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What's the best laptop computer on the market? Here's my choice

When it comes to laptop computers, the products available run the gamut from adequate and inexpensive, to powerful and rather pricey. Ask yourself what it's going to be used for, and specify accordingly, getting the most bang for the buck. Here's mine.

When it comes to laptop computers, the products available run the gamut from adequate and inexpensive, to powerful and rather pricey. Ask yourself what it's going to be used for, and then specify accordingly, getting the most bang for the buck. Here's mine.

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I've been asked by several people lately which laptop I would recommend right now. Of course, the answer should probably be, it depends. How it's being used and by whom would determine what's best for them, but in my case, the people who asked me were all buying it for the same reason -- for a college-bound student.

With high school behind him and four years of college on the horizon, it seemed that the perfect graduation gift for my son would be a new laptop computer. When asked for a recommendation from people, I would stop short of actually recommending it, but rather say that this is the one that I bought and why.

Determing factors:

- I wanted one that would actually be functional for the next four years and still be useful when he graduates from college.

- I wanted one powerful enough to not only meet but exceed the minimum requirements as outlined by the Engineering department he'll be attending.

- I wanted one that was fast enough to run videos without being choppy.

- We wanted one with a larger display.

- We wanted one with a a Blu-ray player.

- We wanted a TV tuner.

- We wanted adequate external ports: USB, fire wire, eSATA, audio, etc.

- We wanted one with good speakers.

- It had to run Microsoft Vista (Sorry Mac people -- college requirement due to the engineering applications)

And here's the one I selected:

Sony Vaio VGN-AW290 Premium

I upgraded as follows:

An upgrade to the Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8700 (2.53GHz) from the 2.4GHZ seemed well worth the extra $50. An upgrade to the 2.66 GHz for $150 more, or to the 2.93 GHz for $450 more didn't seem worth the cost.

It came standard with Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit, which is quite adequate, so the $150 upgrade to Vista Ultimate didn't seem worth it.

An upgrade from the standard 2GB of RAM to 4GB DDR2-SDRAM (DDR2-800, 2GBx2) was a no-brainer for an extra $100. Since 4GB is necessary for a lot of the engineering applications right now, this might have to be upgraded further in the future, but to do so now would be too pricey. An upgrade to 8GB, for example, would add $600 to the cost, and I'm guessing that either the 4GB will be adequate for the next four years or the price for this RAM will come down significantly in a couple of years.

The hard drive options were as follows: 320GB SATA (7200 rpm) Hard Disk Drive as standard, 400GB (5400 rpm) SATA Hard Disk Drive added $20.00, 640GB (7200 rpm) SATA Hard Disk Drive would add $170.00, 1TB (4200 rpm) would add $320.00, and 756GB (128 GB x 2 SATA Solid State Drives + 500 GB x 1 SATA Hard Disk Drive (4200 rpm) would add $1,420.00.

I've researched the difference between 7200 RPM drives and 5400 RPM in the past, and I decided that I definitely wanted to go with a 7200 RPM drive. I almost upgraded to the 640GB, but my son reminded me that his current 500GB external hard drive with a USB connector would provide all the disk space he'd need for any videos and a lot of his music, and he'd rather apply the upgrade cost to something else. In hindsight, I still wish I would have upgraded to the 640GB drive, but just like the RAM, if the need arises, we can upgrade it later. So I stayed with the standard 320GB at no additional cost.

We paid the extra $100 to upgrade to the Blu-ray Disc Read Only Drive.

I upgraded to the two-year full warranty instead of the standard one year, which was an extra $125, but I did it only because I was offered a $100 discount on the computer if I did it. Another no-brainer, I suppose. An extra year of warranty for $25.

I also paid an extra $89 for overnight shipping in exchange for another $100 discount. Go figure.

So there's my selection for a laptop. The price, with applicable taxes, shipping, and applied discounts, came in at around $2,400. Not exactly the $599 special you might see on the shelf of a lot of stores, but bang for the buck, I think he'll be pretty happy with this one for the next four years.

What's your choice for the best laptop out there right now, and why?

