being very specific) contains very nice machines but I don't think they stand out extraordinarily. Any computer with a good processor (like an i7) and a good amount of RAM can run all those programs. I would have to warn that 17.9" is really very big and probably not suitable for most people.

I promised I would say something about graphics cards: if you want to do stuff that involves 3D rendering (games) then having a discrete graphics card with 1GB or 2GB's of dedicated memory is great. Most laptops have their graphics cards integrated in the processor but this does not give you very good performance in 3D tasks. Some laptops have both integrated and discrete graphics and allow you to switch between the two. This means you can use the integrated to save on battery life when doing mundane tasks, and use the discrete graphics when you need more power, at the expense of battery life.
As a side note, although SolidWorks deals with 3D it does actually not benefit much from a good graphics card. For SolidWorks, the processor is much more important.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:26 am 
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Regarding the Battery-Life, i would suggest to double check before buying, that the battery is based on
NI-LI or LI-IO, that means based on Lithium element and not NI-CD = Nickel Cadmium, as both can have many mHA cells, Lithium are highly superior compared to the old NI-CA, also Lithium Batterys can keep energy for many months without losing the power during they rest/standby state. Good Luck.


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:41 am 
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Remember that if you have, say, 4GB of RAM this is actually 4294967296 x 8 bits. On a 32 bit system this is equivalent to 1G word, so on a 64 bit system this is 0.5G words i.e. half as much from the perspective of the memory map. So for the 64 bit system to "see" the same memory, you need twice as much i.e. 8GB.
TomZ wrote:
... and the 8GB, 64 bit computer will run far much better than the 32 bit 4GB one.
Absolutely :) But from the OS perspective, don't they have the same memory?

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:03 am 
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No, the word size is not determined by the OS, but by the physical structure of the processor - it designates the size of the processor's registers and this is independent of the type of OS used (32 bit windows will run on a 64 bit processor). Pretty much every recent processor uses 64 bit words. The 64/32 bit designation in the windows version does not relate to the word size but to the space used for addressing memory. The addresses always refer to individual bytes and whether the processor treats them in pairs of 4 or 8 is irrelevant.
Sure, 4GB = 1G (32 bit words) and 8GB = 1G (64 bit words) but 1G (64 bit words) is still twice as much memory as 1G (32 bit words). Regardless of what size words you break it down in to, 8GB is always more than 4GB.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 9:25 am 
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Gus wrote:
Remember that if you have, say, 4GB of RAM this is actually 4294967296 x 8 bits. On a 32 bit system this is equivalent to 1G word, so on a 64 bit system this is 0.5G words i.e. half as much from the perspective of the memory map. So for the 64 bit system to "see" the same memory, you need twice as much i.e. 8GB.
TomZ wrote:
... and the 8GB, 64 bit computer will run far much better than the 32 bit 4GB one.
Absolutely :) But from the OS perspective, don't they have the same memory?

This is some seriously fuzzy math. The answer is "no".

First off, x86 and amd64 both divide memory into regions called pages and the page size is same between the two (4kb or 4096 bytes). 8GB of RAM is double the number of pages, whether you're in 64 or 32 bit mode.

Second, Intel chose a long time ago to define a word as 16 bits (two bytes). So a 32bit register / memory location is a "double word" or "DWORD" and a 64bit register / memory location is a "quad word" or "QWORD". For a language like C, it is up to the compiler to choose the size of types like int and long. Speaking of registers, AMD added a ton of extra general purpose registers in 64bit mode which dramatically reduces the use of push and pop and takes a lot of pressure off of the L1 cache. Identical code compiled to amd64 is usually much more efficient due to more registers.

From a memory perspective the biggest change between x86 and amd64 is that pointers need to be twice the size. Relatively speaking pointers make up a very small amount of memory used in "normal" workloads so the hit due to this size increase is negligible.

Nobody should run a new general-purpose machine with a 32bit OS.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 10:06 am 
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bmenrigh wrote:
First off, x86 and amd64 both divide memory into regions called pages and the page size is same between the two (4kb or 4096 bytes). 8GB of RAM is double the number of pages, whether you're in 64 or 32 bit mode.
Yeh, I forgot about the seriously screwed way x86 processors divide up the memory map. I was thinking from a completely flat and uniform memory map point of view, like the embedded processor designs I am used to :oops: My calcs only apply when everything is stored as 32 or 64 bit words.

