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NotAComputerGuy 10-10-2012 01:41 AM

New Laptop Advice (UK Based)
 
Hi all,

I'm after a new Laptop since my 18 month old Dell Inspiron just over heats all the time. It's continually been back to Dell who keep saying there's nothing wrong with it, but I can't use it as it keeps shutting itself down.

So, I would like a new laptop, but I don't really know what to look out for. I obviously want to avoid Dell, want good bang for my buck, I'd like it to be Linux compatible out of the box. I use it at home, University and work. I don't use Windows so don't need a key to use it. As I carry it everywhere, I'd like it to be as small as possible, but my netbook is unusable on some websites as the screen is too small.

Thanks for any recommendations and advice

brianL 10-10-2012 09:48 AM

Lenovo get recommended in these forums quite a lot. And in a survey last year (can't remember the website), Asus and Toshiba came out on top for reliability.

nonamedotc 10-10-2012 10:18 AM

I own two Lenovo Thinkpads (T500 and T520). I have to say both have worked without problems with most of the distributions I tried (Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, Arch, Debian and openSUSE). The T520 even has a Nvidia card (NVS 4200m) and has not given any problems so far. I use NVidia driver from RPMFusion on my Fedora installation.

It is not too heavy (at least for me) and so, I would definitely recommend Lenovo based on my own experience.

NotAComputerGuy 10-10-2012 01:08 PM

Hi,

I'm concerned about Lenovo, whilst they're clearly solid laptops, my work had a load of batteries die (which with the amount of use/abuse they put up with didn't really bother me too much) so they bought pattern replacements. The laptops could tell they were pattern replacements and refused to charge them. Where does this practice end? If I want to upgrade the RAM or hard drive, will it refuse to use those unless they're official parts?

Also, do I want AMD or Intel? Is there a difference? Are there other brands? What about graphics cards?

Thanks for the advice so far! :)

business_kid 10-10-2012 01:41 PM

I Have HP and it's over 2kg and definitely not suitable for running around with. Watch weight.

Get the largest screen you can. Watch chipsets. Is the video(s) well supported? The main chipset also matters, because the Southbridge drives nearly everything. Does it have what you need in the way of specs & devices?

Avoid fancy one-off style devices (typically Acer) because there won't be a driver. Avoid Dell. Toshiba also have their own special parts. HP are OK that way. You want a low power cpu - AMD or mebbe Atom.

NotAComputerGuy 10-10-2012 01:51 PM

I was thinking of getting a 13" screen rather than 15" due to the practicalities of transporting a physically larger laptop. This netbook (10"?) is perfect size wise except the display is impractically small when using it (options off the bottom of the page for example). Thought 13" would be a nice compromise? :)

What does the chipset mean? Is that AMD/Intel options? I was thinking of getting a better processor than an Atom as this is a little slow when trying to watch YouTube videos in HD.

JaseP 10-10-2012 02:07 PM

He's talking video and wifi chipsets primarily. Processors (Intel or AMD) are rarely an issue,... and when they are, usually just because of the video chipset part of system-on-a-chip solution. Stay away from Atom processors that use the PowerVR graphics chipsets (GMA600 and the older GMA500). Wifi chipsets are usually supported, but may take a little work for certain models.

PS: Higher end Atoms can handle high def. video just fine. VLC is a very good video player. The flash players for YouTube and Hulu Desktop might struggle at the highest resolutions, on some Atom based machines. An i3 ought to be better, and i5 better still.

If you want to do virtualization, make sure the CPU supports hardware virtualization (VTx / VTd or the AMD equivalent) . Some mobile processors strip that out...

NotAComputerGuy 10-11-2012 03:19 AM

Hi,

This laptop has lots of big numbers attached to it, not that they mean anything to me. Anyone give me thoughts or ideas on it?

I'm mostly looking here as people have recommended Dabs as a company. I want something that will at least survive the next few Mint updates, as often I find my computers are resigned as useless due to their low specs after an update or two.

