Author Topic: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season  (Read 9544 times)

Online mevinyavin

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #20 on: August 04, 2023, 06:35:04 AM »
What about brands? Hp,dell, Lenovo ect. Any recommendations of one or the other ? Can you recommend a great reliable 15.6/16 model for work ?
That's a bit too vague of a question ... I'll explain.
Every computer manufacturer (barring Apple and LG) make garbage computers and high-quality computers. It is hard to recommend one brand over any other in a general sense; they all had their ups and downs over the years in quality control. Instead, the answer for a general recommendation will shift to whichever one out of a group of good computers that is the best value at the time.
Moreover, there are people who are willing to save money and don't care if the computer is plastic, if it weighs a ton, and / or if it has great battery life. Some people care about some of those things and some about all of these and don't care about the cost. So that answer is again somewhat subjective.
There are exceptions when a particularly good model is significantly undervalued, but that isn't true most of the time. (For 14" it is more common. I remember a six month period when I was recommending every avrech to buy the same computer, because it was made of metal, weighed less than the competition within $200 of its price, and had at least one-third more battery life.)
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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2023, 03:40:22 AM »
Prepping a thorough laptop buying guide.
Here's what I've done so far - I would appreciate haaros.

Valid as of November 2023

1. Introduction
This guide does not intend to advise a buyer regarding pricing. I will leave that to DDF members. Instead, this guide is intended to help the buyer:
A. understand a product listing (to the extent necessary)
B. determine whether a particular product meets one’s needs
C. know what the potential unlisted pitfalls of a products are
D. know in a general sense what the options available for purchase are
The guide was written with a focus toward general users. For the purposes of this guide, this includes those who use the computer for word processing, basic web browsing, and basic office software. (Some office software is not basic; I will note where better components are recommended for these and what they are.)
One note regarding “gaming:” computer games run the gamut from taking less out of a computer than Zoom to requiring more than any currently marketed laptop to run (at least on higher settings). Moreover, many higher-quality or newer games can be run on decent hardware if the settings are lowered. Unless you must have the option of playing brand-new intense games the second they come on the market, you can buy whatever and simply limit yourself to those games the computer can run. (Obviously, the more powerful the components, the more leeway you will have. However, powerful laptops come with other caveats that I will specify when discussing the hardware.)

2. Screen (and laptop size)
Today, there are two sizes that are considered standard and come without any premium: 14” and 15.6”. In addition to those, you will find 16” (a slightly taller 15.6”), 14.5” (a much taller 14”), 17” or 17.3” monsters (we won’t talk about the 18”+ laptops here), 13.3” or 13.5” ultraportables, and the tiny 11.6” or 12” glorified typewriters.
Bear in mind that laptops are slowly transition from the 16:9 ratio (16 wide to 9 tall) which became common since Windows Vista for no reason other than watching movies. These days, many computers are being sold with the 3:2 ratio, giving more room for reading tall documents. You can tell which a computer is by dividing the resolution (1920 by 1080 = 16 by 9).
The first thing to keep in mind when it comes to screen size is that it also represents the overall size of the computer (as well as, for the most part, the weight range). Granted that 17” of screen is useful, but you may not have room for it in your bag, nor the inclination of carrying around 6lbs of computer with you (if you are lucky). Also, the more pixels being pushed by the computer, the quicker the battery drains, so that charger will also need to be in your bag. Of course, if your laptop stays mostly on your desk with only the occasional trip, these are not relevant. Also directly correlated to the screen size is the size of the keyboard and what keys it features. You will only find numberpads on 17” computers and most 15inchers (barring ASUS’s touchpad-numberpad it features on some of its smaller computers).
There are two monitor technologies sold in laptops these days: IPS and OLED. In a general sense, IPS is easier on the battery and OLED is easier on the eyes.
Regarding the resolution: the higher the resolution, the finer the image and the quicker the battery drains. I don’t recommend worrying about this for office work – how much would you spend to see a better-colored youtube video or whatever when the main purpose is work, which is fine? That is a question for you to answer. If you want to spend more on a higher quality screen, you can, but be prepared to suffer in the battery-life department (or spend a lot more).
Having said that, there are those to whom the monitor matter a lot: anyone who works in any kind of graphics work. There is more to the hardware necessary than the monitor, but the monitor should be a decent resolution (at least 2K). In addition, it should have gotten close to 100% on the sRGB test and more than 80% on Adobe’s tests. (This may take some research to determine. Look at reviews from professionals.)
Before we move on, there is a caveat which will be repeated or referenced throughout: money can solve most of the problems listed above. There are large computers that have good battery, and/or are light – but they are expensive. There are computers with OLED screens and / or high resolution that have great battery life – but they are expensive. Almost every cost brought with hardware can be mitigated if only you are willing to spend enough.

