Ok, for the last 6 months I’ve been hunting around for a new laptop. I need a sturdy powerful laptop which had some bells and whistles which would be useful especially for giving presentations. I ended up spending between $1250-1300. Some observations:
- I thought I was saving money by ordering my RAM and hard drive from a third party. Indeed, I did save about $40. In retrospect, that seemed like needless crimping. For $40 more, I could have had the peace of mind knowing that I had only one vendor for servicing my parts. Now I have two vendors to worry about.
- I upgraded to a bright NIT display. That cost about $150 more, but I really thought having a laptop whose screen would be clear and sharp in midday sun would be a good feature to have (and good to show off). The display technology apparently uses just about the same amount of energy as regular displays.
- One big factor was whether to buy a laptop with a builtin eSATA port. Esata is a standard which is faster than USB 2, but it only comes on high end laptops. After some checking around, I decided instead to buy a separate eSATA adaptor for my ExpressCard. I don’t plan to use this often, but that seems to be something I would use. (Interestingly, the Thinkpad didn’t seem to have firewire either).
- I saw lots of excellent laptops selling for $700 or less. The compromise you made was lack of customizability, inferior processors and 5400 rpm hard drives. Upgrading to 320 gig 7200 rpm cost you another $100 or so.
- I never ceased to be amazed at how many laptops still have 32 bit Vista on it. After placing my order, I just realized that Lenovo did not list which version of Vista they would install on it (I will need to call to make sure). Update: Home Premium is 32 bit; what a pain to change!
- For $100 more, I paid for the 2 extra years on the extended warranty. Peace of mind.
- I had to choose between a 14 inch model and a 15 inch, and my choice ultimately come down to battery life. The smaller you get, the easier it is to carry and the longer battery life.
- Lenovo has one of the best reputations for being friendly to the environment and climate change. This means a lot to me.
- Two things I rarely found good information about were the ports on the laptop and the quality of the webcam (and Linux support). These sorts of things don’t make the manufacturer any extra money, and yet they are vital to being satisfied with your laptop.
- I did something unusual this time. I asked for advice on what laptop to buy on a forum. On Notebookreview.com I found a good forum entitled, “What laptop should I buy?”. You had to fill in a form giving your price range and preferences. Then, within minutes, you get suggestions by people knowledgeable about what you can get in today’s market.
- Lenovo is known for high quality Thinkpads, but in some ways, their website is incompetent. They don’t have 24 hour customer support or even weekend support. Shipping dates are substantially longer than Dell and HP. They use only Intel processors, and the ecommerce tool is not as friendly. Their laptop prices haven’t declined that much over the last 6 months. On the other hand, they have been putting out 15% off coupon deals (in addition to the normal discount). But Thinkpads is their premiere laptop, and so I know the quality of the parts and the build itself is high.
- I had to shop for a replacement router for my mom. Apparently, according to reviews, no one is happy with the performance of 802.11n wifi routers (even though range and performance of the standard itself is supposed to be better). Many savvy people are sticking with the Linksys 54xxx g router, which is surprising. I didn’t see one router under $100 which people are happy with.
- I was trying to deal with the dual boot issue, and someone referred me to wubi, which installs ubuntu as a kind of virtual machine on windows. From the faq:
No. This is a real installation, the only difference is that Ubuntu is installed within a file as opposed to being installed within its own partition. Thus we spare you the trouble of creating a free partition for Ubuntu. And we spare you the trouble to have of having to burn a CD-Rom.
I actually played around with the idea of buying a cheap 4 gigabyte laptop, but the quality of the builds were not as good; also you usually compromised on memory and ports.