14" laptop, average performance, touchpad+buttons

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by NotebookModelSeeker, Nov 19, 2019.

  1. NotebookModelSeeker

    NotebookModelSeeker Notebook Enthusiast

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    START COPY
    ==========

    General Questions

    1) What is your budget?

    $500-$1500, give or take.

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?

    14”

    3) Which country will you buying this notebook?

    Canada

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
    a. Like: Mostly impartial to brand, but track record of reliability would be nice
    b. Dislike: Lenovo, Apple, Android (I don’t dislike, but I have reason to avoid)

    5) Would you consider laptops that are refurbished/redistributed?

    Yes, but prefer new

    6) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?

    Web search, Netflix, documentation, Spyder/Python (not for big data or high performance computing), Cygwin + X-windows, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint, Outlook)

    7) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?

    Both

    8) Will you be playing games on your notebook? (If so, please state which games or types of games?)

    No.

    9) How many hours of battery life do you need?

    The usual 3 hours (more is better, of course, but not necessary)

    10) Would you prefer to see the notebooks you're considering before purchasing it or buying a notebook on-line without seeing it is OK?

    *Very* much prefer personal test drive before buying to ensure that the physical user interface supports X-windows requirements, e.g., middle touchpad button click and drag (or emulation thereof)

    11) What OS do you prefer? Windows, Mac OS, Linux, Chrome OS, etc.

    Windows 10, with Cygwin’s X-windows for windowing of Cygwin unix apps

    Screen Specifics

    12) What screen resolution(s) would you prefer? (See further below for explanations.)

    Low Resolutions: 720p (1366x768) is fine for 14” display, especially when my old eyes can’t read micro-font. 13” is too small, and 15” is too unwieldy for when I’m away from home.

    13) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen? (See further below for explanations.)

    Either are acceptable, but prefer matte/non-glossy

    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?

    I don’t care about aesthetics, but small size and solidness would be nice. However, their absence would not be a show-stopper for me.

    Notebook Components

    15) How much hard drive space do you need?

    300-500GB (more is fine, but will probably go unused)

    Timing, Warranty and Longevity


    16) When are you buying this laptop?

    Now, since I it doesn’t make sense to migrate my old dinosaur to Windows 10. Some of the keys don’t work well anymore.

    17) How long do you expect to use this laptop?

    Hopefully 8-10 years. Most of the time, it will be in hibernation.

    18) How long could you afford to do without your laptop if it were to fail?

    Several days to a week at most.

    19) Would you be willing to pay significantly extra for on-site warranty, or would it be acceptable to you to have to ship the laptop to the vendor for repair with perhaps a week or more outage?

    I would look for an authorized local repair establishment. I live in the capital city of Canada, so probability that there an authorized establishment is not too low.

    ==========
    END COPY

    Please state any additional features you need. It's also helpful if you can indicate how experienced you are with computers. If you're a novice and don't know much, that's alright. Everyone's a novice at some point.

    Additional features:

    Touchpad with buttons. I very much need real buttons beneath a touchpad. No mouse for me. The buttons must be able to emulate a middle button click and drag, which Windows 10’s 3-finger tap does not do. In Windows 7 machines, I remap the left button as the middle button, then tailor Synaptics settings to emulate the left button using only the touchpad. If a laptop does not have a middle button, then it needs to come with Synaptics. Installing Synaptics post hoc is perilous and unreliable. Click pads don’t work for me because, even if there was a magical way to do what I did with Windows 7 above, I find that just moving one’s figure down to the clickable corners cause the pointer to move inadvertently.

    Middle of the road performance: 4-core i5 processor with dynamic clock frequency to preserve battery charge in periods of low demand. Willing to go with comparable AMD processor or popular proven alternative. 8GB-16GB RAM. 16GB RAM is preferred for its future-proofing over the next 10 years.

    Preferably, 2 Ctrl keys, one on the left and one on the right. My favourite lifetime editor vim uses Ctrl a lot, Unfortunately, many laptops I see these days have 1 Ctrl key and 2 Alt keys.

