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Thread: Thinking about a new laptop...

  1. #1
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    Default Thinking about a new laptop...

    I am hoping to purchase a new laptop before the end of the year. I am trying to start a web consulting business, and I'd like to invest in a good portable computer. My bias is currently strong toward Dell, as I have said before. However, I am open to other choices.

    My price range is in the -US$1000s; base specs are at least C2D@+2GHz,4GBs of memory, +13.3" screen (but less than 17"), and some high speed ports (Firewire, USB 2.0 or eSATA); I do some audio recording as a hobby, and I'd like to be able to connect to a fast external drive. SSDs are nice but pretty much out of my price range.

    I am looking seriously at the Dell Studio 15. I know several other forum members have used it successfully, it's a good looking machine, a reasonably priced; as most Dells are. oldcpu's thread was very enlightening (and enjoyable!).

    My only concern, is that once I upgraded the Studio's specs to match my base, and add a few extras like backlit keyboard, 802.11n, I am already in the +$900 range, and dangerously close to the $1099 price tag on the really nice Studio XPS 13. The XPS Studio is smaller, but it meets all my minimum specs at it's lowest price, in addition to a faster CPU, DDR3 memory, all the little extras I had to add to the Studio 15, and in a really slick package.

    But I am not at all certain of the linux compatibility of the Studio XPS line. So far the only hangup I've seen is the optional Nvidia hybrid graphics, which I am not interested in.

    Has anyone used the Studio XPS line with openSUSE (or linux in general)? What about those of you with the Studio 15, has it been a solid performer? Are there similar laptops by other manufacturers that I should consider?
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    I'm about to call it a night, so I'll keep this short ...

    A key requirement for me in the Dell Studio 15, was I wanted the 15.4" screen. When I go on business, or my wife and I go on vacation, we watch movies on the laptop, and hence we wanted a larger screen. But the 17" was too big for us to carry, so the 15.4" appeared ideal for 2 people movie watching.

    The second requirement was I wanted to be able to encode videos. Hence I wanted a faster processor. But I also wanted longer battery life, hence I also had to compromise a bit on the processor as I did not want a processor that ate up the battery quickly. The Intel Core2 duo P8400 in the Dell Studio 15 worked for me.

    As noted, I wanted longer battery life. The Dell had a 9cell battery option (ie a bigger longer life battery, ... also heavier) that I went for.

    I also wanted reliability in the graphic card. As much as I like nVidia, their reliability is horrible due to some serious quality problems. I'll accept a nVidia in a desktop at home, where I have backup graphic cards and back up PCs, but I will not accept quality problems in a laptop. Its too painful to have a laptop fail when on the road. Hence I chose a laptop that had an ATI radeon. Intel graphics were having MAJOR problems with xorg at the time, and I did not want to delve into that.

    I also wanted a wireless that "just worked". Research indicated that with the 2.6.27 kernel (in openSUSE-11.1) the Intel WiFi Link 5300 AGN wireless that I chose would be easy to get running (and it was - it "just worked").

    I think I documented my other considerations at the time. The HP DV 5 looked very tempting.

    If it had not been for the 15.4" screen requirement, and the desire to encode videos at a reasonably fast speed (ie a faster CPU), I would have been tempted by a small Samsung NC10 with its 10" screen and its incredible battery life. Its got a great keyboard, and its really light to carry. On the other hand the Dell Studio 15, with the larger screen, and extra large battery I got, is heavy, and a bulky in comparison.

    Still, I like the Dell Studio 15 and given I want the bigger screen, longer battery life, and faster processor, then I am willing to put up with the extra weight.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Hmm, I had forgotten about the NVidia issues. I guess that helps slim down my choices, as I am not interested in super graphics cards, and if they're going to fail on me down the road, I'll steer clear of them.

    Well, that makes the choice a bit easier, as the XPS models come with NVidia by default, without other options. The one exception is the XPS Studio 16, but this is a bit large for me, and it's well above $1000.

    The Studio 15 is still looking good. Are there other contenders from HP or Lenovo?
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Okay, I am looking at two particular models now; the Dell Studio 15, and the HP Pavilion dv5tse. With nearly identical configs (and Intel Integrated graphics), they come out to US$989, and US$999, respectively. The one difference is Bluetooth, which comes with the HP, but is optional on the Dell. I don't use bluetooth, so it's not an issue for me. Also, the Dell has an optional backlit keyboard, which I probably would add if I made the purchase.

    I looked at the Lenovo machines, which looked really good, but they all had Nvidia graphics, with no option for anything else.

    Anyone using the HP dv5 series with linux? Any other suggestions?
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Hmm, looks like a level playing field. Both laptops even feature USB/eSATA combos, which I like. The Hp has somewhat higher resolution (1605x1005 vs 1440x900) but after playing with a Studio 15, I think 1440x900 is about as much as I would want anyways. Though the Studio 15 is available with a WUXGA (1920x1200) screen if I want it...

    I can't seem to find any other laptops that are in this "genre", if you will. Partly because I am unfamiliar with most other brands.
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Latitude D531 - AMD Turion X2 64@2.0Ghz; 2GB RAM; Linux Mint 8

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    When I was shopping, I was left with the impression that the HP DV 5 was a bit less expensive than the Dell Studio 15 ... but I have to qualify that.

    Being in Germany, all the local shops laptops had keyboards in German, and it cost something like an extra 100 euros to get a laptop with a keyboard in English. While with the Dell, in Germany with careful part selection, I could order a Dell laptop with an English keyboard at no extra cost. This swayed the price back from being in favour of the HP DV5, to equal price between the two laptops.