61 comments
CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm not sure who dug this one up, but I don't think Joe would stand behind a recommendation he made six months ago in a dynamic product line like laptops.

lastchip
lastchip

While I suspect your choice is perfectly adequate, I refuse to but *any* Sony product. After the issue with root kits, it's a company I will *never* trust again. As far as I'm concerned they are a vendor that will never get another chance with me. You simply don't know what they are implementing on their products.

info
info

The best laptop on the market, really is up to you. Your personal prefrences for Brand as well as quality. Overall I like a balanced blend or reliability, servicabilty, and cost. Please keep in mind that having a support plan as well as receiving the actual good quality support you pay for is an equal part of determing what's right for you. One example is a new line of CARBON notebooks that we sell, they are built on a platform that parts are easily replaced in the field (no more returns to depot for 2 weeks). They offer a nice speed, quality, and pricepoint that is hard to match. To find out more about Carbon notebooks or to get pricing on Dell, HP, Lenovo or others please call us. (845) 426-5922 or e-mail info@consultapro.com We HELP you find a system that is RIGHT for YOU !

glen
glen

I understood that Vista would not recognize more than 3GB of RAM. Am I missing something??

bluemax786
bluemax786

$2400 is a lot for a laptop. This may be one of the best laptops on the market, but I respectfully disagree with this choice because of the diminishing return. You paid a massive premium for the large screen size and Bluray capabilities. My wife just entered grad school and we picked up an HP "$650 special" with 4 GB of RAM, Core 2 Duo T6400 2.0 GHz, HDMI/eSATA/Firewire, 15.4" widescreen, 12-cell battery (7 hours battery life), with Vista Home Premium. The extra 3" of screen and minor upgrades are not worth 4 times the cost to me, but to each his own I suppose!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Joe noted contacting the school in advance and finding out what the requirements are to be compatible with their network and systems. I suggest also contacting the book store, since they often have discounts on hardware and software. You may not get the exact system you wanted, but sometimes you realize you can live with what they have if it costs less. Whatever you do, don't pay for a system to come bundled with Office Pro when you can get Office Student from the school for much less.

ian3880
ian3880

The best laptop is the one that - bounces around in a motorhome with either dust or high humidity and high vibration (we're talking about outback Australia here) and yet never gives any trouble. - accepts XP security updates without spitting the dummy - has an acceptable 3-4 hrs battery life - has LOTS of USB2 ports (6) - (and I guess it's almost impossible these days but) ... a hard drive that lasts longer than 4 years or so. I had one that did all this and much more. A name? I don't know ... it was a "stick your own label on here" generic laptop (the motherboard appeared to be from MSI). The pain of the original purchase price is long forgotten after many years of trouble-free service. I've been through four "big-brand name" laptops (2 x Toshiba, 2 x HP) since then, and none has been as trouble-free as the original.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

So many to choose from and a wide variation in prices and an even larger number with just about every kind of option. I too look at the ease of service becuase I can't stand to pay someone to fix it when I can do it myself. I've had three different Dell's and been very pleased with both the reliablity and the availablity of parts for both service and upgrades. My most recent unit is a Toshiba Qosmio X305Q705. What a load to tote around but a very capable unit and after a year it still works very well. The main feature for me was it's full power functions only to be rivaled by a desktop. Plus a large number of custom colors to choose from.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

My second HP. The first was bought in 2000, and is still in use for fiddling in Linux. Longevity was a significant factor in choosing another HP. Vista Business (as I have to teach it but don't want it for my daily use) was another factor, as was being supplied with at the least, a driver disk. Final primary factor was a 17" non-glare screen. HP was the only one who came across with that. Upgraded from 2G to 4G RAM, went for a 500G 7200rpm hard drive. Intel chip. (My preference is AMD, but I was outta luck, there.) Bundled software is irrelevant, I prefer to own my own (such as that is with MS). Bought the Vista Business OS disk, too. First time it needs redoing, I'll wipe the restore partition and build from scratch. It's in the other room, and I'm not ambitious enough to go for further detail. If it performs as well as my Pavilion, I'll be a very happy camper. etu