    Experience: I’m an old geek, but my are of expertise is modelling & data analysis rather than computer science or IT. I can use unix & bash utiltities, and customize when needed, but I don’t delve under the hood into the architecture of any OS (Windows or Unix). I can poke into registries and install stuff with administrator rights if necessary, but generally keep away from that and use a normal power user account. I haven’t had the experience of setting up network services at home (e.g. network drives or mirroring drives for redundancy).

    The search so far: An IT expert at work said that Toshiba is good at providing older styling, such as touchpads & buttons. I was able to use the criteria specifier at http://us.dynabook.com/computers/laptop-finder to find that my 14" requirement will be met by Tecra's rather than Portege models. I can choose up to 3 models at a time to compare: C40-D1414, A40-E1420, X40-F1430. Each model has an image gallery, but the images seem inconsistent with the specifications, e.g., the C40-D1414 specs tab say it has a clickpad, but the features say it has a touch pad, and the image gallery tab shows the touchpad (with buttons!). The A40-E1420 specs say an Accupoint pointing device (a nub) while the image gallery shows a clickpad.

    I have to say, my experience contacting CDW has been extremely discouraging. The contact info on the above dynabook link was actually to a CDW office, where the sales person confirmed the inconsistencies on their laptop pages. Because I was from Canada, however, he passed me off to tech support. Very odd, I thought, and sure enough, tech support claimed that I should be talking to sales. When I explained that sales passed me on to tech support, he provided another number, and was unable to say what office it was for. I asked if he was seriously going to pass me off to an unknown office, and the line went silent (not disconnected) for several minutes. I repeated my question into dead air, explaining that he had gone silent, and was perhaps muted. The line eventually went dead. I then called the unknown number, which was another CDW number, and ended up talking with customer relations. The person there was adamant that, since I got the original number from a dynabook page, the sales person and tech support must have been with dynabook, which had no relationship with CDW. I explained that the accompanying details for the number explicitly described it as CDW, and that a google search reveals a CDW page openly declaring partnership with dynabook. I asked explicitly not to be put on hold whiile I tried to determine whether this person could actually see the web page, but was put on hold anyway. Five minutes later, the person came back (which is much better than what happened with tech support!) and confirmed the partnership. I was given the Canada CDW number for sales. Interesting times....

    If I navigate to dynabook's worldwide operations, and then to Canada, it goes to toshiba.ca. The 14" Tecra's are far more limited than on the U.S. site, and all high end. The cdw.ca site might be better, but it's hard to tell. In the search tool, there's no way to separate the 14" displays from the 13.3". There are few enough returns, however, that I can delve into the 14" returns to check for touchpads and buttons. I only hope that the info is more accurate than on the U.S. site.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  2. NotebookModelSeeker

    NotebookModelSeeker Notebook Enthusiast

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    It took all evening to work the selection tool to narrow the candidates to a small enough quantity to manually inspect the each one for a touchpad and buttons. On the chance that others may be hosting X-windows on a Windows laptop and don't want to haul around a mouse, here are the search parameters, embedded in the URL:

    Resolution 1366x768 (17 hits)
    https://www.cdw.ca/search/Computers/Notebook-Computers/?w=C3&ln=0&key=Windows&gsw=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAiNnuBRD3ARIsAM8Kmls-KRkihfCowFSCSo9-Yj_3HAKDtNMze8YmYbNfoapEh85_xX2yazUaArxyEALw_wcB&cm_ven=acquirgy&cm_cat=google&cm_pla=Canada+&cm_ite=Notebook+Computers+Sitelink&ef_id=Cj0KCQiAiNnuBRD3ARIsAM8Kmls-KRkihfCowFSCSo9-Yj_3HAKDtNMze8YmYbNfoapEh85_xX2yazUaArxyEALw_wcB:G:s&s_kwcid=AL!4223!3!79964652961!e!!g!!cdw%20canada&s_kwcid=AL!4223!3!79964652961!e!!g!!cdw%20canada&a1694=50500682&a3407=50090701&SortBy=PriceAsc&a1960=50714808.51107531.50714810&b=ACE.DLE.FUJ.ASU.CPQ.MIC.PAN.TOS&a5687=50973910&a1607=50543923&p=110009.110010&a1522=50500677.51091980&a1750=50035339
    |
    | Brand:
    | | Acer
    | | Dell
    | | Fujitsu
    | | ASUS
    | | HP Inc
    | | Microsoft
    | | Panasonic
    | | Toshiba
    |
    | Hard Drive Capacity:
    | | 150GB - 256GB
    | | 500GB
    | | 501GB - 749GB
    |
    | Memory:
    | | 8 GB
    | | More than 8GB
    |
    | Notebook Type:
    | | Notebook
    |
    | Operating System:
    | | Windows 10
    |
    | Price:
    | | $500-$1000
    | | $1000-$1500
    |
    | Processor Type:
    | | Core i5
    |
    | Screen Resolution:
    | | 1366 x 768
    | | 1920 x 1080
    |
    | Screen Size :
    | | 13" - 14.9"
    |
    | Search Within:
    | | Windows


