Buying a Laptop


I have to buy a laptop next week, as i'll be doing some traveling soon and clearly need to stay connected. I've never owned a laptop, nor even used one much, so I'm right at the "research phase" of the buying cycle. I did a search and came up with an buyers guide to laptops on PCWorld, and have given myself a quick but fairly thorough primer on what I need to know. Now all I have to do, is ask the good boys and girls of Threadwatch to lend a hand by telling us what they have and why they like it.

Some of the things im personally looking for:

  • Large screen - im exceptionally poor sighted, so 12" just isn't going to cut it.
  • Light as possible - i don't mind a bit of weight, but im not that big, or strong you know...
  • Quality components, large HD, reasonable gfx but not gaming quality
  • 2.6+ processor
  • 6hr battery

Im not rich, but price is far less of an issue than finding somethng i can a) read and work on with my level of vision, and b) can do some relatively resource intensive tasks on - I've just set up a company here in dk and this is the one expense im allowing myself, so it has to be a goody heh..

One of the better suited ones looks to be the HP Pavilion dv4000 (Pentium M 770) though the Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t seems somewhat of a darling also - both screensizes worry me a little though...

Naturally i'll be running Gentoo on this, so i'll need a WIFI card running on the Atheros chipset, and er.. i don't know what else, but im pretty good at this stuff now, so apart from that can probably kit out almost anything. NVidia over Radeon would be preferable also.

OK, Bragging time, what've you got?
As this constitutes the Saturday Foo Thread™ let's find out what everyone is carrying, why it's good and generally discuss laptops eh?

So come on, what have you got?


When I saw Lazerubb's at

When I saw Lazerubb's at roadshow 1, I knew it was good ...I just had no idea HOW good until I bought one for Louise. Panasonic Toughbook W2.

Y2 is 14" TFT model

Besides being extraordinarily lightweight, the W2 has incredible battery life which was one of Lazerubb's primary requirements.

I know nothing about linux (note confirming comment on battery life)

added: on other laptops I've gone through, the battery life degraded significantly from "as advertised" [A] under load and [B] over time. I just happened to be messing with some of the settings and noticed I first logged on to my W2 on Oct 27, 2004. With daily use, battery life is still around 5 hours under load.

I went looking for a decent

I went looking for a decent laptop with wifi and a good desktop Linux pre-installed a few months ago (I just don't want the hassle of installing Linux and I want desktop cos I've done the command line crap back in the 80's) and I came up with almost nothing and some really crummy sales pages that give very little product info. Desktop linux on laptops seem to be almost non-existant. I hope you have better luck Nick - you should have since you can install linux yourself.

As far as physical size of a laptop, I have a 14 or 15 inch Apple iBook and that is about as big as I would want sitting on my lap or lugging around. A 17 inch screen will probably be much too large.

>toughbook Im on the case


Im on the case right now...


I spoke to laz about a week or so ago about this actually, he said that it was a bitch to put windows on, and didnt fancy my chances with linux - he also said they were the best laptops in the world..

>install yourself

Yeah, it will be a whole weekend for sure, but i can do it.. One of the nice things about my OS of choice is i can configure and compile the entire system specific to the hardware - so can get quite a lot out of a laptop that WinXP probably wouldn't be able to.


Not techie talk, but related: visit your nearest cosmetic department and check out the makeup bags. They come with all sorts of clear zippered pockets that are great for carrying cables, mouse, extra boot disk etc. when you travel. It's easy to stay organized, and airport security can see your stuff at a glance. I keep an extra set of everything my laptop needs permanently packed and ready to go.

Ivana says i should get a

Ivana says i should get a bag that's not "a laptop" bag so im less likely to be mugged or whatever to buckworks.. though dammit, i want a smart looking bag! heh..

good tip, buckworks.

good tip, buckworks. we use brightly colored, cheap, children's handbags or schoolbags. these don't have the "please steal me, expensive electronics gear inside" look that black ballistic nylon has.

and, as you say, you can find them with PLENTY of pockets.

sony vaio with xbrite

sony vaio 17" monitor with the sharpest, clearest screen cuz of xbrite technology. it's heavy though. mine is the k series which they dont make any more, but they have plenty of new choices with xbrite.

Security through obscurity!

Ivana is right! I sometimes carry my laptop in a diaper bag ... lots of cool pockets and not nearly so likely to be thief bait as my leather briefcase!

I've got a K series Sony

I've got a K series Sony Vaio. It's not bad but it does come with lots of pre-installed Sony crap (probably not an issues if you're installing linux).However, the battery life is appalling. Seriously, it lasts less than two hours on a full charge! Although having said all that, it's ok for my needs. Sounds like it'd be hopeless for what you'll be doing. If you do look at a Sony Vaio, try the ultra-portable (with 13.3 inch screen) Vaio VGN-S4VP.

whatever you narrow down on,

whatever you narrow down on, search for "broken hinge" and related phrases. i thought we had just been unlucky with the plastic housing until i saw other complaints in forums about the hinges cracking. the "tough" part was what first drew me to the panasonic. now i find it's a bonus feature; i like being able to prop it up on one edge next to the bed or pick it up by any corner (even the monitor bezel) and toss it onto a chair cushion while I'm grabbing my coffee mug with the other hand. it's been kicked across the floor at least twice now.