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I'm a bit different as I look at how easy it is to work on NB's before I recommend any of them. Sony's are just plain hard to work on and you need to pull them apart all the way to do simple things like change a HDD. So from that prospective I don't like them myself all that much. Currently I use either Bare bones MSI Chassis or Benq R58 Chassis and upgrade as required depending on which components are required and Screen Size. The MSi have a very robust 17 inch NB that I've put a lot of into hostile environments like with Earth Movers who are more likely to gets Peeved off with things if they don't work right first time and park something like a big excavator on them just to get even. So far I've only had one Sony DVD Drive fail and even that was the ribbon cable that is stuck tot he Tray come off and get jammed which broke the ribbon cable. Wasn't even a MSI issue as they didn't make the drive but it is the only failure that I have experienced and even then because of the cost of these drives the owner didn't want the NB returned for Warranty repair and just paid for a new drive less than $100.00 and 5 minutes to swap it out. Only real issue at the moment is that the cost of RAM is increasing by the day so I try to shove in as much as is affordable when I supply the new systems but as I'm still supplying XP to business clients I don't need more than the 4 Gig that is supported by the 32 Bit versions of Windows. Today I'm paying $75.00 AU for a 4 GIG Kit of Corsair SO RAM so it's very affordable. ;) Col

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have a SONY TV, I swear someone is watching me either back through the screen or through the IR window for the remote. My Son'y DVD player is a dead giveaway, you can almost hear the people breathing as they watch on. As for their walkman's well that's just Big Brother to the max, now they can watch you whereever you go! But the biggest thing is not to drink anything an onsite Sony tech gives you, and if you do, don't let the effects put you to sleep. You'll wake up with achip implanted that beeps a homing signal so loud yuo can't sleep. I'm sure they are responsible for the voices in my head too, I just wish they wouldn't all start talking at once. I SAID SHUT UP I'M TRYING TO TYPE HERE!!! Gawd, I gotta go again....the damn voices are at it again. SONY BMG used XCP and MMCD-3 on CD's that was auto installed when inserted into a drive. That small numer of one-off CD's was recalled nearly 4 years ago,It was the CD's not the computers. So shut off autoplay, as you should anyway, and you are fine. Ford made a Pinto for three years where teh gas tank was too far rearward, the remaining Pintos were fine, however the RUMOURS were that Pintos explode on impact. The Explorer rolled over a few times due to blowouts on tires. Thus teh Explorer was dicthed and flamed by Chevy and Didge lovers, just as Vista is by XP fanboys. Th problem was , Explorers requrie a low tire pressure of 26PSi for ride comfort. Firestone rated their tires based on the standar 32PSI inflation, thus when, what they consider, underinflated at 26PSI, they came apart. Ford recalled all Firestone tires and replaced them, they STILL send out recall notices to owners of USED Explorers. ut Explorer's were the problem of course.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

a 32 Bit OS of any description is limited to somewhere around 3.25 GIG of RAM and this is the Total RAM including any installed Video RAM. 64 Bit versions of any OS is not limited to this but there are other things to consider when using 32 Bit OS's. The main one is Best performance and here you get that with 4 GIG of RAM installed in the form of 2 X 2 Gig Sticks in a NB. This gives you the Maximum speed possible even if some of the RAM is not being used by the OS, it does allow the best Dual Chanel RAM performance possible so for the few $ spent on unused RAM you get better performance. As NB's only accept 2 RAM Sticks you are limited in what you can install and as RAM is cheap it's better to use a bit too much and get the best performance than to skimp and get poor performance. If you where to fit 1 X ! Gig and 1 X 2 GIG Stick of RAM you would be stuck in Single Chanel Mode and the NB will be considerably slower and while not the 50% that some people think it is quite noticeable when you use any system locked in Single Chanel Mode. The same applies to Desktops it's much better to use a Matched Pair or Kits of RAM Sticks and keep the system in Dual Chanel Mode than to mess around with odd sticks of RAM and run into Timing Issues or worse still locking the unit into Single Chanel Mode. Col

cedpm
cedpm

32-bit Vista will only recognize up to approximately 3.3 GB RAM while the 64-bit depends on the version of Vista. From my understanding Home Basic supports up to 8GB, Home Premium 16GB, and the all others 128GB+.

trutter
trutter

You are so correct and in reality, for a laptop you don't want a big screen. You want to keep it minimal. If I was doing blu-ray, I would invest in an external blu-ray device so that you are not paying the premium for something internal. For the kind of money he spent on a laptop, you could buy a Y Series Lenovo, get an external Blue-Ray and an external 42" HDTV (Best Buy has them for $600, 1080p Dynex Brand. Respectively, 32" HDTV could be had for under $500 or for $300 a huge external LCD monitor. He could have also taken the money left over and invested in a decent smartphone with 8gb memory and put quicken, word, excel, pdf, and powerpoint. He could've loaded up with all kinds of music and personal files.

