Laptops

What do you look for in a laptop? And who's the best?

When you choose a laptop for yourself or your organization, what's the key factor you look for? And what's your favorite vendor? Take the both the polls here and make your voice known.

When you choose a laptop for yourself or your organization, what's the key factor you look for? And what's your favorite vendor? Take both the polls here and make your voice known.

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I created a little bit of a firestorm and backlash from some parts when I asked in Classics Rock if the quality of ThinkPads had gone downhill since Lenovo purchased IBM's PC business. I contended that as IBM took a less direct role in directly manufacturing laptops and then ultimately sold off everything, that the rock-solid quality of old ThinkPads had disappeared.

Others, many perhaps conspiratorally, disagreed.

In any case, it got me to thinking -- just who does make the best laptops? And when you're looking for a laptop, what are the most important factors to consider?

My last purchase

The last laptop I purchased was an HP Pavillion DV2610. Not a blazing machine by any means, but a solid little unit. What I've liked about the HPs recently has been their design and the quality of the screen. HP has been using what they call a BrightView screen, which, to my eyes, gives an excellent display.

The DV2610 has a smaller screen, only 14.1", but the machine weighs only 4lbs, so I didn't mind sacrificing an inch on the screen for the smaller dimensions of the laptop.

With only a AMD Turion TL-59 CPU, it won't set any speed records, but it runs Vista acceptably, and it likes the 64-bit version of Suse Linux I put on it.

The only bad thing about it at the time was that it came with a miserly 1GB of RAM. I instantly ramped that up to 4GB. The 1GB was due to the price point. HP skimped on the RAM to lower the price, which I got even lower because I snapped up the unit when CompUSA went out of business. With 40% off plus an HP rebate, what wasn't to like?

What do you look for? And who do you choose?

So when I picked the laptop, there were several factors -- the HP screen, the design of the unit, the weight, and finally an irresistible price. Plus, I've always kind of liked HP stuff.

What's the primary factor you use in determining a laptop purchase? And what vendor do you favor?

Take the double shot of polls I've listed below. Unfortunately, the poll tool doesn't allow you to pick more than one, so just pick the main factor and then sound off in Comments.

68 comments
Walthy
Walthy

I've wanted a tablet PC since they first came out. I finally bought an HP tx2120 and love it. It's as good as any desktop I've had over the years and adds so many features, 'N' wi-fi, Gb ethernet, bluetooth, IR, camera, touch screen, fingerprint reader, and plenty of power and storage for everything I do from administration to programming. My take on laptops at least is that I prefer the price/performance of HP over Dell from all that I have seen. There is no comparison in the tablet PC area. Acer's R1C tablet first got me excited, but HP had the right combo, all except the Vista Home Premium, that is. It should have included the Ultimate version of Vista. Next time I would buy direct from HP and specified the Ultimate version. Microsoft's anytime upgrade is a cruel joke. First, it's only 32-bit, so you have to buy an additional disk and wait longer for the upgrade. It's cheaper and faster to just buy an OEM version of Vista Business or Ultimate if you need to connect to your corporate system.

patdavidson
patdavidson

CPU combined with price. The last one was a Gateway from Best Buy! Pat Davidson 9/26/08

Jay Rollins
Jay Rollins

When I started my consulting practice, I bought an HP DV9720us. Nice big screen, pretty fast processor and 2GB of memory. Then I had a client that required me to write some X-Code, so I bought an Apple MacBook Pro with the 15-inch screen. I hated lugging both of the computers around, but I needed the HP for my Office products. Then I discovered VMWare Fusion. I installed Vista Business on my MacBook in a virtual machine and sold my HP. I do everything but Visio, Project, Outlook and Office on the MacBook Pro. Everything else includes browsing, coding, pictures, music, social networking etc. I'm not going back unless HP can put OSX Leopard on them. There are some pretty innovative features on the MacBook, but it wouldn't justify the $1200 price difference if I didn't have to develop OS X applications. Maybe its just Vista that I dislike :-)

