Cheap Laptops

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Vince Massi

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No, I'm not selling anything. I recently bought a cheap laptop (they cost about doublé in Mexico as they do in the US) and started reading the Acer Computer forums. I answered a few questions that were posted, and Acer made me a low-level question answerer.

Before buying any computer, before you put down any money, ask yourself "What do I want to use this machine for?" And the second most important question is "Do I want to play high-end games?"

If your answer is "Yes," you should buy a desktop. If your answer is "No," I can give you some good free advice.
 

Vince Massi

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Drivers are software programs that tell the parts of your computer how to work. When you install an operating system (OS), the installation disk will include lots of drivers, so hopefully, you will be all right. But laptops are very specific; an installation disk usually does not have all the drivers.

The tech forums are full of complaints from people who tried to upgrade their laptops from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Somewhere in the process, their laptop would reject the new OS because it didn't have the necessary drivers.  Sometimes you can download the drivers from the manufacturer, but then they still won't work because they're designed for Win 7, not Win 8. Some people upgrade smoothly, but then find that their laptop doesn't run as well. And some people have no problems.

Generally, if you buy a laptop, you will not be able to upgrade your OS. Instead of being stuck with an expensive obsolete laptop, you are better off buying a cheap one that can be replaced every few years.
 

Vince Massi

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Temperature is one of the great killers of laptops. Generally, the insides won't be destroyed until you hit 170F, but the parts will wear out faster at any high temperature. Merely placing some small object under the back of your laptop will raise the bottom off your desk, and that will drop the temperature about 10 degrees. You can buy a cooling fan that sits under your laptop--it will blow cooler air over the bottom, lowering the temperature about ten degrees. (Some critics point out that raising the laptop will accomplish just as much.)

With about 1/6 the inside space of a desktop, a laptop has to struggle to stay cool. Its one exhaust fan is smaller than the exhaust fans on a desktop. Its vents are smaller, and it has less surface area to radiate heat. Start playing high tech games, and you're heading for even more trouble.

But cheap laptops have an advantage over powerful ones. Their CPU (the computer chip) runs at a much lower temperature. With proper care, a cheap laptop can actually last you more than eight years.
 

Vince Massi

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Besides temperature, another laptop killer is motion. People carry laptops around while they're still running. I've seen people put laptops down roughly, use them on bumpy bus and car trips, and pass them around at all angles. Yes, laptops are designed for this, but they wear out faster if you do it. Try to keep your laptop in one place. If you must move it, either shut it off or at least put it into Sleep mode.

.
 

Vince Massi

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Years ago, when RAM was weak and expensive, we were advised to buy as much as we could afford. Today, when RAM is powerful and cheap, we don't need to do that. Only a few graphics-intensive programs (such as high-tech games) require more than 2 gigabytes of RAM. Buying more will not speed up your computer, although it will allow you to multi-task. Even then, it is unusual for a computer to need more than 4 gigs of RAM at the most.
 

Vince Massi

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How long will a laptop last? Anything is possible, but if you treat your laptop the way most people do, it should last you three years. If you treat it the way I recommend (don't move it while it's on, don't play high-tech games, elevate it or use a cooling fan) it can last you eight years.

The incredible thing is that it doesn't matter how much you paid for the laptop. Cheap laptops last as long as expensive ones. Dell Computer (the only name brand that I recommend you never buy) is notorious for using parts that will wear out shortly after the warranty expires. Off-brands also wear out quickly. But the laptops from reputable companies all last about as long as each other.

The power of computers doubles about every eighteen months. And Windows comes out with a new operating system about every two years. And the cost of computers has been declining for decades. After three years, a cheap laptop is ready to be replaced.
 
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devanTaylor

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Informative post in deciding whether to buy a cheap laptop or a desktop. I must agree with you, asking yourself first on what you are going to do with your machine is very important before spending your money to buy it. I wasn't born with a golden spoon on my mouth that's why being wise in buying anything is very important to me. Thank you Vince and best regards.

[edited by admin: I removed your link. It will not help you anyways. Just participate and link to helpful sites that promote the discussion. This is not a link farm.]
 

ItchyUranium

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You can have your cake and eat it too. I got a Dell XPS L501X off of Craigslist four years ago for $400. I Love it. Excellent media device, awesome sound, HDMI support and it is even great at gaming with low to mid range graphics. I tend to plug it into my T.V. often and play on steam with an Xbox controller or just game the good old-fashioned way. I would highly suggest looking for used laptops or desktops if you want a good machine and don't want to pay $800-$1200 to get one. Another great place to shop would be TigerDirect they have always got insane sales on computer hardware.
 