I can recommend Dell Nick.

I can recommend Dell Nick. I've got an old Latitude but I've lugged this thing around the world several times and it's still working fine. Very rugged is an understatement, this thing is a Tonka toy.

Not sure about the new models of course but I will be looking there first when buying again.

I know one thing you

I know one thing you shoudn't buy: Dell. Dell sux! - but I don't see it on your list anyway :)

Regarding harddisc I would not worry about size too much - it will be too small in any case. Laptop discs are too exensive to go big with. The solution I have works great for me: A moderate sized internal HD (40-60GB) and then external USB powered 80-120 discs for the rest. The one I currently use is 80GB and very tiny.

If you are going to use it for traveling then the ThinkPads might be a good option as they have some special protection for the HD but you need a REAL computer bag for it. Believe me, no matter how much you try to be carefull traveling is very hard on your laptop and only the best computer bags give you the protection you need.

For extra protection you could (I should!) install full incryption of all your data + get one of those wires you can tie your computer to whenever you leave it (hotel rooms etc).

Travel Tip...

>> get one of those wires you can tie your computer to whenever you leave it (hotel rooms etc).

I only travel with my OLD OLD laptop, never the new one.

It's an ancient IBM Stinkpad and it's slower than hell, not worth the powder to blow it to hell, but if someone steals it the last laugh is on them as nobody would give them 10 cents for it.

It's fast enough for browsing the net and checking email, but Firefox can take almost a full minute to load on this snail :)

Dell Schmell

My wife's office used Dells for a couple of years and we're talking heavy usage, back and forth to the office daily, run around the office dragging machines to conference rooms, etc. and they were big piles of steaming chips. They work real nice for a while and then seem to crack up, she went thru several machines (rotating thru refurb) and hard drives in just a couple of years.

Good thing Dell offers businesses onsite service as you'll need it!

They switched back to IBM Stinkpad's (i'm using one now!) and her IBM has been solid as a rock for almost a year now.

We've used Dells for 7 years

We've used Dells for 7 years - 3 sets of machines after the old ones got slow. We've literally never had a problem - not one item broke or crashed frequently or gave out. I've heard Dell taking lots of guff, but for desktops, I've been personally impressed with our experiences.

However, I am thinking of switching to those new Sun Systems - they sound reallly, really fast.

I'm gonna investigate that laptop you mentioned, Donna. It sounds promising.

I know where you can get linux preinstalled on a laptop!

I bought a laptop with linux preinstalled from about a year and a half ago. Don't know if theirs have all the features you are looking for or not. And this is the only laptop I've ever owned, so I can't really compare it to others. They even installed gentoo for me, although I had to pay extra for it.

Jarvis on Dell Hell

Though I've had fair service out of my Dell laptops and a couple of Vikings I know were satisfied with theirs, I think the company has problems that would appear to put it off the list right now

After playing a bit with

After playing a bit with Louise's Panasonic in E-Burgh I wish I had an excuse to get one. Went so far as to find one to play touchy-feely with and it's a dream. Light as a feather but with a nice solid feel. Specs aren't bad, display is good and yeah, Ivana could drop it in a diaper bag and you'd never know it was there.

Hey Trisha, that reminded me

Hey Trisha, that reminded me of another site re linux. Hell, if they're cheap enough, who cares if they crap out in 2 years?

OK, so looking at this

OK, so looking at this panasonic, is this the toughbook i should be looking at?

You know i'd forgotten just what hell it can be searching for a non spammy review on a specific model of cusumer electronics kit...

Still lookin..

I'll look at the Vaio, and the ThinkPad too.

wrt linux

The only problem with fitting a linux distribution on a laptop arises only if you insist that it should be a special one, eg. (the likes of) Gentoo that you have to configure through the nose before you can even boot it. (That said, I don't believe Gentoo is a problem for any laptop, it's just cumbersome and takes way more time than i'd personally like to spend on installing anything - but, as Nick said, it gives some advantages as well compiling the whole system like that.)

Otherwise it's as easy and straightforward as you wouldn't even imagine. Just take any distribution on a liveCD, plug it into the CD drive and boot. That's it. No nore steps required.

Try one or two different ones, just in case one discovers your wifi, modem, or sound card better than the other - or just to try something new, it never hurts you know. Then pick the one that suits your system best and install it. You'll have a fully configured linux machine with pointy-clikkety interface in less than half the time it will take to install windows XP on it.

On any reasonably new laptop. Any.

