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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Choose a Windows Laptop?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the throw-a-dart dept.

Portables 898

jfruhlinger writes "I'm a Mac guy. When our 2004-era Windows XP laptop, which was used primarily by my wife, died last summer, I got myself a new MacBook Pro and she inherited my still serviceable 2008 MacBook. But after about six months, she hasn't gotten used to it, and wants a Windows machine. I don't have an ideological problem with this — it'd be her computer, and we've got a bit of money stashed away to pay for it. But trying to pick one out is my job, and I find the the whole process bewildering. Apple's product differentiation is great at defeating the paradox of choice — you have a few base models, the difference between which is quite obvious, and you can customize each. The Windows world seems totally different. Even once I've settled on a vendor for a Windows laptop (something I haven't done yet), each seems to have a bewildering array of product lines with similar specs. Often models that you find in electronics or office supply stores that seem promising in terms of form factor are exclusive to those stores and can't be found online. Obviously people do navigate this process, but I'm just feeling out of my depth. How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?"

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Just use the hardware you have (5, Insightful)

imashination (840740) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633142)

Just install windows on the mac?

Re:Just use the hardware you have (0)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633188)

You beat me!

Re:Just use the hardware you have (5, Informative)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633218)

+1 to this.

A Macbook makes a great Windows laptop, and since you already have it it'll be more cost effective to just buy a copy of Windows.

Set up a bootcamp partition (Apps > Utils > Boot Camp Assistant) and give it the lion's share of the disk if it's going to be her primary OS and then install.

Once you have Windows on there, the OS X software disks that came with it (or the ones for your MBP) have all the necessary drivers that are set up via install wizard - just pop it in after Windows boots for the first time.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633324)

Window is fucking expensive stand alone. Many multiples what the OEMs pay.

If your wife or you happen to teach or go to a school, you might be able to get it for free from the school, or at a steep discount.

But yea, install on the 2008. It should easily still be good enough. Max out the RAM too. At this point, it's as cheap as it will get for your model. Later on, it'll just become rarer and most places will then put a premium on it.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633362)

exactly. I have been trying to find a cheap version of windows 7 for a while. I have even hunted down some wholesalers, and I can't seem to find it for less than retail, unless I am part of some ultra special group.

You used to be able to buy XP OEM disks from certain builders but I can't even do that anymore.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633440)

Ask a student to buy it for you.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633460)

i got OEM copies from microcenter, newegg and others sell them.. Windows 7 pro was the same as an OSX service pack for me.

dont see how its an issue for you.. unless..

Oh, your a paid troll.. gotcha..

Go Mac OSX!

Re:Just use the hardware you have (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633492)

Watch digital river for deals for students. I was able to pick up a copy of Windows 7 Pro X64 for $30 via digital river.

There are more sites like that as well.

It looks like the is over, but they link to here:
You can get the Windows 7 Upgrade for $80

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

ayvee (1125639) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633372)

But it should still be cheaper than buying a new laptop.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (2)

Cloud K (125581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633494)

Just buy the OEM version. Even Microsoft themselves can't agree on whether it's acceptable or not ( but as far as I'm concerned after interpreting the license as best as I could (IANAL etc), it's absolutely fine.

The crap about selling it with a fully assembled system is for when the EULA takes effect: which is when it's been opened. While it remains unopened, PC enthusiast vendors are just selling the package and the agreement doesn't apply yet. It applies to the person who opens it, and if you're the "system builder" (in this case all you have to do to "build" it is er, install the OS?) building for yourself then don't worry about anything it says about the agreement between the builder and the buyer. You can't sue *yourself* :)

The people who speak for Microsoft are mostly call centre droids who don't really know either way.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633358)

Yeah, great, except no number pad and no right mouse button. Pft, spend $500 on a thinkpad. There's no product differentiation in laptops anymore, you're being falsely led by Apple's marketing. They are all "good enough" to run anything you need. So you can just focus on things that matter like weight and battery life and screen size. Granted, I do believe that i3, i5 and i7 laptops are hard to find outside of apple at the moment, but wait a month.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633406)

If his wife will be using Windows most of the time, consider reinstalling OS X towards the end of the disk and Windows in the beginning because disk access and throughput is faster towards the front.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633228)

This. Modern Macs make great Windows machines. For bonus points, dual booting between Mac/Win "just works".

Re:Just use the hardware you have (5, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633294)

> Just install windows on the mac?

That only works if you don't despise Apple keyboards.

