What laptop should I buy?

I’m in the market for a laptop. Previously, I’ve had Winbook, Sony, and Dell laptops. Normally I buy Dell computers, but after the last $3K laptop died after 3 years of very light use, I’m hesitant to buy another.

I don’t want anything special. This is going to be a satellite laptop for both me and Mr. Athena to use around the house when we don’t feel like going to our offices to look up the weather or surf the net.

What I want is:

  • Basic Internet stuff (browsing mostly)
  • MS Word
  • Quicken
  • Fairly small & light, but not to the level that I’m paying big bucks for the teeny tiny footprint
  • Fairly smart on the wireless front - we have a wireless network, and I’d like to have the option of taking it to a coffee shop or whatever and not having to reconfigure everything. I’m thinking Centrino technology is what I’m after, but I’m open to other suggestions.

So what should I buy? I hear IBM Thinkpads are nice. What else?

Is a Macintosh PowerBook or iBook out of the question? I find them to be incredibly stable, durable, and IMHO running the best OS available.

I’m growing to love my 15" PowerBook G4. I like the Safari browser, and it’s dead cool. MS-Word will cost extra though.

I have a nice Porta-Brace case for it, too. :cool:

I have to agree with a nice Mac powerbook, especially if you can get a titanium one, you can’t kill those things and they’re still pretty light.

MS Office for Mac is better than MS Office for PC. I don’t know why i just know that it is

Because the Mac version of Office is newer and was developed for a newer operating system.

I’m not getting a fookin’ Mac. I’m a Microsoft girl, through and through. :smiley:

So let me rephrase the question:

What WINDOWS laptop should I get. Please refer to OP for further criteria.

I’ve had great experiences with the trusty stinkpads - rugged, reliable, well put together and ergonomic. However, they ain’t that cheap or small.

For what you describe, I would be inclined to recommend you go for a ‘known-quantity’ second-hand machine. i.e. one from a friend or cleared out of a company - most corporates ditch machines after 3 years. I’m typing this on a T20 I use for pretty much what you describe and even though it’s a bit elderly now (700MHz!) it’s still fine.

If you have the cash to splash, I would go for a Thinkpad or an iBook, maybe a Sony - I have just seen too many crappy Dells, Compaq/HP and other machines. Toshiba used to be another rock-solid make but they seem to have fallen off in recent years.
Given that all laptops are made by a couple of contract manufacturers in Taiwan/China, I find it odd that they are so variable in quality.

Ive worked with Dells since my first computer, and thats all my dad uses for his business. There have been few things to go wrong with dells soon after you buy them, but after two years or so they really begin showing some wear.

I bought a nice Sony laptop a few months ago and it is wonderful. It isnt that cheap, but its worth it for the money. It has wireless LAN built in, and can pick up plenty of wireless networks. It is also very thin, less than an inch and half, and just over six pounds. The cheaper computers come even lighter, I believe. Its very much worth the money, and they constantly have rebate offers, either through sony itself or through compusa/bestbuy.

  1. Go low-end or close to it on the laptop itself, as long as it has what you need. Check the Sunday ads for a few weeks, and see what’s available for how cheap.

Even in the $500 range these days, a laptop will almost always have the integrated wireless card, the CD burner/DVD player, and all that stuff. You’ll probably have to pay $700-800 if you want 512MB of RAM, rather than the usual 256MB for a low-end. I dunno if that’s important to you; it might make a difference in stuff like how fast Word loads, since it’s gotten so damned big.

Look at manufacturers’ websites to get the weight specs, since they never tell you that in the ads. They’ll usually tell you the screen size, though.

  1. For the MS Office suite, there’s a reduced-price deal for students and teachers, but they never check to see if you are one, or even get that specific about who is and who isn’t one - so ask for that deal at Circuit City or wherever you’re buying Office. I think it was ~$129 last winter, and you could load it on 3 different computers.

  2. Quicken’s pretty cheap; just buy it in a store or on eBay.

  3. You shouldn’t have to reconfigure anything to browse the Web from a coffeeshop or wherever. With my cheapo HP laptop, I just click on an icon, and it tells me if any wireless networks are accessible. Then I click where it says to click to actually use the network.

