Looking for a new laptop

Julian Matz
Julian Matz used Ask the Experts™
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Hi!

I'm currently looking for a new laptop. It should be fairly fast and reliable. What I'm mainly wondering about is whether to get one that has 4GB RAM or if it makes very little difference compared to one with 3GB.

I have a desktop with 4GB installed but Windows only recognises 3.25GB and I know this varies slightly from machine to machine.

If 4GB does make a considerable difference, then I would probably go with an Acer Travelmate 5730

{TM5730-654G25Mn, Core 2 Duo T6570 2.10GHz, Vista Business/XPP Discs, 15.4" WXGA, GMA X4500MHD, 4GB (2x2GB) RAM, 250GB HDD, DVD-SuperMulti, 802.11ABGN WIFI, Bluetooth, Webcam, FingerPrint},

which currently would only cost me about 425 EUR - unless you recommend against it - I always thought Acer was fairly reliable, but lately I've been having some doubts in the quality or reliability. What do you think?

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Commented:
4GB is mainly an advantage when you are doing a lot of processing on your computer.   You are only seeing around the 3GB as it is an Operating System limitation.  To take advantage of 4GB, it must be a 64-bit system to use that and more.

I have better results with laptops which are Dell, HP and Lenovo.   It depends on how much you are willing to spend on a PC.    If you are looking at more speed, you may want to look at what may cause any potential slowdowns.   The slowest item in a laptop is your bottleneck.   If your FrontSide Bus is 1333MHz but your RAM is only 800MHz, then you are stuck at 800 Mhz.   Same goes for the type of hard drive.  Suggest SATA2 with at least 7200 RPM.    

Hope this helps.   If you have more questions, please let me know.
This URL lists (among other categories) laptop ranking, ratings and features for 2009.
Personally, I've used Dell and IBM/Lenovo laptops. I more satisfied with Lenovo's reliability. As a side note though, I am really impressed with Dell's desktop line.
http://computers.toptenreviews.com/laptops/
This URL lists the first quarter 2009 reviews as well.
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10153375-1.html
Speed54Sales Representative
Commented:
i've found acer to be ok from the point of view that they pack more in for the money you spend. reliability can be an issue but it tends to be model/batch specific. IMOHO every brand has its lemons even HP & Dell, so do your research well. Consider the length of the manufacturers warranty (acer currently has 2 year warranties on some models) and the after sales support offered - do the offer a 24 hr,  7 days or is it only business hours 5 days per week for toll free helpline
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Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
Thanks for all the infos and links!

What I meant was is there much difference between a 3GB (installed) machine and a 4GB (installed) machine running a 32bit OS. I'm not sure if I want to go 64bit ... I don't think so ...

I used to do all my work on an Acer TM6463 but I now have two desktops, one of which is a 64bit and has a Xeon Quad-Core, so this new notebook would really just be for portability, travelling, etc. although I will occassionaly need to use some resource intensive apps like Photoshop for example.
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
I'm not sure how Dell is in the US, but here in Europe they have a pretty bad reputation...
Speed54Sales Representative

Commented:
Dell's the same in NZ - very mixed for quality and service
I have been building, fixing and working on computers for 15 years and from that stand point I can tell you this, I have worked on more Dells then any other machines. Laptops especially. Have heard more complaints about Dells than any other machines. What I have found about Dell is their high end products are very good and reliable (mainly their server products) but you will pay much more for them then any other vender or independent reseller. And Dell does not build their own laptops, they farm out the work to the lowest bidder and stamp their logo on it. Now we all know what happens when you buy from the lowest bidder?

IBM's products are designed and geared towards the corporate market place, mostly for the traveling work force of large corporations. (Salesmen, VP's, trainers, inspectors ect.....). With that in mind it is not designed for high end graphics programs but it will run fine on it.

As for the other big manufactures of laptops HP/Compaq (one corporation now) has had mixed reviews from both clients and experts. These are the second biggest amount of computers and laptops I am fixing all the time. If I am fixing them all the time, what does that tell you?

As for Acer, I agree with speed_54. He nailed Acer. I will just add this about them. They are a fairly young  company but are starting to make a dent in the market share of laptops. I will reiterate what speed_54 said, that for your dollars spent they and one other company are your best bet. Jetta is the other company. Again with both of these companies the problems that happen with them is model specific not across the board as with other laptop manufacturers. Also I have only worked on a couple of Acer's and all the issues with them were operator error and not mechanical / electronic failure.

And as for memory limitations here is a link that explains all about your memory limitations and would also like to add that if you are going to use Adobe Photoshop, the more memory the better.