Try using the thing first. Then work from there.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633508)

I don't get it... where is the replacement keyboards for laptops? Am I overlooking something? Every time I disassemble a laptop I'm stumped over why there isn't an aftermarket for keyboards because it's always such a trivial part to replace.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633528)

Not to mention that Apple laptops have that stupid track pad with only one button. Meaning that it's not going to work correctly in Windows without extra work.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (3, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633354)

Yeah, that's probably the best answer of all. Just run Windows on it. Also, I might say "make it dual boot" so that she has something to fall back on when her machine gets trashed and/or unusable... as we all know it will.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633542)

+1 again.

A 2008 MacBook, even non-Pro, is still a perfectly good Windows system for what you ask.

A computer can always do serviceably well exactly what it could do when it was new. Windows 7 should be decently good on it, Office 2010 (or OpenOffice/LibreOffice) perfectly fine. Yeah, it won't do gaming very well, but it'll do anything a new $500 Windows can do - and for only the cost of Windows itself.

Re:Just use the hardware you have (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633544)

+1 You can't beat apple hardware DELL may be cheap, but you get what you pay for Although, why anyone would want windows instead of mac is beyond me

All you need to do is look at the graphics card. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633148)


Easy (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633152)

Not at all.

I'm an Apple guy so I HATE CHOICE (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633154)

Choices are scary!

My boss is making me use a computer!

Help meeeeeeeeee!

(fuck you)

most important criteria (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633156)

1. It must have Linux drivers, even if it requires compiling them separately.
2. It can't be from an evil corporation like Sony.

Intel Mac (0)

linuxci (3530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633160)

As all Macs have been Intel based since 2005 why not install Windows 7 on your 2008 MacBook. You can replace macosx or dual boot using Boot Camp.

Simple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633164)

Install Windows on your wife's MacBook.

easy (4, Funny)

cuby (832037) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633166)

The same way as a Linux laptop.

Re:easy (3, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633356)


Buy a MS Notebook, complain about having to pay the Windoze tax, install Linux, configure several small but nonfunctioning items (buttons) for several hours, wonder why it doesn't go out of sleep/hibernation smoothly, rave how awesome Linux is while having Windows booted so you can play that one game you like or use that one piece software that doesn't run on Wine? /jk

i choose by hardware specs (4, Informative)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633170)

and consider that i will eventually be wiping windows off and installing Linux on it...

Just install windows... (-1, Redundant)

gbrandt (113294) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633174)

Why not just install Windows on the macbook pro?

It'll install and work fine, but you can use BootCamp if you want to.

A bit confused... (2, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633176)

Why on earth would you give your MacBook Pro to your dead wife?

Re:A bit confused... (3, Funny)

Cylix (55374) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633192)

Furthermore, I'm troubled that you continue to speak to her about how she feels about the MacBook.

Re:A bit confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633296)

Normally I don't like grammar Nazis, but it took me a few reads to realize the laptop and not the wife had died.

Re:A bit confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633370)

ditto - "My wife's 2004 era..." would have been ALOT (haha) better.

Re:A bit confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633262)

Was it painful?

(Admitting you are converting from Mac to PC, of course)

Re:A bit confused... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633276)

>I'll use a MacBook over my dead body!

*wife dies*

Okay, honey, I got you that MacBook you wanted.

Re:A bit confused... (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633438)

"Why on earth would you give your MacBook Pro to your dead wife?"

I'm not a grammer nazi but this guy isn't helping Apple fans look good.

" How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?""

Is this guy for real? He just described every laptop since 2006.

is this an early April Fools? "Uh... I'm a Mac Guy... uh, I can't form sentences... uh, can u halp me find laptop? duh...."

Re:A bit confused... (1)

n2art2 (945661) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633480)

While I'm sure you intended to be funny, you obviously don't understand the english language enough to understand what the subject of the sentence was. Comas have a purpose.

Boot Camp (-1, Redundant)

NeuralAbyss (12335) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633184)

Why not just use Boot Camp and dual-boot Windows on the Macbook? A machine of that vintage should be able to run Windows 7 well, and it'll save a thousand or two.

Why hasn't she gotten used to it? (5, Insightful)

thinbits (904652) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633200)

You say "she hasn't gotten used to it, and wants a Windows machine". Do you mean she hasn't gotten used to Mac OS X and wants to use Windows? Just use Boot Camp and install Windows on your MacBook, problem solved. If you mean she is using Windows on your MacBook and there is something about the MacBook itself she doesn't like, perhaps you should elaborate on what specifically it is she doesn't like about the hardware as that's probably something you should take into account in your next purchase.

Re:Why hasn't she gotten used to it? (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633376)

A Windows license is around $200. You can get a pretty decent laptop with Windows 7 for around $500. Sell the MacBook and buy a Toshiba or HP. You'll come out several hundred dollars ahead.

