I want to pick up a decent but inexpensive laptop to free me up from sitting in my home office (spare bedroom) when I want to use the Internet at home -- as well as for me to use to do fantasy baseball stuff, general surfing, etc, while away from home (on vacation, etc.) this summer. I don't need anything fancy, but I don't want to waste my money on something that will be totally outdated and unusable in a year or two.
What are my best options? Used? If used, from what sources should I look to buy? New? If new, is a low-end Dell notebook my best route?
I know some of the Cafe regulars have good knowledge of PC-related things. I've always owned desktop PCs, and am very loyal to the Dell brand (I've bought three Dells in my life and am very satisfied).
I've had a Dell Inspiron 4000 and I'm currently running an HP Pavilion ze4805us. I can tell you now that you won't get a laptop that will not be outdated in a year or two, especially if you're only paying $500 to 700. when I bought my Dell 5 years ago, it was outdated in 3 months because they started releasing Dell laptops with a 1GHz processor. Having a laptop is very convenient, but the staying power is not very long. Just keep that in mind.
I'm not a huge Dell fan anymore. My Inspiron 4000 started 'highlighting' blue colors after about 6 months because I believe the ribbon cable went bad or was poorly connected. Fortunately, it had a flimsy screen that could be used to adjust the problem (by pressing on the back). I was going to send it back to Dell at some point, but I had a presentation to do, and just neglected to do it. The Dell Inspiron 4000 was a somewhat wimpy setup, although it was pretty sleek.
My wife has an Inspiron 8000. Not too bad. Both of these laptops cost around $1500 when they were new.
My recent purchase is my hp. I'm happier about it, but there were some software issues with the bios that prevented me from running a PCMCIA card for USB 2.0 and firewire transfers. Once I figured that out I was happier. This thing is built like a tank, but isn't too heavy. Cost was $1000 when all was said and done.
A number of people in my working group have IBMs. They're happy about them, but they're also upwards of 2k.
If you can find a good Dell or hp for cheap, get them. If you want to shell out the extra cash, get an IBM. Regardless, most laptops will be out of date within 6 months or, if you're lucky, a year. Be prepared to live with it. If you can wait, development of Blu-Ray or HD-DVD is getting close to getting out on the market and dual processor CPUs from both AMD and Intel should be hitting the market late 2006. This will boost processing power and the amount of data to store on a DVD. However, as with any new tech, it will be expensive at first, so you're probably better off getting a good laptop now.
Most laptops come with internal wireless network cards now, but make sure that the one you choose has one. It's also important to list what you want to use the laptop for in the end, so you can buy one for your specs. If you're going to just surf internet, check bball, word processing, low end should be fine. If you plan on getting into video editing, make sure you have a fast hard disk, and firewire/usb 2.0 connections.
Waiting for Blu-Ray probably wouldn't be a great idea. It's probably going to be very expensive, and won't be neccesary for a long long time. We've had DVD's forever and you still only need a DVD player if you want to watch movies on your laptop (which won't change over the next 5 years).
And I think there are different degrees of "outdated". For hardcore computer geeks it's probably noticeable after a year that you have an old computer, but I've had the same computer for a long time and I have never not had something I needed. Give me a decently fast computer and Windows XP and I'm fine. It sounds to me like what Pacman is looking for too.
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