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Author Topic: Please help choose new laptop?  (Read 4211 times)


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Please help choose new laptop?
« on: January 16, 2008, 08:53:47 am »

Maybe...  Hopefully, Santa will let me have my late Christmas laptop this week.

I don't need anything high end, just something for text, internet, graphic editing and wireless.

Not needing to game, process video files or anything my desktop can do.  I just need something portable.  We are "hoping" I can knock the dust off of my PHP manuals and possibly generate some income for our family while working in the same room with the kids during the day.  Me being in this home office working, while the kids can be out of my sight, is unacceptable.

I haven't had a laptop in years.  They have come a long ways and the prices keep falling. I wasn't planning to buy local, I was thinking of Tigerdirect or Newegg to save some cash.  But the wife had some business to do at Bestbuy during work and just happened to check out the laptops they had (God Bless her).  So she calls me and started reading specs and prices.  I got a bit excited because the pricing for a carryout laptop really caught my attention.  And if something happens, I can throw it in someones face rather then "hope" a online company will help me out.  And not paying shipping is a plus too!

These are the two that caught my eye at the store.  Mind you they are the cheapest ones they have.  But such is our budget, so we need to work with what we have.  The Sony seems to have the same processor as the Toshiba, but does have a firewire port I "may" use, and two extra USB ports.  It also has a hard drive with 40 gigs more storage.  Either laptop has more storage then what I'm used to, so 40 gigs extra isn't a deciding factor.  I'm leaning towards the Toshiba because it's a hundred bucks cheaper.

I don't plan on dual booting.  I'd like it if the first thing that pops up on the screen is the VL installer.  I don't mind if everything doesn't run out of the box.  I'm not afraid of actually having to set things up.  But I don't want to find that my new hardware will NOT run on Linux.

The onboard graphics scare me a bit as it appears the OS controls the memory.  Hope it's not a Window only thing.

So I'd love a bit of input from you experienced (VL) laptop users.  Please keep in mind the hundred dollar savings if I go with the Toshiba can go a long way towards expenses for our family. But don't want to save that money if it  is a foolish choice.  ;)

Here's the links:
TIA for the help!


  • Vectorite
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2008, 10:05:59 am »

I will say say stay away from the Sony out of principle - it's another evil empire, and to be perfectly honest, they vastly outclass MS in terms of evil (in my opinion, humble as it is).

Hmm, I can't seem to actually view those pages (no idea why) but regardless, I'll still say go with Toshiba.  I've messed around with an OS-controlled graphics card in Puppy (and a little in VL 5.9 Live) and I can say with fair confidence that it shouldn't be an issue.  Toshiba for the win.
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2008, 10:51:57 am »

I noticed they both have 5200 RPM dives. I noticed a measurable difference between 5200 and 7200. Other than that looks likea decent deal.
Out of cost considerations you may want to email to see what price you can get there. Hope you enjoy it, really neat to be mobile with your technology.
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2008, 12:03:53 pm »

I noticed they both have 5200 RPM dives. I noticed a measurable difference between 5200 and 7200.

That would be 5400. There aren't a lot of laptops that come with 7200 RPM drives, especially not the cheaper ones. If you want to buy a laptop with one of those in it you'll be severely limiting your choice. Also, it's one of the few parts that you can upgrade on a laptop. Buying one of those harddrives will set you back quite a bit, probably a quarter of the price of the laptops exeterdad was looking at.

It does look like something I might upgrade on this laptop though, since I'm not too happy about the 120 GB's I have now (having 5 os's on your laptop takes quite a bit of space I tell you). But that will have to wait a little until I can afford it.
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2008, 06:23:01 pm »

5400 rpm is still pretty much the standard on laptops. Just don't get one with a 4200 rpm like mine... >:(  that REALLY crawls. Upgrading to a 7200 rpm drive requires some study, as it will almost certainly use more power and generate more heat, both of which are bad things on laptops.
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2008, 07:36:52 pm »

This post has interesting timing. I had a laptop incident where
my 7 year old laptop finally cracked the case. Since this one of
my business machines it was time to replace it.

I did the scour the Ads for a decent machine. I found a really nice
deal at Best Buy :). The next day I went to purchase it (Monday)
and they were out. Well I wound up in Wal Mart and noticed an ad
for a Dell 1501 (Sempron 3600+, 1 Gig Ram, Ati Card, Broadcom
a/b/g and modem that works in linux) for $449.00. I looked at it
found it to be a steady brick and bought it.

This was purchased with the thoughts of using it more than the last
laptop. My investigation turns up that it is the same model Dell is
sold with Ubuntu on it.

This laptop was a dog with Vista. It now has Slackware on it with ACPI
setup (needed hand tweaking) The battery life is about 2 hours (still tweaking).