Buy software, not hardware. (0)

RNLockwood (224353) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633204)

Install Parallels or one of the other virtual machine and put your Windows OS on that. Don't waste the hardware.

Two Words: Screen Resolution (2, Insightful)

kdekorte (8768) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633206)

These days almost all laptops have sucky screen resolution (13xx x 768). Particularly at the 14" and 15" sizes. Find a machine with a decent screen and you'll find a decent laptop. A few months ago I got my wife a HP Envy 14 with the 1600x900 screen, i5 CPU, and 4GB RAM. Suites her needs quite nicely.

Re:Two Words: Screen Resolution (1)

CockMonster (886033) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633292)

absolutely! I've a high-end laptop restricted by a max res of 1366x768. Not very good for developing on. I assumed that the res was a 'suggested' one and that I'd be able to whack it up when I got home, but no.

Re:Two Words: Screen Resolution (1)

NoSleepDemon (1521253) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633464)

I had a similar problem with a Dell XPS M1330, something like 1280x768. I find screens with a wide aspect ratio to be especially terrible for development work because I really miss the extra vertical space for code. I suspect you would have suffered with a small screen regardless of the resolution though, as increasing it would have made you squint, and there's nothing more painful (to me at least) than having a tiny laptop on your legs with your neck and head crained forward for a few hours.

Re:Two Words: Screen Resolution (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633344)

i think that res is perfect for an 11.6" - extreme portability. When at a desk, external display...

Re:Two Words: Screen Resolution (0)

rwade (131726) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633418)

Replying to void accidental "redundant" moderation. Meant "insightful" :)

Re:Two Words: Screen Resolution (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633478)

This is my biggest pet peeve with laptop sellers. I've been looking at Dell and Lenovo and all I want is a list of their highest resolution laptops. I haven't found any way to filter my searches this way.

Bootcamp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633208)

I can't believe this actually made it this far! I have three Intel based Macs and 2 of them are running versions of Windows without any issues at all. Life is simpler than spending money. Install whichever version of windows she want and you are done.

noob (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633210)

"gotten used to it" Maybe she's more 1337 then you and can comprehend more than one button.

Stores are a great place to start.. (1)

Dynamoo (527749) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633212)

Stores are a great place to start.. but I then tend to buy the model online, especially if I can custom build it. So, simply go to the store and have a look at what appeals to you..

I think right now, the choice is between a low/medium spec Windows 7 32 bit laptop and a high-spec Windows 7 64 bit laptop. I bought a new one recently and opted for 64 bit and as much RAM as I could get.. it really is fast! But, I still prefer to do my real work on my Windows XP workstation..

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633222)

How would Slashdotters go about picking a solid, basic laptop for Web surfing and document editing that won't be obsolete in two years?"

What do you do to your laptops that puts them in danger of obsolescence in web surfing and document editing after two years? Gaming PCs should last you longer than that, never mind web surfing and word processing. Stick Windows on your 2008 MacBook and it should do fine.

It doesn't matter (2, Insightful)

DogDude (805747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633224)

It really doesn't matter which one you pick, unless you're running some kind of new-ish games on it, or something else that's super CPU or video intensive. The hardware is so ahead of what's needed for most people at this point, that just about anything made within the past 10 years works fine for most purposes. When I'm buying PC's (or laptops) for my company, I just find some refurbished model that has 2-4 GB RAM, and a decent hard drive. The rest of the specs really don't matter unless you have very specific needs. I don't know why a PC would be "obsolete" in the literal sense. Most of my PC's and laptops and servers were all made in the early 2000's and all run Windows XP and all do everything I need them to do just fine. I generally shoot for $300-400 for a laptop.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633436)

I know how you feel. I think it is sad that Marketing keeps all their materials and just updates the number. For example, a salesperson told me a Core i3 processor is only good for doing one thing at a time. I just built a desktop based on a Core i3 and it is significantly faster than what it replaced and multitasks just fine. Just because it is one of the slowest doesn't mean it is slow.

Re:It doesn't matter (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633442)

Concur, for the stated use, one step up from a Netbook should do the job for years to come.

I bought my last Windows 7 laptop based on power consumption and computing power- I needed a little more than what you state (compiles take 1 minute on a desktop, 2 on my chosen laptop and 5+ on a netbook...) Having a low power chipset was important to me, especially after suffering through a lap burning MacBook Pro, and a similarly hot, noisy, and unreliable "high performance" laptop I was fortunate enough to win from Intel.

