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Author Topic: Laptop Dilemma
krynn
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Hi again Hatrack community. I have been wanting a laptop for a long time now, but could never justify buying one. Now I'm in a unique position to get one and I'm wondering why I want one so bad. I was hoping to get people to give me reasons FOR getting one. I really want to buy one, but just needed more people to reassure me its a good investment. I'm a senior in college, so I could definitely use it for class work, especially since the labs are always so full. Anyway, if anyone has a couple great reasons for having one to help ease my mind about buying one, please clue me in.

PS: The laptops I've been looking at are Dells. Is that bad or good? I'm looking at those only because they are who I bought my desktop from a couple years ago.

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quidscribis
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It's not an investment, it's an expense, and if you can make do perfectly fine with a desktop, go with that - you get more bang for your buck with them.

Sorry, no enabling today. [Smile]

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Tatiana
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I love my laptop because I can take it with me when I travel, and be online in my hotel. It also is nice that I can take it over to my mom's apartment to show her stuff (like pictures of my nieces online). Her neighbors have unsecured wireless access points, which is very generous of them, I think.

I don't think I'll buy another desktop, but I might get some really schweet display and wireless keyboard and mouse to use with my laptop when I'm at home.

Go for it! You'll never go back!

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MattP
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The laptop might be a nice convenience, but it's by no means necessary.
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mr_porteiro_head
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If you're looking for others to justify your unnecessary expenses, you'd probably be better of not spending the money.
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Shanna
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I have a Dell laptop and I have NOT had good experiences with it. I still vividly remember the day freshman year when a Dell guy came to look at my roommate's laptop and found that half the parts were not screwed in and were bouncing around causing all sorts of havoc. I think their desktops are great but the laptops are not high in my book (I'm in the process of reloading Windows on mine at this moment because half of my hardware stopped working and I don't know if its a Windows or a Dell problem).

I'm in a similar position computer choice since I'll be getting a Mac in December but I'm not sure if it'll be a laptop or a desktop.

Laptops are great for mobility but just ask yourself how often you'll be lugging it around. My roommate loved to wander the house with hers while mine pretty much stayed put on my desk. For classwork, it was great to be able to take it to the library and type papers in a corner with all my reference books spread out around me.

But some people enjoy the freedom of a laptop. They're great for travelling. I take mine when I'm staying at Wi-Fi available hotels so that I can print off driving directions and look-up good places to visit in various cities. They also kill good time when you're delayed at the airport.

Not to mention, it seems the gap in quality and power seems to be closing between laptops and desktops. Unless you really need hundreds and hundreds of GBs of memory, I'd say that most laptops pack more than enough punch for the average or even above-average usrer.

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martha
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I, too, want a laptop but can't justify buying one. I spend rather a lot of time at our household desktop, to the extent that my husband teases me about my "habit" and my butt hurts when I walk away from the computer. Okay, the latter is because we badly need a new *chair*.

Anyway, I can't justify a laptop because all I really do is surf and write emails. You, krynn, on the other hand, have legitimate use for a laptop. Yours would not be redundant, and would allow you immensely increased flexibility in where you do your work. Imagine going to the library and taking notes not in a notebook but on a Notebook!

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MattP
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At my office we use Dell laptops and have had a generally good experience with them. They are all high-end machines. Perhaps the consumer-level models are lower quality.
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theamazeeaz
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You're a senior in college. I would be less apt to spend money on a laptop when I have heard of many people working jobs where their work buys them a computer (I can't enumerate, but it happens)

I bought my (second) laptop on a whim last year and I don't regret it. If you are trying to save money, you can think of yourself being paid $1000 to wait in line and rely on public computing (which is somewhat reliable at my school and even with a laptop, I use it all the time) as well as to transport any giant computer from whereever you move to when you leave school..

The two people I know who brought desktops to college broke down and bought themselves a laptop. Not cheaper when you buy two computers. If you think you want a laptop, and you don't anticipate being in the situation where you will need a very specific computer for some other reason, buy it.

My laptop takes field trips only every so often, but it's worth it when it does. I don't take notes on it, but I've used it for presentations, and situations where I'd prefer to present my work on the machine I created it. I've also brought it on three out of the three trips to the southwest I've made and found it invaluable.