3. Build quality
Laptops run the range from the flimsy, barely believable junk to the virtually indestructible ones sold for construction sites or researchers at the mercy of the elements. We’ll take it for granted that most people want to avoid the former but don’t quite need the latter. I’ll address generalities first, then list some examples.
[Note: the following is what we in the business consider an OPINION, and should not be considered FACT.] In the fifteen years I’ve been helping people in this area, the most common request I get is “I want a computer that is built well.” Fair enough, but let us dissect the matter. Thinkpads and Latitudes (to be precise, T, X or X-series Thinkpads and 5xxx, 7xxxx, and 9xxx series Latitudes) have the best reputation – deservedly – in this area. They really do seem to last a long time, chugging along way longer than one would expect. Consider, though – a ten year old laptop may still run, but it is still ten years old. A cheaper laptop that lasts, say, five years, will often (almost always) cost half or less than half the price. In the meantime, you got fresh hardware halfway through those ten years.
This is not to say that no one should get these better laptops. If the buyer knows that the usage environment is sub-par, to the extent that knocks and scrapes are to be expected and the owner cannot treat the laptop properly, getting one made out of plastic is not advisable. The greater outlay may be necessary. [END OPINION]
I’m not listing gaming laptops, which have their own build quality hierarchy.
Junk quality: off-brands, Gateway brand (if not one of their $800 Creator laptops)
Basic quality (plastic): Dell Inspiron 1xxx and 3xxx, Acer Aspire 1/3, HP no-name, Pavilion, ASUS Vivobook (models with four numbers that start with 1), Lenovo Ideapad 1/3. In general, the 2-in-1s get the same hierarchy.
Slightly better than basic (still plastic): HP Probooks, Dell Vostro 3xxx and Latitude 3xxx, Acer Swift 1 and Vero, Lenovo Flex 3, Yoga 6 and Thinkpad E series (not sure about L series, but I think so too), MSI Modern series.
Metal, regular quality: HP Pavilion Plus, Envy, Elitebooks in the lower ranges (the first number in the 3 digits is the quality), Lenovo Ideapad 5/7, Thinkpad X series (except X1), Yoga 7, Acer Swift 3 (now rebranded Swift Go), Aspire 5/7, Travelbook, Dell Inspiron 5xxx and 7xxx series, Vostro 5xxx, XPS, LG Gram series (even though they don’t feel entirely metal), Samsung Galaxy (non-pro), MSI Prestige, ASUS Vivobooks (models with four numbers that start with 3) and Zenbooks.
Excellent quality: HP Elitebook 8xx or higher, Dragonfly, Lenovo computers than end with a 9 as well as Thinkpad T or Z series, Acer Swift Edge or Swift X, Dell Latitude 5xxx, 7xxx, 9xxx series, Samsung Pro models.
Note: the main difference between 1 and 3 series computers is the hardware – at the very least, the screen. (There have been some random sightings of Ideapad 1s with Ryzen 7s, for instance, but that’s just weird.)

4. Processor

5. RAM (Memory)

6. Storage

7. Graphics controller

8. Battery life

9. Other features you may find important
« Last Edit: November 13, 2023, 04:58:44 AM by mevinyavin »
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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2023, 05:00:03 AM »
4. Processor (CPU)
[Consider this the oversimplified version.] For the purposes of basic office work, almost any processor is sufficient for fast performance (and when performance is not fast, the fault is usually elsewhere). However, processor power scales up rapidly even in the budget price ranges. As such, one should probably choose the best one available in the range being considered – and this is not always easily apparent. Also: anyone who uses Zoom or Teams can use a better processor, and anyone who will be crunching large Excel databases can benefit from even more power. Pro photoshop users can get whatever processor comes with the graphics they need. Gamers should get processors that have an H designation. (In the list below, x refers to any number or letter.)
A. Not recommended if you can help it (these will indeed be okay for office work but performance may be slow): Any Intel processor with an N designation (Celeron, Pentium, no-name), Ryzen with 3xxxx series or lower.
B. Sufficient: i3-1115G4/G1, i3-N305, Ryzen 3 4300U/7320U, Ryzen 5 7520U
C. Slightly better: i5/i7-11xxGx series, i3-12xxU/13xxU, Ryzen 3 5xxxU/6xxxU
D. Recommended for those with the budget for it, Zoom and Teams users, those who use many many tabs (“power users”): i5/i7-12xxU/13xxU, i3-12xxP/13xxP, Ryzen 5 5xxxU/6xxxU/753xU, any processor with an H designation if newer than 11th gen Intel or 4th gen AMD
E. The hierarchy keeps going, but I’ll stop here. I wrote an explainer elsewhere on the forum. Suffice to note that everything left is better than the above.