"Hell, if their cheap

"Hell, if their cheap enough, who cares if they crap out in 2 years?"

That's a good point, I don't think linux certified is too cheap though.

I should add too that I am pretty careful with things, I rarely wear out or break anything.

wrt laptops

Don't go for brand names. They're overpriced by far nowadays. You can get "bamboo" (independent) machines with great(er) specs at a fraction of the cost of a similar brand name. It just doesn't pay to buy IBM, HP, and the like any more - way too expensive.

Oh, and mind the brand name tricks such as compaq laptops that only accept cpompaq branded ram - all the brandnames have stupid tie-in quirks like that.

(imho, fwiw, etc)

>cheap was talking about the


was talking about the sub300 site. linux has always been tossed out as a big cost-savings, but that doesn't appear to be the case when we're talking laptops.

yeah, they have crazy model numbers. it looks like this is the one: CFY2DWAZZKM,aid,117957,00.asp

Linux certified

"Certified" is what you need in the windows world. You don't need any particular brand, hardware, or certification to run linux. Just take any old PC, plug in the disc and let the system configure itself. Around half a minute later you are surfing the web. Really, it's that easy and quick.

linux has always been tossed out as a big cost-savings, but that doesn't appear to be the case when we're talking laptops.

What you save is basically the windows tax, if you can buy a laptop without windows preintalled, or get a refund. With regard to hardware, the price is the same. Regardless of which operating system you put on the box, the price of the box is the same.

So, you could go for a cheap box as well, as even though it might not run the latest windows it will certainly run linux :-)

The trick about a Linux LiveCD is that it's a fully operating operating system on a CD - you just plug it in, boot, and then it simply runs on your machine. Any machine. No install required, it just works. And if you like it, you can install as well. I mean, it's really that simple. There are quite a few to choose from - I made a good introduction post about it in Msg #5 here - it's online as I write this.

And that ends my linux posts in this thread. Sorry to bother you with all that, but I was a naive windows user only a few years ago, and I must say linux was an eye-opener, as it's by far more user-friendly than windows, and easier to install as well. So, when I see people doubt as I did a few years ago, I simply have to say "try it and be surprised"

>You can get "bamboo"

>You can get "bamboo" (independent) machines with great(er) specs at a fraction of the cost of a similar brand name.

yeah, agree. i picked up an asus travelmate with incredible specs for $1800 at a time when everything else similar in a big brand was $3k+. it's still around the house doing duty as an entertainment server.

"Certified" is what you need

"Certified" is what you need in the windows world." That's just what they call themselves though. They started out reburbishing old laptops and installing linux on them and having classes teaching people to use linux. Now they also sell their own laptops with linux preinstalled. Which is great if you're like me and want linux but don't want to be bothered with installing it yourself and dealing with compatibility issues, etc.

Ok, the model i linked to RC

Ok, the model i linked to RC just looks like the latest one in the same series. Slightly bigger processor, more ram, bigger HD etc etc - it got stunning reviews from what i can see.

How is the wrist rest?

I get real bad pain without a wrist wrest..

Oh, sorry Trish, I didn't

Oh, sorry Trish, I didn't know it was a specific company. My bad. Will add a paragraph about liveCD's to a post above.

>How is the wrist

>How is the wrist rest?

Flat, crappy, too far in --just like all laptops. The glidepad works well, i just hate glidepads. Laptops are not my preference for daily work primarily because of the wrist rest area and glidepad, but I can live with this one. I will admit that this one is easier than previous laptops I've owned because it is thinner so the wrist rest is lower. Still sucks vs a full keyboard and trackball, though.

Cheap laptops...

Microcenter in Silicon Valley has nearly a weekly sales ad with some laptop (Acer?) for about $500. Considering the price of most laptops and that I only use them for putzing around on the net I'd probably lean toward getting one of those if this old IBM Stinkpad craps out.

Consider you're a gentleman (ha!) of leisure like myself, you're sitting on the patio cranking out email and just happen to spill a gin and tonic or a pint of beer on the keyboard and the whole thing shorts out with a nice pyrotechnics display that it's disposable and you just walk away from it. A quick drive over to the store and replace it in the event of said disaster and the combined purchase of 2 laptops will still be under the price of most single laptops :)

Yes, I have a desktops too, can't live without 'em.

Gotta nice 2nd hander for you...

...Promedion P4 2.8, burns a hole in your table (or in your lap, don't use it that way if you plan to have more children). Broken hinge (of course) and it only has 3 keys missing (but I've rearranged them hehe). Weighs in at about 4kg and it has a 6min battery LOL. Comes with lots of wires.

Good screen though: 15" 1400x1050, it's a gem. Maybe with a modern (mobile) CPU, Promedion or Sager is a nice budget alternative to all these so-called A-brands...

