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Laptop choice help

Laptop choice help

Old Nov 2nd 2017, 1:17 pm
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Default Laptop choice help

So, I'm going to have to get the Little Lion a laptop for uni in September, and thought it might make sense to take advantage of upcoming holiday sales. The only problem is I don't know much about computers, and I don't have a ton of money so I can't just buy the top of the line which presumably covers everything. At the moment he has an old Chromebook through school which obviously isn't going to do the job.

At uni there will be lab and library computers and so forth that he can use, but he will still need a laptop. It will need to run some sort of engineering software I imagine (he wants to do civil engineering), but I have no idea about things like SSD vs HDD, how much RAM he needs, operating systems, drives, processors, memory type etc etc etc. I don't know enough to sort out the hype from the stuff he will need and the actual strong points.

Any advice as to brands, or any of the techie things mentioned above or techie things that I don't even know exist (ie most of them), durability (he will be in the UK come September, so can't just pop back to the store if it develops a problem).

I can't really provide a dollar amount to spend since I don't really know what he will need, so any ideas as to what will be required will be helpful.

Sorry to be vague.

Last edited by Lion in Winter; Nov 2nd 2017 at 1:27 pm.
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 1:36 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

first get him to list what he will actually use the laptop for. Assume email , surfing, skype etc as a given. Primarily the engineering packages he is going to use. My feeling is that if civil engineering he will need to look at drawings , do major structural calculations etc so would go for a largish screen size with high resolution.
With some more info on its potential uses others will be able to make some suitable recommendations BUT some idea of budget is essential - are you looking at under $1000 , $1-2000 , or is money no object??? depending on the budget , some items can be compromised on , but in simplistic terms I'd be looking at a 15/17 inch screen, an i5 or i7 intel processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. CAD packages can use a lot of memory and give large files. Probably WIN10 but I know the media guys like Macs for graphics work.I think also that Macs come with a worldwide warranty so if it has a problem , any Mac store should be able to help. Less so for other makes but do ask the supplier re worldwide warranty.
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 1:48 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by quiltman View Post
first get him to list what he will actually use the laptop for. Assume email , surfing, skype etc as a given. Primarily the engineering packages he is going to use. My feeling is that if civil engineering he will need to look at drawings , do major structural calculations etc so would go for a largish screen size with high resolution.
With some more info on its potential uses others will be able to make some suitable recommendations BUT some idea of budget is essential - are you looking at under $1000 , $1-2000 , or is money no object??? depending on the budget , some items can be compromised on , but in simplistic terms I'd be looking at a 15/17 inch screen, an i5 or i7 intel processor, at least 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. CAD packages can use a lot of memory and give large files. Probably WIN10 but I know the media guys like Macs for graphics work.I think also that Macs come with a worldwide warranty so if it has a problem , any Mac store should be able to help. Less so for other makes but do ask the supplier re worldwide warranty.
That's actually quite helpful, particularly the "depending on budget, some items can be compromised on". Money is most definitely an object, but I don't want to spend a lot of money on something that won't really do the job when a couple of hundred more would have made all the difference. But yes, under $1,000 would be pretty important. I want to do the best I can for him, but there are many, many things to pay for.

The uses will be essentially what you have outlined. Normal browsing, skyping, etc., probably video/movie watching, and the aforementioned CAD.

The worldwide warranty is a good bit of info.
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 2:24 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

As much processor speed and RAM as you can get is good. Memory storage can be upgraded with external hard drives as required (one for saving back-up's of coursework, and a second with movies, etc}. Plus there lots of cloud storage apps and websites out there. I have at least 4 cloud accounts across different sites.

I bought my Chromebook and the wife's laptop on Amazon once I knew exactly what we both wanted from our devices. This is the laptop we bought 2 years ago. It still does everything we need it to do, and we've had no issues with it at all. But our's cost £400 brand new at the time.

We think the Windows 10 Home edition is the best Windows OS we've ever used.
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 2:53 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by DaveLovesDee View Post
As much processor speed and RAM as you can get is good. Memory storage can be upgraded with external hard drives as required (one for saving back-up's of coursework, and a second with movies, etc}. Plus there lots of cloud storage apps and websites out there. I have at least 4 cloud accounts across different sites.

I bought my Chromebook and the wife's laptop on Amazon once I knew exactly what we both wanted from our devices. This is the laptop we bought 2 years ago. It still does everything we need it to do, and we've had no issues with it at all. But our's cost £400 brand new at the time.

We think the Windows 10 Home edition is the best Windows OS we've ever used.

