laptop for college

Discussion in 'PC Purchasing Help' started by maddy, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. maddy

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    so i've had an hp spectre for the last... 2 and a half years? it was an ok laptop, but after having used it for so long, i know that i absolutely HATE the detachable 2-in-1 design it had, since you couldn't really use it on your lap or anything. back in may, i took it out of my backpack in my chem class and discovered that the display got absolutely demolished. the laptop itself is still functional, but it's only because i turned the touch screen off. since it has this absolutely monstrous crack across the entire monitor, i know it'll still work for a bit, but it'll also die at the least convenient time possible. i also felt like the laptop itself was lacking several things, like power, functionality (i miss having regular usb ports!!!), and upgradability.

    i'm currently just going in undecided, since i don't know what the hell i'm doing, but i'm interested in things like graphic design, computer graphics, being able to play things on the go... my college is like, 45-60 minutes away from home and i still sorta don't have a license so i have a feeling i'm gonna be hanging around the campus for decent chunks of time where i can wander around/do work/play on my laptop. and depending on what my major ends up being (again, no real clue, but that's ok for now), i genuinely might need the power later down the line.

    i'm gonna be honest, i'm not like... entirely sure what i'm looking for? i have some ideas on what certain aspects of laptops and computer mean, but i also... don't. :p i do know that
    • i don't like the detachable 2-in-1 style
    • the 2-in-1's with the hinge that go all the way around are ok, but i don't even think i really NEED a 2-in-1
    • display in the range of like... 12-16 inches (yeah. that's a big range.)
    • preferably relatively light-weight... i don't want it to kill my back/shoulders, but i also don't want it to be so thin it can snap in half real easy.
    • resolution display of at least 1920x1080... i've had too many 1366x768 displays and they drive me bonkers
    • ssd... i love myself.
    • would love to be able to upgrade parts in the future if need be
    • windows 10 (no chromebooks)
    • a processor that's good with multitasking
    • i'd love more than 2 usb c ports. i hate carrying dongles around with me.
    • strongk laptop... at least hopefully more powerful than my old one
    i currently don't actually know what my price range is... i've been told to not spend TOO much on it. we got the hp spectre for $320 (lightning deal on amazon... :-o). i'm pretty sure that there might be like... student discounts? of some sorts? so that could help. but do i know? not really. i'm sure that my dad will be responding to replies if he knows more information than i do.

    when i find out more information, i'll post updates. sorry this is a mess, but uh... that's just me.
    thanks!
     
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  2. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    Yeah, that's my kid getting ready to go start college on Monday. :superduperprouddadsmiley:

    Any recommendations appreciated. She needs enough power to run Photoshop, Illustrator, and other graphic designy stuff. Not so worried about size or style so much as power/battery life/features, I think. I'm not sure, it's not for me. That's why I told her to start her own thread about it. :)
     
  3. DSoup

    DSoup meh
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    You really need a budget to begin. If you can stretch it, take a look at the Dell XPS range. Don't groan at the prospect of a boring Dell, they are reliable machines with good build quality and come in a wide range of options in terms of size, specification, style/colour and formfactor, i.e. conventional laptop or 2 in 1. You can find many second hand or the is the Del Outlet, there is even a Dell Outlet for students which includes additional savings through educational discounts.
     
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  4. Shifty Geezer

    Shifty Geezer uber-Troll!
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    Well I've run designy stuff on a Core2Duo laptop very successfully in the past. The more you can spend, the faster it'll run, but anything modern will plain work. If your budget can stretch, a tablet PC with stylus provides a completely different design/art interface. I use a BT keyboard with my SP4, coupled with a wireless mouse, and it's a portable PC that can run Unity if I want, and then with the pen, it's an art pad. But that was a pricier i5 one.

    I don't know that upgradability is any value in a laptop. May be better to focus on cheapest solution to get through college and then see about what future-proof hardware you want after that.
     
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  5. Silent_Buddha

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    I could heartily recommend the Surface Book 2. Extremely long battery life and the ability to sketch if needed. Just in case that's something that would be needed in their graphics design courses. However, this is likely FAR outside of your price range. It's a 2 in 1, but is far more like a laptop (the batteries in the base make it far more laptop like in terms of balance and lap usage).

    The Surface Laptop was created specifically to address the college student market and I've heard good things about it for those that only need a laptop. It likely won't be cheaper than an equally capable machine from Dell, but the build quality is likely to be quite excellent and better than an equivalently spec'd Dell laptop.

