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Walsingham

laptop requirement, help needed

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Chaps,

 

I'm considering doing a big chunk of work 'on the road', and consequently I'm thinking about having a laptop. Requirements at end. I need your help refining those requirements, and suggesting possible solutions. Implicit in being this rigorous is that I don't wnat to overspend, although I can justify spending whatever I need to meet my core requirements.

 

Novel solutions would be fun, but would probably kick up the cost.

 

 

~~

 

Size: No minimum size, maximum size 24" screen

Weight: 2kg [remember my busted back?] + 1kg peripherals

 

Battery life: 4 hours (longest expected transit time) use

 

Software:

 

- Must be capable of running DVD video from external drive

- Must be capable of running MP3/4 type music and video

- Must be capable of running MS Word/Excel or compatible equivalents

 

Games:

 

Principle requirement is for strategy games. Some help needed refining this requirement. Content to play games up to - for the sake of argument - Company of Heroes 1; Left 4 Dead 2; with minimal graphics options.

 

Graphics:

 

As above. Anticipate requirement for dedicated GPU, but not obligatory.

 

Connectivity:

 

- Must be capable of accessing secure wireless. No requirement for Bluetooth or other connectivity types.

- Must be capable of interfacing with trackball type mouse; anticipate USB, but not obligatory

 

 

 

 

 

 


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Be careful getting stuck with Windows 8 on it.  I know there was some grief over media player no longer comes bundled with DVD reading software as standard or some such.

 

 

Also, for consideration, I know you said no minimum size for your screen, but will you have to show people any models or shiny images for your work? Or will you be able to project any presentations?

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Good point. I guess it would be advantageous to be able to do so, or to feed into a larger screen.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Battery life as stated on the box is always a best case scenario. Large screen = low battery even with light usage. Get something that says 8 hrs on the box and it might last 4.

 

In my experience it's really that bad, but it's been 5 years since I bought a laptop and it's normal for the battery to crap out on you over time leaving you with even less. 1-2 hrs tops.

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Just install any media player like VLC or MPC-HC though, and you'll be fine. What happened is that Windows Media Centre got decoupled from the normal versions of Win8 because MS no longer felt like paying royalties to include DVD playback. Instead you have to purchase some DLC (yep, OS DLC) - specifically the Media Centre pack. But beyond that, they've made it so that you must have the Pro version of Win8 to even get the Media Centre pack - I assume this latter move is just regular dickishness. And another caveat, even if you have that pack, you still won't be able to play DVDs through the regular Windows Media Player.

 


 

Honestly though, your requirements are pretty general, basically any current laptop (Haswell - usually marketed as 4th Generation Core iX, made tremendous strides in this regard) can handle that - with the latest Bay Trail update, even Atom-based netbooks can play games to a certain extent. So really, you have your pick sizewise, all the way from 8" tablets to 17" desktop replacements

 

You'll probably note a lot of Dell and Lenovo models listed below. It's mostly because in my shortlist, they've come out on top in terms of premium models. Lenovo's Thinkpad line, while somewhat drifting lately from the old IBM Thinkpad philosophy, is still a mostly unique beast in the market, bringing business class devices through the whole stack (unlike say, Dell's Latitude or HP's Elitebook range, which exclusively aim for the big end of town). The "Thinkpad Edge" and non-Thinkpad models are significantly less impressive, however.

 

Pleasingly, Dell have switched philosophy since going back private and have mostly abandoned the race to the bottom that they were previously engaged in - the new model Inspirons are no longer synonymous with scrap plastic. Heck, even Acer have finally realised that quality is a thing and no longer exclusively push cheap plastic tat.

 


 

Listing by size:

Bay Trail tablet - yes, this is probably a wee bit too small, but there's a new crop of ~8" tablets that run not Android or Windows RT, but full Windows 8 (albeit in 32-bit form until next year). Models include the Dell Venue 8 Pro, Lenovo Miix 2 and the Toshiba Encore.

 

Bay Trail netbook - 10" convertibles with the same hardware above, but more versatile given a keyboard dock. After a few years in the wilderness, netbooks are finally back. The Asus T100 is the model making all the waves here, impressively integrating an IPS screen (unheard of in notebooks at this price point, or even double it) and it even throws in a free copy of MS Office Home and Student (many of these Bay Trail devices do). In the US they sell for under $400, a steal. The upcoming HP Omni 10 will be the chief competitor for this type of device.

 

Subnotebook - generic term for smaller traditional notebooks, usually in the 11-13" range. Expect all to come with low-voltage CPUs which trade off power for battery life (almost all ultrabooks will use these, marked by a 'U' suffix to the model number. There's a pretty big budget range starting with the cheap and cheerful Dell Inspiron 11 3000 up to the business class Lenovo X240. Other notable models are the Dell XPS 13 and the Samsung ATIV Book series, plus some Asus Zenbook Infinity models (which have a stupidly confusing model naming scheme which I will not attempt to decipher).