RobOnDell
RobOnDell

If a laptop can make me forget about my desktop in terms of performance and so forth, it's a good, solid and worthwhile investment for sure. I've only had Dell products recently... Inspiron 8200 that I use for CAD and other programs, and an Inspiron XPS which I use currently. Both have been back to Dell for repairs and I'm not too happy about their repair work either. Whatever the case, for dependability in a desktop how about an Everex with an overdrive processor running OS\2 WARP4 and RedHat? Now that's some action there! Hey! Where's the rest of the poll?

flausher
flausher

I've tried toshiba, and unforetunatly the performance was awful, and they were overpriced. My Asus however was cheap, does everything i want and more (Webcam, mic, bluetooth, big screen, came with 2g ram, 160gb HDD, forgotten the proccessor off the top of my head and the laptops at home, but its a good'n, OS pre-loaded,Nero, clear screen, the software on there already actually hasn't been crap at all, like it is with toshiba.) Sony Vaio's are probably my second choice, but my Laptop was ??385 and does all i want and more, whereas a Sony would have set me back another ??300 to ??400, for maybe a slightly nicer colour and a bit better quality. Not worth it. Mine came with a three year warranty.

duwayne
duwayne

I look for speed and reliability. My current Acer is two years old and still outruns many of the new machines and came at a price point 30% less than a comparable Dell and HP, which were not even available with the specs I got on my TravelMate. I have an 1996 model AcerNote which is still running with Windows 95, 24 Mb RAM, 2 Gb Hard Drive, and external floppy. It has gone through power batteries and one CMOS battery in 12 years, and it is still usable for MS Office 97.

laurie.henry
laurie.henry

I was a PC user for years my current employer only uses Mac's. I have to say Mac's laptops are much lighter, better graphics, and run cooler.

shanno
shanno

How about getting form AND function? I have a Dell laptop that runs the Adobe Creative Suite better than my Mac OSX at work. I'm usually plugged in so the battery life doesn't matter much and it's got a great (albeit somewhat smaller) display. I've got: Intel?? Core??? 2 Duo T8300 (2.4GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache) High Resolution, glossy widescreen 15.4 inch display(1440x900) 4GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 at 667MHz 320GB SATA Hard Drive (5400RPM) Blu-ray Disc Combo (DVD+/-RW + BD-ROM) 9 cell Battery And it's pink! If you can get a good laptop that's decent looking, why not?

tinyang73
tinyang73

I love tablets! They are uber protable, give you the most choices to interface with the computer (voice recognition/commands, pen computing, keyboard/mouse), they have great battery life and are ultra low power consumers. The best tablet manufacturer by far is Fujitsu! That's who we order all tablets from at work. I use an IBM (before Lenovo took over) x41 tablet which is not a bad little machine and I also have an HP tablet which I am not unhappy with. Dell's tablet sucks because it uses a touch screen instead of a digitizer.

dan
dan

Refurbished Toshiba & Gateway - over the past 2 years I've purchased 2 Toshibas & 2 Gateways for less than $600(US) per machine. I've customized each to the specific tasks I needed them to perform. Last year's models cost less to upgrade as the memory is now less expensive and the hard drives can be replaced with increased capacity. One Gateway I bought came with Vista and it was painfully slow - I back-revved to XP Professional and it became my daily workhorse. Your mileage may vary, but refurbs are my preference.

iwmpop
iwmpop

All very interesting, but my problem is much more basic! I live in France, but I have typed on a "qwerty" keyboard for over 50 years, and NOWHERE in France can I drum up a supplier of such a laptop! Dell inform me they don't have them on sale in France, and Dell UK tell me they can sell me one, but I can't see it beforehand! Same story for UK suppliers - Can't see the item in question before purchase, and postal services are not tender treaters of parcels! I've no wish to start relearning keyboards, and typing, and although I COULD attach a "qwerty" keyboard by USB, this would take up much more space and would negate the "portable" functionality. Who said PC's were International...!

lazybum
lazybum

The factors that i looked for when i purchased my laptop were (in the order) 1. Hardware configuration 2. my budget range 3. Performance 4. after sales support 5. battery life (i knew that i would get 2 hours battery backup, at the most) 6. durability (i haven't seen too many hardware problems these days and hence i assumed that the durability is a given) Although my personal preferences are Toshiba & Apple, i bought a Dell due to the price tag !!!