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fugu13
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Get an OLPC laptop! Only $400!

http://www.xogiving.org/

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krynn
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that OLPC reminds me of Ender's Game in chapter 1, where ender is wondering how adults can draw such fine lines with their large hands. im wondering how i could ever type with one of those things.
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Valentine014
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I have a Dell laptop and the battery sucks. I've had it for less than a year, went to use it on battery at a conference, and it went dead in less than 30 minutes. I always have it plugged in and never use just the battery. According to the website, this is common and they typically have to be replaced yearly. Wish I would've known that before, might have bought a different brand. Overall, though, I like the thing. I customized it to fit my needs and it has pretty much fulfilled them.
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HollowEarth
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I bought a thinkpad, oh about 16 months ago. The backlight on the screen died after about 6 months, but it was replaced under warranty in about a week (local authorized repair).

No issues, no complaints.

I'm a graduate student and I carry this machine back and forth to school everyday. Its immeasurably nicer to do your work, at home or at the lab in on the same machine. I have the 9 cell battery, and I get about 4 hours of solid use, or 6+ of mild use. Most days I don't even take the power cord with me. (But most days I won't use it anywhere near 4 hours.) I did luck out and get a new battery (from the recall) after about a year of use, FWIW.

It was a little more expensive that I really wanted, but I've heard of too many people having issues with the consumer level offerings from Dell and Gateway. I also had some specific requirements that I wanted (15" form, not a widescreen) and the Lenovo offering fit those criteria best. Plus I think there was an education discount since I'm technically a student.

I was really leery of the laptop keyboard because I have large hands, but this keyboard is definitely big enough for me to use comfortably. Though the lack of number pad can be maddening sometimes.

I don't know that I have any advice for buying a laptop as a senior. Honestly, your situation is liable to change drastically after another 8 or so months. Do you think it will still have been money well spent then? I suppose that it depends heavily on what you're actually doing in school.

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Mike
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My laptop (a 12" powerbook g4) is just about four years old. After two battery replacements and a hard drive crash it still runs pretty well (oh, except the cd drive is sort of broken), but I'm planning on replacing it when the new macbook pros come out in January. I do not miss having a desktop.

So it sounds like if you can afford it and will be using it not at your desk a lot, a laptop might be a good idea. If it's just going to be sitting on your desk the whole time, a desktop is probably a better choice. But if you don't really need either and you're just looking for an excuse or justification, you might want to put off your purchase for a while. After all, when you finally do get around to getting one (seems likely in the long run) it'll be that much faster and newer.

quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:
I'm in a similar position computer choice since I'll be getting a Mac in December but I'm not sure if it'll be a laptop or a desktop.

You may want to take a quick look at the Mac Rumors Buyer's Guide in case any of the models you're thinking of are about to be updated.

-----

And, hi, martha! [Wave]

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ketchupqueen
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Laptops are necessary so that Jatraqueros can post from each others' hotel rooms at Hatrack cons. [Big Grin]
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Lyrhawn
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I have a Dell Laptop, just a step below the XPS ones, it wasn't cheap, and I love it.

That said, if your main issue is being able to go over to other people's houses or to libraries, you might be better off just getting a cheaper desktop and then getting a portable external hard drive. You could store anything and everything you'd ever want on it, and be able to take your whole library with you much more easily than a heavy laptop, and then plug it into a friend's or library computer.

Having a laptop does give you some nice advantages, but I think the majority of them are really just conveniences, rather than true advantages. If you need someone to talk you into it, it might not be worth the premium.

If you do get one, Dell's are fine, from my experience. Just get a good service plan and don't get the bargain basement model, it costs that much for a reason. I bought the 17 inch widescreen jumbo laptop, and while it's portable, I think twice before casually lugging it around somewhere, and it's not a ton of fun to take to class since it's too big for most of the desks, sucks up power like a Hoover, and kills my back when my books are added to my backpack. On the flipside, my mom bought the tiniest computer they make (my family likes extremes) and she really doesn't like it now. It runs just fine, but she got it specifically because she wanted a lighterweight computer, but the screen is just too small and the keys make typing a real chore since they are so bunched together. So I'd aim for something in the 13-15 inch range for a screen if you really want to get a laptop that maximizes portability without sacrificing performance.

