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Last post Author Topic: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?  (Read 18936 times)

nudone

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these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« on: October 20, 2007, 04:12:59 AM »
since vista has come along i've noticed there are plenty of laptops available below the £500 price mark (no idea what they are priced at in the US and everywhere else but i'll guess that they are less than $1000).

typically, these laptops will have vista home premium and 1 to 2 gig of ram and a hard drive over 100 gig. they'll have wifi but won't have a high end graphics cards. they'll have an intel core 2 duo chip.

i don't know anyone that owns one of these budget machines but i'm tempted to buy one. but before that i'd like to know if anyone has used any of these cheap laptops and whether they perform well for typical internet and office related tasks.

my interest is in whether they perform better than a laptop from a few years back. i have an old gericom pentium 4 laptop with 512 meg running xp home - it's crap and always has been, it's sluggish and prone to crashing (i've cleaned it and reinstalled a couple of times but it just isn't up to the job). at the time it cost me £1000 which seemed like a bargain but i wouldn't be at all surprised if these new cheapo intel core 2 duo laptops easily out perform it.

i could add more ram to the old gericom laptop but as the machine is such a noisy lump of plastic that cuts off the blood supply to my feet when i place it on my lap, i'd rather just sling it into a nearby lake - and then buy one of these new cheapo things.

anyone had a go on these new laptops and been able to compare them with older machines?

f0dder

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2007, 05:22:32 AM »
The machines themselves are nice (I bought two Lenovo v100 (iirc) for the museum), but Vista isn't nice on them - and battery life wasn't all that hunkydory on the Lenovos. Fair amount of computing power, no-good-for-gaming graphics, not-too-bad heat.
- carpe noctem

nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2007, 05:37:42 AM »
gaming isn't a concern but heat and battery life would be important. saying vista isn't nice on them makes me wonder if that means they feel sluggish or just look a bit nasty.

f0dder

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2007, 05:55:37 AM »
gaming isn't a concern but heat and battery life would be important. saying vista isn't nice on them makes me wonder if that means they feel sluggish or just look a bit nasty.
Look fine, and smooth enough once started, but feels too heavy - but I feel the same running Vista on my AMD64x2 4400+/2gig/GF7600. I chose the standard battery pack for the lenovos (higher cell-count ones are available), last around an hour and a half doing real work.
- carpe noctem

Armando

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2007, 02:09:50 AM »
I'm sure there are some nice laptops among the cheap ones. Just check for their battery life (and any other info about the LCD, etc.) on the net... There are soo many forums.

I believe any dual core CPU will really improve your everyday computing. If you plan on using Vista, i'd say RAM is the primary factor -- I wouldn't go beneath 2gig. For Vista's fancy effects, my 1.5 years Inspiron with an ATI x1400 is supposed to work well. Haven't put it to the test though.
 
Buy one, test its endurance for a week, return it if it does weird things, try another one. That's what I'd do.

mouser

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2007, 02:33:14 AM »
some things to think about:

1. is it going to be your primary/only pc?
if not then it's a completely different kind of purchase in my view.  if it's not your primary or sole pc then i wouldn't worry about graphics card or even cpu power at all.  a dual cpu is nice for multi-tasking but if it wasn't my main computer i wouldn't think much about it.

2. the main tradeoff in choosing a laptop, in my view is screen size vs. weight.
the 17" laptop lcds are beautiful, and it's easy to say when looking at stats that 4 extra pounds isn't so big a deal.
however after having used an ultraportable 3 pound notebook, i have to say it is a joy to have something so light.  really makes a difference when you actually get to the point where you say to yourself, shall i bring the laptop with me or leave it at home.  so again unless it was my main sole pc, i am thinking these days i would lean more towards having a small lightweight notebook vs a big heavy one.

3. id go with 1gb of ram minimum.  and 160gb drive minimum.  the newer notebooks are starting to come with 200+gb hds, which is nice.  100gb would be ok, you can always swap it out for a bigger one later.

4. if you are one of those people who has strong opinions about keyboards -- make sure to try it first.

5. i wouldn't worry too much about battery life, you can always plug it in.