    Resolution 1366x768 1920x1080 (73 hits)
    https://www.cdw.ca/search/Computers/Notebook-Computers/?w=C3&ln=0&key=Windows&gsw=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAiNnuBRD3ARIsAM8Kmls-KRkihfCowFSCSo9-Yj_3HAKDtNMze8YmYbNfoapEh85_xX2yazUaArxyEALw_wcB&cm_ven=acquirgy&cm_cat=google&cm_pla=Canada+&cm_ite=Notebook+Computers+Sitelink&ef_id=Cj0KCQiAiNnuBRD3ARIsAM8Kmls-KRkihfCowFSCSo9-Yj_3HAKDtNMze8YmYbNfoapEh85_xX2yazUaArxyEALw_wcB:G:s&s_kwcid=AL!4223!3!79964652961!e!!g!!cdw%20canada&s_kwcid=AL!4223!3!79964652961!e!!g!!cdw%20canada&a1694=50500682&a3407=50090701&SortBy=PriceAsc&a1960=50714808.51107531.50714810&b=ACE.DLE.FUJ.ASU.CPQ.MIC.PAN.TOS&a5687=50973910&a1607=50543923&p=110009.110010&a1522=50500677.51091980&a1750=50035339.50174264

    1st 3 of the short list of 17 (top) with links to top view showing touchpad + buttons

    Acer TravelMate P449-M-559Q - 14" - Core i5 6200U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SSD
    Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad
    https://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...-i5-6200u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ssd/5745148?pfm=srh
    https://webobjects2.cdw.com/is/image/CDW/5745148d?wid=1142&hei=818&resMode=bilin&fit=fit,1

    Acer TravelMate P2410-G2-M-55HN - 14" - Core i5 8250U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB H
    Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad, Precision touchpad
    https://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...re-i5-8250u-8-gb-ram-500-gb-h/5280305?pfm=srh
    https://webobjects2.cdw.com/is/image/CDW/5280305c?wid=1142&hei=818&resMode=bilin&fit=fit,1

    Acer TravelMate P2410-G2-M-58XC - 14" - Core i5 8250U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB H
    Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad, Precision touchpad
    No top view
    https://webobjects2.cdw.com/is/image/CDW/5745159?wid=1142&hei=818&resMode=bilin&fit=fit,1
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
  3. SMGJohn

    SMGJohn Notebook Evangelist

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    You state that you need touchpad with physical buttons, I like to recommend ThinkPad E series while yes it wont have physical buttons below the touchpad there still clickable and are not as bad as a lot of modern laptop touchpads, there are however two physical buttons on the top for the TrackPoint which is the little joystick red nub thing, frankly I still like to use it even today over any touchpad.
    But as much as I dislike Apple computers they do have the best touchpads of any machine out there.

    I would recommend the Ryzen series of the E series but frankly for your workload even Intel would do, either of them get the same battery life anyway but Ryzen has stronger graphical performance over Intel while having same TDP wattage.

    The ThinkPad E series are well built, they come in 12,5 inch, 14 inch and 15,6 inch sizes and are relatively lightweight but with good battery life up to 8 or even 10 hours on some models.
    You be hard fetched to find anything as good as a ThinkPad in these cases the keyboard is also a standout, however I do recommend look at them as the CTRL key might be too small for you the 15 inch one do come with a numpad.

    However if you REALLY hate ThinkPads and REALLY do want those buttons under that touchpad then Dell Latitude might be more to your taste as they retain those features while also having proper keyboards.