So, I looked at the CULV market (much more limited than the broad laptop market), and then my choice was easier - settled on an ASUS and quite happy with it.

This is actually not difficult (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633240)

Once you select a manufacturer of your choice, the process is similar to picking an Apple laptop. No need to invoke the "paradox of choice", unless you're trying to make this into a bigger problem than it actually is.

Or just install Windows on your macbook.

Re:This is actually not difficult (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633346)

...yes. This comes off as some fanboy trying to justify some Apple product that he's already purchased.

Things like cpu speed, disk size, memory size & GPU family are all things that have to be decided on even if you choose the allegedly easier route of buying a Mac.

This may come as a shock to some, but the stock Mac might not even be suitable for what you want to do with it. A good example of this are those suggesting that you use some sort of Virtual Machine to run Windows software. Another is basic casual gaming.

It helps to actually know what you want.

Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633242)

I'm not sure what the Lenovos (IBM sold their laptop division, IIRC) are like now; but the one I have is going on 5 years now and it's not obsolete. Only the battery needs to be replaced, and the left mouse button is worn out and taped on. Otherwise it's a champ. As long as XP service packs are around, I'll keep it.

When I finally decide to replace it, I'll be looking for another ThinkPad with Windows 7.

Re:Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM (1)

ani23 (899493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633524)

when i buy windows i go lenovo. the machines are still built like tanks and work fantastic.
i actually convinced my boss to let me buy a lenovo in a company of dells. mind you others are or may be better but lenovo just works perfectly for me. my x61s has been running solid for 3 years now and i just got the x201 which should tide me through for another couple of years.
if in the ultra portable space try the x220 (to be released soon) otherwise try the T series. u cant go wrong with either option.
For the AC above. checkout the x220 []

Lenovo (5, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633248)

I have always used Dell laptops or ones provided by work (HP). I purchased a Dell netbook for my wife assuming that during her time at home it would be portable and easy for her to carry around. After a couple of months she decided it was just too small and underpowered for her and she wanted something else.

We only had a few requirements: built in mic and webcam (Skype with the grandparents), Windows, and a 10-key pad.

NewEgg had a Lenovo laptop which met all those requirements for ~$475. We picked it up and it arrived a few days later. Widescreen, 10-key, mic but a bit of a lame webcam. The rest of the specs are irrelevant as my wife doesn't need anything except Firefox, Word, and Excel.

But the important thing about Lenovo wasn't the hardware. The important thing was when it began shutting down unexpectedly and without warning after 30 minutes of heavy CPU usage (like when my wife was catching up on her shows on Hulu).

I contacted Lenovo support. I explained the problem and what I had done to test it. There was no usual bullshit required script I had to run through with the person on the phone. Nope. They e-mailed us the instructions on how to ship it back and we did.

It arrived at their facility in Texas on the 15th. On the 16th FedEx knocked at our door with the repaired laptop.

Lenovo will get my laptop business again and again until they break the trust level they created with that wonderful service exchange--arguably the best service I have ever received from any manufacturer in my 25 years of dealing with these things.

Good luck.

Latitude or Thinkpad (4, Insightful)

Animal Farm Pig (1600047) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633258)

Just buy a Latitude or Thinkpad. You can't go terribly wrong with either.

Re:Latitude or Thinkpad (1)

atlasdropperofworlds (888683) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633414)

I'd go with a lenovo thinkpad, asus bamboo, or high-end toshiba. The OP should just sell the superfluous macbook.

Re:Latitude or Thinkpad (1)

ani23 (899493) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633552)

while i agreed with latitudes for a while some of the ones i have recently seen in our firm like the e5500 have sub par build quality. the lid has become wobbly already and many have run into multiple issues. not that thinkpads dont have these at all but latitudes just dont seem as solid as before.

It's Basic (1)

muindaur (925372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633268)

If it's just for web surfing and document editing, then buying something cheap won't be obsolete in two years. As I don't buy Office every time a new version comes out. Only once every five years or more.

Since Windows 7 hasn't been out that long support for it won't die in a couple of years. So her laptop will run the same in two years as it does now if there aren't tons of programs loaded onto it(due to the extra programs themselves rather than age.)

To be on the safe side, anything with 6GB+ of ram will be more than enough to last a long time.

Netbooks tend to be on the slow side, and have a small keyboard. A 15" laptop screen should be fine unless she wants a good built in number-pad.

My desktop with XP home on it has been running since 2006, and it still runs office and firefox with zero problems. It may be considered obsolete in age, but not in it's function to me. So don't buy into the "obsolete" marketing. If it still does it's intended job in two years it's fine.