Izdaari

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8GB is actually the recommended amount of RAM these days for serious gaming... but laptops are not for recent, cutting edge games unless you have a ton of money. If you do, you can spend $3-4K every couple years and keep a laptop that's up to the latest games.

My new desktop build (which I'm working on now) has 16GB, but I multitask, run a 64-bit OS, and play games that are notorious RAM hogs.

You may not be able to upgrade a laptop to a newer version of Windows, due to lack of drivers, but you CAN generally run Linux on them very well. Most laptop drivers exist for Linux. I advise looking at the Linux hardware compatibility list first.

And if you don't have big requirements, a cheap used or refurbished laptop works well for many people.
 

Gringo

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Vince Massi said:
No, I'm not selling anything. I recently bought a cheap laptop (they cost about doublé in Mexico as they do in the US) and started reading the Acer Computer forums. I answered a few questions that were posted, and Acer made me a low-level question answerer.

Before buying any computer, before you put down any money, ask yourself "What do I want to use this machine for?" And the second most important question is "Do I want to play high-end games?"

If your answer is "Yes," you should buy a desktop. If your answer is "No," I can give you some good free advice.

The title of your thread caught my attention. I am looking to buy a laptop (I use a tablet) and I wonder what you think about the Samsung Chromebook for 249.00 as advertised on Amazon. Is that TOO cheap?

Thanks,

Gringo
 
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christundivided

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Gringo said:
Vince Massi said:
No, I'm not selling anything. I recently bought a cheap laptop (they cost about doublé in Mexico as they do in the US) and started reading the Acer Computer forums. I answered a few questions that were posted, and Acer made me a low-level question answerer.

Before buying any computer, before you put down any money, ask yourself "What do I want to use this machine for?" And the second most important question is "Do I want to play high-end games?"

If your answer is "Yes," you should buy a desktop. If your answer is "No," I can give you some good free advice.

The title of your thread caught my attention. I am looking to buy a laptop (I use a tablet) and I wonder what you think about the Samsung Chromebook for 249.00 as advertised on Amazon. Is that TOO cheap?

Thanks,

Gringo
Not for a "gringo".... ;)
 

Izdaari

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Gringo said:
Vince Massi said:
No, I'm not selling anything. I recently bought a cheap laptop (they cost about doublé in Mexico as they do in the US) and started reading the Acer Computer forums. I answered a few questions that were posted, and Acer made me a low-level question answerer.

Before buying any computer, before you put down any money, ask yourself "What do I want to use this machine for?" And the second most important question is "Do I want to play high-end games?"

If your answer is "Yes," you should buy a desktop. If your answer is "No," I can give you some good free advice.

The title of your thread caught my attention. I am looking to buy a laptop (I use a tablet) and I wonder what you think about the Samsung Chromebook for 249.00 as advertised on Amazon. Is that TOO cheap?

Thanks,

Gringo
That is actually the standard price for a Samsung Chromebook. They're very cool and work well. The trade-off is being tied to the Chrome OS.
 

Indifference engine

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ItchyUranium said:
You can have your cake and eat it too. I got a Dell XPS L501X off of Craigslist four years ago for $400. I Love it. Excellent media device, awesome sound, HDMI support and it is even great at gaming with low to mid range graphics. I tend to plug it into my T.V. often and play on steam with an Xbox controller or just game the good old-fashioned way. I would highly suggest looking for used laptops or desktops if you want a good machine and don't want to pay $800-$1200 to get one. Another great place to shop would be TigerDirect they have always got insane sales on computer hardware.
Not sure what the rules are on replying to old topics, but I'd like to say the following:

1. If you want a good PC,  you're better off building. Especially if you want to game. Get a good case, get a good power supply. I haven't bought a pre-built PC in years (from Dell, etc), but we have many at the church, and the power supply is almost always a joke. If you build a PC, you will have more upgrade options. There are tons of sites to help you.

2. You probably shouldn't spend more than $800 unless you really know what you're doing.
2b. You probably shouldn't get a laptop unless you're absolutely positive you need one. If you need to "just type notes," you can probably get a keyboard for your smartphone or tablet, or get a Chromebook (they kind of laptops, but not really.)