    You can check these out directly at Lenovo.com and Dell.com
     
  4. NotebookModelSeeker

    NotebookModelSeeker Notebook Enthusiast

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    Here is a short list of 11 laptops with what might be touchpads + buttons, found from the above short list of 17 laptops with 1366x768 resolution:

    #01 Acer TravelMate P449-M-559Q - 14" - Core i5 6200U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SSD
    Mfg.Part: NX.VDKAA.186 | CDW Part: 5745148 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $562.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...-i5-6200u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ssd/5745148?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * !! Win 10 Pro 64-bit "Academic" (what does this mean?)

    #02 Acer TravelMate P2410-G2-M-55HN - 14" - Core i5 8250U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB H
    Mfg.Part: NX.VGTAA.006 | CDW Part: 5280305 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $842.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...re-i5-8250u-8-gb-ram-500-gb-h/5280305?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad, Precision touchpad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    #03 Acer TravelMate P2410-G2-M-58XC - 14" - Core i5 8250U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB H
    Mfg.Part: NX.VGTAA.005 | CDW Part: 5745159 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $842.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...re-i5-8250u-8-gb-ram-500-gb-h/5745159?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad, Precision touchpad
    * No top view; maybe buttons in 1st (angled) photo
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    #04 Dell Latitude 3400 - 14" - Core i5 8265U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB HDD
    Mfg.Part: NRJ36 | CDW Part: 5531290 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $885.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/dell-latitude-3400-14-core-i5-8265u-8-gb-ram-500-gb-hdd/5531290
    * Multi-touch touchpad
    * !! 2 Ctrl keys, but looks like 1-piece clickpad (a deal breaker)
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    #05 Acer TravelMate P2410-G2-M-511P - 14" - Core i5 8250U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB S
    Mfg.Part: NX.VGTAA.001 | CDW Part: 5745156 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $922.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...re-i5-8250u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-s/5745156?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad, Precision touchpad
    * No top view; maybe buttons in 1st (angled) photo
    * !! Win 10 Pro 64-bit National "Academic" (what does this mean?)

    #06 Dell Latitude 7400 - 14" - Core i5 8365U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SSD
    Mfg.Part: V7VDJ | CDW Part: 5648899 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,079.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/dell-latitude-7400-14-core-i5-8365u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ssd/5648899
    * Multi-gesture touch pad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    #07 Dell Latitude 5400 - 14" - Core i5 8265U - 8 GB RAM - 500 GB HDD
    Mfg.Part: 5HHCC | CDW Part: 5785912 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,113.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/dell-latitude-5400-14-core-i5-8265u-8-gb-ram-500-gb-hdd/5785912?pfm=srh
    * Multi-touch touchpad (Angled view: Might have buttons)
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    #08 Dynabook Toshiba Portégé A30-D-03J - 13.3" - Core i5 7200U - 8 GB RAM - 500
    Mfg.Part: PT383C-03J00V | CDW Part: 4675765 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,363.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/dynabook....3-core-i5-7200u-8-gb-ram-500/4675765?pfm=srh
    * Multi-touch clickpad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * Win 10 Pro (!! 64-bit ??)
    * !! 13.3" display (disqualifier)

    #09 Acer TravelMate P648-G3-M-57DN - 14" - Core i5 7200U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SS
    Mfg.Part: NX.VGGAA.012 | CDW Part: 5745155 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,366.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...e-i5-7200u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ss/5745155?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit National Academic (what does this mean?)

    #10 Acer TravelMate P648-G3-M-58B3 - 14" - Core i5 7200U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SS
    Mfg.Part: NX.VGGAA.011 | CDW Part: 5745154 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,388.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/acer-tra...e-i5-7200u-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ss/5745154?pfm=srh
    * Acer FineTip keyboard, Multi-gesture touch pad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & no nub
    * Win 10 Home 64-bit

    #11 Dell Latitude 5490 - 14" - Core i5 8350U - 8 GB RAM - 256 GB SSD - with 1-y
    Mfg.Part: 4KM6X | CDW Part: 5022182 | UNSPSC: 43211503 | $1,431.99
    http://www.cdw.ca/product/dell-lat...-8-gb-ram-256-gb-ssd-with-1-y/5022182?pfm=srh
    * Multi-touch touchpad
    * Top view picture seems to show buttons & 2 Ctrl keys & nub
    * Win 10 Pro 64-bit