Can you tell me what is considered a "good" processor speed?
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 3:09 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post
Can you tell me what is considered a "good" processor speed?
For engineering, I'd be going for 2.8Ghz or higher, as AutoCAD needs a lot of processor speed to run well.
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Old Nov 2nd 2017, 5:40 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by DaveLovesDee View Post
For engineering, I'd be going for 2.8Ghz or higher, as AutoCAD needs a lot of processor speed to run well.
Thanks, that gives me a place to start.
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 2:59 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

An i5 is going to be your sweet spot for a CPU
8gig Ram (more is always better but 8 is a good baseline).
SSD if budget allows but be aware sizes will be smaller than a regular HD so external / cloud storage becomes more important.*
Brands that get heavy student use here are mainly Dell / Lenovo.
Faculty / Staff are a mix of HP / Lenovo

*Handy for backing up anyhow, so you'd probably want this even with a larger HD.
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 5:59 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by Nutek View Post
An i5 is going to be your sweet spot for a CPU
8gig Ram (more is always better but 8 is a good baseline).
SSD if budget allows but be aware sizes will be smaller than a regular HD so external / cloud storage becomes more important.*
Brands that get heavy student use here are mainly Dell / Lenovo.
Faculty / Staff are a mix of HP / Lenovo

*Handy for backing up anyhow, so you'd probably want this even with a larger HD.
Thanks.

Do you have any opinion on "refurbished" laptops?
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 6:04 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by Lion in Winter View Post
Thanks.

Do you have any opinion on "refurbished" laptops?
We use refurbished ThinkPad's here for some of our Lab carts. They have been ok... couple of battery failures but nothing more.

It really depends on source, cost and warranty as to whether it is a good deal or not.

Black Friday coming up also.. Might be a help.
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 6:55 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

I bought a refurbished Thinkpad with i5, 16 GB memory and 240 GB SSD for $350 a couple of years back. The 16GB and SSD made quite a difference I think. If he is going to be carrying it around, you may want smaller, with an additional monitor or two for using with CAD packages.
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 9:15 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Some excellent advise here, especially on recommended Pentium i5 as the sweet spot, and 8G RAM or more.
When our son went to uni, I was based in Hong Kong and was surrounded by laptops at relatively low, tax-free prices, result being that he took a new Toshiba with him. He gave it a hard life, and within 3 years was broken beyond repair. Whilst still pursuing his studies, the wife then convinced me to let him take my beloved, then almost new 2002 Mac G4 PowerBook. I was virtually in the doghouse until I agreed. That laptop too was wrecked with a damaged screen within the next 3 years. If only I'd known then what I know now.
If faced with the same situation today, without hesitation I would look for a good used i5 or i7 IBM/Lenovo - but not any model. Something like a W530 (3rd gen Intel i7), brilliant keyboard action (& ingeniously splashproof), and very robust - they seem to be built to last forever, and are fully upgradeable. The newer Lenovo models don't appear to be as robust as the earlier IBM/Lenovo's, but are certainly worth looking at, s/h of course as they're very expensive new. A great tip from the Lenovo geek forum is: Stay away from any Thinkpad or other Lenovo machines, whose model does NOT begin with R/T/W/X. Those others are usually cheaper commercial machines for the unwashed masses.
After several years collecting and repairing Apple/Mac laptops, many of which I still retain, I've become a great fan of IBM laptops, and added a few to my collection. I use a 7-year old T61 for my daily driver, great machines for most everyday tasks, but as it's an Intel Core 2 Duo, wouldn't advise one today for a budding, young engineering student.
If a smaller 12/13" laptop is preferred, the Lenovo X220/X230/X240 are also good quality, perform well, and fully upgradable - well worth checking out. Believe all these can take up to 16GB memory.

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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 9:20 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

I bought my T430 from ArrowDirect.com . At the time I got a 33% off coupon. Might be worth signing up now in case they send email coupons for black friday. Arrow is one of the largest distis in the world, if you had never heard of them.
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 10:05 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

Originally Posted by mrken30 View Post
I bought my T430 from ArrowDirect.com . At the time I got a 33% off coupon. Might be worth signing up now in case they send email coupons for black friday. Arrow is one of the largest distis in the world, if you had never heard of them.
I recently got a t420 on Amazon for $240 refurb'd. $362 on your link. Seems great. I stuck a bigger hdd in, it only takes a minute and one tiny screw.
I was after cheap. I am not an engineering student!
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Old Nov 3rd 2017, 11:03 pm
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Default Re: Laptop choice help

How about something like this?

HDMI would be useful for showing files on a TV screen.
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