Thanks for help and advice.

business_kid 10-11-2012 04:35 AM

On your Packard Bell, it's 2.5kg(heavy!), nice, powerful enough. Not sure about support for that radeon card.

On the Dabs page, I'll leave it to you to look into the list. If you get it down to 2, people might choose for you. Spending your money is your job. If you're befuddled by figures, withdraw. Make a specs list and mark them. Also ignore reviews which are sales talk. "A modern and lovable piece of <expletive deleted> that's sure to give you years of service :-/."

JaseP 10-11-2012 08:33 AM

The best thing to do?!?!

Simple...

Look at the models that are available, and that you are interested in. Then use Google/Yahoo/Bing/whatever with that machine's model # and the name of the distro you are looking at installing. If it comes back with endless issues,... take a pass on that machine. If someone says that everything worked out-of-box for them,... go with it. Anything in between, make a judgment call, based on your skills/ability to learn. If you're looking for something specific (like hardware virtualization support) research the CPU it has to make sure it's got it (like VT-x and/or VT-d support for hardware virtualization).

When I was looking for an X86 convertible tablet, I first wanted a WeTab (poor availability, too expensive), bought a Lenovo S10-3T, returned it for a failed swivel joint (nice machine otherwise), and ultimately got a Dell Inspiron Duo, after researching & learning that 90% of it's hardware worked with only minor tweaks (& I was they guy who discovered the fix for Bluetooth). I consider that tablet to be the second, or third, best hardware purchase I ever made (after my Acer Iconia A500 and maybe my Nokia N900). So,... again,... look at what's available and research those models.

Trying to work from spec to purchase?!?! ... It just doesn't work.

cascade9 10-12-2012 02:46 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4802760)
This laptop has lots of big numbers attached to it, not that they mean anything to me. Anyone give me thoughts or ideas on it?

'Gaming' laptops are crap if you dont want to use them for gaming. You pay extra for a faster GPU which will create more heat and draw more power (and lower battery life) over more 'mainstream' laptops.

Dabs might be recommended, but the specs they list on that laptop are a joke. Here is some detailed specs for the CPU/GPU/display I found somewhere else-

AMD A6-3420M
15.6" Acer CineCrystal 1366x768
AMD Radeon HD 7470M

Fairly low-end AMD quad-core (with intergrated video), low resolution acer display, extra HD 7470M which IMO is NOT a 'gaming' GPU, and while low end could mean switchable graphics or some other not extactly linux friendly video setup.

Extra 50 quid for a two year warranty, that says a lot about the expected life of the laptop IMO.

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4802760)
I want something that will at least survive the next few Mint updates, as often I find my computers are resigned as useless due to their low specs after an update or two.

If you buy low-end laptops, that is what happens. They tend to be built 'down to a price-point', and dont last that well.

Why not get a nice desktop? You can get more desktop for your money than with laptops. If you buy a decent desktop upgrading in the future should be possible and fairly easy.

NotAComputerGuy 10-12-2012 03:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 4803655)
Why not get a nice desktop? You can get more desktop for your money than with laptops. If you buy a decent desktop upgrading in the future should be possible and fairly easy.

It's because I need to be access my work for University and at the hospital. University does provide desktops, but because they're Windows all my documents that I create more often or not have problems when opened under Word, which means they need to be 'repaired' by Word before they can be opened, which then ruins the formatting under Libre Office. My work doesn't allow USB sticks to be used in work. At home I mostly use my Desktop.

Is it probably best that I just go for any laptop, as the prices I'm looking at (around 300-500) the specs are going to be all around the same bar a few megahertz, and I'll need to upgrade in a few years anyway? I cannot justify 1000 on a laptop in case it was stolen or broke. I don't have the know how of what to replace.

cascade9 10-13-2012 06:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4803689)
It's because I need to be access my work for University and at the hospital. University does provide desktops, but because they're Windows all my documents that I create more often or not have problems when opened under Word, which means they need to be 'repaired' by Word before they can be opened, which then ruins the formatting under Libre Office. My work doesn't allow USB sticks to be used in work. At home I mostly use my Desktop.