3. Get a gaming mouse, even if you never game. It will change your life. Get one with extra buttons. I have a Logitech G500. The mouse wheel tilts left/right (back/forward when browsing) as well as clicking like an actual button (I use it to refresh) plus buttons on the side (maximize and minimize), although you can set all the buttons to do just about anything you want.)

4. Don't shop at tiger direct. Go to slickdeals.net and be prepared to wait several months for truly great deals. If you can't wait, try Amazon, NewEgg, MrRebates (you can search multiple stores), and Google Shopping.

5. Get a gaming mouse. B)
 

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Indifference engine said:
Not sure what the rules are on replying to old topics, but I'd like to say the following:

3. Get a gaming mouse, even if you never game. It will change your life.

5. Get a gaming mouse.
I already have one:



I can't get him to do anything else.  8)
 

Izdaari

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Newegg and Amazon are my main parts sources, with Newegg preferred because I don't have to pay sales tax. Can't escape it with Amazon because its HQ is in my state.

A Logitech M500 is my everyday mouse and my gaming mouse. Works great for everything, and has lasted a long time too. The G500 looks very similar, just with extra buttons and added features. I may upgrade to one, but I'm still happy with my M500 for now.
 

The Rogue Tomato

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Izdaari said:
Newegg and Amazon are my main parts sources, with Newegg preferred because I don't have to pay sales tax. Can't escape it with Amazon because its HQ is in my state.

A Logitech M500 is my everyday mouse and my gaming mouse. Works great for everything, and has lasted a long time too. The G500 looks very similar, just with extra buttons and added features. I may upgrade to one, but I'm still happy with my M500 for now.
I loved my G500 mouse with adjustable weights.  It eventually died (the scroll button got gunky and some of it even melted - don't know why). 

I also recommend any of the good quality DAS keyboards, although I wish they had an ergonomic design.  But the mechanical keys are excellent. 

 

Izdaari

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I love mechanical keys! But I'm making do with a Microsoft keyboard for now, because illuminated keys was my top priority feature, and I couldn't afford any of the mechanical illuminated keyboards.
 

Vince Massi

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Nothing in the world drives people into a greater rage than warranties. So let me explain how laptop warranties work:

1) Warranties are written by legal experts to protect the company, not the buyer.
2) The company will do everything it can possibly do to get out of the warranty.
3) If the company CAN get out of the warranty, then the company IS out of the warranty.
4) If the company is out of the warranty, then it has no legal or moral obligation to help you.

When you buy a laptop, check on the store's return policy. If there is anything wrong with your new device, return it immediately, because getting the company to honor the warranty is going to be a very difficult experience.
 

Vince Massi

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And now it's time to talk about money.

Back in the 1990's Windows Magazine advised its readers never to buy a top of the line computer. They advised that you buy a middle of the road machine, and eighteen months later, use the money you saved to buy another middle of the road machine. Your second computer would be more powerful than the top of the line model you had planned to buy. I have always seen this to be true. When you buy a top of the line computer, most software doesn't need it. By the time software catches up with you, your machine is obsolete.

About two years ago, another tech writer advised people not to buy laptops. Use the money to buy an equivalent desktop and a cheap netbook instead. Surprised, I looked at prices and found that he was right. Netbooks are hard to find these days, but cheap laptops are not. Rather than an expensive laptop, buy a good desktop and a cheap laptop for the same amount of money.
 

Izdaari

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Vince Massi said:
And now it's time to talk about money.

Back in the 1990's Windows Magazine advised its readers never to buy a top of the line computer. They advised that you buy a middle of the road machine, and eighteen months later, use the money you saved to buy another middle of the road machine. Your second computer would be more powerful than the top of the line model you had planned to buy. I have always seen this to be true. When you buy a top of the line computer, most software doesn't need it. By the time software catches up with you, your machine is obsolete.

About two years ago, another tech writer advised people not to buy laptops. Use the money to buy an equivalent desktop and a cheap netbook instead. Surprised, I looked at prices and found that he was right. Netbooks are hard to find these days, but cheap laptops are not. Rather than an expensive laptop, buy a good desktop and a cheap laptop for the same amount of money.
That's my theory, almost. Buy (or build if you can -- cheaper AND better) a good desktop and buy (because you can't build) a cheap laptop. In my case, a Kindle Fire HDX 7" tablet meets most of my portable computing needs, and it's much handier than a laptop.
 
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