cdpohl
cdpohl

I don't think there is one 'most important' factor when choosing. Numerous factors, and all equally important to me, make the final decision. I have, however, two companies I would check out first before I would venture to others: HP and Sony.

tundraroamer
tundraroamer

Same as a desktop, what is the intended use? Once you have the specs nailed down, then you can go shopping. For corporate use, it would only be a Dell. For home use, in the last year alone it's been 1 HP and 2 (identical) Acers. Price point/performance was the basis of the purchase. All 3 have worked as intended.

bboyd
bboyd

Rugged and has a serial port I remove the CD and put in additional battery for 6-8 hour run time

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

Since my "power processing" takes place on my desktop, I am willing to sacrifice a certain amount of performance on my laptop for: A) Battery life: I want to be able to make it from coast-to-coast without a charge. (Being stuck on the tarmac is slightly more tolerable if I can at least book some billable hours at the same time) B) I'll take a smaller screen in the name of weight and carry-ability. (Besides, in a coach seat these days, the screen is never more than 14 inches away from your face anyway) C) Less weight would be nice. (Most people groan when they lift my current bag with laptop inside) Things I will not sacrifice include: A) Durability: My current laptop (a Dell) is 8+ years and still kicking. (If it's durable enough, service and support will not be an issue) B) Keyboard Quality: I write a lot of code on it. (I'm on my 3rd or 4th keyboard for the Dell)

belfield
belfield

I think toshiba has gone off the boil - wireless range on the latest ones we bought is rubbish. Best for wireless range has to be dell

britontn
britontn

Durability and dependability. Seems the best answer that sort of covers the list of things I look for in a laptop. All the other answers are just too shallows and somewhat feable. I am a HP fan. Always and forever!!! Now thats a vote I didn't have to think about!!! Numero Uno in durability and reliability. Performs well and looks good too. I wish I could get a woman like that!!!

ksmith
ksmith

I think its a combination of performance, durability / reliability, battery life, and price. Although performance and battery life are two key features for me. Intel recently offered a very good deal on a Lenovo laptop, that was comparable/better to my computer in every way, except battery life and I couldn't buy it for that reason. I currently have a gateway nx570xl computer which, among its other specs, has a 12-cell battery. I bring my laptop to all of my classes and its much easier to use when I don't have to carry the cord with me everywhere. I can usually charge up the night before hand and not touch my cord for the rest of the day.

jdtaylor1
jdtaylor1

I bought a gateway MT3707 @ BB for around 600 it is not the fastest but I liked it for decent battery life, ultrabright 14.1 widescreen which I also like. Not light but not heavy either and not the price of an ulralight. I like it that gateway uses americans for support.

mail2
mail2

Sony anybody?

CG IT
CG IT

That's what I look for as I do a lot of interfacing with Cisco equipment via their console port... other than that, performance. Can't stand waiting for the laptop to boot up or process while at a customers site

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Performance, reliability, weight, and battery life chief among them. Oh, and it has to have a serial port. Too much of the equipment I support requires a serial interface and the D-link USB to serial dongle I have just won't work with some of them. Added: Thankfully, I still have the old standby A31 to fall back on when that happens.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm willing to accept a higher weight than most people if that's the price I have to pay for getting everything on board. Up to eight pounds isn't unacceptable to me if I don't have to put up with all sorts of dongles and accessories to get left behind. I want an optical burner, parallel port, SVGA port, three USB ports (because at least one of them is going to be tied up with a full sized mouse), wired NIC, wireless, and maybe even a modem. The bigger the screen, the better. I'm not willing to put up with a loss of functionality just to keep the weight down.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

Things that I pay less attention to in a notebook Weight -- most are about 4-7 pounds, all of which I can handle carrying, and I dont usually carry them far. Battery Life -- usually it is plugged in or can be pretty easily. And I dont travel too often where I would need it, however, I do like going long periods of time on battery, it is not a main concern. What I do is look for the best deal that I can find, when looking. I prefer 15-16" screens, but not the glare producing shiny ones that have come out recently. I havent opened one up outside, so I cannot say for sure how bad the glare would be, however being shiny like that just seems like one could go blind easily enough. As far as what brand, I have to say HP. Likely a good part of it is that I am used to their setup, as I work on HP systems (business class) and have for many years. I have had issues with each of the Dell systems that come my way. For home systems, my HP seems to be fine. My brother replaced his Dell with an HP and has not needed me to fix it yet (about a year now) which is a bonus as well. My mom and sister are on HP machines as well, only problem in a year and a half was a HDD crash. Seems to be a good choice (for me at least).