    The Dell keyboard also, for a slight extra cost, has a back lit option for the keyboard, which I am told is REALLY NICE and worth going for. There are videos on You tube illustrating this effect. I like it. I don't recall this being an HP DV5 option. But my having typed that, I did not go for the backlit, as my wife plans to put Thai-English stickers on most (not all) of the keyboard keys, which sort of defeats the purpose of going for a back lit keyboard.

    One factor that eventually swayed me to purchase the Dell was a simple question of supply where I lived. ... When I was ready to "pull the trigger and buy" there was no HP DV 5 of the exact configuration that I wanted (in terms of RAM). To upgrade the RAM was a silly price and made the HP DV5 not price competitive, hence it was best I found (when shopping) to ensure the the laptop comes with the RAM one wants already installed.

    About a month after I purchased the Dell, there were some HP DV 5's in the local shop (with German keyboards) that were about the same price (after the English keyboard upgrade) as the Dell. But by then it was too late.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Yeah, the backlit keyboard is a factor in my view. While it pushes the price past that of the dv5t, it's only $25, and it's not available at all on the HP.

    The match is otherwise so close that I think the "Dell factor" might be enough to decide my decision. I would like to look at other brands as well, but I'm not seeing much competition. Excluding Nvidia seems to force out most of the others.

    I think I can look at both the Studio 15 and the dv5t at our local Best Buy. I may try them both out to see how they handle.

    Anyone else have suggestions?
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Boy, I had excluded NVidia equipped machines from my choice, but this one looks awfully nice:

    Lenovo IdeaPad Y530 - 40516EU - $999 config

    • System components:
    • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8600 ( 2.40GHz 1GHz 3MB )
    • NVIDIA GeForce 9300M 256MB
    • 4 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz
    • 15.4 " WXGA TFT with integrated camera AntiGlare 1280x800
    • 320GB 5400
    • DVD Recordable (Dual Layer)
    • 6 Cell Lithium-Ion
    • Intel Wireless Wi-Fi Link 5100
    • Bluetooth Version 2.0 + EDR


    Everything in a 1066Mhz fsb, with DDR3 RAM.

    I wonder how hard it is to replace a graphics card...

    Here's another Lenovo, this time a Thinkpad with integrated graphics:

    ThinkPad SL500 Series - $969.00 config
    • Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz 1066MHz 3MBL2)
    • 15.4" WXGA AntiGlare
    • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
    • 4 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz SODIMM Memory



    Doesn't seem like anyone else has any advice, I suppose (with one exception; thanks oldcpu! )...
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Quote Originally Posted by zak89 View Post
    Boy, I had excluded NVidia equipped machines from my choice, but this one looks awfully nice:
    ...........
    NVIDIA GeForce 9300M 256MB
    To replace the graphic card in a laptop, to the best of my knowledge, requires that the laptop be returned to a service center. One may have to wait one to six weeks, for the parts to arrive.

    You mentioned nVidia ...

    One nice thing about nVidia graphics over ATI graphics, is nVidia are actively working with the Linux community to try and get Pure Video capability of many nVidia cards (known as VDPAU in Linux) working with ffmpeg, mplayer, xine, mythTV, and some other Linux multimedia applications. While this has been around for a while for Windows, in Linux terms this is still fairly state of the art.

    If you do a search for "wiki nvidia vdpau" or "wiki Pure Video" you will see that if they succeed (and its still buggy now) computers fitted with nVidia cards that have Pure Video capabilities, will be able to decode the high definition videos that are appearing now on the market. Currently older PCs struggle with these. For example, my relatively new Dell Studio 15 (P8400 with Radeon 3450) can not smoothly play an H.264 encoded 1920x1080 24p high definition video. I would have to render it to a lower resolution first.

    But I suspect with vdpau functioning, a laptop with a nVidia card supporting Pure Video (VDPAU) will be able to play such a video (because the decoding of the H.264, or VC-1 (wmv) or MPEG1/2 are offloaded to the graphic card GPU. The amount of memory on the laptop's graphic card becomes key then, as I believe one would want at least 256MB RAM on the graphic card. Don't expect the graphic card to use the laptop's RAM and still keep the High Definition video playback. Of course 512MB on the graphic card would be even nicer, but likely NOT realistic in a laptop.

    In my case, this would have been nice to have, as my wife and I play lots of videos on our laptop. (However there is the nVidia quality issue ... ).

    Anyway, I offer that High Definition video playback consideration as food for thought, dependant on how you plan to use your laptop.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Thinking about a new laptop...

    Good points. My video needs are rather slim however; I may watch a flash movie every once and a while, or some home video, and perhaps I'll use this to play DVDs on the projector for the family, but in general, this is a work machine, with multimedia uses limited primarily to audio; and I use an external sound card, so in general, I don't need fancy multimedia features. The idea of my graphics cards failing while working with a client is not particularly enticing...

    Though it's a bit ironic, as I normally would cater towards companies like NVidia (or Dell, for that matter) because of their efforts at supporting linux.

    However, the above mention Thinkpad uses integrated graphics, so that may be an option. And according to this link, linux support is pretty good with an up-to-date kernel (also with the HP dv5t). Any Thinkpad fans want to chime in here?
    Dell Inspiron 530 - C2Q@2.4Ghz; 6GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86_64; KDE 4.4.1
    Dell Inspiron 1440 - C2D@2.2Ghz; 4GB RAM; openSUSE 11.2 x86; KDE 4.4.1
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