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Old 07-01-2012, 06:23 PM   #1
antef
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Default Please help picking notebook for Mom

Hi all. Would appreciate any advice on this. My mom currently has a Dell Inspiron 15 from 2009 that appears to have a dying HDD. I was planning on buying her a new one when Win8 came out anyway so I'm considering doing it now instead of spending money fixing this one. I have a number of questions since I never purchase notebooks and don't know much about them.

1) Am I losing out by buying now and upgrading to Win8 later instead of waiting? Do you suspect the Win8-designed laptops will offer anything compelling over what's available today?

2) Her current laptop got really slow really fast. Other than general web and email, the only thing she uses it for is playing Sims 3. I want to make sure it's super smooth and fast for that as well as any future Sim-related games that might come along. My minimum requirements are an Ivy Bridge CPU, 6-8 GB of memory, and an SSD. What I don't know about is graphics. Is a Core i3 good enough? Will that get me access to HD4000 graphics? Are HD4000 graphics good enough or do I need something with a dedicated GPU? It seems some base models start with 6 GB of RAM now...is that enough or should I try to get 8?

3) Her current Dell's battery life became almost 0 in less than 3 years. What can I do to help with this? A different brand, different charging habits?

4) In general I'm not sure about Dell's quality. However I know HP, Toshiba, etc. aren't necessarily a picnic either. Are there any strong brand recommendations nowadays?

5) Finally price. The lower the better, while still meeting all the specs. My preferred range is $600-700 but it doesn't appear possible to get a laptop with an SSD for that price yet. Ultrabooks tend to have less memory and are too expensive, and regular notebooks with SSDs from the manufacturer seem to all be over $1000. Are there any options I'm missing here? Will I have to just install one myself?

Thanks for any help!
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Last edited by antef; 07-01-2012 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 07-01-2012, 08:22 PM   #2
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Best bet is buying something like the Lenovo Y580, and yes, installing the ssd yourself. The 120GB ones can be had for ~90$, if you watch for it.
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Old 07-01-2012, 11:53 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Raswan View Post
Best bet is buying something like the Lenovo Y580, and yes, installing the ssd yourself. The 120GB ones can be had for ~90$, if you watch for it.
Thanks. Given the current laptop prices I'm considering putting an SSD in her Dell now and then just moving it to a new laptop when Win8 comes out. It seems the 2009 Inspirons used SATA drives but I'm still a little concerned about sticking a 2012 SSD in a 2009 laptop. Think there will be any problems with this? I would definitely install Win7 on it and not Vista again.
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Old 07-02-2012, 02:59 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by antef View Post
2) Her current laptop got really slow really fast. Other than general web and email, the only thing she uses it for is playing Sims 3. I want to make sure it's super smooth and fast for that as well as any future Sim-related games that might come along. My minimum requirements are an Ivy Bridge CPU, 6-8 GB of memory, and an SSD. What I don't know about is graphics. Is a Core i3 good enough? Will that get me access to HD4000 graphics? Are HD4000 graphics good enough or do I need something with a dedicated GPU? It seems some base models start with 6 GB of RAM now...is that enough or should I try to get 8?

3) Her current Dell's battery life became almost 0 in less than 3 years. What can I do to help with this? A different brand, different charging habits?
2. Any mobile 3rd Generation Intel Core will have HD 4000(Core i3/i5/i7). Yes it should be more than fine for Sims type of games. Try to get the latest graphics driver installed if you can.

3. I've seen that happen with two people, and I believe its directly related to how they use it. They have the system plugged in and is being used like a desktop all the time. It's barely used as a laptop. In about 2-3 years the battery life of both laptops were less than 15 mins.

-Batteries don't like heat, especially the Lithium tech in laptops.
-Lithium battery technology also degrades over time, whether you use it or not, made worse by heat and bad cycling(charge/recharge) habits. You might as well use the battery, even when near a plug.
-They also get reduced lifespan when fully depleted. Make sure the battery level does not drop below 10%. Having it in sleep mode can bring it to 0%. You can just set it in Windows power manager so it sleeps/shuts down when it reaches low point, then charge it back.
-They also do not like being fully charged while in storage. Being used like a UPS means exactly that.

About the last 2 points. Some people will tell you its BS. But if you have a friend who's into radio-controlled electric airplane/helicopters, ask them about battery care. They also use Lithium tech for RC batteries.
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Last edited by IntelUser2000; 07-02-2012 at 03:04 AM.
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Old 07-02-2012, 09:47 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by IntelUser2000 View Post
3. I've seen that happen with two people, and I believe its directly related to how they use it. They have the system plugged in and is being used like a desktop all the time. It's barely used as a laptop. In about 2-3 years the battery life of both laptops were less than 15 mins.