Ed-M
Ed-M

I bought my last laptop over 3 years ago and it's acting like it may be good for a few more, although spontaneous failure of a critical part is always possible. My policy up until now was to buy the best I could find with a bias towards good hardware (after much research). The theory was that something that was longer-lasting and needed fewer repairs was going to be the most economical in the long run. This theory was taken from my previous career as a professional woodworker. I discovered that the cheapest machines actually tended to be the most expensive machines (i.e. highest quality, though it doesn't always follow). Longer lasting, less downtime, fewer replacements, higher productivity, etc. both made and saved me more money in the long run compared to using cheaper machines. I figured this theory would hold true for laptops, and by-and-large, it has - until now. I can now get a laptop with way more capacity and power of the one I have now for a fraction of the cost. With a good backup system, and with increasing use of portable apps, I can much more easily throw my data and programs between relatively less expensive machines and not worry quite so much about replacement costs should one fail. I think the balance is tipping toward ever-more-powerful machines becoming more like semi-disposable appliances (note the netbook revolution) with decreasing concerns for cost and how long the hardware might last. There will always be special needs that demand high-spec features and machines for some users, but the cost/benefit ratio is definitely changing. Ed

Joe_R
Joe_R

I realize I paid a premium for this computer, but it was for more than just a wide screen and a blu-ray player. I failed to list a couple of the requirements I was looking for. I wanted dedicated RAM for the video, not shared system RAM, and this one has 512 MB of dedicated video RAM, not the more standard 256 (which is often times shared). It's also the faster DDR2 RAM, not DDR. Both of those things will bode well for the engineering and graphics intensive applications it'll be running, AutoCAD products, for example. And the system requirements for those applications will only be more demanding with future releases.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Especially contacting the bookstore and suggesting Office Student for less. In my case, the only thing that comes with this Sony is Adobe Photoshop - full version. And I already have Office Professional 2007 to install. Great suggestions - thanks for posting.

jdclyde
jdclyde

if college bound.... :D Lots of beer and DNA flying around..... ;\

Ed-M
Ed-M

From your description of the toughness of the machine and the fact that it's rebranded, there's a chance you may have a Clevo. Compare your model number against the User Manual pick list at http://www.clevo.com.tw/en/e-services/download.asp. If there's a match and the manual is for your actual machine, then count yourself blessed! There may also be a Clevo reference somewhere on a manufacturers tag on the bottom of the machine. Clevos have a reputation for high quality hardware. Got mine from a friend's recommendation whose two Clevo laptops were going strong after 5 and 7 years - even after heavy use by the kids. I have a model M560A, now over 3 years old and performing (with XP Pro) pretty much like the day it came out of the box. Although, it must be said I'm pretty fastidious about keeping the OS lean, mean and clean. All the guts and parts are easy to get to for swaps, upgrading, lint cleaning, etc. I'm looking forward to the release of the Clevo T89xM (Google it), a swivel/touch-screen netbook with GPS and (if I remember correctly) a SIMM slot. Gonna be my dream machine for traveling and meetings, and - if it's up to Clevo's usual standards - it will handle the manhandling well. Ed

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

how do they hold up over a few years? Hmm -- I might need to start saving up for one of them toughnotes :D

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

My HP's not bad, a retail outlet cheapie at just over a grand. Good graphics and all teh features common to noteooks these days. Vista Home Prmium (which I have yet to see any issues with, though I run it in classic mode regardless of RAM). As for non flare screen, that's a Lenovo thing, they started that matte screen years agom and I still find it WAY better than my much newer HP. My IBM eventually died, :( poor old Thinky! ( i think it was just the HD, but there's not much point with it now, old P222 1.13GHz 756M RAM, Win2KPro (very sweet!)) While I like teh functionality of a new HP notebook,nothing will ever stand up to the quality and life I got from my Thinkpad. It was a business machine, R31 (I wanted T series but they scoffed on the video chipset etc. that the R series had)and was a die hard. With warranty (5yr onsite, 24/7/365 service) it was well over $3500.00 but money VERY well spent.

jdclyde
jdclyde

piece of crap out of the box was incompatible with the setup disk that came with it. Try to do a manual install, still wouldn't work. Got the 24x7 support so called the vendor and they sent someone out. now they are trying to charge me for 4 hours of service. I will not be getting another HP server, that is for sure....