Thinkpad or Panasonic

This story turned me from a lurker to a poster. Because I feel so strongly that an IBM or Panasonic is the way to go. Please please please! don't get anything else! I'd be nudging towards a Thinkpad myself, but the Pannys do look very nice.

welcome Wi11.

welcome Wi11.

yes, among the numerous laptop brawls i've been in the 3 that keep coming out on top are vaio, thinkpad, and panasonic. usually panasonic doesn't win, though i suspect that since nick knows laz, laz's recommendation has given the panasonic a slight edge here --as it did with me.

laptops dirty little secret

the replacement battery will cost you more than it's worth to keep the laptop portable. when the battery goes belly-up the hardware will be waaaay obsolete.

>>the sub300 site Thanks for

>>the sub300 site

Thanks for posting that RC, that is exactly what I was looking for. I might get one of those depending on what the Nokia 770,7841,feat:1,00.html looks like pricewise when it comes out.

welcome brad. i don't know

you're welcome brad. i don't know anyone who has one, though.

btw, no one has mentioned noise. our w2s are very quiet. conversely, when the fans kick on the bamboo asus (to be fair, it IS a couple of years old now) sounds like a small plane coming in for a landing.

My R4 was a bitch to put

My R4 was a bitch to put Windows on because it was originally Japanese OS, not cause the laptop was bad! I carry 2 laptops at all time now, both of them together comes in at around 2.2 kg

Have you considered a tablet PC?

If you're doing any kind of diagramming or you want to take notes unobtrusively in meetings or on the go, you may want to think about a tablet PC.

I recently got a Toshiba M205, and despite it being 2+ year old technology, I'm surprised at how zippy it is. Plus it's got 1400x1050 resolution, which is decent for a laptop.

I wasn't finding the tablet part all that useful until I wanted to diagram some stuff (actually some dance moves) the other day, and realized that typing out the motion descriptions was a pain in the ass... and I could just quickly sketch some notes in 1/4th the time. Plus it fits in a nice leather portfolio :).

Laz, got a link to your

Laz, got a link to your laptops' specs?


oh no, i have to be able to get a LOT of use out of this, for now, they just dont suit my needs. I'd get a "desktop replacement" and put up with the weight, but they typically have pretty poor batter lifetimes from what i've been reading.

>know's laz

yeah, it does give panasonic an edge for sure...

Toughbooks in Europe?

Hmmm... the panasonic site in dk sends you here:

they don't appear to have the Y2 on there? The best spec'd machine looks like

Whish certainly looks tough...

6 hours is damn long for a

6 hours is damn long for a battery, for that type of life you may need a tablet PC. Problem is as you move up in size you trade off battery life. I can't work on anything smaller than a 15.4" on a regular basis.

External battery

To be able to go unplugged for longer, you might consider an external battery. Here's an example:

> Large screen

I'm using a 17" toshiba laptop right now that I love so much I'm hoping these days there's bigger models available. Anyone know of a 19" laptop please let me know, I'm dying for one.

I don't know what you can get these days Nick, but my 17" is heaven aside from the weight. I think mine is 10lbs or so, which makes it heavy (and bulky) to travel with, but I don't really ever take it off the couch so it works for me. Even if I do start traveling a lot, I'll happily deal with the weight, or get a another small one just for traveling.

This is my first 'big' laptop, and I can easily say that I won't have a desktop as my main machine ever again.


We're coming up to replacement time for one of our laptops and it will take a lot to change my mind about another Toshiba.

We've had two now plus a rebrand that looks a bit like a Dell. The rebadge has had some ongoing problems while the two Toshiba's have taken an incredible beating and kept right on working.

They've been dragged up and down the country, worked in high and low temps, been tossed around in the car and generally beaten to death. The keyboard on one swallowed a whole glass of port and still continued to function.

The other thing to remember with a laptop is that you are buying a laptop - something that should be portable. If you want a huge screen you're not going to be buying anything is is genuinely portable so if you want true portability go for a small screen.

If you want to pose with a big screen then don't complain that the thing weighs a ton.

>laptop brawls i've been in

>laptop brawls i've been in the 3 that keep coming out on top are vaio, thinkpad, and panasonic

Yes, I forgot Toshiba. Always seems to get very high marks fron long-term users. Add them to the search, Nick.

>big screen

Nick needs the 14" because of eyesight problems. I've often wondered how he sees a screen. I guess he's going to jack up the resolution. (No wait, wouldn't that be jack down the res?)

While most of us are looking for portability, I do see some HUGE laptops while in airports. Obviously, there are those that like to carry their entire workspace with them.

RC - I wasn't having a shot

RC - I wasn't having a shot at Nick - I understand people with eyesight problems - my sight isn't 20/20 either and 14 inch isn't too big in my humble opinion. But those who think that a big screen laptop can in any way replace a desktop machine are just fooling themselves.