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa366778(VS.85).aspx

Hope all this helps in your quest for a laptop.
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
How's Vista doing these days? I have a feeling it might be a bit like Windows ME - a crappy transition from Win98 to WinXP - maybe similar to WinXP -> Vista -> Windows 7.

Having said that, I personally haven't used Vista enough to talk from experience. Am I better off sticking with XP for the time being?
Stick with XP!!! And you are ight about the association between Vista and ME.
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
Ok :)

I just saw that ASUSTek got a pretty good reliability score from RESCUECOM. Pretty impressive. They also have a 2yr warranty.

http://www.asus.com/News.aspx?N_ID=JW8FEVUKLXLBjQNo

What do you think about this one? :

ASUSTeK - M51A-AP078E, Core 2 Duo T6400 2.0GHz, Vista Business/XPP downgrade, 15.6" TFT (HD, Color-Shine), GMA X4500HD, 4GB (2x2GB) RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD-SiuperMulti (BluRay), 802.11 BGN WiFi, 6 Cell

(for about 510.00 EUR)

Sounds like a good machine but have not had many dealings with Asus laptops. Have heard alot of good priase for them though.  Definately go for the XPP downgrade
Speed54Sales Representative
Commented:
Asus great brand for motherboards & graphics cards good warranty. Had mixed reports about after sales service. Unit you selected seems nice enough, but I'd always go for one with a dedicated graphice card like an nVidia or Radeon. Intel GMA's are nearly always shared memory with system.
I'm keen for windows 7
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
Or what about Fujitsu Siemens?

The Fujitsu LIFEBOOK E8420 definitely seems to have the best CPU for under the 1000 EUR range:

Core 2 Duo T9400 2.53 GHz, L2 6MB cache, 1066 FSB, DDR3 3GB 1066MHz, 8-cell battery

975.00 EUR
Speed54Sales Representative

Commented:
looks very good but i don't know about after sales support. what's the graphics and hdd?
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
Thanks, I appreciate all the advice.

I later also realised that 128MB shared graphics not great. Unfortunately, all the better notebooks seem to have this - the Intel GMA X4500HD chip.

In the end, I was looking for following criteria:

Core2 Duo > 2GHz
Vista Business with XPP media (Vista Business purchases = eligible for free Windows 7 Business upgrade)
Dedicated graphics (Geforce or ATI, => 256MB)
Battery with run-time of at least 3 hrs
RAM => 3GB
Preferably 15.4" LCD

I had looked at a lot of manufacturer and models including HP, ASUS, Toshiba and Siemens, but it was really difficult to get all the above in one. HP were doing some cool notebooks with great CPU etc but LCD was 17" and battery time seemed a little below average even with 8-cell battery.

I ended up spending hours trying to decide on 2 similar priced ASUS models - M51VR and N50VC.

ASUSTeK - M51VR, Core 2 Duo P8400 2.26GHz, Vista Business/XPP, 15.4" WXGA, ATI HD 3470, 256MB dedicated, 3GB (1x1GB 1x2GB) RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD-SuperMulti, WiFi Link 5100 AGN, 6 Cell Battery

ASUSTeK - N50VC-FP008C, Core 2 Duo P8600 2.4GHz, Vista Home Premium, 15.4" WXGA, GeForce 9300M G 512MB Dedicated Graphics Memory, 4GB (2x2GB) RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD-SuperMulti, 802.11 AGN WiFi, 6 Cell battery

Both around 700 EUR.

The N50VC seemed perfect except for one thing - Vista Home, but in the end I went for that one because it's a newer model, looks better :) and seems to have slightly better specs, especially graphics.

Also, some reviews I read about the M51VR weren't great. It's supposed to be fairly noisy, with the CPU fan constantly running.

I am fairly mad at myself for not taking the XPP downgrade along with the free upgrade to Windows 7 Business, and wondering now if I mad a bad mistake, but I can put Linux on it, have a copy of XP and a copy of Vista Business. The only thing is that I'm now only eligible for Windows 7 Home upgrade and not Windows 7 Business, but I guess if Windows 7 will be worth buying I can just purchase an upgrade when the time comes.

As for the Siemens, shared graphics, 1yr warranty, a bit more expensive.
Julian MatzTechnical Support
Top Expert 2005

Author

Commented:
Sorry, was on holidays and just back...

Thanks for all the help and advice! Fairly happy with the laptop so far. Was playing around with Vista a bit - it's not too bad for basic stuff but for a workstation definitely no. It would give you a mighty headache in no time I'd imagine.

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