View Full Version : yet another laptop buying advice question

09-01-2002, 09:14 PM
Sorry, my knowledge of laptops is zilch. I want to buy a present for my 22 year old daughter for her college graduation. It's a surprise and I believe she'll be attending Law School in the future.

Here are the particulars:
-I don't have a huge budget, but I want something that won't be antiquated and obsolete in a year.
-It will be her only computer, but will probably travel to school with her half the time. I guess it can't weigh 9 pounds!
-She's not a gamer.
-Her most used program will probably be word processing.
-A CD-RW is sort of required these days, do you think?
-She loves my "fast" desktop. It's an XP 1800+ with 512 DDR RAM. Is that fast by today's standards?
-My guess is that onboard video will be fine. She probably won't watch dvd's or crop photos.
-She's never downloaded MP3's, but one never knows. Onboard sound? Upgrade?

Any suggestions as to brand, model, reliability, configuration, type of warrantee greatly appreciated.

P.S. I have a real prejudice against Celerons.

09-01-2002, 09:34 PM
I use a Dell C400 Latitude at work and it seems to meet most of your requirements except that it has a DVD drive rather than a CDRW. So far it is working ok for me and Dell gets great ratings.

On the other hand, I don't like Intel, so I would probably buy something with a AMD chip if I were buying for myself. Sony VAIO I think comes in AMD flavors and is generally a good easy to use option. Toshiba has some of the highest rated laptops.

I suspect that whatever you get her will delight her.:) :D


09-01-2002, 09:38 PM
You could start By looking at Dell.com
They have an assortment of laptop models.
With P4 and you can add to it.
Get the 3 year warranty.
Itís an extra But the average life expectancy of a laptop is Only 18 months So it is worth the price

09-01-2002, 09:52 PM
Hi Nooyawkah,

I'm just one step from zilch. So take it with a grain of salt.

I just looked around for a laptop. And bought one! Here's the little I've learned.

Sony seems to be the state of the art and the highest quality. And the highest price. Dell is right up there. Many more features. The price is right up there. I've heard nothing but bad news about their service. HP/Compaq, nobody wants to get near them. Toshiba, medium quality, midrange price, exellent service. I bought a Toshiba.

If I was to do it over, I would stick to my guns and buy a USED Dell. P3, 256MB RAM, 20-30gig HDD. There are a lot of them out there and the price is definatly right. The components are tried and true. Forget about any service from Dell.

If I was buying for my kiddo? (and I probably will be soon enough) I'd bust open the piggy bank and try to get the Sony. If I couldn't, I'd get the Toshiba.

IMHO, of course. :)

09-02-2002, 01:23 AM
I've been looking around since I read your comments. This is just one thing I saw. Is this sort of what we're talking about?

http://csd.toshiba.com/cgi-bin/tais/pc/pc_prodDetail.jsp?BV_SessionID=@@@@1478777645.1030 940419@@@@&BV_EngineID=gadcfcjkfhgfbfekcghcfmfdglj.0&comm=ST&wSource=AOEM&plin=Portables&pfam=Satellite&poid=211607&Adoid=159396

One other thing. Does it pay to buy something if I see a good deal or to wait the 3 months until graduation because prices tend to drop as newer technology comes out?

09-02-2002, 01:39 AM
I am very fond Of Acer Notebook PC's. They got alot of great technology since they bought out Texas Instruments.

I have their lowest end Travelmate 200 series with a Celeron 700 Processor and 128MB RAM and a 10Gb hard disk.

It works flawlessly. Battery life is Ok the sound is also pretty good.

The price is right at under $1,000.00. It does not have all the bells and whistles but it has been verry verry good to me.

I also like Toshiba alot but I don't like the pencil eraser mouse they use.

Sone things you want to look for no matter what brand you buy.

1) A TFT screen.

2) Built in floppy AND CD-ROM or RW. You don't want to have to swap them in and out. It's a pain and just something else to break.

3) If you are buying a Pentium Machine, make sure they are using a Mobil processor. They give off less heat...

4) Go somewhere where your daughter can try them out. She has to comfortable with the mouse and keyboard if she is going to use them.

5) Get a really good case. The best are here: (http://www.port.com)

Good luck and happy hunting.