If you do serious work with a computer then dual screens are a must for productivity - recent research by Microsoft has supported that idea. The most productivity comes with the biggest possible screen space you either go very very big or work with two screens.

they've all got wierdnesses

I graduated from Dells (yuch) to Toshiba Porteges (610CT to 7010CT to 4020) and finally to Thinkpad t42p last year. Tpad kicks all the rest, but they ALL have "issues". A friend has the Panasonic and says it is HEAVY (I don't know).

I recommend you get one that people you know running the stuff you run already have... it makes things much easier.

Issues with my Thinkpad (which I consider the best laptop I have ever owned):

  • 15.4" super high res screen is awesome for presenting to a small group around a table (the reason I got it) and terrible for travel (too big). Had the same problem with the Toshiba big screens.
  • comes with Bluetooth, but don't try to use it. Bluetooth drivers for headsets provided, but no headset services included. Basically that means you can connect but can't talk. Duh. After a year they are close to releasing a software update that will allow me to use thebluetooth headset I bought. (recently a friend tipped me to a hack using Toshiba's BT drivers... go figure)
  • screen has little grey spots on one corner... looks like something to send back for warranty repair but I can't afford to be without it, so I have an inferior screen.
  • sound quality is terrible. Well know drawback. Also, sound drivers for many flavors of Linux lacking.

My friends with Apple Powerbooks have similar stories to tell. They love them, and it's the best they ever used, but when you get to chatting there are all sorts of oddities that just don't work or get in the way, and they still believe it is still the best available.

Seriously my Tpad is thebest notebook I have ever witnessed. I wish I also had one of those ultra-portable ones (!)

Bottom line is Thinkpad or Powerbook, depending on how much you want to run Windows software or how well it runs your particular Linux flavor.

I guess he's going to jack

I guess he's going to jack up the resolution. (No wait, wouldn't that be jack down the res?

Yeh, jack down

I have a 19" on the desktop that can run at some huge rez but i jack it down to 1024 and adjust the system fonts and individual program fonts where necessary. It works fairly well that way...


Yeh, im going to be looking at those today, aswell as Toshiba and Vaio - I have ivana's evening all planned for her (searching for danish shops etc), she doesn't know it yet, but she's going to be very busy hehe..

lightweight is important

I purchased Sony Vaio S4XP Laptop 13.4" screen but very lightweight at only 1.95kg

I diid look at buying the dell 9300 17" screen but it's 4kg in weight and too heavy for carrying through passport control in my opinion, try putting 2 bags of sugar on your shoulder and try walking round for 15 minutes and see how numb your shoulder gets :)


After quite a lot of research, the ThinkPad T43 is looking to be the top contender here. Mostly because:

  • It's available in dk, unlike Toughbook Y2
  • It has a 15" screen, and i can get a backpack for it
  • There are loads of howto's and forum threads about installing Gentoo, and it has the Atheros chipset on the WIFI so it should play very nicely with linux

Some things i don't know yet:

  • Battery life
  • Does it have anti glare for outdoor use?

and of course im working to answer those questions...

have you joined the gym then

wow at a weight of 5.5 lbs you will need a body like a viking

Is that heavy? I can put it

Is that heavy?

I can put it in a backpack, i just need a wheely for luggage and a backpack for the laptop and im set

My advice

Prioritise your features - you cant always have all of them. I expect "screen legibility" is your P1? LAMP isn't exactly power hungry

Buy the cheapest laptop that supports your priority features (it WILL get broken, bumped, scratched, spilled on, yada). Use a desktop on your desktop and a laptop to lug around if you can. What are you *really* going to do while travelling? Personally while I am away I only need web, email and VNC/RD..

Try them out in a store then buy online

Dont worry about brand names as they are mostly made by the same factories anyway

If you are going to buy a name brand I have heard good things about alienware.

On laptop bags I have a .net backpack that has been brilliant, chav thiefs dont associate backpacks with laptops yet. Although I was just given a victorinox briefcase style laptop bag that looks and works beautiful so I might switch. Key thing with laptop bags is can you get everything in and organised, heck you would be foolish to travel without insurance so "might get nicked" is not my highest priority (although dont want to advertise and get mugged!).

Yes, mostly web, email tw

Yes, mostly web, email tw and other sites that need posting too.

On the plane i would like to write, on the ground, to read and post - some light programming work, use of online services etc and minimal media consumption.

Really what im looking for is something solid, that i can read, that wont break my back.

Battery life

I've only had my desktop PC for the past three years or so, before that I only used laptops. The laptop would always be plugged into the socket, and often I would take the battery out, as it was the heaviest part of the machine, and it tended to get hot.

While travelling, I rarely needed the battery, as there was always electrical sockets everywhere, even on trains. I suppose if you travel long distance with buses that there would not always be an outlet, but I really haven't missed one as I recall. Even for a car you can get a converter for the cigarette lighter.

So, for me it has always been more a question of having the right plugs for the different electrical sockets (and a nice long extension cord) than a question of battery life.

