Laptops, docks, port replicators, etc. Advice please.

As some of you might know, i recently bought a new computer, a Dell Dimension 8300 desktop. It’s working great, and i’m really happy with it. The week that it arrived, my wife’s old laptop died. I gave her my old desktop, after formatting the hard-drive and reinstalling Windows to make sure there were no viruses etc. I also only installed the word processing and other software she needs, leaving off things like Photoshop and the audio and video stuff that i use.

Well, last week, that computer refused to start. Suspecting a hardware problem, we took it to the local computer shop (where i bought it almost four years ago). They called back and said that the motherboard was FUBAR. Even worse, it had led to a problem with the power supply, which overloaded, killing the video card, the DVD drive, and the CD-RW drive. So now, we basically have a large white box containing nothing usable except a 20Gb hard drive.

My wife needs a computer. We’re both grad students, and spend most of our time in front of computer screens. We thought that it might be good to get a laptop. She could use it as her main computer when we’re both at home, and if one of us needs to take a trip to archives or libraries, that person could take the laptop and the person who stays home could use the desktop.

We can’t afford a really expensive laptop, and we don’t really need a super-powerful one, because most of the work it does will be word processing, web surfing, with maybe some music listening and stuff thrown in. I’ve been looking at the bottom-of-the-range Dell Inspiron 1000, which can currently be had for $789. For this, we would get:

Celeron 2.2 GHz processor
14.1" screen
256Mb RAM
CD-RW/DVD Combo Drive

That’s plenty of processing power for what the computer is going to do. Now, after all that rambling, i’ll get to my questions.

Because the laptop will spend at least part of its life as a regular home computer for my wife, she wants to be able to use a normal keyboard, mouse, and a large monitor. We have a spare keyboard and mouse, and a 17" LCD flat screen monitor.

What’s the best way to hook these things up to the laptop? Is it possible to just plug them in and go? Or will we need a docking station or port replicator? And what are the differences between these things? Looking on the Dell website, i see that they have a list of Docks and Port Replicators, but none specifically designed for the Inspiron 1000. In the 1000’s specs i can’t find anything about docking capability.

If anyone has any advice on this, i’d be most grateful. Also, if you think the Dell is a bad choice (i’m happy with my Dell desktop), or if you know of a better deal out there, i’d be happy to hear opinions on that as well.

I hook up a normal keyboard and mouse to my laptop. The keyboard uses a USB interface, the mouse a PS2 interface. Once I plug them in, the laptop recognizes them automatically, and they work just as with a normal computer.

I can therefore recommend just using the normal ports and haven’t noticed any drawbacks to just using the normal ports. Maybe this wears out the ports quicker, but that cannot happen so very fast, can it?

With respect to plugging a monitor in, someone else will have to step in as I’m satisfied with the screen of the laptop.

I have a Dell Latitude C840 with a port replicator. A port replicator basicly just replicates the ports in the laptop, and thus allows you to connect your network cable, keyboard, mouse, monitor etc to the replicator so that you don’t have to unplug these things when you take the laptop with you. A docking station on the other hand usually provides slots for interface cards, options for an harddisk and so on.

At work I place my laptop in the port replicator where my keyboard, monitor etc is plugged in but all the ports for these things exists on the laptop too, you’ll just have to unplug them when you take the laptop with you.

Please note that all this is Latitude specific and googling a bit does suggest that there might not be a port replicator or docking station option for the Inspiron 1000, but it does have 3 usb ports and video output.

Yeah, it looks like the easiest (and cheapest) thing to do will be simply to plug the monitor, keyboard, and mouse straight into the appropriate parts of the laptop. That will be fine for both the monitor and keyboard that we currently have. It looks, however, as if we’ll have to get a new mouse, as the Dell only has USB ports, and the current mouse has one of those round plugs.

Thanks for the advice folks.

The round plug for the mouse is called a PS/2.

Circuit City has a $ 795. after rebate deal this week on a well equipped Toshiba notebook that’s a lot better deal for the money than the Dell you are looking at.

Actually, it’s even better than that. It’s $750 after rebates.

Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll talk it over with the wife.

BTW, anyone know anything about Toshiba laptops?

Most of the reviews at Circuit City for that laptop are pretty good, although a few people complain about the Celeron processor being very slow. Considering that the computer my wife was using was a PIII 733MHz, i really can’t imagine she’s going to find a Celeron 2.8GHz machine slow, especially given that 98% of her computer time will be simply doing word proccessing and internet browsing.

I’ve used P4’s and I’ve used the Celeron speed equivalents. The difference for 99% of all office apps, web surfing and related uses is going to be unnoticeable in a notebook.


Battling Brothers: Celeron vs. Pentium 4

You might like a USB keyboard w/ a short cord optical mouse.
That gives you just 1 vs 2 connections to make to have an external kb and mouse. I got one with a dell desktop, but did not like the key layout, so I gave it to my wife to use with her Inspiron 1100 laptop.

Well, we went today and bought the Toshiba. It seems to be very good value for money. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, astro.

I did have one question about it. If anyone can answer the query i posted in this thread, i’d be most grateful.