Try a few in stores (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633270)

See which keyboards/track pads/screen/etc she prefers. Then buy whatever specs you need on that model.

Business laptop (5, Insightful)

loosescrews (1916996) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633272)

Almost all consumer laptops are terrible. Get a business laptop if you want something that is any good. Some examples are HP's EliteBook and ProBook lines, Dell's Precision and Latitude lines, and Lenovo's ThinkPad line. Generally speaking, if a laptop doesn't have a trackpoint/pointing stick, it isn't worth having. It doesn't matter if you want to use it or not, it is a good indication of the quality of a laptop. Business laptops generally have: Better Battery life Better reliability No crapware More durable designs Higher performance Better keyboards and Anti-Glare screens Better conductivity and support for a docking station Better and longer warranties

Pointing stick is a great heuristic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633490)

Interestingly, this holds even within a brand/line. The Latitude D4/6/8X0 series had the pointing sticks and were decent machines. The D5XX's didn't, and they're much crappier than their contemporaries.

Re:Business laptop (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633498)

Yep, +1 to that. The HP EliteBook (8530p) I have from work is a very solid machine. I don't know how tough it is - I've never dropped it - but it does seem as though it's built really well. Specs are good. And it doesn't look too fancy, which I like.

Sage Advice (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633286)

Confucius say: Choosing Windows Laptop Easy! Open Window First!

Simple (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633288)

By how well it runs GNU/Linux.

Don't Overthink It (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633298)

The best way to pick one is to find out the minimum basics of what is wanted (screen size, and whether it will be "gaming" or just basics - web, email, an office suite, and light gaming). Then, write out minimum specs. If you have a processor brand preference, a minimum processor speed, I wouldn't go with less than 4GB RAM and a discrete 256 MB or better video card. HD space in a laptop doesn't matter to me because by the time I've picked everything else I wanted, they have more than my minimum as their minimum, so it isn't an issue. Now, to the anti-geek part. Once you have a basic idea of what you want.

Get the weekly fliers for Best Buy, Office Max, Office Depot, Sams, Costco, etc. and look through them. Find the cheapest one that fits your specs. Buy it or wait until next week.

If you have a specific brand you want, and specific specs that won't show up in a regular store, then you'll have to work much harder. But for a commodity laptop, it doesn't really matter. They are all about the same. And the plus side is that when you do it this way, you'll find out you paid less than half what you thought you would.

You left out the obvious information (3, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633310)

First question to ask yourself is: What does your wife want to do with her Windows laptop?

  • Does she carry it around a lot? Take it to the gym in her purse? Look for models with smaller screens that are lightweight.
  • How much does she use it while she's on the go? If the answer is "a lot," then maybe you want to look for models with features designed to wring the most life out of the battery, which includes LED backlit screens and solid-state drives.
  • Does she like to play CDs and DVDs on her computer? Make sure it's got an optical drive, then (which can increase size and weight).
  • What applications does she use? Do they use a lot of RAM? Does she keep all her data on her laptop hard drive? Make sure she has enough RAM and storage (or make sure it's upgradeable).
  • Does she pretty much leave it sitting at home all day like a desktop? Maybe she wants a model with a bigger screen, and maybe battery life isn't important.
  • Does she do a lot of gaming? Look at models marketed to that audience.

There are a bunch more factors you can consider (for example, maybe you're not planning to give Sony any more money). But until we know what your wife wants a Windows laptop for, it's pretty difficult to point you in any specific direction.

BTW, you might want to make sure she's comfortable with Windows 7, too. If all she wants is Windows XP, you might skip the stores and start looking other places (eBay, Craigslist).

Rough Specs (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633312)

decide on how much disk space and RAM you need, what screen resolution you want, then go to one of the big retailers and find one with a keyboard a trackpad you like. This is what I generally do (with the added check for Linux compatibility). That last 4 I've bought (for myself and others) have all been less than $500, and the only one with a problem was a Dell (screen inverter is going). These are home machines, but are used every day.

They're almost at the point of being disposable, which kind of bothers me. I'd love to spend real money and get a good machine I can upgrade to make last 5+ years, but it's just not worth it.

Re:Rough Specs (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633366)

I should add that these machines really won't be obsolete in 2 years, but neither will they be high-end machines. I would expect to get 4 years out of them. It's not worth getting a warranty though. An acquaintance who a Mac user paid more for his warranty than my laptop at the time cost. It was worth it as he seemed to have gotten a lemon that was in for repairs 4 times in 3 years before being replaced. Lemons sometimes happen, and the problems usually start to show up in the basic warranty period.