6. i wouldn't put vista on it -- i see no reason to slow down my laptop with that.. xp pro all the way.

7. The toshiba portege ultraportable's are nice.


nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2007, 03:13:57 AM »
i think these cheap laptops are going to be of the bulky heavy slabs variety otherwise its weight and 'lap comfort' would be important factors.

i'm not going to rush out and buy one so hopefully i can find something that isn't an oversized brick.

jgpaiva

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2007, 04:17:59 AM »
From my contact with laptops, i'd say that batery life isn't an important factor.
When you're talking about a laptop that lasts 1.5-2 hours when it's new, on 1 year to 2 years, it'll be lasting less than half of that, so you'd better be used to using it plugged in.

As for disk, i wouldn't go for size, but for speed. It'll be the disk where the OS will be running from, and i think it'd be way worse to have a 4200rpm-200gb disk than a 5400rpm-100gb disk, because you can always win space with an external disk (which are pretty cheap nowadays) but speed, you can only win it by buying a new internal disk, which is way more expensive.

Concerning the ram... I'd say go for 2GB if you can. I upgraded my 1.5-year laptop to 1GB, and almost every day i find it not enough. (also consider the speed problem, laptop's memory is slower than desktop's memory, so you probably should try to get as much as you can).

For GPU, if you won't be doing any gamming, probably anything would do.

Concerning OS... XP pro!!!

nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2007, 04:34:13 AM »
i'd not thought about hard drive speed but it's a good point. i guess (again) that these budget laptops are going to be fitted with the slowest hard drives.

i agree about battery life. maybe the laptop i have is a bad example but the battery life became a joke after a few months - now it's tragic. i wouldn't mind but the laptop hasn't been used that often so i'd expect the battery to still be okay.

Ralf Maximus

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2007, 08:39:37 AM »
Dell Latitude, over here.  I used to like Toshiba, and then bought a few Dell Inspirons before settling on the Latitude.  (Yeah, we burned through a few laptops -- small companies will do that.)

Even though they're a notch more expensive (say, $1400 US rather than <$ 1000) the Latitude is worth it for me, since Dell commits to supporting each Latitude model for 10+ years.  That means I can still buy batteries for my 5 year old D600 in the year 2010, theoretically.  And all the Latitude parts & accessories are interchangable between Latitude models.  For instance, in addition to my primary battery I have two spare batteries salvaged from defunct D500's.

None of this applies to the cheaper Inspiron.  Dell buys whatever parts are cheapest at the moment to build those, and if you have to spring for a new power brick in a few years, you might end up on eBay or paying a premium price to Dell.

I agree with mouser on the basics: CPU speed and graphics performance are secondary on a laptop.  If you want to play games you'd be better advised to spend your money elsewhere.  However, I would make sure that you get a dual-core processor, since it makes a world of difference in how responsive the machine feels.  Sure, your spreadsheets may longer to recalculate with a 1.5GHz processor, but you can still mouse around and read email while you wait.

I disagree that battery life is a non-issue.  For me, the main criteria I use when selecting a machine is: can I last through a 6 hour flight on battery power alone?  The Latitudes I've used are very good about this: with both primary & secondary batteries fully charged I get an honest 5.5 hours -- and that's on a 5 year old laptop with about a million miles on it.  Swap batteries and I can go another 2.5 hours, easy.  That's almost a transatlantic flight.

I paid $2100 for it back in 2002, so spread out over 5 years that's ~$400 per year.  Not bad value for a machine that's been trouble free from day one.

And now that I've written about it, I've guaranteed it'll croak tomorrow!  But that's no worry -- a new Latitude that'll kick this one's butt is around $1600, and I can still use my spare batteries.