Actually, if it was possible to buy a laptop without a battery, I would be buying one.

Do they have electrical

Do they have electrical outlets on planes these days?

Heh, in first or business class

Even on trains in the UK it is hit or miss if you will have electrical outlets unless you are in first class. I think Claus is used to better standard of travel than I!

I guess with most companies

I guess with most companies you still have to fly business/first class to get an electrical outlet, or use the one in the bathroom *lol*

But you're right, that might have been the only time that I had to grab a book in stead :-)

And you're right Chris, back then I was a corporate man and the firm paid the bills. I would not travel the same way now. Well, I probably would if only I could *lol*

He, just remembered: Back then the only thing I would miss when flying was my cigarettes. Even if it was just a half hour inland flight. Laptop? Ha! no problem... Bloody junkie I was. Now I haven't smoked for 5 and a half month.

Toshiba Satellite P10-304

I use a Toshiba Satellite P10-304 - I went for it due to the 15.4inch screen as I do alot of digital photography work as well as web stuff!

Works a treat and have never had a problem with it, I wouldnt fancy doing any serious traveling with it as it is abit of a beast!

I am in the look out for a new laptop early next year (I have had this one for over a year now) and like the sound of the Panasonic.

Do they have electrical

Do they have electrical outlets on planes these days?

Not in coach/business/peasant class yet.


Try them out in a store then buy online

That's being a USER of the worst kind. If you have no intention of purchasing from the store, have the honor not to use their services and run up their costs.

Staff time, inventory and display space don't just appear magically for free, y'know.

No honour

I'd quite happily try instore then buy online - they have their chance while im there to sell it to me.

Saying that though, when i've finally made a purchase, and taken delivery, im going to write all this down as my personal experience of "the buying cycle" - i expect it to run like this:

  • Broad online research
  • Enqiries with friends on msg board
  • Specific research online
  • Try in store
  • Buy online at place recommended by friends

C'mon, Nick ...

... If you've already made up your mind to buy online before you even go into the store, you are not a fair prospect for them and you are wasting their time. Nice guys don't do that.

Either be honestly prepared to buy from them or else do ALL your shopping and investigating online.


You know, i'll most likely do whatever makes sense for me. That may mean going into a shop to have a look - they put their stuff out for people to look at, im gonna look.

Many people go into shops with no intention to buy. Some come out with a bagload of goods, some dont. Im not sure which i'll be till i've done it - but if they really only want people going in with an intent to buy then they can just ask folks at the door: "Do you intend to buy something in here? No? Fuck off somewhere else then..."

That's just life buckworks.

I just did a price and

I just did a price and feature comparo on the Linspire 12 inch sub300 model (above) vs. the 12 inch Apple iBook. Except for weight the iBook is a much better deal - cheaper with more features. Surprised me - even I expected the Mac to be much more expensive.

Nick, I recommend a CD/DVD drive on whatever you get. I like it for watching DVD's on my laptop when I travel.

gentoo and ppc

play nice together.

Don't rule out an apple product. I have an ancient (in wintel years) pismo powerbook that hasn't made it to doorstop status yet, they still fetch a pretty penny on ebay. Plus there is the cool factor. os x ...


My current workhorse is a Thinkpad T30 which is just over 1 year old. Linux (Debian) runs on it perfectly. There is support for the Atheros chipset for WiFi from a sourceforge project called madwifi, all of the other hardware was recognised and worked with little trouble at all. Laptop battery life is around 2 hours or less, depending on what you are doing.

Run away from anything made by "Advent" - they fall apart too easily and are ridiciously loud & heavy. Dell's are reasonably sturdy and are usually among the lightest. I've had some good experiences with Toshiba in the past - their laptop's are well built, quiet, and reasonably powerful, although are quite heavy.

Do NOT buy HP. Do NOT buy

Do NOT buy HP. Do NOT buy HP.

Try a Thinkpad. Those little laptops are indistructible.

If you want to buy an HP, talk to SEGuru first. He bought top of the line HP Notebook and had no end of issues with it. WebGuerrilla had the same problem.

They went on and on about it in their terrible experiences with HP in the last broadcast or maybe it was the time before.

And, if you do want to buy an apple, talk to JamesA. He can fill you in. I, myself *LOVE* Apple hardware: they If you want a discounted Apple ibook, you can get refurbished ones complete with warranty. Mivox has done that before, she can fill you in on that.

>Battery life &

>Battery life & weight

Here's the likely scenario, though, Nick... once you get a nice laptop that really fits your travel plans you're going to soon have it on wi-fi at the house/office for your semi-casual reading/updates/site-scans/etc. And when THAT happens you're going to soon be cursing the cords and weight hourly. Travel outside your usual environs can be regimented so that you can handle the nuisances but once the laptop moves up to "second monitor" status you're going to wish for more conveniences.