Get a Lenovo Thinkpada (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633314)

Thinkpads still carry a price premium but are, from what I gather, still very nice relative to the competition (this is based on what others have written; I bought a PowerBook in 2004 and haven't looked back). Even then, however, expect a vast number of confusing options. The "X" series appears to be optimal for mobility, with 12.1" screens, while the 14" "T" series appears to be the best workhorse.

If you don't want to spend a tremendous amount of time reading, learning, and searching forums, these are probably your best bet. From what I can tell, there is no easy way to circumvent this process, much as it takes a great deal of research to figure out what you're getting when you buy a car.

Commodity Item (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633318)

Unless your wife has some very specific needs I'd say just hit Staples or Best Buy and see what's on sale. Any off the shelf name brand laptop will run Windows Fine. Strip off the factory supplied junkware (read: Norton/Symantec), add MS Office, and likely she's good to go.

Of course, I then installed Ubuntu via a Windows installer, and haven't looked back...

Most Important Criteria (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633326)

Make sure that the laptop that you purchase does not come with Windows. The last thing you want is to pay money for an operating system that you won't use. Wait... what?

Check specs online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633334)

Since CPUs and GPUs are so hard to distinguish by model numbers, check the specs on

I'm partial Lenovo. Excellent construction and warranty support. Like others said, make sure to get a high resolution screen. That's easier in the business lines. You can also upgrade your memory much cheaper than through the OEM. You can get 16GB of DDR3 for $180 on Newegg instead of $480 from Lenovo. Take the replacement cost of batteries and power adapters into consideration. Lenovo & Dell are cheaper, Sony is at least twice as much.

Dell (1)

Wolfling1 (1808594) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633348)

Dell Inspiron 15R. Its not hugely powerful. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles. It has two significant weaknesses: No Bluetooth on board, 100Mb NIC.

Otherwise, for AU$1100 (including a spare battery), what a chilly bargain. I could have two of these babies cheaper than most IBMs, Toshibas or HP/Compaqs - even Macs. You just know that they're going to be good for the warranty - if I need it, and lets face it, I know more about PCs that 98% of their tech support department, so its not like I'm going to call them when I have anything short of a hardware failure.

I plan to own the device for two years (good god, is that planned obsolescence in hardware I hear? Who'd a thought?). After that, it will go to one of the kids, and I'll buy another one in the same class.

As House would say - You're an Idiot (1)

DontScotty (978874) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633360)

You don't need a new machine and protect against obsolescence if you are just doing email and web surfing.

And, you could always Boot Camp Windows onto the Mac Book provided it is an Intel processor.

Staples, Best Buy, Fry's - what ever is cheap and has a decent comfortable keyboard for her.

If she's mostly at home and plugged in to power - get a bigger screen.

If she's on the go - get a screen that is readable but smaller to extend out battery life.

Toshiba have some nice machines (1)

dwywit (1109409) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633374)

In the L500 or L650 ranges. Get an extended warranty - they're not so much more likely to fail, as bl@@dy expensive to fix when they do. Also, Toshiba's extended warranty means courier pick-up and return.

can it run linux?+ war hero or split personality (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633380)

the fog of tax free (for some) war can do that? did we say tax free? pardon, the non-taxpayers actually profit ($billionerrors$) on the heavy weapon (keeping ALL sides supplied including mexico) murder massacre business outings. so that's good?

we support the views of this former person ("stop killing")

we do not support the material in this cnn propaganda video from yesterday ("we can win this, with my help")

same guy? clone? confused? we must focus... on the images. we must....saw a picture of one of those godaffy psycho-killer freaks being paraded around our military bases (may have paid for them, along with our holycost tithing's) like royalty, only to become our very worst 'enemy' just weaks/leaks later? focus-pocus?

babys rule, with tiny chubby soft fingers, advanced dna etc..... unclear?

Linux (0)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633388)

Be glad Windows only has four or five viable editions for home use (including XP and Vista). If she wanted Linux... there's at least ten or twenty different suitable distros to choose between on top of the hardware choices. I'd say choose an OEM with a good reputation and talk to their salesperson... they'd be able to guide you through to a good purchase based on your requirements. Better yet, go to a third party computer store and talk to them (not one of the big box stores).

Keyboard is Everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633390)

Visit the stores, try typing on the keyboard. Then, buy online. The keyboard is the one thing you must experience first hand.

Pick a price, or pick a spec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633394)

I usually do either one of these:
1. Decide how much to spend, browse and see what kind of spec you can get with that price, for example in Of course you also have to factor in the brand, some brands are more reliable then other. I usually lean heavily toward ASUS, so I look that up first.

