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Choosing a laptop

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azuni    0

Hey everyone!


I just started my first year in university and I am a computer science major.

I've had an Acer netbook for a couple years now which did its tasks for high school work but now I am looking for a good, durable laptop.

I haven't had any experience with laptops so other than looking at other forums and doing some research I have no idea what I should get. I just know that I need a laptop that will work well for programming as well as other school related work and the casual video watching and that's going to last at least 4 years.

The absolute maximum I would spend on a laptop would be $900 and I don't really like Macs, but other than that please let me know which brands, or which laptops you would recommend for me to get and why.


Thank you!!


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Joe User    355

Development and casual video watching is pretty straightforward. 


What's more important to you? Battery life, Portability or Speed?


Also, form factor, do you want a touch screen or not?

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Joe User    355

If you're looking to spend between $700 and $900, I would look at the HP Envy line, it's what I use for development. I personally have a 17" DV7 that was about $950 after all the holiday sales last November, I wanted blu-ray, so it was a little more expensive. I only really go portable about once a week, so it's not something I would travel around with often.


If you need something more portable and touch friendly, the Surface Pro 2 is $899, and it's by far one of the best hybrid laptops/tablets about to hit the market. However, unless you know someone at Microsoft, you'll have to wait a week to buy one. Also, the case/keyboard is about $100 more, so you may need to save up or go with something less powerful.

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Omnifigment    0

The sale season (Black Friday, Christmas, etc.) is just around the corner.  If you aren't in a rush, you should keep an eye out for a good sale in the next one or two months; just take a glance at a few times a day for good laptop deals if you're living in the USA.


Also, $900 is a lot for non-gaming purposes.  Aim a bit high on the specs ;)


For that kind of money, here's the minimum specs:

  • About 13" or 14" screen
  • At least 4GB of RAM
  • At least 500GB of storage
  • At least core i5 
  • At least Intel HD 4000 built-in graphics, but try to aim for something with decent separate graphic card
  • USB 3.0 support (at least one port)
  • With the recent trend of Windows 8 and touch screen, something with a touch screen should be good.


Honestly, if you aren't going to game on it, I'd recommend only spend $500 to $700 on the laptop itself.  And spend the rest of hte money on extra accessories for it, such as case/bag, mouse, extra battery, etc.




Also, outside the scope of your original question but Microsoft will be giving students free Office 365 access for institutions that license Office ProPlus this December.  So make sure to check with your school about this to see if you're eligible. 


From MS Office's official blog, "Beginning December 1, 2013, education institutions worldwide that license Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for staff and faculty can provide access to Office 365 ProPlus for students at no additional cost.  More than 35,000 institutions are automatically eligible to deliver the Student Advantage benefit to their students."

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Boz    1,325

I have done tremendous amount of research and patiently waited for new Mac Book Pro as I design, code and other stuff but I also like to play games sometimes on the go. After disappointing upgrade for MBP today and the price that's completely insane for what you get, I've personally bought ASUS G750JX that is absolutely marvel in technology and laptops today. 


The reason why I'm telling you this is because I looked at many other laptops and research every single one for days. For you, if you can strech another 200-300 bucks look into Lenovo Y510P.. This laptop can be expanded/comes with (depending on the configuration) with dual 750SLI cards, 15.6" awesome FullHD display, expandable with tons of ram and storage (if you go for the single GTX750 you could still play games at high on at 1366x768 resolution) but you would have a hard drive caddy for upgrades to more storage as well.


It is by far the cheapest powerful laptop I have seen out of everything. It is around $1100 or something like that and goes up to $1300-$1400 but what you get is amazing.


Just my 2 cents. 


Another good laptop (even though I was not a big fan of it myself styling wise) was slim MSI GE50/GE70.. I think they have versions at around $1100 and has pretty good specs.

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Denis W.    723

Alright so some advice from a fellow CS student ;)


Any laptop will do you fine for CS studies. Though for the sake of your backpack keep the laptop choice reasonable. For instance, the laptop Boz referred to, if it's this thing: - I've seen one or two used by fellow CS students. That thing is great if you're interested in a desktop replacement that you can take to in study rooms or lounges for long term coding sessions, but any other use and that weight will kill you. That's an 8.5 lb laptop. I was lugging around a 5.7 lb ThinkPad W530 laptop for work and that was already heavy enough. Great laptop though (see below...)


If you're looking for ASUS laptops their midrange VivoBooks and Zenbooks do just fine. Well priced machines that look pretty decently built.


If you want something that lasts, then have a serious look at a ThinkPad. They're pricey, they're ugly, but they will sure as hell last you for four years and they can definitely take a beating. The W530 I used was a great machine, powerful as a pseudo-desktop replacement at 5.7 lb, but again it's a desktop replacement machine. You'll want something you can comfortably put in your lap or lug around to classes to take notes, which you should be doing anyway ;). I quickly searched and a ThinkPad T431S is going for $786.75 with an employee code. It's an Ultrabook but not as thin as the Carbons, but the Carbons start at $1000+. Alternatively you can aim for the T430s if you're looking for a dedicated graphics card for occasional gaming. Don't aim for the IdeaPads - I'd rather pick up an ASUS laptop if you're aiming in that price range.


Now Macs. You might not like them, and they're already out of your specified price range, but there's a *lot* of people who use Macs on campus, and in computer science. For what it's worth, they're also great machines that are better built than most consumer laptops (maybe except ThinkPads, heh). Most people I see using Macs can get away with using just the touchpad while a lot of Windows guys are lugging mice around. Obviously don't buy one if your workflow is Windows or Linux-centric and you don't plan to learn OS X. Anyways you can't go wrong with a Mac - even an Air should be sufficient. Just be sure to pick up a new Mac - Apple tends to drop support about four or five years into the life of a new machine.


I personally have a Dell laptop - Alienware m11x R2 - and it's a pretty decent laptop that barely passes as a gaming laptop, while being small enough to lug to classes for notes. It's still running well almost three years into its life, besides the well-known hinge issue but that was fixed. Their warranty's alright, but their support for drivers is quite lacking. Otherwise these days I'm seeing increasingly fewer Dells around campus - most people have Macs, ASUS laptops, or ThinkPads. My first laptop was an XPS m1210 and that was a piece of crap.


Some friends have VAIOs and swear by them. Also great machines, if a bit pricey.


HPs - avoid. Their laptops from the late last decade sucked horribly. Acer - probably avoid as well.


I've only seen one professor and one student bring a Surface Pro to campus.


Do you need a touch-capable machine? I would say not - you'll be spending most of your time in IDEs or even in Linux.


Hope this helps :) The overall point I would drive across is, don't think too much about how much you paid for the laptop when you first got it. If that means in four years you can still have the same laptop without it having broken hinges or all run down, then it's worth it.

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