user support
user support

I looked at the model you mentioned (Sony Vaio VGN-AW290 Premium) and would have gone with the basic configuration except on the battery, which I would have upgraded to large capacity for $100. Total price before tax and shipping $2148.99 Most $500 models are good for most people who just use email and surf the internet. If you need gaming or performance, you need to shell out more cash. I think Blu-ray is overrated but if you are going to buy it why not buy one that can read and write? Laptops are more volatile than pc counterparts so I think if you look at the speed of laptop hard drives over the years it is safer to stick with 5400 rpm model. Since this laptop is for school it would behoove the student to burn videos (educational or personal) onto CD's and/or DVD's. I don't understand people's logic for wanting a bigger screen on a laptop, change the resolution or buy a projector to connect to. Your determining factors have more wants than needs. You also did not specifiy the manufacture or version of office suite and engineering software required. Based on laptops we have used in our shop over the past ten years and customer service experiences with Dell, Gateway, IBM, Sony and Toshiba I personally have gone with Toshiba and would recommend it as a brand to consider after figuring out your needs. Toshiba R15-S829 Satellite Tablet PC is the model I bought for my daughter to use at a cyber school elementary grades about 3 years ago. The model is still working well for us. It is no longer available so I would go with Toshiba Portege M750-ST7258 Tablet PC with the following options. Intel? Core?2 Duo Processor P8600 (2.40GHz, 3MB L2, 1066MHz FSB) Genuine Windows Vista? Business (32/64-bit version), SP1 Using Windows XP SP2 at home and work so I can only assume this would be adequate. Microsoft? Office Ready with Microsoft Office Professional 2007 60-dayTrial Edition Would go with an earlier version of MS Office or Sun Open Office 2048MB PC6400 DDR2 800MHz SDRAM (1024MBx2) This an upgrade from standard 1GB memory. 12.1" WXGA Backlit Display supporting digital pen with indoor/outdoor viewing (1280x800)- not good outdoors in direct sunlight Active Digitizer with Pen Input - the availability to capture hand written notes or doodle is invaluable for some students. 160GB HDD (5400rpm, Serial-ATA) videos can be burned to CD or DVD and have done this for our daughter. When SCSI PC's were abundant, 7200 rpm was the rage. 5400 is the norm and adequate. Ultra Slim Bay DVD SuperMulti (+/-R double layer) drive No Emergency Pen No Bluetooth (No Antenna) 3 Years Standard Limited Warranty* - students need extra protection from careless accidents such as dropping the laptop on the floor.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

We had a Sony come in at work after the owner forgot the bios password. Sony integrates the bios and Windows so tightly on this unit that failing the bios password limits the machine to booting into a guest account. Reset the bios; nope. Escalate privileged in Windows; nope. Sony's leaked bios god-key; no luck. Call Sony; we'd need the owner to find the purchase documentation to prove ownership to Sony. It's great that they've made it such a pain accept that I'm trying to help the assigned tech get around it. Other then that, it's just the high price tag that comes on Sony products. And, like the Apple store, browse at the Sony store but buy someplace reasonably priced. I've also had an eye toward the Vaio's since that first machine barely bigger than a VHS tape with an integrated webcam (addon-webcams where rare enough at the time). I hear the Sony machines are not very friendly to OS outside of what ships on them though.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Not too many people take a laptop apart for repair or upgrade, Col, like you do. In my case, if we need an upgrade in the future, we'll take it into the Sony store and let them do it. Nonetheless, that's a great thing to consider. Thanks for sharing.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

My thinking is that four sticks gives four channels in the same way four hard drives would mean four read/write calls at a time. Previous to DDR, you just tossed in four sticks and you where off or doubled your ram later with a third and fourth stick. What I don't get now since DDR and DDR2 is why they put four slots on the mortherboard if you can only use two of them. Granted, the Striker 2 motherboard states "supports 1066" until you read the small print and find the "if you enable RAM overclocking in the bios".. so.. no, it does not support 1066 natively now does it. Great motherboard since dropping Balistix for a pair of Mushkins (for me, it's OCZ or Mushkins at home now) but if you can't use the third and fourth ram slots then don't provide them. Now, my server boxes with there eight slots plus two hot-spares.. those are a different story. Get the sticks specified in the manual and fill 'em up.

