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Ultimate Geek
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Topic # 43548 20-Oct-2009 13:03
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Calling all students!

My daughter is heading off to Otago next year.

I'm going to get her a laptop and I'm in the process if deciding the specs. I'm not asking about brands or models as such. Expecting to spend ~$1500.

It'll definitely have wireless n.

Screen Size: Big, for ease of use? or Small for portability and battery life?

Is battery life important? Do you take them into lectures? Are there outlets in the lecture halls? What about in the library?

Is bluetooth useful?

Other factors I should be thinking about?

Cheers.




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264 posts

Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 265337 20-Oct-2009 14:46
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It really depends on if she'll want to use it for anything outside of study, and how good her eyesite is.

I dont know about Otago but there were a few people at Waikato who took their laptops into class, and there were power outlets all the way around the rooms for those that did.

Bluetooth probably wont be useful for anything, but it comes with most laptops anyway.

What course is she doing? That might give a bit of a better idea on what the machine will be used for.

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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 265339 20-Oct-2009 14:51
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She will definitely need a Graphics Card, if she is doing any type of Graphics or Design Work.




Jordan, Auckland University.
“Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.” - Paul Rand


 
 
 
 


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  Reply # 265362 20-Oct-2009 16:34
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My more important suggestion would be get the 3 year extended warranty.  Laptops are expensive to fix so the warranty is worth it's weight in gold.

Also, I had a widescreen 15" model for years, recently swapped to a standard size screen and I don't miss it. Since the laptop will be carried around everywhere, weight is important. 

I think all modern laptops come with Bluetooth as well.




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Ultimate Geek
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  Reply # 265372 20-Oct-2009 17:11
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My son is at the end of year five of a medical degree (Otago, but now at Wgtn Clinical School) - he spilt water on his first one (a hand-down from me) and fried it. Had a power surge at the flat in Wgtn which fried a second one and the third is now just over a year old and currently unscathed (although just about to take a two month trip to Sweden, so who knows!!). So I suggest :-): 1. waterproof and 2. surge protector!!!

Having said that, my daughter's notebook has survived almost two years at Otago with no disasters. Only comment I would make is that in her first year in the hostel, wifi reception was marginal in certain parts of the hostel (including her room) so having a laptop with good wifi performance (they do vary) might be helpful in that circumstance.

As for specs, I'll leave that to others comments, your good sense, and the depth of your wallet!





"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into."
— most commonly attributed to Jonathan Swift, author/theologian

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  Reply # 265378 20-Oct-2009 17:33
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whats she studying, if its any sort of design work the uni will most likely be using macs....

you definatley want portability! i tried taking my 17 notebook to a lecture, was such a hassle due to weight, battery life and most of all being in the way, i had to look over my screen as the lecture tables are really high.

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  Reply # 265410 20-Oct-2009 18:34
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1) long battery life = slow processor: for me, at least a core2duo 2.0Ghz upwards is essential
2) is she super responsible? taking laptops around = risk of damage/stolen. i personally dont see any advantage in taking to classes unless it's a requirement EG graphics etc ... pen and paper's cool - lite and simple - does your contents insurance cover her when she's living away?
3) i'd say no smaller than 13" and definitely no larger than 15".



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  Reply # 265565 21-Oct-2009 10:01
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That's a good point about the warantee and the insurance....and the waterproofing.

She's doing nutrition, so graphics aren't that important. Unless she's playing games cause she can't afford to go to the pub!




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  Reply # 265569 21-Oct-2009 10:15
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In that case I would say just get something with a decent amount of ram, a 14.1-15" screen, and a reasonable processor. Remember the usual things such as on-board graphics take away from the ram reserved for programs and that better hardware means less battery life. In terms of taking it into lectures the only reason you would do this is if she can type faster than she write, and if she can concentrate enough on the lecturer to type and listen. Some lecturers will get annoyed at students bringing in laptops if it looks as though its distracting them and the class.

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  Reply # 274330 18-Nov-2009 21:25
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I think a good choice is one of the new Acer Timeline series, 13.3 or 14". They utilise new low voltage processors I believe which give them upto 8-hour battery life. I think you can get them from about $1.2 or 1.3k.