09-02-2002, 03:17 AM
Looks like a nice little computer to me. The decision about when to buy is a hard one. I would say that if you find a really good deal to go for it, but you will always find a better deal a little while later. I got my 15 inch flat panel monitor for a really good price at $300 after rebate a couple of months ago. Today the same monitor is on sale at the same place for $280. If I had waited, I would have saved $20, but then I wouldn't have had it to use in the meanwhile. It might be helpful for your daughter to have it before the school pressure starts so that she can get used to it and configure it the way she wants before she has to be using it all the time. Again, she will probably be delighted no matter when you give it to her or what brand it is.


09-02-2002, 08:52 AM
Yes. That's very close to the one that I bought. I'm enjoying mine. Have had no problems. The battery really does work for close to three hours. I added a USB mouse to make it a little easier to use.

As far as price goes I would say don't wait to long. If you see a good deal buy it. I'd be willing to bet that as Christmas draws near the prices will go up. After all the kids get back in school the prices might go down a little.

The P4 at around 1.6mhz is middle of the road and seems to be popular right now. It won't be obsolete for quite a while to come. Good performance. Intel chips are pretty solid, good quality hardware.

I think onboard sound is the norm. The sound on mine (2405) is terrible through the speakers but is good using headphones.

09-09-2002, 02:08 AM
How about this one? Think she'd like it?
Dell Inspiron 4150 (Education Price)
1.7 Mobil Pentium 4
14.1" Sceen
16MB Video RAM (No gamer, she)
External Floppy & Cable
3 yr mail-in warranty
5.6 lbs.
Cool Silver & Black Color
Free crappy printer

09-09-2002, 02:16 AM
Sounds good, nice size screen for a laptop. I think she'll love it.:) :)


09-09-2002, 07:38 AM
External floppy & cable is a PIA.

Look for model with both drives built in..

09-09-2002, 07:45 AM
What's a PIA? If I want a fixed floppy the DEll (model 2650) would weigh over 8 lbs. Tis one weighs 5 1/2.

09-09-2002, 08:08 AM
A PIA is a pain in the ___.

If the dell weighs that much, look at other brands.

In my experience, it's just another part to break or get lost.

Why does weight matter?

If she is going to college, unless there is a wireless network, the computer will sit in her dorm room.

If she will be carrying it everyday, then weight will be critical and you should stick with the detachable drive

09-09-2002, 09:35 AM
Forgive me, it was 6AM when I looked at it. The floppy does not have a cable. It's modular---click out CDRW, snap in floppy.

09-09-2002, 10:59 AM
I would go with the snap-in floppy. It is very unusual to even use floppies these days and it is a simple matter to swap if you need to. For the weight difference I would go with the one you have already chosen, but also because it will probably seem more cool to your daughter.:) :D


09-09-2002, 11:36 PM
If it's a snap in, then you are OK. I like the spap in because you might be able to put in nd battery or hard drive. Check on that. I just hate the models with cable plug in's

09-10-2002, 05:28 AM
There were 6 ways I could possibly have purchased this computer.
Online: 1. as an individual, 2. as a small business (my wife has a VERY small company - just her, lol), 3. as faculty (I teach at a college), 4,5,& 6 ... same as above but via telephone.

Being the persistant S.O.B. that I am, and having some free time, I was determined to get the best price, even if just for the challenge of it. However, I found out it is not simply a matter of 6 ways, it'a probably more like 12 or 18 or 24.

Navigating the Dell website requires both advanced degrees and good eye-hand coordination. The company is trying to stop you from making a low-end purchase, even if it is the low-end of a high-end computer. You can start with the very basic machine and add extras, or start with a higher configuration and work downward. First of all, it is very difficult to find the BASE model. Many other choices are given as huge boxes or other colorful places to click, while it took me 3 or 4 passes to find the tiny hyperlink I needed. If you build upward, you put together the configuration you want, but nowhere along the line was I able to find the 3 year mail-in service plan, even though it was listed as part of a large number of plans. All I could get was a 1-year plan.

So I tried the downward approach. However, I found that it was now impossible to get to the machine I wanted. Even if I thought the configuration seemed EXACTLY the same it was now $300 or so higher. AND the service plan I wanted was still unavailable. All I could get was a full-coverage 3-year plan for an extra $300 and change.