Two years after buying it, I would probably buy it again, even though it was extremely pricey (much more than I could really afford, but we learn these things the hard way), because I've gotten used to the convenience of being able to take it from room to room with me, but I could have easily lived with a $1000 cheaper desktop model that would've likely been faster, and with more memory and some nicer peripherals and sacrificed the portability. I could have lived with it. My brother wanted a laptop from Dell but ended up with a desktop, and he has never complained about it. Of course he holes himself up in his room playing on it constantly and no one every really sees him come out of his cave, but I suppose that's also a valid downside.

That's something else to consider too, every upgrade you make to your laptop is going to cost more than a desktop, because tinysizing things costs more (though less now than it used to).

Lots of options to weigh, but at the end of the day, don't buy something you can't afford, and don't pay a ton of money for something you really don't want. Those two pieces of advice might conflict at some point (like when what you really want costs just a bit more than the thing you don't want) but you should be able to strike a balance between them.

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krynn
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Lyrhawn, thanks for the great advice. The Dell Laptop I plan on buying is right below the XPS level as well, and not cheap. I originally didn't think I needed a service plan, but now I'm reconsidering. Is a 2 year plan reasonable? I'm also on campus most of the day and having to go home or walk back and forth from a lab is an inconvenience. Thanks to everyone for the speedy replies.
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Lyrhawn
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A little more advice then, if you get a Dell upgrade the battery to the nine cell. In case you're somewhere away from a plug and you're on campus all day, you're really going to appreciate the extra battery life. You're also going to want to fiddle around with the power settings to maximize the battery life when you're off plug. Email me in the future if you don't know how to do that, but it can make a huge difference in how long your battery lasts.

When I got mine, there was a deal on the three year extended service plan, and it included anti-spyware/virus/firewall protection, what amounts to insurance (basically they say I can more or less throw it down the stairs and they'll send me a new one, but I don't think it's that cut and dry), and in home tech service if I have a problem with it. I think the plan was like $180, but when you consider the high price of a high end machine like that, $180 for three years worth of that kind of protection is really, really worth it.

For little things with few moving parts, like say a digital camera or an MP3 player (especially one with flash memory) you don't need warranties or service plans (unless they are really high end). But when you're spending upwards of $1500 on a laptop, something that is going to be traveling with you, lots of moving parts, things might break with the constant movement and shuffling between classes, I think it's a very, very good idea. Also keep in mind that I believe Dell laptops come with a year of free service, mine did, it's their basic warranty, and what you purchase as an add-on is an extended warranty. I didn't discover that until a year afterwards. Also keep in mind that that doesn't cover your battery, so if your battery starts to die after 10 months, contact them immediately if you think it's a default and not normal wear and tear, or you'll have to shell out a lot for a replacement (I just paid over $100 for a new battery for mine, but it was absolutely necessary).

Is a two year plan reasonable? Yeah I'd say so, but how much more is the three year plan? If you have the money now to spend, and the best coverage they have isn't ridiculously more, I say get it. I looked at my laptop as a longterm investment really. When you're spending that much on a good laptop, you aren't going to be replacing it in two years like you might consider for one of Dell's cheapo $400 desktops with the free monitor. You're going to have it for a few years, because you don't just discard something you paid that much for. So consider how long you really want good functionality out of it, and I'd say buy as much coverage as you think you need that you can afford.

Just my two cents. Well, after those two posts, it's probably more like a buck fifty, but indulge me, I'm in a wordy mood this morning. [Smile]

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fugu13
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krynn: I had a chance to play with a prototype a number of months back, and while the keyboard is small, it is manageable. My hands are not huge, but neither are they particularly small (about normal for a 6' tall skinny guy).

Dell's service plans are good. Also, check with your school. It might have a contract with Dell that gets you a discount and a longer warranty for free (that's how my school's contract works).

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Farmgirl
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Our laptops are all Dells, and we have had very good luck with them - no problems.

If I were buying another, it would be a Dell.

My daughter has an XPS she is using at college daily.

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pH
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I bought myself an XPS a couple months ago, and I love it. The viewing angle of the screen is awesome, and I'm using it to watch movies in my bedroom. I also have a tv tuner for it. The battery life is good on mine, especially considering it's a 17" widescreen. I also got mine with XP instead of Vista because Vista is new and scary. Anyways, it's a cool computer. [Smile] Worth the price for me.

-pH

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