I used a 13.3" Macbook during my uni years and it was great. Student price for the current Macbook is $1550 I think, and $1800 for the Macbook pro (150-200 cheaper than retail for students)

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  Reply # 274331 18-Nov-2009 21:31
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If you are thinking about getting extended warranty, don't get ripped off. I bought a laptop through a friend at Harvey Norman a couple years ago.. I cant remember the exact details, but he could give me the extended warranty for about $100, which they usually sell for 4-500 with markup. So theres a lot of room for haggling there.

Personally I probably wouldnt bother with it.. if anything is going to go wrong after the 1-yr standard warranty period, it will probably involve the user dropping it or mistreating it which wont be covered under warranty anyway.

I probably would not recommend a 15" laptop to lug around, I found 13.3" ideal for portability

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  Reply # 274359 18-Nov-2009 23:12
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wpcnz: Personally I probably wouldnt bother with it.. if anything is going to go wrong after the 1-yr standard warranty period, it will probably involve the user dropping it or mistreating it which wont be covered under warranty anyway.


I had motherboard issues after 2 years with my last laptop, very glad I had the warranty.

Not sure what the Harvey Norman warranties are like, I would highly recommend purchasing a warranty directly from the manufacturer.






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  Reply # 274400 19-Nov-2009 08:26
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I'm looking at a couple at the moment:

Sony Vaio VGN NW25

Toshiba L500-016

plus 3yr extended warranty

They are reasonably similar: Win7, 15.x screen, Draft n. Maybe the Vaio has the edge in performance but I can get the Tosh for about $200 less.

From talking to students, it sounds like mostly they aren't taken to lectures etc, so I've stopped worrying about portability + battery life.

You can be unlucky with any machine but I've had good experience with both these laptop brands before. I've never had an Asus but I've certainly heard more good than bad. The reverse is true of Acer!

Had an interesting chat at downtown akl DSE. I said I was looking at laptops with a preference for Sony or Toshiba. A visiting Dell rep came tearing over and asked why not Dell. I had a bit of a lol and said NO WAY with their customer service record. I think I hit a nerve....

I was treated to a lecture about how if you buy a Dell from DSE you get the most wonderful service ever...nothing like buying off the web....any problems at all....just bring it to any DSE....rep comes to fetch it.....repair or more likely replacement...yes sir...no sir....kiss your a55 sir....

This wasn't all coming from the rep so I'm prepared to give it some credence. Sounds like they are at least aware of the mountain they have to climb.

They had a machine that looked good but no Draft n.





HTPC: Antec NSK2480B case, AMD A4-5300 CPU, Asus F2A85-M LE mobo, WD Caviar Green 64Mb 2TB HDD, HD Homerun, Win7 Home Premium, RAM 1600Mhz 4Gb.
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Master Geek
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  Reply # 274443 19-Nov-2009 11:36
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Acer used to do A LOT of really cheap laptops.. I think people were expecting more than they should back when they were the cheapest around by far. In saying that, I have not had an Acer, but their new Timeline series looks really nice and has had some good reviews.

I'm sure Sony's top end laptops are very very nice, but I'm not sure I'd go for something at the bottom end of their range. My sister just bought a Vaio (purple, obviously) for about 2k and I'm unimpressed. I'll get some more feedback from her on it though

Not sure what students you've been talking to.. but its quite a common sight here (Canterbury) to see a lot of laptops in the lecture theatres and tutorials. I dont think 'that' many students have a laptop suitable for uni use though, I dont think I would even bother taking mine if it was 15" and bulky

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  Reply # 274453 19-Nov-2009 12:07
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I have a Dell XPS M1330 which I have been using for the last two years at uni. I take it into uni and do all my work on it, just annoying with open book exams still gotta print out all the stuff! All the lecture slides / notes seem to heavier than the laptop.

With talking to class mates, they only bring in their laptops when they have to because the battery life is not good enough / they are too heavy, and they would bring it in if it were better.

My XPS after two eyars last about 3 hours now, not the best, but has been hammed. Also good enough(ish) graphics for the odd game.

Don't know what is on the market now / prices, just some experience.