If you cant use USB sticks, I'd guess that liveCDs, or bringing your own external (USB, eSATA or firewire) would be out of the question as well.

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4803689)
Is it probably best that I just go for any laptop, as the prices I'm looking at (around 300-500) the specs are going to be all around the same bar a few megahertz,

You cant really just compare CPU MHz.

In that price range, you will get intel atoms (best avoided now, as the newer vesions have linux unfriendly video), dual core i3s, maybe low end dual-core i5s, and dual/quad core AMDs.

If you were intending to use your laptop mobile, I'd suggest Intel, they tend to have better battery life. Since you seem to be intending to use your laptop as a transportable system (possibly not much, if any, 'real' mobile use) the quad-core AMDs might be worth getting. The quad-core AMD mobile CPUs have less single core performance than the i3s/i5s in general, but better multicore performance.

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4803689)
and I'll need to upgrade in a few years anyway?

Depends. IMO mint, ubuntu and other ubuntu based distros are pretty bad for losing performance as they progress through the versions with any given hardware setup.

I'm running debain sid/aptosid on a system which is probably older and slower than laptops you've retired as useless (that box is an AMD 64 3000+, 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, SB live! and nVidia 8400GS)

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4803689)
I cannot justify 1000 on a laptop in case it was stolen or broke.

Its pretty hard to justify 1000 quid on a laptop IMO. Sure, you'l get a 'nice' laptop, but with the hardware you get for a 1000 quid, you could have a cheaper laptop for mobile use and a desktop which is faster than the 100 quid laptop as well...

Quote:

Originally Posted by NotAComputerGuy (Post 4803689)
I don't have the know how of what to replace.

Replacing parts in a laptop is much harder than desktops. The parts cost more, take longer to find, and working on laptops in a lot harder, thanks to lack of space and occasional difficulty getting into the laptop case at all.

NotAComputerGuy 10-13-2012 11:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 4804601)
You cant really just compare CPU MHz.

In that price range, you will get intel atoms (best avoided now, as the newer vesions have linux unfriendly video), dual core i3s, maybe low end dual-core i5s, and dual/quad core AMDs.

If you were intending to use your laptop mobile, I'd suggest Intel, they tend to have better battery life. Since you seem to be intending to use your laptop as a transportable system (possibly not much, if any, 'real' mobile use) the quad-core AMDs might be worth getting. The quad-core AMD mobile CPUs have less single core performance than the i3s/i5s in general, but better multicore performance.

I've been trying as hard as I can to read up about computers and what you get when you pay for and this article would seem to suggest it's more about cores than anything. But then it was literally just comparing cores. Am I right in thinking that the number of cores is more significant than MHz? Battery life actually isn't that important to me. I rarely struggle to find a power socket and a new battery isn't normally that expensive.

Quote:

Originally Posted by cascade9 (Post 4804601)
Depends. IMO mint, ubuntu and other ubuntu based distros are pretty bad for losing performance as they progress through the versions with any given hardware setup.

I'm running debain sid/aptosid on a system which is probably older and slower than laptops you've retired as useless (that box is an AMD 64 3000+, 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, SB live! and nVidia 8400GS)

I'm actually running Mint Debian Edition (the only difference that I see is a different wall paper :newbie:

In general, if you had to make a sweeping generalisation, would you suggest that AMD graphics cards and processors work better with Linux distributions or Intel?

Thanks so much for your reply, I've found it very insightful and thought provoking. :)

DavidMcCann 10-13-2012 11:54 AM

On reliability, see this site (among others)
http://smidgenpc.com/2010/05/07/lapt...most-reliable/

On power saving
http://www.lesswatts.org/

As far as graphics cards are concerned, their differences only show up in games and fancy desktop effects (compiz): if that doesn't concern you, anything will do.

One tip. When you've selected a few candidates, search for their name in conjunction with "linux' to see if people are reporting any problems.


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