February 06, 2004

Curious George: Laptops The dreaded expensive computer purchase

I need a light but full functioning laptop for travelling, and I think I have found a great model, an Averatec 3000 series, but I don't know a lot about the company or computers beyond userlevel. Anyone have good or bad experiences with this company? Good or bad gossip? And, while talking computers, is there a big difference for the basic word processing, surfing, DVD playing user between WinXP Home and WinXP Pro? Aside from the fact that as Windows they are both seriously flawed, but I am lazy. This is not a Pepsi blue post - I've never bought one of these and have no affiliation - I'm just freaked out about spending more than I make in one month on one thing, and am looking everywhere for advice and/or reassurance. Thanks

  • jb - I can't help with that exact brand/model other than to say there is no feedback at epinions.com about them. But I will say that if you stray from that choice you should steer clear of the Sony laptops. All of the ones I have had personal experience with have met untimely ends. We just purchased the Hummer of laptops in the HP zd7040us. It's a monster with everything (I totally geeked out over the onboard number pad and 17" widescreen) that you could ever want in a laptop EXCEPT light & portable. But that really want't the point. According to Consumer Reports the Dell Inspiron 5000 is a best buy, but weighs in around 8 lbs. The Inspiron 600m is lighter at 5.5lbs, but doesn't score as highly. I personally have enjoyed every dell machine I've had, but my significant other balked at getting another, hence the HP. Several of my coworkers swear by their Toshibas. I'm angling for a new Toshiba myself when our contract on the Compaq Evo I am typing this on goes bye-bye.
  • I have a Dell Inspiron 5000e at home. Two actually. One made it's way into my home from work, a "donation" from a friend in charge of allocation. Turns out the reason it had been sitting around was that someone had spilled orange juice on the laptop. For the record: laptop + orange juice != a good thing I ended up buying a lease-return 5000e from www.dfsdirectsales.com for about $600. Nice 15" TFT LCD that can do 1600X1200. (I like the little font.) It is a beast of a machine, about 8lbs. But it is a desktop replacement, and is still peppy, even with it's less-then-beefy PIII 850MHz processor. As far as the difference between XP Home and XP Pro: 1. XP Home cannot be connected to a network with a domain. For most people, it won't matter -- you can still connect it to your home network via a router or hub, to share files and internet access, but you would be out of luck if you work for larger business that requires you to log onto the domain in order to access drives and information. That's if they want you to connect your home machine to the office network, which is not something that many companies want, in today's environment. 2. XP Home does not support file/folder encryption. While I've heard that you can do with with a quick hack, XP Home does not allow you to encrypt folders or files out-of-the-box. Bottom line, unless you really need/want the ability to connect to a domain (again, work) or file/folder encryption, go with XP Home. It will save you about $100.
  • jb - You should check to see if your program has a policy for laptops. They would spell out the requirements (they may want you to have XP Pro), and may even be able to get you a good discount, too. Speaking of laptops -- honey, we should start looking for you now.
  • I've been pretty satisfied with my VAIO, except for the battery that shorted out about a month after its warranty expired, and the tech support web site, which was completely unavailable for about the first six months after I purchased the machine. My next laptop will come from Powernotebooks.com or Alienware. Or Apple. This guy seems to like his Averatec 3150H.
  • Thanks for the advice, especially on the drawbacks of XP home - those sound pretty serious. Though I do know that at least the 3120 will run with Linux, if I ever learn how to compile a kernel. Or what a kernel is. That said, I never pay any attention to what universities tell you to get - I swear that they are being paid off by the high end manufacturers. I went through undergrad working on a Pentium 166 and a beautiful 486 laptop - the only reason I'm upgrading is because it can't be networked. It's still a beautiful machine, working like a charm. Here they tell the little kiddies they need massive processing power to type book reports. For network connection, I can use anything that works. And it sounds like WinXP home won't. Stupid stupid MS. But I'm confused - so WinXp Home won't connect to an ethernet? Yet the machine has an ethernet card. Our network here registers the computer, and has shared and personal drives on the server.
  • Jb, no, XP Home will work fine for you. What Jim meant by "domain" is a Windows corporate security feature that you almost certainly don't need. Here's Microsoft's spin on the diff. IgSlut, I always thought that this or this would be the Hummer of laptops. Yes, I dearly want one.... Instead, I have an IBM A31p: a great box with a great keyboard, all of the horsepower of any fixed workstation, and affordable since IBM discontinued the model. However, at 8 pounds it's too heavy to recc to jb. Also, the battery life is poor.
  • Thanks for the link goetter. jb, if you're not interested in buying the "latest and greatest" (my mistake for assuming that you would), there's always the option of buying something used. Now that new laptop hardware has come down in price (somewhat), it almost makes more sense to spend a couple hundred more for the newer system; more processing power, more compatibility, warranty, etc. But you should get "what's right" for you. If you're interested in running Linux, here's a website that might be of intested to you: Linux on laptops Some of the steps can be daunting, but it will at least give you an idea of the possibilities. If possible, find someone who already has a similar model that you're looking at, or a place nearby that has a demo model that you can get your hands on. It's worth the time you'll spend to make sure that you like it before buying... drawbacks of having a laptop. You can always change a keyboard or monitor with a desktop, but you're stuck with your laptop purchase.
  • goetter - those are pretty cool, but without the onboard number pad it's no go for me. My laptop is the envy of all the geek boys at work. heheh. Now if some smart fellow/gal combines the ruggedness of the first link with the awesomeness of my HP - I'd buy that.
  • Despite the weight, those rugged ones look wonderful! As a complete klutz, I've been waiting for almost a decade for the sturdy laptop to be invented - now I guess all I have to do is wait for them to come into my price range. 3000 pounds is a bit more than the $1000 USD I had budetted.
  • $1000 USD? Man, that's tight. US MIL-STD-810E is certainly overkill for you. You can get a semi-ruggedized model for considerably less than 3000 pounds. Try trolling ebay for a used or refurb Toughbook T1 (retail new $1350 USD). Or get an older model and put BSD on it. Don't miss the old MoFi laptop thread here.
  • IgSlut, your rig is larger than any Hummer-- I'd call it an aircraft carrier. You could roll out pastry on that thing....
  • mmm... pastry. I look at it this way, it's not just computing, it's a workout too.