Darwin

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2007, 09:10:52 AM »
Right now, in Canada, I can pick up a Toshiba notebook (A100) with Vista Home Premium running an Intel Duo 2 Core T5450 (1.67 Ghz) with 2GB RAM, 200GB 5400 rpm drive and 256MB dedicated video for $1097. That falls below $1000 for the same machine without dedicated video. I took one home and played with it for a couple of days and wasn't that impressed. Build quality was nice but Vista seemed to me to be a resource hog. All that horsepower and I still found myself disabling services (including themes!) to claw some of it back. Running Windows Classic and with nothing other than StarOffice 8 installed it didn't perform any better than my now 3 1/2 year old 1.4Ghz Centrino with a gig of RAM running XP Pro and with over 270 applications installed. I took the Toshiba back and upgraded my old Centrino to 2GB of RAM for $200 and I'm very pleased. I'm still getting 3.5 hours out of the main battery and over an hour out of the backup (smaller). Not perfect, but great considering how old they are (when new they were good for 5 hours and 2 hours respectively).

I'd buy one of the new notebooks but would IMMEDIATELY install Linux or XP Pro on it...for me this would need to be Windows because of work software compatibilty issues and means an additional $270 for XP Home. Can't justify the additional expense right now (sadly, my XP Pro install discs are OEM) and don't really see any need to at this point.

Just my (rabid) two bits.
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Ralf Maximus

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2007, 09:16:00 AM »
Oh god yes, use XP if you can.

My sister was about to return her new HP tablet, but decided to keep it when we downgraded to XP Tablet Edition.  It went from sluggish and slow to quite zippy.

nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2007, 09:39:24 AM »
right, well part of this buying a cheap laptop idea was to aquaint myself with vista but it sounds like i'll only be wanting to remove it and put xp on instead - which means i may as well stick with the machines i've got.

i don't understand how batteries can vary so much. the one i mentioned really is useless and i don't wish to waste money on a replacement as i suspect that will also be equally rubbish after 6 months. and yet, i have an old ipaq pentium two laptop with two batteries inside - i'm pretty sure i could get 4 to 5 hours use out of them after a fresh charge and they must be years old by now.

i'ver read about batteries (not) having memory and how to reset them. nothing has helped with this dud i speak of, which makes me wonder - are some batteries just crap or do they easily become crap if you don't treat them like spoilt brats.

Ralf Maximus

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2007, 09:46:03 AM »
Hehehe... batteries vary by manufacturer, in the quality of materials used and the charging components. The more expensive "smart" battery charging circuitry has a feedback component to charge the battery "only so much" and prevent overcharging, which weakens them.  These are the so-called "no memory" batteries.

One trick I've used to bring a dead battery back to life: wrap it in a zip-lock baggie and stuff it in the freezer overnight.  Take it out the next day and allow a few hours to reach room temperature.  Charge as normal.  For some reason this seems to reset balky batteries, at least the ones I've tried it on.  I've no idea as to the physics behind this...

nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2007, 09:51:41 AM »
i'll try the freezer method. if nothing happens, at least, i'll have a super charged popsicle to enjoy.

f0dder

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2007, 12:12:21 PM »
mouser, you have a good point about main-use vs. secondary machine usage of the laptop.

I'd never go for a laptop for my main machine, even if you get one of those oversized monsters that'll hardly last half an hour on battery, they're still not as powerful as desktop machines, but tons more expensive.

I'd still worry about CPU power though, and I'd still go for a dual-core solution... simply because I'd still be doing development on-the-go, and because dual-core CPUs are so widespread now that it's hard to get a box that isn't dualcore :) - on the other hand, I don't want (nor need) a top-of-the-line CPU in a laptop, though.

Small screen and low weight. please. And as much battery power as possible (which rules out heavy graphics and fast harddrives - who needs fast or large drives on a non-primary machine anyway?) - faster drives (more rpm) means less battery life too.

I disagree with your #5 though, mouser - you can't always plug in a laptop, and too low battery life makes it unusable for, well, portable use. Which is the main use of a laptop, imho.

Lots of ram too, never hurts being able to create a large ramdisk instead of using the slow harddrive.
- carpe noctem

mouser

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2007, 02:27:32 PM »
remember you can always buy extra batteries if you need extra battery life.

jgpaiva

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2007, 04:50:45 PM »
@Ralf:
When i mentioned batery life as not being important, i didn't refer to laptops with 6hours of batery life. As nudone mentioned cheap laptops, i removed ultra-portables and dells from the list ;) And these laptops currently suffer from the problem i mentioned: they come with 2.5hours of batery life, but 6 months after, they won't last more than 45minutes (at least from my experience)

I don't want (nor need) a top-of-the-line CPU in a laptop, though.
That's another interesting conclusion i've made: it's more vital to get the top of the line ram than the top of the line processor. When i bought my computer, there was the 2.0ghz version and the 1.7ghz version. I now regret not having bought the less expensive one and spending the difference in applying more ram to it, it'd be a more powerful machine.