From the people I know, they have had pretty good luck with HP laptops. You can pick up a pretty nice one for $700 or so - (AMD Turion CPU, integrated wireless, CD Burner/DVD player, 512 RAM, Radeon xpress 200M video chip.) Weighs 6-7 pounds.

Doesn’t HP = Compaq nowadays? I’m deathly afraid of Compaqs.

As far as “look in the newspaper” or “check the deals at Best Buy” please realize I’m in the middle of nowhere. We have no Best Buy, and there ain’t no laptops in the classifieds. Assume I’ll be buying online.

Despite my initial shock at the idea of a Mac, I’m starting to become intrigued. The big problem as I see it is the lack of software; I’d have to purchase MS Office again, and continue to buy two versions of it whenever I upgrade (going straight Mac is not an option - both Mr. Athena and I need Windows machines for work.) At $300-$500 a pop, that’s a significant expense.

Other than that, a Mac might actually work for us. I like how solid they appear to be, and I’ve been hankerin’ to use that nifty home library software that’s only available on Macs.

Still, I haven’t made up my mind. Keep the ideas coming.

Get an IBM ThinkPad. They start just above $2000, but they’re well worth it.

They may be the same company, but it takes a bit more than a stock swap to integrate product lines. And my $600 HP laptop from last winter is humming along just fine, thanks.

My bad. But at least check what Dell’s offering on the back cover of Parade on alternating weeks. (Even middle-of-nowhere papers generally have Parade on Sundays.) That’ll give you some idea of where the market is.

I’m serious about recommending that students-and-teachers deal on MS office. It’s quite a cost savings! (I don’t know if it’s possible to access this deal online or not.)

Or here’s MS Office XP Standard (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) for $99.99.

Actually, some of the newer HP’s have been getting pretty decent reviews lately. I picked up a model for work last year and it’s been very sturdy and reliable.

RTFirefly’s exactly right. You can check on-line circulars for Best Buy, Circuit City and CompUSA for a few weeks, and you’ll find a very capable notebook computer for somewhere in the $500 range, usually, an HP, Compaq or Toshiba. You should be perfectly able to order from these guys on-line and have stuff shipped to you, and I think Circuit City in particular advertises cheap shipping for orders big enough.

By the same method (scanning the weekly circulars and holding out for your preferred price), an extra 512 MB notebook memory should run you in the $60 range. Installing extra memory is a snap, though these low-enders have an upper limit of 1 GB.

Buy.com is also good; I got a wireless router and network card from them for $30.

I’m typing all this using a Compaq which has been trouble-free since last December (though the mouse-pad buttons have gotten a little unreliable lately, I’ll have to visit customer service after the summer for that). I paid for the model with 256 MB of RAM included, then later bought 2 512 MB cards during a CompUSA and installed them myself.

Try the circulars, order on line from them. It’ll be cheaper than ordering direct from a manufacturer’s web site, and no less reliable.

Nah, you can get a ThinkPad for less than that.

I, also, say go for a ThinkPad. For the specs you mentioned, an R-Series sounds about right. It won’t be the lightest, but it won’t be as big and heavy as some of those HP laptops can get.

My $600 HP weighs in at 6.7 pounds. Two points: (1) That’s pretty easy to move around the house, at least for this 175-lb. guy. (2) To get a noticeably lighter computer will cost nontrivial money.

My good man, the an R-series Thinkpad weighs in at a mere 6.2 lb. I don’t think Athena should have to lug around an extra half-pound just to save a few dollars, do you?

As UrbanChic said, you can get a ThinkPad for considerably less that 2 grand nowdays. A two-minute search turned up this T series on Newegg.

Pentium M 1.7GHz
15" screen
512Mb RAM
60Gb HDD
64Mb Video Card


If you can live with slightly weaker performance specs, this R series can be had for $1,369.

Admittedly, IBMs generally give you less bang for the buck than Dell or some of the other big names, but in every review i’ve read the quality and reliability of IBM laptops gets high praise. I’m in the market for a laptop sometime in the next few months, and my budget means i’ll probably have to go for something cheaper, but if i had the money a ThinkPad would definitely be at or near the top of my list.