Andysh

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Master Geek


  Reply # 274702 20-Nov-2009 11:27
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I've been using a dell inspiron 1520 for the last two years whilst completing my Master's at UoC.

Overall, I've been extremely happy with it. That said, it's my first laptop, and I haven't really had to attend lectures with it.

My main usage has been to carry it in a satchel to my office at uni every day, and to use it at a desk there. I opted for the 15" model because it was possible to get a 1680x1050 resolution at that size. I find it extremely useful to have a decent screen width (1680) as it means that I can vertically tile two things such as a pdf article and a microsoft word doc, or, say, a word doc draft/outline plus a first draft. It just makes things a bit easier.

That said, I think it's a bit of a tradeoff. A 13" laptop would probably have been better if I had been willing to work with a lower resolution. I like playing occasional games though, and a decent resolution helps for that (that said, most laptops are terrible for games, and even the ones with dedicated video cards, such as my dell's 256MB 8600GT are merely mediocre). So my advice would be either to stick with the 13" model, or ensure that the 15" laptop you buy has a high screen resolution. A 15" laptop with a screen resolution of 1440x900 or less seems a bit of a waste to me.

Another word of advice - I think that microsoft office is worth purchasing. You can get a copy of Microsoft Office quite cheaply under the "student select" pricing from stores like lapshop.co.nz. Note: This is different to regular academic pricing - it actually tends to be cheaper. I was able to obtain windows 7 ultimate upgrade for my home computer for only $180, and up until the end of last month I noticed that you could get Office 2007 Enterprise for only $79 (something like 95% off the ridiculously high normal price). One program that I think is worth its weight in gold is OneNote. It give you a great way of taking notes and organising them. Moreover, you can copy and paste pdf files into it and write notes all over it, which I found quite useful. Such usage probably requires a fairly up to date computer (which shouldn't be a problem if you're buying new - just don't get a crappy celeron as it's my experience that their performance is always extremely disappointing and not worth the savings) and an o.k. screen resolution, however.

I'm considering replacing my laptop some time next year, as at the moment my fiancee and I collectively use an HTPC/gaming computer at home plus my laptop. Although the HTPC/gaming rig is great, we tend to shy away from surfing the web on it as even a our quite large LCD panel doesn't make for easy reading from several meters away. Thus, we find ourselves preferring laptops for that usage and it would be kinda nice to have two of them :)

Because of this I've looked around a little at the options. I'm extremely happy with my dell, and was planning on getting a Studio 15. In particular I wanted to make sure that it had a core i7 processor, as they seem to be significantly better than the core2duos, as well as a decent screen resolution. But a 13" dell might be as good or better, to be honest.

My personal experience with dell has been overall very positive. Not perfect, but overall good. The hard disk in my laptop failed after a year, and the support process was transparent and painless. I logged into their website and it told me, step by step, which prepackaged diagnostics utilities I should run. I booted with the diagnostics disk and ran the utilities (it couldn't even complete the hard drive stress test). Then I rang dell, giving them all the information I'd gleaned. They told me that the hard drive was faulty and that they'd replace it - letting me choose between sending the laptop to them, or having them courier me a replacement hard disk so that I could install it myself. I chose the latter. The hard disk arrived within a couple of days and my problems were solved.

I have had a few minor issues with driver support (dell doesn't officially support x64 OSes or windows 7 for their 1520s which are now a relatively old model), but overall they haven't been bad enough to make me unhappy.

Another option that I've been increasingly fixated on is the offerings from Apple. I've generally been pretty critical of apple but from what I can tell their computers have improved in recent years. One thing that is luring me over to apple is the fact that they are technically PCs, and thus, if you really decided that you hated OS X, there's no reason you couldn't install windows 7 on one. This makes the transition much easier for me to risk. On top of that, the trackpad and physical enclosures of the various macbook offerings are pretty appealing (multi-touch, unibody, and all that). Lastly, I don't know anybody that has a mac who doesn't love it. In fact, it was surprisingly hard to find valid complaints about the macbook pro (the model I'm likely to end up buying) on the web at all.

So I guess that moral of the story is that it's possible for one person to like both Dell and Apple without their head exploding!

Good luck choosing a system.

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