 

Convertible - at the upper end of the range, there's a trend towards the convertibles lately, essentially subnotebooks which come not with a keyboard dock, but with 360-degree hinges or similar, making them rather oversized tablets in that mode. Notable convertibles include the Dell XPS 11/12, the Lenovo Yoga range (Thinkpad Yoga or Ideapad Yoga 2 Pro) and the Sony Vaio Duo (*not* the Vaio Flip, which fits into this category but sucks). The HP Spectre X2 is a competitor that takes the old keyboard dock approach.

 

Full size ultrabook - typically 14-15" models with integrated graphics: Intel's HD4400 is finally passable for low-settings gaming. I've just gone this path myself, picking up the impressive Thinkpad T440s. (Somewhat confusingly there's also the T440 and T440p, the cheaper model and the higher performance model respectively, both being bulkier than the 's' model) Dell's competing XPS 14 has yet to be released but appears promising. A common gotcha here is the screen quality. Disappointingly most vendors still try to foist shockingly antiquated 1366x768 TN panels with machines of this size, which I consider wholly unacceptable these days. Even 1600x900 is pretty poor these days.

 

Traditional full-size laptops cover basically everything else. I have no real interest in this type of device, so pickings are pretty slim in terms of what I can recommend. At the low end, it's all a bit of a muchness. As per the same sized ultrabooks, vendors love shipping 15" entry level models with crappy panels, so watch for that. The high end gets a bit more interesting: the Dell XPS 15 does come with an interesting 3k screen, but Windows doesn't handle super high resolutions screens (equivalent to Apples buzzword 'retina' panels) all that well. Lenovo's T540p is a direct competitor to the Dell, complete with the same screen, but comes with a low-voltage CPU instead, which somewhat misses the point of the exercise.

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Wow. Thanks for the full review, Humanoid.

 

If I can condense it a little, you're essentially saying that to meet my full requirement I have to go 'full size' laptop. Although you do suggest I consider the Thinkpad T440p. And consider the Dell XPS14 when it comes out.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Yeah, the only 'difficult' requirement you have is probably the weight one, which most 15" machines will fail. Only the very premium machines at that size, namely the XPS 15, can even hit the 2kg mark - mostly achieved by using carbon fibre for the body.

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If you have the money to spend, you could always look into the MacBook Pro. The 15" version is fairly expensive, but it meets all your criteria (well, it misses the weight one by 0.02 kg). Both games you listed as a must have are available on OsX as well.

 

It's certainly not cost effective, but it's a computer I don't mind carrying around as much due to how thin it is. And the touchpad on it is miles ahead of any other manufacturers. 3000).

 

Just throwing it out there.

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Well, you could always get a Macbook, or.. you could not be a complete idiot and buy a real computer instead.

 

Like one of the Zenbooks by Asus.

 

Since you're Walsingham, money is no problem, so I would suggest the Asus Zenbook UX301:

 

1,2 kg

13,3 inch touchscreen, 2560x1440 resolution

Core i7 CPU (2,8 GHz Haswell) with Intel HD Graphics 5100

512 GB SSD (256 + 256 RAID0)

8 GB DDR3

 

Thinner and lighter than a Macbook Air, stronger and faster than a Macbook Pro.

 

Can be yours for a mere $2000.

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Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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Humanoid covered it pretty well.  As long as you get a Haswell based laptop you should be in good shape.  The integrated GPUs in Haswell are pretty powerful (all things considered) and Haswell is pretty doggone good on power efficiency, so battery life shouldn't be much of a problem.

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Well, I guess it's the other way to approach it. Give the alienware specs, then see how much it would cost to put the same kit into another manufacturer's case.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Ok, so I've narrowed options down to these two, which actually seem comparable to my cretinous ignorance:

 

Novatech slimbook - lightweight, customisable OS, BUT ugly and possibly underpowered

http://www.novatech.co.uk/laptop/range/novatechnfinityn1405

(roughly £800)

 

Alienware mini gaming laptop - shiny, gaming designed, BUT twice 1kg heavier, not including extras, reviews indicate need to upgrade baseline screen.

(roughly £1000)