squirrelonfire
squirrelonfire

My major component to be considered when purchasing a laptop is the laptop itself. If the laptop looks stupid, I will not buy it. I don't understand why this shouldn't be on anyone's list TO BE CONSIDERED, but instead, it's on everyone's list TO BE IGNORED. When you buy a car, do you care what it look like? Yes everyone does. But when you buy a laptop, you don't? Hello? The best laptop out there according to me is Apple macbook/macbook pro. It is a pretty baby. Besides that, it can run windows, and linux. It performs extremely well on productivity tasks such as word processing and spreadsheet. And it is known for its powerful features when it come to dealing with arts and creativity. And for the price, I say it is worth it.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Not sure what you mean? What's missing from the poll other than that I already mentioned? If I missed something, I can follow up in another post. Just lemme know. :)

Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be
Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be

As you live in France, why not make the effort to adapt? Accents on the keyboard as opposed to a "screen- keyboard" option are extremely useful for writing correctly in French. Also adaptation is far easier than many people think - I did it, I also lived in France once, but French- speaking Belgium since a number of years. Strangely, when confronted once more by a Qwerty keyboard, I snap back to it with very little trouble. Try it!

steven@r
steven@r

I like ThinkPad, but agree they have come down a bit in the world. I like my current HP. It has 14.1 wide screen, is pretty light, touch pad and track button, finger print, 2 usbs, firewire, bluetooth, wifi, 1g ethernet, modem, card reader, Vista Bus/XP Pro, and with 160G hd I am thinking of dual booting (or duel booting!) with Fedora 9 (some folks have had good success).

jcr35
jcr35

gateway used to use NATS (North American Tech Support) but I am pretty sure they sold their tech support to china

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I haven't seen a serial port on a new laptop in a couple of years. We need them to test some of our products in the field but have to use USB-to-serial adapters. They're inexpensive but I'd still rather have a hard 9-pin port. Good luck finding them.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Hate those freaking touchpads. Hmmm... Acer does fail there. Cr@p BIOS, unable to utilize anything but a wireless mouse. Don't like them much either, but beats the touchpad.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

What matters to me most is the processor. Everything else, RAM, HD space I can upgrade later. If I need stuff like extra ports or better video quality I will get a good desktop monitor and a docking station. Wieght? Anything under 50lbs I really don't care. But four years ago right out of college I bought my inspiron 5150 with a P4 3.2 Ghz. I maxed out the ram and swaped out the HD and it's sill going strong.

1bn0
1bn0

and forget the wire on the mouse.

Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be
Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be

"Real portability with all the functionality I need". Doesn't this sum it all up? For me, this makes it an Apple MacBook - excellent screen, small enouqh to travel with, Mac OS X which I find myself using more and more, also with possibilities of incursions from the Unix world when I want, plus Windows XP for my few remaining legacy requirements when I need them. Plus battery life, good wifi and even a (small external) modem for very occasional use. Good trackpad too, a rare thing to find. No need for the graphics and extra weight of the also excellent MacBook Pro For many years I used Toshibas, always with an extra wireless card which I found necessary even within a few meters of the wireless router. Solid, reliable, never had the slightest trouble with them, except occasional screen stripes on boot-up with one early model. At one stage I would have been inclined to buy a Gateway laptop had they not abandoned Europe - I had bought 3 Gateway desktops over the years, and found them extremely reliable and modifiable as needed - I'm still running the last one I bought after nearly 10 years and various extensions, but it's now showing its age, so greedy Windows has become - and here it's only XP, not Vista (sorry, a bit off topic at the end!). So to sum it all up, the most important characteristic is fitness for its purpose.