Point well made RC At home,

Point well made RC

At home, i envision sitting at the kitchen table, or having it on my lap on the sofa while im downstairs. In the summer, in a shady spot in the garden.

I've upgraded my "this is what im gonna get" thoughts now to ThinkPad Z60T - the T stands for "thin and light" apparently and it has a "widescreen" - which once i've got fonts jacked up etc, will be useful i think.

They've just started stocking these in dk, and although i can't find any specific linux posts about them yet (think they only came out in september) the components look much the same as the T series so shouldn't pose me any serious problems - though i do wonder how a fingerprint reader will fit into my OS plans...

Transreflective Screens

I notice the ThinkPad's dont come with transreflective screens - does anyone have any experience of what that means in reality?

IMO, if you foresee yourself

IMO, if you foresee yourself moving into the wi-fi in-the-garden or at-the-kitchen-table environment then battery life should become your TOP priority. Even 5 or 6 hours is "short" given our online lifestyles. Stringing the power cord over to the kitchen table or rushing to find the dc transformer before you lose a connection is a royal PITA.

Thickness, or to be more specific, thinness is probably the second-most important factor and one I would have overlooked had you not mentioned the wrist rest concern. My old laptops are 1" thick and they are orders of magnitude more UNcomfortable than the 1/2" models. Also, beware of square edges across the front where your wrist lies!!

Noise is probably third, but I think most new laptops are quiet now ...but still worth a check. Fans suck [pun, sorta].

Weight and width are waaayyy down the line regarding convenience versus the above 3 factors.

Hehe must have done a good

Hehe must have done a good job converting you to panasonic RC :)



You did your homework on the hardware research, that's for sure. Seeing yours at the roadshow side-by-side with Chris_R's smaller Vaio (8" screen ??) was also an important comparison time ...until then, I had the idea that smaller was better but didn't know where the keyboard got TOO small for daily use.

I bought Louise's because [A] it was shiny & bright (hhh) and [B] it looked to be just big enough and powerful enough to be used as a carry-everywhere-use-it-for-everything machine. I just bought mine because [A] no way was Louise going to have a better laptop than I did and [B] I'd become slowly aware of all the pitfalls I'd encountered with our other laptops when I tried to use them for a 2nd monitor while away from my usual workspace. I must say that I was not, repeat, NOT all that concerned about 5 or 6 hour battery life for my own purposes. You and Louise were the ones hot on that. Now I see why.

Also, the sd-card slot makes this one SUPER convenient for our use, but we didn't even know it had that when we purchased so that was a surprise bonus.

But, brand affinity aside, any laptop that meets the 3-point criteria I just listed would probably be serviceable. I just wonder if any of the contenders can equal the battery life?

Battery life and screen of Thinkpad

I got the extended battery for my t42p, so I have 2. I use the extended and get about 3+ hours of real work out of it. If I carried the original I can add about 2 more hours. I rarely need to do that, as these things charge pretty quickly when plugged in (even when being used).

The screen on my t42p was the best available by far at the time... still tough to work in the sun :-) Great for viewing from sides (keep that in mind for plane trips... you can share a movie with your friends, but you also share your work with your neighbors.

The ful-size has built in DVD and the slim one does not, and I appreciate being able to play DVDs and write DVDs so I could not go with just the slim notebook.

I strongly recommend a Brenthaven laptop sleeve whatever you get. Awesome quality padded sleeve to fit into the backpack. At $38 it ain't cheap but well worth it. Better than those built-in pads cause with this I can switch bags whenever I want and avoid that "he's carrying a computer" look.

I have two HP laptops and

I have two HP laptops and both have been very good. I like mine except for the short battery life but that's the tradeoff for a 17" screen. Mrs. GW has a 15.4" screen with extended life battery and she's good for about 3 hours. I sit at the kitchen table or out on the patio both of which have power readily accessable so cords don't bother me. I guess people have different expectations of a laptop and prioritize features differently. As this is my primary workplace screen real estate was paramount, and I'm willing to deal with power cords to have it. if I could pay a couple hundred for a 3 to 4 hour battery I'd certainly do it.

So Nick you've gotten a lot of info and know what to think about, don't know if we've helped you settle on a specific model though. ;-)

Bought a Samsung X06 not too

Bought a Samsung X06 not too long ago. They made this line to be the lightest laptop with monitor size 'insert size here'.

The X06 is a <2kg 14 inch Pentium M740 (1.73ghz), 1gig ram and 60gig HD with DVD/CD RW...

Thin, light, and still 14inches which makes it usable at home next to a widescreen display...

if I could pay a couple

if I could pay a couple hundred for a 3 to 4 hour battery I'd certainly do it.

Why not pick up some extra batteries on ebay GW? I have 5 here for long journeys which gives me 12-15hrs. I've paid 20-30 GPB for each of them.

The other good tip I got told (in case you don't know this) is to always take the battery out when connected to the mains. Constantly charging them stops them being able to hold a charge after a while.