 

~~~

 

EDIT: I had a look at the one mkreku mentioned.

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zenbook-UX301LA-13-3-inch-Touchscreen-Ultrabook/dp/B00FC55URG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390477878&sr=8-1&keywords=zenbook

 

£1400 for a 13" screen!!! (!!!)

 

Like the design and weight, but seriously, WTF?

Edited by Walsingham

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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It's hard to compare since the Novatech seems to be some sort of UK-only OEMish product. It has a generously large SSD for the price point, the rest of the specs are pretty vague. If the Alienware screen needs to be upgraded I'd say it's a safe bet the Novatech has an equally poor screen - not that it'd be powerful enough to game at full HD I guess, but I just feel 1366x768 screens are unacceptable in this day and age. Also be aware it has a previous-gen low-voltage CPU, which is to say, similar power to the current gen but significantly worse battery life.

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It's hard to compare since the Novatech seems to be some sort of UK-only OEMish product. It has a generously large SSD for the price point, the rest of the specs are pretty vague. If the Alienware screen needs to be upgraded I'd say it's a safe bet the Novatech has an equally poor screen - not that it'd be powerful enough to game at full HD I guess, but I just feel 1366x768 screens are unacceptable in this day and age. Also be aware it has a previous-gen low-voltage CPU, which is to say, similar power to the current gen but significantly worse battery life.

 

Thanks. That's all helpful info.

 

EDIT:

 

I'm beginning to wonder if I should save the cash this year and invest the money in a personal trainer/physio. :)

Edited by Walsingham

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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On the linked Asus - well, screen size is not correlated to price at all. 11" panels all the way up to 17" probably cost the manufacturer the same amount given approximately equal quality. What matters is the type of panel and the resolution, and that Asus has a rather nice 1920x1080 IPS panel, as opposed to the nasty 1366x768 TN that infest cheaper products. It also features an upgraded CPU (4500U as compared to the common 4200U, though personally I don't feel the upgrade is worth the cash). The rest of the difference is in general materials (Gorilla glass, aluminium/magnesium instead of plastic) and build quality. Not saying it isn't overpriced, but it's a premium product and is built as such.

Edited by Humanoid
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So I didn't know there was a Clevo reseller in the UK. Apparently there is: http://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/

 

I don't know the company so it's not an endorsement, but Clevo are sort of a 'generic' notebook assembler who make very customisable machines, and at a good price compared to the 'brand names'. I reckon the W230ST could be easily upspecced to beat any of the options you've presented prior. Heck, it comes with an IPS panel by default which is fantastic, and a video card with plenty of juice to drive it.

 

Upgrade the RAM to 4GB or even 8GB, and optionally even the CPU to a quad-core, add a 240GB SSD, and it's a genuine gaming machine - not a machine that does gaming on the side, but an out and out gaming notebook - that crushes anything else under 1000GBP, at a price the configuration tool gives me of 832GBP. Specced at exactly 2kg too.

 

Obviously the usual caveats apply for a device of this type - support isn't going to be as easy as if you go with an established vendor. And while the parts inside are top notch, I'd expect the chassis to have cut some corners and so feel somewhat cheap and flexy with plenty of plastic. And I imagine it'd be pretty hard to find one to inspect in person before buying it.

 

 

EDIT: Token review. Ignore the Avadirect branding, it's just the US reseller who add their own branding - just like the UK seller calling it the Optimus V for no real rhyme or reason. The Clevo model number is the one you'd research.

 

EDIT2: If you were looking for a brand, I think the closest would be the Gigabyte P34G, but that's over 1k. Very light for a 14" gaming machine though. I'd have said the Lenovo Y410 and upcoming successor Y40 would be comparable, but it looks like the former model is not sold in the UK, so I doubt the followup would be.

Edited by Humanoid
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Oh. Erm. I see now that I made a mistake in my first Asus Zenbook post (the one with 2x256 GB SSD and 2560x1440 IPS screen).

 

It was never supposed to be dollars. It was supposed to be pounds. As in £2000.

 

The one I meant is 13" and costs closer to £2000.

 

Bargain.


Swedes, go to: Spel2, for the latest game reviews in swedish!

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OK, well Humanoid has convinced me so far. But let's stress test my requirement.

 

Suppose I went with a radically different solution. A Google Nexus 7. How would that fail my specs? It's going to win on weight, and I can do multimedia...

 

I'm not just being perverse. It's really interesting to me to see how the discussion has gone so far. I'd like to push it further.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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I have no idea what an Android tablet would do if you connected a trackball to it, heh. But it'd do movie playback and all that media stuff fine, won't play any PC games outside probably what would run in DOSBox, should do some basic office suite processing with the right app.

 

Going with an 8-10" Intel "Bay Trail" Atom-based tablet running full Windows (so *not* Windows RT) would make it quite a bit more flexible for your purposes, being able to run PC games natively and be a fair bit more powerful, while only being marginally bulkier. A few models as mentioned previously are the Dell Venue Pro 8, Lenovo Miix 2 (both 8"), Asus T100, HP Omni 10 , Microsoft Surface 2 *Pro* (10" models). The Asus has a keyboard dock included, I think it's an optional accessory for the other two.

 

 

EDIT: It's worth noting that the current models are limited to 32-bit Windows, and therefore only run 2GB of RAM. Sometime in the next month or two the various vendors will be releasing 64-bit capable models with 4GB RAM and Windows 8.1.

Edited by Humanoid
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That's damned useful to know, Humanoid. Thanks.

 

I guess we'll put a freeze on this for now, and revisit in two months.


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Update:

 

Obliged to buy new suit, ate up the money for the laptop! :)

 

Thinking of going with a Nexus 7 just to keep myself amused on the move. Will 32GB allow me to store a series from Netflix?


"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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