2. Or, decide on a spec, and see the best price you can get. Again, I usually just browse, do a bit price comparison for certain model perhaps on different websites. Factor in also the brands reliability.

Practically, I almost do some sort of combination of 1 and 2. I usually sort of know what kind of spec I want and see if I can afford it, and then do a little bargaining with myself. I only use Linux, but the process is the same.

pretty easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633396)

so're suffering from too much choice? What do you do when you've got to buy a car? Anyway, all silliness aside, start with your hardware requirements, and work from there. Find computers that fit those requirements, then make your choice based on price/extra features/etc. Check out the reviews. Bob's your uncle.

First rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633398)

Don't buy a Dell.

Dell still isn't even building Alienware laptops that are as fast as by year old Sager / Clevo .

Its easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633400)

Just look at the blatantly displayed and advertised features, and pick the one with the best price per feature ratio. This differs from mac shopping, because with mac s, no matter what you are spending far to much for far too little.

Ensure she's still involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633402)

In '07 I decided my wife needed her own computer since I was perpetually tinkering on mine. The shopping experience went like this:

We went to various stores and she "test drove" several laptops.
I had her provide feedback on keyboard, screen, and mouse. As these are the items I can't upgrade without external replacements.
After trying Sony, Dell, HP, Toshiba, and Apple the decision was the Apple MacBook.

The only complaints were the touchpad (we bought an external BT mouse) and OS X (she still liked Windows).

So I loaded up XP and she was happy to go. The point is she is the one who will primarily use the computer. Is it that she doesn't like the hardware or the OS. If she doesn't like the OS but does like the hardware, then as previously stated by others, just install Windows. As of Vista and 7 you don't even need OS X. You can load Windows straight onto the Apple and then install the BootCamp drivers.

Linux (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633416)

You install linux.

Quick version of the laptop buying guide: (5, Informative)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633424)

I get this all the time from my family/relatives. Here's the rundown:

Get your preferences in order: Screen size, discrete graphics (must/may/must-not), battery life (min) and then just browse Fatwallet's laptop section or slickdeals until something that matches comes up. These days, any intel i3/i5 processor and 3-4GB of RAM will crush light-office-type tasks. I don't worry too much about the brand so long as I've heard of them before. You aren't investing enough to make spending tons of hours on research pay off.

Next up, I want to share a contrary attitude that many of us in the non-Apple community feel. I hasten to mention that I'm not saying your attitude is wrong, but I want to share a different point of view. You said you don't want something that's obsolete in 2 years, but I kind of wonder why? Spending $600 every 2 years gets you a lot further than spending $1200 every 4 years. If you had bought a $1200 laptop 4 years ago, you'd have a first-gen Core2Duo (Merom), 1GB of RAM, 802.11g whereas $600 was a first-gen (Yonah) Centrino, 1GB of RAM, 802.11g. Meanwhile, 2 years ago $600 got you a Arrandale i3, 3GB of RAM and a far better Intel GMA (one that can accelerate h264@1080p) with 802.11n and +50% battery life. So you got 2 years of a slightly faster laptop in exchange for 2 years with a much inferior one all at the same price.

Apple gets you into the habit of spending a whole heck of a lot of money for a really nice machine, I'm trying to suggest that in the Windows world, buying less laptop more often nets you more bang for your buck over time. What's more, the commodification of the laptop means you have so much less at stake regarding breakage. I love not caring about cases, biking with laptop in a backpack, traveling around with it, not investing in a laptop-lock-cable, not caring if my nephew spills apple-juice all over it (the keyboard tray got most of it, the laptop lived on). There are people for whom spending more makes sense: graphic designers need a color-accurate IPS LCD, road-warriors need something super portable, gamers need the latest mobile video cards. For the rest of everyone, get a cheapo laptop, beat the crap out of it and then replace it.

Finally, for those that suggest I'm creating a bunch of unnecessary waste (leaving aside that I'm getting tangible utility out of shorter cycle here), every one of my old laptops has been DBANed and sent over to FreeGeek (where I volunteer) to further their service. It's not waste if you can find a use for it!

thinkpad (1)

buddyglass (925859) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633450)

If I were going to buy a Windows laptop right now it would almost surely be a ThinkPad. Probably their new X220 when it comes out. All the other manufacturers' stuff seems cheaply made and ridiculous to look at. It's like they're trying to add as much "bling" as they possibly can. ThinkPad's "all black" is as close as I can get in Windows-land to Mac's "all white".