    Amazon currently has it marked down 200 USD. And I know from past experience that Microsoft does have student discounts in their own store.

    If money is a concern, then Dell is a pretty good place to start.

    Regards,
    SB
     
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  6. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    $800us? I'm just guessing, it depends how the student loan stuff goes and how much monies we have to spare and such.

    But lets use that as a working number. It should put us in to a bit higher quality range than I'm used to, but she's gonna need more power and I want it to be a good one.
     
  7. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    She's having trouble looking, which I think is fair because laptops are confusing as hell if you don't keep up with them. LOL

    I was just ripping her for choosing this one on Amazon. I like the memory and processor, but no storage room and not upgradeable drive sort of kill it dead. She's uses a TON of drive space for pictures/images and if they claim it has an 8 hour battery life it's probably more like 6.

    Good news is she learns fast, I told her she probably wants one with an SSD and HDD and she didn't know those existed then found one with a 512GB SSD and 2TB HDD and freaked a bit and I was like, "Yeah, that's more what you need.".

    Just trying to help you help us, more info is always gooder. Thanks again!
     
  8. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    Just had a weird thought and checked it and yup, FastTech has a laptop section! :O

    I've only used FastTech for e-cig stuff, and it can be annoying as hell since it ships from China and can take a while, but damn they sometimes have some good deals and I'm just fascinated by all these brands I've never heard of! :D
     
  9. maddy

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    i haven't chosen anything... i'm just looking right now :neutral:

    he keeps mentioning that i should link laptops that i've been interested in here to get feedback (which is fair because i don't really know what i'm doing) so,

    the lenovo flex that he linked earlier had more ram but a weird resolution (1440x900) so here's one with a little less ram but is 1920x1080

    i also liked this acer spin 3 because i'm apparently still into the 360 hinge style of 2-in-1's but it's also $800... and my dad thinks that half a terabyte isn't enough room for me!! (he sorta has a point but 1) :razz: and 2) it's for when i'm on the go and that's a lot of space!!!)

    are there any big differences between intel and the newer amd processors in laptops? i don't actually know a lot about processors but i noticed that a lot of the reviews for ones with amd processors/graphics took up 2gb of ram.
     
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  10. Shifty Geezer

    Shifty Geezer uber-Troll!
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    How about an external HDD? Gives you the added safety of a physical backup - if something happens to the laptop, you still have all your data.

    I actually think that Lenovo Flex is a nice machine. Good processor and RAM for the money, fast SSD with enough for OS and working space. Doubles as a pen-capable tablet. Add an external HDD (somewhat finicky depending on how it's being used, but you can work a current project form the SSD and copy everything over the HDD when sat at a desk) and it's very capable. For more battery life, you'll need a fatter laptop and lose the tablet-type interface I guess.

    To get the absolute bestest deal, you'll want to find some benchmarked reviews. How hot everything gets can limit the speed of the processors, so a theoretically faster CPU might end up slower if the total system and cooling can't support it properly.
     
  11. Silent_Buddha

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    Tell him that the internal storage is immaterial.

    External storage is cheap. Cheaper than configuring a laptop with more internal storage in most cases. And you can choose the capacity you need while being able to easily use it with multiple devices if you have to.

    The biggest things you'll want to look at is what type of performance do you need? How much RAM do you need? Things like Photoshop gobble up RAM like candy, so something with a lot of RAM will be good to have if you are going into Graphic Design.

    If you are you going to be using a lot of filters in Photoshop, then you definitely don't want to skimp on the CPU. Photoshop with filters will gobble up all the CPU power you can throw at it and still want more. :p

    IMO, the big two for you going into Graphic Design is going to be how powerful the CPU is and how much RAM it has.

    Secondary will be having one with a decent SSD. Even if it's only 256 GB, you can easily supplement that with external storage or even memory cards. That said, 512 GB of SSD storage is a good place to be, but don't be afraid to go down to 256 GB if it gets you a better CPU or more RAM.

    And then after that, go for higher resolution (above your baseline requirements) if you want. Drawing/sketching/inking capability might come in handy, but you can always add in that capability with a drawing tablet/display that you connect to your laptop as well. Anything else that might be useful or that you want in a laptop.

    GPUs with good compute that are supported in programs that your classes expect you to use can accelerate your workflow, meaning less time to do the same thing.