Anyway, we are way off topic here. Sorry about that. Good luck with your new laptop!

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:24 pm 
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If you are going to splurge on something besides memory, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend getting an SSD drive. Especially if you don't need a lot of space. They are insanely faster and use a fraction of the battery power as a mechanical drive.

I have one as my boot drive and windows 7 boots in no time and everything loads in no time.

-d


Last edited by darryl on Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 3:58 am 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
Life expectancy is short, especially if do a Teraminx on it.

I probably am just self-important but I assume that you mean "if you drop a Teraminx on it" and you're busting my chops. If so, I already have a $135 reminder of what a clumsy butthead I am.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:32 am 
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I want to hook this up to a docking bay when I'm home and hook it up to two monitors. Would I need a particular GPU or something for this?

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:12 am 
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I think most Laptop GPUs can drive up to two monitors. That means that you can either use the laptop's display and one additional monitor, or use two additional monitors but not the laptop's display (I am not sure if all laptops support this options). Alternatively you could buy a USB graphics adapter to support an additional monitor. There probably are GPUs out there capable of driving 3 displays but I wouldn't know which ones and it would probably be very difficult to find a suitable laptop given that constraint.
A docking bay will limit your options considerably and add a lot to the price tag. I would just get a normal laptop - how hard is it to plug in a couple of cables each time?

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:31 am 
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The HP Envy 17 that I'm looking at is supposed to be able to drive 3 external monitors plus the laptop's display but the current drivers/software are missing this feature. HP and AMD are supposed to be working on a fix.

Here's HP's page for it:
http://www.shopping.hp.com/en_US/home-o ... otebook-PC


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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 9:05 am 
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Good review of 10 laptops for under £400.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:12 am 
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I've narrowed my search down some:
ASUS Zenbook UX31E (or other Zenbook)
http://www.amazon.com/Zenbook-UX31E-DH52-13-3-Inch-Ultrabook-Aluminum/dp/B005SY32Q2

HP Elitebook 2560p (my dad has this one and I REALLY like the eraser mouse but nobody makes them anymore)
http://www.amazon.com/HP-EliteBook-BlueTooth-FingerPrint-Professional~3/dp/B008MTLKBE/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1346831270&sr=8-4&keywords=hp+elitebook+2560p

ASUS U36
http://www.amazon.com/U36SD-DH51-13-3-Inch-Light-Laptop-Black/dp/B005UUS610/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346395318&sr=8-1&keywords=asus+u36

HP Envy Pro Ultrabook
http://shopping1.hp.com/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/WFS/WW-USSMBPublicStore-Site/en_US/-/USD/ViewProductDetail-Start?ProductUUID=kP4Q7EN5HkUAAAE3tDsfN41g&CatalogCategoryID=&JumpTo=OfferList

Specifically, HP Envy 14-3010
http://www.amazon.com/HP-ENVY-14-3010NR-Spectre-Ultrabook/dp/B0076BDBDE/ref=sr_du_1_map?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1346831698&sr=1-1

Thoughts? I'll still look at other links to specific laptops if you really think it's better than any of these.

Also, quad-core would be awesome but almost no laptops exist with quad-core, I'm guessing because of heat.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 3:31 am 
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I believe there are actually plenty of laptops out there with quad core processors. They tend to consume a lot of power but it's not out of the question. Simply look for one with a processor designated i7-XXXXQM. The Q designates quad core.

You have listed 5 laptops. What do you think are the (dis-)advantages of each when compared to the others in your list? In this topic we listed a lot of criteria to look at so perhaps you can judge for yourself.

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 Post subject: Re: I'm considering getting a laptop. I've never owned one.
PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:53 pm 
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Ignore my last post. I've decided against getting an ultrabook because I want something that I can hook up to a couple monitors and a lot of ultrabooks don't have displayport/HDMI, let alone VGA. If I want to hook it up to two monitors, and let's say one of them is a duplicate of the laptop screen or the laptop screen is off, would I need a more powerful processor or just a solid GPU? I now am kind of set on the Sony S-Series. Could I pull off using two monitors with their GPU and an i5 processor?

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