5. RAM (Memory)
I currently recommend 16GB of RAM, even for office users. However, if you plan on using your computer only for word processing, there’s no reason why you can’t get away with 8GB. Also, it is fine to buy a computer with 8GB (even for office users) provided that you retain the ability to upgrade it in case it is necessary.
One point regarding soldered RAM: In most cases, the RAM is soldered because it uses the LPDDR4X/LPDDR5X standard. This should be considered an advantage (assuming you have sufficient amounts of it) because it runs an average of a GHz faster yet uses less power. (ex. DDR4-3200 is the most common variant of DDR4, it runs at 3200MHz. LPDDR4X-4366 is the most common variant of LPDDR4X, running at 4366MHz.)
Lastly, Photoshop users and anyone who maxes out a processor should consider 16GB to be the minimum and also be capable of upgrading it if required (ie – don’t get a computer with 16GB RAM soldered).

6. Storage
Most computers come with relatively modern SSDs. (See below for exceptions.) The current consensus is that one need not be concerned regarding the speed of a drive except in niche cases.
What about capacity? That would depend on what you need to store on it. Even 128GB SSDs are fine for basic office work (there’s about 65GB usable space after Windows and programs), because documents don’t take up any room (relatively speaking). However, if you want to store your audio, pictures, video and the like, you will quickly find yourself using up even 256GB. 512GB will also likely be full before the life of the computer is over. If you keep your video at high resolution, 1TB is also too little. This is certainly true for most graphics pros. Gamers can also use up 1TB pretty quickly.
It probably makes more sense to curb your hoarding instinct, then. That is, unless you can upgrade the computer yourself – in which case, knock yourself out, storage is cheap these days. Ask here on the forum if you need help with upgrades, because you still need to buy the type of drive compatible with your computer. (Note, however, that some computers cannot be upgraded easily, and others not at all. Do your research before you buy or ask here.)
Exceptions: some cheap laptops come with soldered eMMC drives instead of regular SSDs. These are commonly found in Ideapad 1s, Aspire 1s, Vivobooks with E designations, Inspiron 1xxxx, HP no-name laptops and the like. If the drive dies for any reason, the computer is irreparable. These also tend to come with low-powered processors, and so, I don’t generally recommend them. (I’ve made exceptions for those models when A. they have an empty SSD slot and B. they are significantly cheaper.)
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Online mevinyavin

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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2023, 09:50:49 AM »
This is it. If anyone has haaros, now is the time.

7. Graphics controller
Most people can ignore this item. I will only note that those who require more powerful graphics (graphics pros, gamers and the like) will pay for having it in other ways: a greater weight / bulk, quicker battery drain, and / or money. (Money can mitigate the first two problems to an extent.) If you think this is you, ask on the forum and we will try to help.

8. Battery life
The battery life of cheap laptops is significantly improved from earlier years. It is reasonable to expect a good five hours even from $200 laptops. On the other hand, due to a large number of factors, it is harder to find powerful laptops that still offer excellent battery life. If you must have reliably long usage off a plug, you have two options: 1. Find a laptop that is Intel Evo certified. This certification guarantees 9 hours of video playback. 2. Research each laptop case by case – read pro reviews and see. Some sites, such as Notebookcheck, can even sort / filter by battery life.
(There is always 3. Ask on the forum!)

9. Other features
-Touch screens, 2-in-1s: These sound useful, but most do not find them to be so in practice (I’m quoting magazines and reviews). If you still would like such a thing, be aware that they affect the weight and battery life of the computer. They also possess one more fundamental design flaw – a way to break the computer so that repair is almost as much as a new computer. Buy only if you must. [Disclaimer: Typed on a 2-in-1.]
-Backlit keyboards: If this is important to you, check to see it features in your computer. Check also that the contrast between keyboard key color and backlight color is easy to see.
-Wifi: You shouldn’t be buying a laptop with wifi 5. There is little fundamental difference between 6 and 6E. If offered the option (common on HP’s website), you should get one with a 2x2 antenna.
-Fingerprint readers: are not all created equal, and do not come on all laptops.
-Webcams: are often where manufacturers skimp, especially on cheap computers.
-Ports: PC peripherals are transitioning to USB-C, so make sure you have at least one, if not two. Some USB-Cs support charging, which you will find increasingly useful as C-chargers proliferate. Check to see if the computer has an SD or microSD slot if such a thing is important to you. If you will be using monitors, figure out where it will plug into the computer and what cables you may need to convert to what the computer has.
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Re: Laptop Buying Guide for the 2021 Holiday Sale Season
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2023, 09:59:31 AM »
10. Advice in specs ("I can't read all of that!")

A. BASIC MINIMUM for office work
Processor: 11th gen i3 or better, 4th gen Ryzen 3 or better
RAM: 8GB
Storage: an SSD and not an eMMC
Resolution: 1080p
Brand: Avoid Gateway if you can afford it
Expect to pay: not more than $300

B. Recommended for office work
Processor: 12th gen i5 or better, 5th gen Ryzen 5 or better (except 7X2XU)
RAM: 16GB
Expect to pay: not more than $400 for just the processor, $500 including the RAM (unless you do your own upgrades)
 
Quote from: ExGingi
Echo chambers are boring and don't contribute much to deeper thinking and understanding!