    If you haven't done so, it might be worth it to look at the courses that are required for the Major you are pursuing. Often times you can look up the syllabus for those classes from previous academic terms (for example look at the ones from the 2018-2019 school year) in order to see what is currently being used in all the classes you'll be required to take. This can give you an idea of what programs you'll be using which can potentially be helpful in determining what capabilities you want in a laptop.

    Regards,
    SB
     
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  12. DSoup

    DSoup meh
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    I was also going to make the RAM point. I'd favour 16Gb over a larger internal SSD. As folks have said, an external drive can be used to expand if you need too but when on compass you'll likely have access to decent networking so you also have the option of taking advantage of free storage services.
     
  13. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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  14. DSoup

    DSoup meh
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    I didn't know Dell still offered the Inspiron line. Back in the day it was the Latitude line for work, the Inspiron line for most home users and the XPS line was those willing to compromise to game portably but not having see a non-XPS Dell for years I thought they'd got rid of everything non-XPS.
     
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  15. Silent_Buddha

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    Is it weird that when I look at Laptop specs now, I think 1920x1080 is horribly low resolution? :p

    I've been spoiled by having a 3240x2160, 3:2 ratio screen. I don't think I could ever go back to using a laptop with a 16:9 screen again.

    Regards,
    SB
     
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  16. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    1. For designs with Adobe stuff, Intel is much better than AMD due to its integration with Intel stuff and single thread performance (their apps are multi thread aware but rarely do multi threading). Even better if you got Intel CPU + Nvidia GPU. Because many of the accelerations doesn't work or work utterly slow on AMD.

    2. If budget is not a concern, Dell xps 15 is a good choice. It also have lots of ports. If want something smaller, Dell xps 13 from 2 years ago also could be good (the new ones have fewer ports).

    3. VAIO (not Sony) have a new thin and light laptop that have crazy amount of ports: 3 or 4 USB, full size HDMI and DSUB (seriously?)

    4. Laptop with internal mechanical HDD allows more storage at low cost but it adds weight and vulnerability. Personally I agree with the replies before me. much better to use SSD-only internal and use external HDD. So even if you accidentally bang the laptop, almost no risk of broken storage device and data loss (anecdotes: I have thrown my SSD across room, I have thrown my Vaio tablet from standing height).

    5. Nowadays it's hard to find really upgradeable thin and light high performance laptop at low price. Avoid Surface brand if you want self upgrades (they use many glues, soldered RAM). Lenovo and HP (or it's Dell?) give step by step disassembly and upgrade tutorial PDF on their support website. So you can look at them and judge the upgradeability yourself.

    6. There's supposedly going to be thin light fast and expensive laptops powered by snapdragon 8cx (xc?) that are even faster than Intel (probably marketing bull) that maybe interesting
     
  17. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    So how does this one stack up to you folks? Decided to poke around MicroCenter since it's in driving distance and I've gotten more than a few bargain deals there before.

    upload_2019-8-18_15-39-47.png
     
  18. Shifty Geezer

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  19. digitalwanderer

    digitalwanderer Dangerously Mirthful
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    I was looking at Dell's site and was just in shock at the upcharges for memory/drive upgrades! Seems like it'd be cheaper to buy a laptop with a solid design and a good CPU and then just upgrade it myself. A little googling proved that by a goodly margin!

    So now I think I should focus on the CPU and upgradability. The latitude 3390 can be upgraded in memory, NVM, and it has a HDD spot! Get the one with the least ram/drives and a decent CPU and BAM, instantly bargain power laptop!

    Then I read reviews of the Dell stuff lately and thought I should look at other brands, keeping the same strategy in mind. Not hung up on a HDD anymore, more battery life/keyboard/screen/CPU. The storage and memory can be upgraded cheaper by me than by it preconfiged. They wanted $240us to take it from 4GB of ram to 16GB! I looked up the ram, a 16GB kit for that laptop costs under $70us. Same with the NVM prices, $240 to go from a 128GB to a 512GB...and I've seen TB ones for under $100.

    Strategery, that's what I need. To be more strategeryical....
     
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  20. orangpelupa

    orangpelupa Elite Bug Hunter
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    @digitalwanderer I can't open the microcontroller website :( probably region locked

    Haha yeah notebook check is too thorough hahaha.


    They even wrote this caveats

    The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications
     
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