Never though I would have to ask for Computer advice

I’m computer savvy. In lieu of buying my next computer, I had seriously considered building my own. But since our current lab manager leaves tomorrow, and I get a promotion by default, I’m beginning to think that I need a Laptop so I can take my work home with me. I have never owned a laptop, and I dont know what to look for.

Background info/Computer needs:

  1. I work in a basic science Bio-Research lab. For the most part, this means I need something on which I can run Excel. But, since our PI has limited computer skills, I know this also means that I will have to become much more familiar with Adobe Photoshop than I currently am.
  2. I am a die hard Yankee fan (please don’t hold that against me) and live on the west coast. I’d like to subscribe to MLB.TV so that I can actually watch Steinbrenner continue to gut their farm system and overpay for ageing talent while I’m stuck in the lab late at night, instead of tracking it on ESPN Gamecast.
  3. I’m a jam-band fan. I have a growing collection of 50 or so shows from the Grateful Dead, Phish, String Cheese Incident, etc, etc. I’d like to start downloading a show a day or so. Problem is, most of these shows run 1-2 GIGAbytes in size in SHN or FLAC format. On the computer on which I type, it takes about 2 hours to decode these files to WAV, assuming I’m not using the computer for anything else, and another hour or so to burn it to CD, with the constant risk of burning a show with a bunch of pops in the sound (very annoying). So, I’d like a big hard drive, fast processor, and DVD burner so that I can burn back ups of good shows in SHN or FLAC format.
  4. It would be nice if I could do some DVRing. This isn’t too high a priority, since I’m not sure I’ll opt for cable when I move (tomorrow, actually).
  5. Here’s the kicker. I’d like to spend no more than ~$1200.

All of this lead me in the direction of the HP Pavilion zd8000 series. Massive processing power, DVD+/-RW, TV tuner, 17" screen etc. A few things concern me though. 1) I’ve read that the P-4 chip causes them to over heat to the point of being hot to the touch. 2) They’re big (but I think the extra width will help my fairly large hands). 3) They have a short battery life.
Any other, better recommendations. I’ve thought of getting a large external hard drive and setting up this computer as a dedicated music jukebox as it were, and then burning the shows using a less powerful laptop, but this seems cumbersome.
Advice? Suggestions?
Oh, and Mac’s are not an option. Not only do I prefer PC, but much of the SHN/FLAC sharing/decoding software is designed for PC.
Thanks in advance - Trip

The specs on the machine you linked are quite good, especially for the price. The tradeoffs are the weight (10 lbs is a lot for a laptop, putting it squarely in the “luggable” range) and short battery life. And, of course, the fact that laptops are hard to upgrade, so you won’t be able to swap out components to keep up with technology as you can with a desktop.

If you’re mostly going to be using it in a specific location (at your desk, for example), then you’re probably okay – the battery life will not be an issue, and lugging it back and forth will be workable. I’m going to infer from your “big hands” comment that you are not a small person, for whom a 10lb laptop (and 5+ lbs of bag, power cable and whatnot) would represent a burden.

So, assuming that, good choice.

If, however, you want to be able to move around the office, or take it with you to the coffee shop, then it’s not such a good fit – too heavy and not enough battery.
If that’s the case, then since you’re comfortable with the idea of building your own, how about picking up a (smaller, lighter) laptop for portability and building a desktop to stay at home and do the heavy lifting?

Since this is a work machine, will your employer be paying for it, or you?

Given the $1200 price limit, getting both a good desktop and a cheap laptop would be a challege. So I reccomend going with just a good laptop. I would also definatly look around for a Pentium-M or Turion based processor; a Pentium 4 in a laptop, especially one that will be doing some heavy duty media encoding will get stupidly hot.

Do you actually care about mobility? ie: are you planning to be using this thing under a tree or on the train or anywhere else without easy access to power? If not, then a P4 would be a viable option on your budget. Otherwise, strongly consider the Centrinos.

Sounds more like you could do with a PC at home and a PC at work, and a portable HDD. Obviously, work would pay for the PC at work.

Buy a Dell

Purchasing a Dell computer is not immediately efficient. However, add the best warranty service they offer and three years from now they will pay to have nearly every single component of your computer replaced. (I know from experience).

I am a Mac person so my opinions on PCs are unbiased (as to manufacturer. I lump them all together :slight_smile: ) System Admins at work whose opinions I trust say that currently Dell is the best. This opinion shifts over time. Years ago Gateway ruled-until their QC went down and Dell’s went up. But buy a Dell preowned laptop and get the maximum extended warrenty you can afford. That is what they say (and that is what I did. I had to get my daughter a laptop for school. We both think now that she could have used a Mac, but at the time we opted to play it safe. sigh)