Certainly worth spending a

Certainly worth spending a bit more money on a more robust laptop if you're planning on travelling a lot Nick. Many of the cheaper laptop flex so much and really don't feel terribly sturdy.

As mentioned Toshiba are a pretty good make, in my last job with local government all laptops were Toshiba, had been for years, and there awere literally thousands of them. There would be the occasional model that would seem to have recurring problems (Sat Pro 2600 I think it was a few years ago we had loads of power board problems) but on the whole very good quality, again, you probably don't want to go for the bottom of the range ones, but generally a very good make. And their hybrid laptop/tablets do look very nice :D Not sure how useful Linux is with tablets though?

Sony's can be decent from what I've seen more recently, though think you need to be a bit more careful with what model you choose, they do generally look quite nice though.

Larger screens will use more battery power. Someone who tested a tablet PC a few years ago reckoned their battery life was so good because it was only a 12" screen, I'd have to say that sounds plausible.

Go for a Centrino core CPU. As much as I wish I could recommend AMD, Intel seem to be ahead in the mobile sector and the Centrino based machines are meant to have significantly better battery life. You do have to pay a bit of a premium though, but if you're avoiding the really low end stuff, you might miss all the non-Centrino's anyway.

IBM/Lenovo have had a good name, never used one myself though, and I think Acer's can be ok for a slightly more budget system.
I'd avoid HP form the few that I've seen, and the same with Fujitsu Siemens.
If it was me, I'd probably go Toshiba, was the one thing they got right at my last work place I think!

Then I'd probably get some kind of backpack style laptop case like this one to avoid that briefcase look.

This is nice, who owns that

This is nice, who owns that site then?


check out the Brenthaven Duo15 backpack. I wore one with my tp42p and it was awesome. Completely engineered for what it is... a backpack for the mobile pro with 15" screen. They have one for 17" screens but damn if it isn't big.

I also saw plenty of colors in the Brenthaven store, so I suspect the website isn't showing everything (?)

Oh, and check out the testimonials section. Don't YOU want to be like Alan White from Yes, who will only carry his powerbook in a Brenthaven pack? Might have lost a few sales in the under 40 set with that testimonial LOL

two good laptops...

I've got an HP zd8110 laptop(zd8000 series) as well as a Compaq x1010 laptop(x1000 series). Both have been excellent. I've got a few friend running linux on the x1000's, although I'm not sure about the zd8110. The zd8110 has a 17' wide ultrabrite, P4 3.2 hyper threading, 128 MB graphics, 100 Gig 5400 rpm HDD, 2 Gig of ram, dual layer dvd burner, etc. It's excellent for having 20+ browser windows open, database processing, keyword list crunching, e-mail, rip a DVD, and watch TV or listening to MP3's at the same time. Battery life is not the best, I'd say about an hour and a half. It get's a little hot on the top near the right side of the touchpad. It is also HEAVY AS HELL. 10+ lbs, so portable is really a perspective with this one.

The Compaq x1000 has a 1.3 Ghz Centrino, 1 gig ram, 15' widescreen, 80 Gig HDD, cd burner. Battery life is 3+ hours. As centrino clock speeds aren't comparable to regular p4, his one is probably equivalent to about a 2.2 Ghz Desktop. It's extremely light, battery life is pretty long, and it holds it's own as far as performance. I've got an extra battery so I've got 6+ hours of battery, and they recharge rather quickly. This one has also been BEATEN to a pulp. It's withstood a 5 ft drop to concrete while running (wasn't running anymore when it hit the ground, but booted right up), been kicked numerous times in the airport, my kids have sat on it and dropped stuff on it as well, spilled a coke on the keyboard, etc. It's a trooper, runs a respectable load of applications, and is a good compromise between smaller screens.

I'd buy either one again no questions asked.

Ok Nick

YOu have been looking at laptops for *days* now, shirley your geek lust has taken over where your rational mind left off and taken the plunge? ;O)

Actually yes, placed the order today

The new lenevo Z60M, which has larger screen than the Z60T and a few other small differences.

It wont get here till around 16th of next month, but i really really wanted this machine - here's why:

  • 15.4" widescreen *maxbrite* screen (1280x800)
  • 2.0GHz Pentium M processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • ATI Radeon X600 gfx card
  • DVD R+W, Bluetooth, Fingerprint reader
  • Titanium cover on screen
  • Whole bunch of accessories incl. port replicator

Woof woof! :)

Thanks to this thread im very happy that i've made the right decision, it's at the very least an informed decision...


I'd close this RIGHT NOW if I were you...

...and be happy with the decision for a lot longer ;-) You know how they are, these TW commenters..

If i don't close it before

If i don't close it before it reaches 90 posts it will break on the recent posts list anyway heh..


but can continue here if you like :-)

Thanks everyone, for one of the most enjoyable (not to mention useful) weekend threads in TW history - smashing stuff!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.