bbazookajoe
bbazookajoe

Everythin I've read said that any 32bit OS can only address about 3.2GB of RAM. I just put 4gb in my desktop,(AM2 socket sytem). I have a quadruple boot system. Here is what it "sees". XP 32bit = 3.2GB Vista 32= 4GB (i think it sees it, it just can't use it) Win 7 64bit = 4gb (checking performance monitor it uses all but 16bytes. Most of the time it leaves 2gb "free" but vista and win7 fill all the RAM with prefetch all the time.

pcrx_greg
pcrx_greg

When considering a notebook for a student, I always recommend the business version produced by a manufacturer. Dell, HP, Gateway, Lenovo, etc. all produce consumer grade notebooks and business grade notebooks and I have found that the business grade notebooks are more robust than the consumer grade notebook. And for a student, don't forget the Kensington lock.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ideally, I'd like to see the quality increasing and price decreasing. Netbooks are hitting a generally affordable range and new or second hand notebooks can be had for similar prices. Hopefully if your prediction towards disposable computing, that reselling practice will keep up with it.

user support
user support

As I said in my earlier long winded post, you listed more wants than needs. Laptops are more volatile than there desktop counterparts. When buying a laptop you need to balanced your needs with a model and company that are known for reliability. Buying business class is better if plan on doing your own repairs. If you are going to use the warranty for repairs, you may want to find out if you have to ship the product back to a service center. Many internal customers have come to me to complain about battling with Dell, HP and Sony laptop manufacturers as they have on site service and the problem with the laptop is still unresolved after several site visits. The parents that have the most success or luck with the college kids laptops are Gateway, IBM (Lenovo) and Toshiba.

Joe_R
Joe_R

Just wait - you'll have it times two.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

I have a D400e that is now getting very old but is almost as fast as a Dual Core new NB. It was defiantly faster than a lot of the newer NB that where released after it and it has better basic options. The only real problem I ever had with Clevo NB's was a customer who demanded that I sell them a Web Cam so that they could communicate with their son in the UK from AU and he wouldn't let me get a word in edge ways to tell him that this was built into his Clevo as Standard Equipment. He just wanted to buy another Web Cam that he could carry around with his NB because his son told him this was better. :D My issue with Clevo now however is that no one here sells them any more. :( I love them to bits but when you can not buy them it makes things a bit hard to continue selling them. ;) Col

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

If rugged is more important than having the latest CPU then the toughbook line is definately worth a look. I think the CF-30 is the latest clamshell grandchild of the CF-25/CF-27 line. Once you go touchscreen, everything else feels like working in handcuffs (er.. not that I'd know that feeling.. uh.. ).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

We went HP because it was the only company with official support for Debian. The three rack slabs have been a dream with the only hickup being a NIC driver for Debian that is not included in the install ISO. (Debian, for the love of Baud why.. it's a freaking server.. this is what you do..) Anyhow, get your istall ISO mounted over ILO, get your floppy image with nicdriver.deb mounted and don't let your browser session time out waiting for progress bars. We've not had to deal with customer support yet and not being able to buy directly from HP in Canada sucks rocks but the third party retailer is been good.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

I would argue it -- that just seems a bit wrong to me. Although I have yet to see the server room here (it is in another State) -- so I have no idea what is in there, however, I would suspect HP because we only have HP computers and printers. As for their business class systems -- most of the models that come by me to be fixed is an SW issue, HDD issue, or has been mistreated badly. They seem to hold up pretty good until about the 4-5 yr. mark -- then they just wanna die off quickly. As for the 4 desktops currently in the family -- none have given any problems outside of HDD issues. Out of those, 1 system (3 years old) is getting its second HDD replacement. And 2 of them had 1 HDD replaced so far. The other has not experienced any issues.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

adding RAM, replacing a HDD, replacing a bluetooth adapter, cutting wires for the finger sensor, replacing the keyboard or touchpad mouse, etc.. Usually not really for upgrades except RAM, but the HDD is a key failing point on notebooks, and there should be easy access to both of these. Probably the next biggest failure is a few keys on the keyboard or the touchpad chip (on the keyboard), so replacing keyboards is semi-common as well. All of these should have easy access. A few years back I was asked to add a BT chip to a unit, and the manual showed the need to take the entire unit apart for it -- EVEN THOUGH there was a small compartment for it on the side of the case. The problem... There was no wires going to that compartment :0

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I did end up with the updated "supported ram" table off the Asus website. I just don't understand why RAM must be so complicated. Sure, the technology is complex but everything else seems to become more simplified to assemble while RAM becomes more esoteric with each technology generation. In the end, I not only had to replace four new 1066 sticks with no resale value with two 800 sticks. Better quality at a slower speed but at least the detect at the right speed. I'll have to do more reading and see if I can find benefit in filling the empty slots. On the up side, I've yet to max out the RAM as it is now; by gaming or VMs.