jfowler
jfowler

so we all buy things that are pleasing to the eye, at least to some degree. It'd be an ugly world otherwise. Obviously though, "appearances" cannot be the over riding concern, especially where 'tech' is concerned. Since there are only 2 or 3 manufacturers actually building laptops that are then branded by the big OEMs, for my money it all comes down to features and performance. And since I don't NEED a laptop for business reasons (and therefore won't be lugging around from hotel room to hotel room), size/weight were not an issue either. So I went with HP for the bright screen, but also because at the time of purchase, they were one of the few offering a full size keyboard (with number pad). Might as well enjoy my toy, eh? :>)

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

You are a marketeer's dream! Why spend expensive R&D money on engineering when you can hire some art geeks on the cheap and come up with something that's just pretty? This is the trap that Detroit fell into during the 50s and never fully escaped from; tailfins instead of substance.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Just don't be surprised if the exterior appearance is the best part of the car.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"When you buy a car, do you care what it look like? Yes everyone does." I don't. All I care about is an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and gas mileage over 30 mpg. Same with a laptop, all I care about is the performance. I don't care what it looks like because I don't care what anyone else thinks about it's appearance. I don't use a laptop to impress others, I use one for functionality when I'm away from my desk. If I can get the same functionality and pay less for it because it's basic black, I buy the cheaper machine every time. For the price, the appearance isn't worth it.

tel196.au
tel196.au

My Dell Latitude D630 Has one. its about 8 months old, Core 2 Duo 2.3 with 2 GB Ram. I need it for configuration. the new Dell Latitude D531 also has one.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

It's been a requirement of mine for a long time, but I haven't seen one on a laptop for 6 or 7 years now. (I still have lots of serial-dependant gadgets around) Next time around, I'll have to use an adapter.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

That's where I always used to like the ThinkPads. The TrackPoints that they used always seemed to be better than a touchpad. Just took some getting used. Both certainly beat the old clamp on rollerballs though!

jcr35
jcr35

video quality does not always come from the monitor :( video card plays a role in this too, the latter being more important

ksmith
ksmith

bluetooth mice burn batteries like no other and they tend to stall when coming out of standby. If you have the extra slot, I would go with a nano. It won't get in the way of anything, the battery life is amazing, and you can even leave it in there all the time.

garyleroy
garyleroy

Putting XP on a 1998 machine and criticizing it for being slow is a bit much. I upgraded my daughter's Win98 Toshiba to Millennium which works a lot better with wireless, and it was tolerable, but I'd have never expected it to run XP. As for the 'greedy' part, look at what we used to do, even just with web browsing, compared to now, so that's just progress. Try running OSX on a ~98 Mac that came with OS7...lots on luck on that one, and even Linux demands a lot more than in those days. I don't think brand matters so much with laptops...they all need junkware uninstalled, all have lousy phone support (no matter,I don't use it), but there's a huge variation in price. We still have two 2003 Gateway laptops that cost around $650 refurbed, and they're going fine and dandy. My new Gateway wasn't much over $500 (refurb) with 17" widescreen; I cleaned up the installation, upped the memory, and it runs either Vista or XP very decently. When I see people buying Dells or other high end brands that they only use for simple web and email, seems like a waste; I use my $500 Gateway for photo processing and dvd movie work, and it does fine. I guess gamers need the video power, but otherwise people throw a lot of money away on overpriced laptops (Macs included).

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

"I'm still running the last one I bought after nearly 10 years and various extensions, but it's now showing its age, so greedy Windows has become" I think any system from 1998 would have trouble runing most of todays OS systems regardless!

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

I worked my way through college working a fuel dock and doing heavy lifting. It was a exageration to show that wieght was never a big factor for me. I did have a portable PC though I inhearted it from a mentor of mine it was a portable desktop pc it was designed for military use.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

True, but that depends on what you are doing, I am a networking, and Database guy. I never got into games or high end video or video intensive applications. I needed horse power and as much as I could afford at the time.

Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be
Nicholas.Newman@Skynet.be

Indeed, I wasn't actually criticising my nearly 10-year old Gateway for not being fast enough, I was merely noting it. It's quite miraculous what memory and hard drive extensions will do for a late Pentium II at 450 MHz. Still going strong and OK for writing, calculating, browsing, even DTP and photo cataloguing. All graphics work and photo modification, and indeed most work as such, is done on my MacBook with OS X Tiger (no need as yet for Leopard). Great, and congratulations Gateway and Apple!