I gave up and called sales. Funny, the salesperson had access to the plan I wanted, but the overall price was more than $100 higher than the online price (if you added in the $119 for the plan you couldn't get). Then I tried another salesman and was now quoted an even higher price.

This went on and on as I tried to be a small business, and later, a faculty member. When all was said and done, I had 12 DIFFERENT prices with a $500 swing from lowest to highest, plus the differences in coverage came to over a $700 difference. Even the sales people did not have all the options for coverage and/or parts.

My favorite was, when I finally settled on the salesman/faculty option, at the end of the transaction, the guy told me I owed a $130 in sales tax. Having bought Dells in the past I never paid tax before. The salesman told me thet as Dell did business in NY with colleges and school systems I would now have to pay sales tax. ???????? Needless to say, I cancelled the order. I finally bought one from a woman as a "home user" that cost $40 more than the education price but the sales tax magically disappeared.

What the h*ll is going on? Add Dell to my long list of lousy companies! (They could at least have bought me a sandwich to eat while I worked).

09-10-2002, 11:20 AM
I had a bad experience with Dell's service through my work. I tried to find out what some keys on my laptop were for and no one would tell me. One customer rep implied that my company was just too cheap to buy the version that came with a manual. This is for a multi-million dollar deal. Turns out the info that I needed was on the HD all the time, but it wasn't on the start menu and no one told me about it, I stumbled on it when I was looking around the computer.

In spite of all of this, I still have heard more good than bad about Dell and I have heard or experienced worse with just about everybody else.:(

Oh well.:rolleyes:


09-10-2002, 06:23 PM
With all of that baloney, I'm surprised you did business with them. A $700 price swing for the same product? I'm amazed.

What were the features/benifits that convinced you to go for it? I know your post was about the negative. What's the positive?

09-10-2002, 06:31 PM
I've owned a number of Dell desktops in the past and they have all been excellent. I looked at other brands and this was the only machine with reasonable weight for $1500. It weighs 5.6 lbs. Most equally equipped notebooks weigh between 8 and 9 lbs. and the kid will be lugging it around. She doesn't stay in a dorm so light was a necessary feature. It had DDR RAM for a rasonable price. Most "light" laptops are using Pentium III, this has P4. Celerons don't thrill me. It had a CDRW where some companies make you move up a couple of models to get one. All in all, for her needs, it was a better deal than Toshiba and Sony, the other brands I seriously considered.

09-10-2002, 08:41 PM
Light is good. I have been lugging the Toshiba around for a month and I could probably anchor the Queen Mary with it. Sometimes the heft is reassuring but sometimes it is just heavy.

Good luck. If I know anything about dads and daughters (and I do) she will be thrilled with it. :)

09-10-2002, 08:53 PM
Thanks for the kind wishes, I'm sure she WILL love it. The kid has done quite a turnaround in her life from dropping out as a HS senior to graduating Summa Cum Laude (however you spell it). I never thought I'd see the day when that crappy teenager became a responsible woman. This makes me almost as happy as when her mother and I finally called it quits after 20 years. :D (2nd wife is a peach).

I also made a small change in the order, opting for a full warranty. She's a bit of a klutz and now it's insured against dropping, etc.

As for me, I'm glad I started to build desktops because my only laptop is an old Think Pad with Windows 95 and no CD ROM. Good only for word processing.

10-07-2002, 10:38 AM
On Saturday we finally gave my daughter the laptop and, to say the least, she was thrilled. Also suprised as tears rolled down her face. Thanks again for the help!

Of course, Dell couldn't let this joyous event go by without a few more screw-ups. I had ordered 256 DDR RAM with plans to install another 256 from Crucial. When the machine arrived a couple of weeks ago I opened the back to install the stick when, surprise! there were 2 128 sticks in the only 2 slots. I called Dell and they said "no problem." Two days later a box arrived with.... 2 more sticks of 128. The next time, I'm happy to report, they sent the correct RAM. And then there was the warranty. When I got the invoice it said we had 3 years mail-in service. I had paid for 4 years full coverage. I called again and was told, that no matter what the saleswoman told me, the could not sell full coverage in 3 states, NY being one of them. Maybe not, but they could still charge for it. They reduced my bill by $300. Dell and I have parted ways for good, but I'm still happy about this particular noteboook.