-Batteries don't like heat, especially the Lithium tech in laptops.
-Lithium battery technology also degrades over time, whether you use it or not, made worse by heat and bad cycling(charge/recharge) habits. You might as well use the battery, even when near a plug.
-They also get reduced lifespan when fully depleted. Make sure the battery level does not drop below 10%. Having it in sleep mode can bring it to 0%. You can just set it in Windows power manager so it sleeps/shuts down when it reaches low point, then charge it back.
-They also do not like being fully charged while in storage. Being used like a UPS means exactly that.
I normally have my laptop plugged in as well. Would it be better I just remove the battery then, or does that make any difference? I think I remember you saying something about it's best to have it at 40% charged? And you mentioned something about heat, would it be better stored in my fridge then, or is room temperature (~15-25C) fine? The only reason I keep it in my laptop (at home) is if in case the power goes out, and it's just what I'm used to doing.
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Old 07-02-2012, 10:05 AM   #6
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I normally have my laptop plugged in as well. Would it be better I just remove the battery ? I think I remember you saying something about it's best to have it at 40% charged?
That's what I have done for the past 5 years with my Lenovo Thinkpads. (T60 and T510) I only put the batteries in when I travel. I run on the A/C adapter oinly, and the batteries are stored at about 40-50% charge. They are all nearly as good as new.

I do put them in about every quarter justto verify their condition.
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Old 07-02-2012, 11:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antef View Post
My minimum requirements are an Ivy Bridge CPU, 6-8 GB of memory, and an SSD. What I don't know about is graphics. Is a Core i3 good enough? Will that get me access to HD4000 graphics? Are HD4000 graphics good enough or do I need something with a dedicated GPU? It seems some base models start with 6 GB of RAM now...is that enough or should I try to get 8?
HD 4000 will probably be enough, based on your description of the usage.

4GB RAM should be enough. Anything more is a bonus. Just make sure that it comes with 64-bit Windows.

Quote:
Originally Posted by antef View Post
5) Finally price. The lower the better, while still meeting all the specs. My preferred range is $600-700 but it doesn't appear possible to get a laptop with an SSD for that price yet. Ultrabooks tend to have less memory and are too expensive, and regular notebooks with SSDs from the manufacturer seem to all be over $1000. Are there any options I'm missing here? Will I have to just install one myself?
Install an SSD yourself. Manufacturers know that a $400 notebook with another $100 in an SSD will make it feel like a $2000 notebook (besides 3D graphics and screen quality) so they won't give you that option.

Just get the cheapest notebook with the screen she wants, and with an Ivy Bridge CPU. Find an SSD on a hot deal and install it yourself. Done.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Raswan View Post
Best bet is buying something like the Lenovo Y580, and yes, installing the ssd yourself. The 120GB ones can be had for ~90$, if you watch for it.
Current "hot deal" is a 120GB OCZ Agility 3 for something like $70 -$10 rebate + $5 shipping = $65.

link to deal
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Old 07-02-2012, 03:57 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ninaholic37 View Post
I normally have my laptop plugged in as well. Would it be better I just remove the battery then, or does that make any difference? I think I remember you saying something about it's best to have it at 40% charged? And you mentioned something about heat, would it be better stored in my fridge then, or is room temperature (~15-25C) fine? The only reason I keep it in my laptop (at home) is if in case the power goes out, and it's just what I'm used to doing.
You can do what Corky(poster below you) did. That's fine for most people.

If you want to store it in a long time, you can put it in the refrigerator. Although I am not sure yet if that benefits the battery in reality.
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Old 07-03-2012, 12:19 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies. Since it seems I would need to buy an SSD separately anyway, I purchased one now and will put it in her current system. If that works then we can roll with that until Win8 comes out and I'm sure there will be a lot of new models then and maybe reduced prices, and then I can just move the SSD to that machine. It seems there isn't a lot of i3 Ivy Bridge out there right now, mostly i3 Sandy Bridge and i5/i7 Ivy. Chances are my target would be an i3 Ivy in the fall, however I'm still debating about low-mid range discrete graphics, in case something like a Sims 4 happens to come out in the next few years. Would that entail searching for something with switchable graphics? It seems AMD and NVIDIA both have their next-gen products out now - who is currently looking like the best bang for the buck in low-mid range discrete?
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Old 07-03-2012, 11:01 AM   #10
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Since it seems I would need to buy an SSD separately anyway, I purchased one now and will put it in her current system.
Actually, that might make her current system usable for quite a while.
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Old 07-04-2012, 06:22 PM   #11
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Lenovo has a battery program that if always plugged in will only charge to 49%. This promotes the best battery life. This usually gives me 1.5 - 2 hours of life. If I know im going mobile I try and change this the night before to "full charge" thus giving me 4 to 5 hours life.
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Old 07-06-2012, 07:49 AM   #12
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Actually, that might make her current system usable for quite a while.
Yeah, that's my hope. Sims will still be choked by 2 GB of RAM and integrated Intel graphics from 2009, but the system should feel zippy and there should be a lot of good options this holiday season. At that time I would love to get a Lenovo, but with the SSD already purchased my price range would probably be no more than $600-650, and I'm not sure Lenovo would be in there. For budget offerings maybe I should consider something like Acer over Dell and HP? What are people's experiences with budget offerings from the different brands?
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