    General notes
    * Some angled views might be unreliable
    * For #10, one shows nub while other does not
    * Weird: #01 has 6th gen i5 & SSD while #02-#03 has 8th gen i5 & HDD
    * In contrast, a faster processor generally needs faster I/O
    * From web search, 6th gen is quad core while 8th gen has 6 cores

    I've requested the following details from CDW in order to further vet the 11 options according to my criteria:
    • Confirmation of whether these models have touch pads plus real buttons rather than clickpads with depressable corners
    • Which ones come with Synaptics TouchPad installed
    • The following options specify Win 10 "Academic": #01, #05, #09. I asked what that means. Windows 10 has no "Academic" version, it only has an "Education" version.
    • Which options are expandable to 16 GB RAM
    • Whether option #08 comes with the *64-bit* Win 10 Pro
    Once I've vetted the short list down to 1 or 2 options, I also asked whether there is any way for me to visit a store or office to test drive the physical interface before deciding. I would be trying out the feel of the keyboard layout, key travel/registration, registration of touchpad contact, tightness of touchpad tracking, etc.

    For reference, I also refined my criteria based on what I found in the shortlist:
    • 14" display
    • Resolution 1366x768
    • i5 processor
    • 8-16BG RAM
    • 256 GB SSD or 500/512 GB RAM HDD
    • Windows 10 Home (will accept Pro, but not necessary)
    • Must have real buttons (no 1-piece clickpad)
    • Must be able to emulate middle mouse button cick *and* drag
    • Need Synaptics TouchPad driver/SW to do this
    • Windows 10's 3-finger tap won't do this
    • Need to avoid Lenovo
    Unfortunately, I did not specify 2 Ctrl keys, as I would never have expected today's designs to shift toward 2 Alt keys at the sacrifice of 1 of the Ctrl keys. In the past, I've dealt with the current century's penchant for odd Ctrl key placement using Microsofts Sysinternals Caps2Lock to convert the Caps Lock to a Ctrl key. Not sure if this will still work on Windows 10.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
  5. NotebookModelSeeker

    NotebookModelSeeker Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the suggestions, SMGJohn. Lenovo isn't one of the makers I'm considering. Dell laptops do show up in my short list of 11 above.

    Assuming that CDW gets back to me with enough technical information to whittle down my list, my hurdle would then be to find a way to try the remaining options before buying. To me, it's critical, as I find that a laptop's physical user interface has a large impact on productivity. Hence, rigorously researching the technical options seems to be pointless if one doesn't have the opportunity to try the laptop before buying. For example, my decision could spin based on the feel of the keyboard layout, travel and registration of key presses, registration of touchpad contact, and accuracy/naturalness of movement tracking on the touchpad.

    Even being in a national capital city doesn't seem to alleviate the challenge of trialling the options. The national OEM offices defer to the big chains, like Canada Computer, Best Buy, Staples, and Walmart. More often than not, they will not have the specific model(s) you've selected to try. You end up spending weekends hurting the environment by booting around the city.

    Having to order each one to try from he vendor, then returning it if it doesn't feel good, just doesn't seem practical. Besides, you can't try a handful before deciding. You pretty well have to decide on whether to keep the current one without having tried the remainder on your list.

    I wonder if the situation really is this dismal in terms of rationally thinking one's way to a personal product that one will intimately rely on for almost a decade? Is there some strategy that experienced IT folks use?
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019
  6. NotebookModelSeeker

    NotebookModelSeeker Notebook Enthusiast

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    To break my current impasse, I revisited some brick & mortar establishments. I believe that focusing only on the requirements of 14" display + touchpad buttons moves the otherwise impossible combination of requirements into the realm of the possible. I can then vet away by brand, and if it doesn't have Synaptics, I can look up the manufacturer site for Synaptics drivers. In my mind, there doesn't seem to be much point in contacting Synaptics, as each manufacturer needs to customize the drivers for their laptop models. I got this guidance from helpful staff at one of the stores, just as it was closing, so I will need to see how well it works next weekend.
     
  7. kingofswag187

    kingofswag187 Notebook Deity

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    Lenovo Thinkpad T480 exists.
     
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