You're an idiot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633462)

The fact you brought up the paradox of choice just goes to prove it. The fact that you seem unable to read product labels and would prefer to pay out more money for Apple products tells me that you shouldn't be trusted with money. Here's a thought, take a Apple laptop and then match the specs against Windows based laptops. First off, their probably going to cost several hundred dollars less and have the exact same set of possible problems from a hardware stand point, except that you may be able to fix the Windows based laptop on your own instead of paying out hundreds to Apple support after the warranty is up. That unibody design is all about screwing the customer, that's all.

And who the hell actually complains about things costing less. Come on, the paradox of choice? Really? And you provided a link to it?

Answering your question with another question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633466)

WHY do you choose a Windows laptop?

How I pick (1)

vladilinsky (1071536) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633468)

My process is fairly simple What I do, is I pick a price point that I want to spend then I look at Lenovo, dell, hp, and a few of the big box stores and get the machine with the best specs I can at that price.

I used to be biased towards Thinkpads but I am not happy with the build quality or longevity of my most recent, a w500. The only thing they (in my opinion) still have going for them is they are easy to disassemble and repair or upgrade. Although parts from Lenovo are ghastly expensive.

Model lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633472)

Generally there are a few main lines that the major manufacturers stick to. There are the "entertainment laptops" that generally have more HDD capacity and discrete graphics cards amongst other features like more flashy designs etc. This would be the HP pavillion line for example. The build quality is probably OK but can be an issue with particular models. Then there are the the "business" line laptops. This would be the Toshiba Tecra or HP probook. Business laptops tend to focus on build quality, security features like fingerprint readers, HDD encryption, expansion options like docking stations/port replicators and cheap 3 year warranty upgrades. They generally don't have discrete graphics and have smaller HDD but are more likely to have more variations of the same base model with different speed CPUs and different form factors (14", 15", 17"). There is also the "professional" line of laptops, for example the HP Elitebook that focus on things like military grade build quality. Finally there are brands like Asus that are very competitive with new technology and prices, for example there are some Asus laptops with Sandy Bridge CPUs (e.g., N53SV-SZ152V) that have recently been released whereas the business lines will take a while to catch up. Asus laptops tend toward the entertainment area but often have a 2 year warranty rather than a 1 year warranty. They generally have a more confusing array of models.

In general I tend toward Asus models because they are better value and can still be pretty good quality but in general make you have a play with whatever models you like the look of first and have a look around for reviews that might reveal any major flaws.

Why try to beat obsolescence? (1)

OttoErotic (934909) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633486)

...that won't be obsolete in two years?

Strangely enough, I was just having this conversation this afternoon about how my mindset has recently changed to looking at laptops as a disposable commodity. Now I just find the cheapest one that meets my specs and expect it to last 1-2 years. For a basic browsing laptop, that means about a $300 laptop. It's like leasing for $12.50/month, which isn't a bad deal. Give it to charity or sell it for $50 in two years.

Video editing? (1)

BCMcI (838317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633522)

The only thing that I would ask her is if she plans to do any video editing. I have a Dell Studio 17 and now that I am recording and editing HiDef video the performance is not suitable. I plan to get a low end gaming desktop with one of the NVIDA cards that is supported by Adobe Premier Pro. I don't know if any of the reasonably priced laptops will be suitable.

$0.02 (1)

secondsun (195377) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633530)

I would suggest a Thinkpad T series or X series as her primary machine. The 420, 520, 220 series are quite modern but still rolling out. For a little less money you can get the yesteryear model which offer more choices of features. Dell Latitudes are also solid machines in my experience and I have heard good things about HP's Elite book line but lack first hand experience. As a rule of thumb if you see it in a big box store stay away; the build quality is often compromised for cost, and the Windows install is often full of crapware.

To the /. crowd who can't understand why someone would not like Windows on Mac hardware, Windows 7 on Macs as of November is a hit or miss affair (two finger mouse press sends both a right AND left click, audio is always turned down, and one other issue which eludes me). The touch pad is the best I have ever used, but it doesn't replace a touch point and three buttons. Home, del, insert, page up, page down are sorely missed. Chicklet keyboards don't feel right to me, and finally, Macs tend to have a lower screen resolution for their size than what you can find on Windows laptops.

Microsoft store (1)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 3 years ago | (#35633538)

My advice would be to go to a Microsoft store, a brick and mortar one if there's such a thing around where you live, or otherwise. It's a one-stop display of the best models for each niche and market segment. The redundancy will be very reduced and all the non-competitive models will be filtered out. And when you buy from them, you get your laptop with a custom system install without the brand bloat/crapware, which enhances the out-of-the-box experience considerably.

Go with Acer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35633550)

I have an Acer Netbook and an Acer gaming laptop, both are awesome! I use them both every day and I have not had one problem.

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