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

But with them and their 4 Sticks of RAM you can use all 4 Slots but to retain Dual Chanel RAM you must also Pair Up the Second pair of Slots. So ideally with Slots 1 & 3 Used as the original Dual Chanel you need a matched Pair of the correct specification in slots 2 & 4. The trick here however is that you first need the Fastest RAM that the M'Board Natively Supports installed in Slots 1 & 3 or when you populate the other Pair of Slots the system fails to even look like starting. It's all in the fine print that the User Manual has and is so very rarely looked at. ;) But things get even more interesting with the new Triple Chanel RAM M'Boards that are now available. The ones that I have used from Gigabyte have 6 RAM Slots and when I configure them for a 32 Bit OS I use 3 X 1 GIG Kits to give an overall RAM Capacity of 3 GIG + whatever the Video Card has and these days 1 GIG Video Cards are not uncommon so you can still max out the RAM that a 32 Bit OS can support quite easily. I don't know if they are better than what we used to have but they certainly require more thought as to what you initially use when you build a new computer. Mind you I'm still seeing 1 Stick of RAM fitted to new Off the Shelf Systems that are bought so anything new is likely to come with 1 X 2 GIG RAM Stick fitted locked in Single Chanel Mode and the Pay For Option add more RAM that then enables Dual Chanel Mode. :D It would be interesting to see what the likes of Dell & HP supply with the new Triple Chanel M'Boards. ;) Col

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

[i]Vista 32= 4GB (i think it sees it, it just can't use it)[/i] M$ altered the way that Vista reports RAM installed because they had lots of complaints from users. Every 64 Bit OS can use more than 4 Gig's easily, that includes XP 64. ;) Col

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Are they still free? They used to have a contest/giveaway on their website, it seemed it didn't matter how often you entered you almost always won. I think I got 4 or 5 over time, then they ran out of stock and started giving away UPS power blocks (tiny ones good for emergency shutdown) I got a couple of those free too!

jdclyde
jdclyde

yeah, I know all to well.... :D Got three years before that, though.... so I can stay with plan A for now. "You know that girls have cooties, right?" ;\

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Maybe it's not worth the cost of Repair. But having said that Mine is still going strong and I can not bring myself to replace it, but I do have a Problem with Clevo in them not currently having an AU Agent. You can contact Clevo UK Service Center Direct in China here U.K. Service Center ADD: Unit 39, Rainbow Industrial Estate, Trout road, West Drayton, Middx. UB7, 7XT U.K. TEL: +44-1895-430333 FAX: +44-1895-438338 E-mail: service@goldenstaruk.com Col

mrsansys
mrsansys

Hi Col (by HAL 9000) I have a D400E which has been a great servant - but after I dropped a speaker unit on the keyboard (across backspace and home keys) the sound has gone karaoke - i.e. vocals reduced, other sounds OK!!! Any ideas where I can get replacement parts? mrsansys