Armando

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2007, 12:59:14 PM »
they come with 2.5hours of batery life, but 6 months after, they won't last more than 45minutes (at least from my experience)

I agree. It'S been my experience too. I just ordered a battery for my dell, on ebay. We'll see... :)

Must add that I agree with f0dder : I’ve found that a good battery life is primordial. 1h won't cut it (and carrying more than 1 extra battery can be annoying) : when I sit in a conference or a seminar, I want to be able to sit anywhere and take notes for 2-3h without interruptions. Same thing if I go work in a café or something : can’t always plug my laptop.


Quote
That's another interesting conclusion i've made: it's more vital to get the top of the line ram than the top of the line processor. When i bought my computer, there was the 2.0ghz version and the 1.7ghz version. I now regret not having bought the less expensive one and spending the difference in applying more ram to it, it'd be a more powerful machine.

I agree. I must say that I'm now exclusively using a laptop (and I have an 2nd older laptop for experimentation). I don't need much CPU/GPU power for what I'm doing. I find I can do anything I want with my inspiron 6400. (Win XP, 1.5gb RAM, 100gb HD,  ATI x1400). As usual, it all depends on your needs, what you want to do.

Darwin

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2007, 09:34:49 AM »
Quote
One trick I've used to bring a dead battery back to life: wrap it in a zip-lock baggie and stuff it in the freezer overnight.  Take it out the next day and allow a few hours to reach room temperature.  Charge as normal.  For some reason this seems to reset balky batteries, at least the ones I've tried it on.  I've no idea as to the physics behind this...

Thanks Ralf! That worked  :Thmbsup: To think I had battery re-cored in the spring for $170... Wish I'd tried this trick first. Live and learn...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

Ralf Maximus

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2007, 10:12:40 AM »
W00t!  Love it when no-cost solutions work.

:-)

nudone

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2007, 11:12:29 AM »
oh, well, if you say it really works then i better actually do it...

Armando

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #22 on: October 24, 2007, 06:42:38 PM »
Really???  This works...? Do you mean that my 1.5 year battery would "get back" its lost power just by putting it in the freezer?

Darwin

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #23 on: October 24, 2007, 11:26:32 PM »
My notebook came with two batteries - a small one (6 cell?) and a larger one (9 cell?). When it was new three years ago, the big battery was good for 4-5 hours and the small one for about 2.5 hours. This spring the big battery was good for about 1.5 hours and the small one for about 45 minutes. I had the big battery rebuilt before going on a research trip in Belgium and it's good for about 3 +/- hours... Rebuilding it was *supposed* to make it last longer than new (ie longer than 5 hours), so I was a bit disappointed with the expensive rebuild. I bunged the smaller one in the freezer the night Ralf posted the tip (two nights ago?) and retrieved it last night. It's good for just over 2 hours... Works for me!

EDIT: removed a split infinitve. It's a generational thing, I suppose, but a split infinitive is worse than fingernails on a chalk board. Whoops! I guess that idiom has been relegated to the history pile as well...
"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin
« Last Edit: October 25, 2007, 03:49:25 PM by Darwin »

Armando

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Re: these new cheap core 2 due laptops - any good?
« Reply #24 on: October 25, 2007, 10:15:31 AM »
:)

Will try that with my old one when the new one arrives from Hong Kong  next week!

(My story is a bit different : my first Dell battery -- bought with my Inspiron in June 2006 -- completely stopped working normally after 6 months. I got a new one freely from Dell in January 2007-- 9 cells. Was good for about 3.5 hours. In September, it only lasted for 2.2-2.5 hours. Now it lasts for 1.5-2 hours MAX, which means that after about 10 months, it lost  almost 50% of its original capacity. This sounds like jgpaiva's story.  :( )