The biggest thing I look for in a laptop is the Keyboard, and solid construction.
Using a KB with the keys past the enter are annoying. The HDD speed at 5400
is fine. I have not upgraded the RAM since I do not get past about 500 Megs.

Good luck with what ever you get.




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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2008, 08:21:33 pm »

When price is the determining factor, you have to do the best you can for what you can afford. I've always been in that position, but I must say I've done fine with laptops despite their low endedness.

I won't mention the Packard Bell piece of junk I got in 1993. It was an awful computer but it was all I could afford and it worked for five years. I replaced it with a Fujitsu Lifebook in 1998 (P133, 48 megs RAM, 6 gig hard drive). I ran VectorLinux on it and it was rather painful but it worked.

In 2003 I got a Toshiba Mobile Celeron 2 GHz with 512 megs of RAM and a 40-gig hard drive (a typical size for the time). It has Intel shared graphics, which work fine in Linux, except it couldn't do 3D until VL 5.9 and even with 5.9 I have to use the vesa driver. The Intel driver works--until I reboot. Then the text on the desktop turns a light transparent grey and is almost invisible. With the vesa driver things work, but the glxgears scores are miserable. That computer is now working daily on our hall desktop and we call it my husband's computer, except he rarely uses it.

In August 2007 I got a Gateway Turion that's all-NVIDIA inside. I expected Linux would be a piece of cake on it, but it wasn't. The graphics always worked fine, as did the Ethernet. I was never able to get sound under VL 5.8 and couldn't get the Realtek wireless to connect after I got a wireless access point. It was a real struggle through a few betas for 5.9, but eventually Uelsk8s and others got everything fixed up and now everything is working fine and I do have 3D with the proprietary NVIDIA drivers.

I would't worry about onboard graphics. I've had them on two Linux laptops and one desktop without problems. Intel-hda audio, quite common on laptops today, can be a challenge, too, but it's working fine on my Gateway now.

I always use my laptops on AC power, so I have no experience with Vector's power management. I also don't hibernate or suspend. But video, sound, networking, printing, and dual booting have been fine on the old Toshiba from the start and on the Gateway after a fair amount of work.

Some of the big box stores will let you return the machine within a 2-week or so time frame for any reason without a restocking fee. I think that's Staples' policy; I don't know about Best Buy. I bought my Toshiba at Best Buy and my Gateway at Circuit City. They happened to have the best sale price at the time I needed to buy. If the return policy is favorable, you could install VL right away and see if everything is working. If something isn't working, you could use the restore DVD to return the computer to from-the-store condition and return it for something else. If you don't get a restore DVD with the computer, you should be able to make one with a program included with the laptop. Be sure to do this before you mess around with partitioning.

Also be aware that if the computer comes with a gig of RAM and the machine has a 2-gig capacity, both slots are probably filled with 512-meg modules and you'd have to remove them and buy two 1-gig sticks in order to up your memory to 2 gigs. The store will try hard to sell you an extended warranty. It's not a good idea to buy an extended warranty from the store. If you want one, buy it directly from the manufacturer. I used to think an extended warranty was a good idea for laptops because repairs are generally extremely expensive and few users could make a repair except for adding memory and replacing a hard drive. However, those extended warranties cost a LOT and given how inexpensive laptops have become, I think it makes more sense to save your money and buy a new computer if the one you get bites the dust right after the one-year warranty runs out.

By the way, you can *always* find laptops at similar prices, so rather than make a hasty decision if you're not sure what you want, just wait till next week or the week after. They may have an even better deal then.
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Happily running VL 7 Gold on  a Sempron LE-1300 desktop (2.3 GHz), 4 G RAM,  GeForce 6150 SE onboard graphics and on an HP Pavilion dv7 i7, 6 gigs, Intel 2nd Generation Integrated Graphics Controller


  • Vectorite
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Re: Please help choose new laptop?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2008, 04:32:41 am »

I see no reason to pay $100 more for the Sony, it's almost identical. The only thing I can say is get your hands on them and feel their keyboard and housing. You don't want a MacGyverish spacebar like mine[/rant] but it's fair to say that these low end laptops are of poorer quality.

That's one reason I'd never buy a low end lappy from the net. They differ to much in 'toughness'.

RealTech is supposed to be very cooperative with the Open Source movement. So their hardware (wireless chip) should not give you any trouble. As always, I do not give out a guarantee. I'm just repeating what it says here (scroll down).

Another thing to look out for is the brand of touchpad. Touchpads are terrible, but if you have a well supported brand, you can enhance your experience a lot. Synaptics is always good, and it's got an Open Source driver. Others may work as well, but almost every (low end) laptop has a Synaptics anyway. Just make sure you check.