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Actually there are two dealers that serve the entire USA and two for Canada (saem companies, Canadian Divisions). They are wholesalers though, only sell to resellers or they will pass you on to a local reseller. ScanSource (I think) or BlueStar. But they are REEEEEEAAAAAAALLLY cool! I just wish I had the cash when I worked for a Canadian distributor, but even our cost was well over $4K.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Seems a bit harder to get hands on than a toughbook also. Both make the old GRiD laptops look like marshmallows.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Itronix did it years before Panasonic. http://www.gd-itronix.com/index.cfm?page=Itronix:Home I-Tronix is a division that spawned from General Dynamics, makers of the REAL Hummer. They were used as military notebooks, they still even sell a special Hummer Model with the bracket for mounting it in a Hummer. mind you, not available retail, over $5K wholesale with a 15" screen but absolutely insanely tough. Seriously ,bury it, wash it off with a hose, drop it, kick it, drive over it, it DOES NOT DIE. THey even have decent processors and graphics cards now! I used to sell/demo them and would purposely drop it when I went to pass it around the room. The gasps, the shocked faces! Then, as I went to pick it up, I would trip and kick it across the floor, only to show an effortless boot and run afterwards. They were/are AWESOME!! I sold them to ICBC, BC's auto insurance agent who's adjusters use them now instead of the Panasonic Toughbooks, as well as several trucking firms for the Alberta oil sands, as they were the ONLY approved intrinsically safe device (IC67 approval?? if I remember the numers right) for use near oil/gas fields. O'Neil printers were always matched ot them, I tossed an Itronix notebook, a Symbol/Motorola handheld and an Oneil printer off the roof of teh warehouse one day. A competitor with a supposedly tough Panasonic did the same, with a Janam rugged mobile and zebra printer. He spent several minutes tryign to get teh Panasonic to boot, to no avail, teh Janam had a cracked screen and the Zebra printer, well it still printed ut the heads were out of alignment. My gear fired up, connected by bluetooth and started firing out pages effortlessly. I felt kinda bad for the other rep, but it was a dare and a side bet right in front of a key client we were competing for. Did I mention that I got the deal? Of course and as always!

justinrichardson
justinrichardson

I COMPLETELY agree with you Neon Samurai! I got a used Toughbook off lease on eBay for a fairly reasonable price for a client to use for our company. I knew it had a high chance of being knocked on the floor, something spilled on it, etc. so I chose something a bit more durable. I went with a CF-73, which sacrifices some power, but for most things it gets the job done well. I liked his so much, I sold my 3-month old Toshiba and ordered myself one of those used ones. It too has a touchscreen, and I feel sooo restricted using any computer (especially laptops) that doesn't have a touchscreen. When I needed something a bit more powerful, I went with one of the new HP Touchsmart tablets. I can't drop it, get it wet, and generally beat the tar out of it like I do the Toughbook, but I would never buy another laptop without a touchscreen!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Yup, that experience would sour my feelings towards HP pretty quick too. I know I've had similar experiences with other help desks that assume I'm an id-10-t class user until they arrive at my desk and realize I was giving them the correct diagnosis and solution but didn't have admin rights to implement it. The DL line has been great if it's a difference in raid controllers though I don't see why they'd use a different one in each. The DLs also may not fit your setup. Good to hear the horror stories though. I'll stick that one in my notes encase we have to deal with HP support like that ourselves.

jdclyde
jdclyde

right up until the last second when the tech came and put the setup disk in for himself. It was like "yeah, dumb user can't put in a setup disk". The setup disk never did work. The "fix" was to disable the USB in the boot order and to plug in the usb thumb drive at the last second to use the third party raid driver. Oh yeah, bios said it was intel (I believe) but after using the driver provided by HP it said it was Adaptec. Gee, complicated config. Two drives using on-board raid to do Raid 1. WTF? I am NOT impressed.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Ah, yes.. the raid controller. I did a lot of reading about the issues people where having and how to get around them. It came down to deciding between the onboard well supported controller and gambling on the addon board desired for additional raid options. We figured we could work through the issues with the first box and the rest would be pain-by-numbers after that. Debian 5 Lenny turned up just as we where finishing testing against Deb 4 Etch. Both had no issue with the raid board though the Lenny needed the extra disk image to provide the NIC driver as mentioned earlier. Our backup plan was software RAID at the OS level but I was happy to have Plan A's hardware managed RAID. Did you check HP's site for the table of supported OS or notes for installs with issues? I can track down the link if it's of interest.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Right off the bat it got ugly. The setup disk for this server was not compatible with the RAID controller (on-board), and would bomb out. So I would boot to the Windows Server 2008 disk, get to the part of selecting third party driver and supply the driver emailed to me by HP because ALL the download links on their crap website for this server were dead. It would see the controller, and who my raid 1 array. Select "next" and the install would bomb out because it couldn't find a valid volume. Wish I would have gone with the IBM..... Will NOT make the same mistake again. X-(

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I've heard of glue in the USB ports but wouldn't the scanner be an addition towards security? The swipe scanners are hit and miss depending on the day but when they work they're great.

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