Laptop to Replace Unibody MacBook Pro

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by Paul_H, Mar 25, 2009.

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  1. Paul_H

    Paul_H Notebook Enthusiast

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    Hi All,
    Need some help picking a new notebook. Right now I have a new uni-body MacBook Pro that I am not completely happy with. I've had it about 5 months and have decided that's long enough to get used to a new laptop.

    Things I don't like about my MacBook Pro:
    1. The glossy screen.
    2. The keyboard. I touch type and have just not gotten comfortable with this keyboard. Lots of typos and missed keys with this keyboard. Since I am in grad school, I am typing like a fool these days.
    3. The lid feels flimsy. When I grab the laptop when it's closed it feels like I'm crushing the display into the keyboard. I'm always afraid I'm going to smack it and put a dent in it or the display is going to get damaged in my bag.
    4. Microsoft Office. I use Office at work on a regular basis and trying to switch back and forth between the Mac / Windows version is tough.

    Things I do like:
    1. The brightness of the screen.
    2. The large touch pad.
    3. The thinness of it.

    How I'm using this:
    I am a software engineer who's in grad school working on a masters in teaching. My laptop is used for personal stuff (email, web browsing, finances etc) and school work, this means lots of writing, reading of PDFs and word documents and taking/organizing class notes. I don't play games on my computer (have a PS2 if I feel like a game now and again). My laptop will travel almost daily with me from home to my office and to school when I have class at night.

    Things I would like in my new laptop.
    1. A great keyboard. I understand the keyboards can be subjective but there seem to be some universally bad ones that I would like to avoid.
    2. A manufacturer that offers accidental damage replacement (like Dell's complete care)
    3. Something that is durable. I'm not abusive to my computers but this one will be traveling a fair amount.
    4. Docking station capable. Even without an external monitor I miss being able to just grab the laptop and go without having to pull different cables.

    Other Info:
    Other than the Dell M2300s at work, I've always been happy with the latitudes and Dell's service. I've also had Think Pads in the past (before they were Lenovo) and had great luck with them also. Right now I'm leaning towards either a Dell or Lenovo, but am open to other options.

    I also have no issues with buying from the factory outlet stores. Just not sure in the outlets what models, other than the latest, may meet my needs. If I can save some bucks by buying a slightly older new computer from Lenovo that meets my needs then I'd seriously consider that.


    Thanks in advance for all your help.
    --
    Paul



    General Questions

    1) What is your budget?
    $2000< (I'll be selling my MacBook Pro so ideally something that would be net sum zero when all was said and done but I can throw more money at it if needed). In the end price is not a driving factor.

    2) What size notebook would you prefer?
    a. Netbook; 10” screen or less
    b. Ultraportable; 11" - 12” screen
    c. Thin and Light; 13" - 14" screen
    d. Mainstream; 15" - 16" screen
    e. Desktop Replacement; 17"+ screen
    C or D.

    3) Where will you buying this notebook? You can select the flag of your country as an indicator.
    US

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like?
    a. Like: Dell, Lenovo
    b. Dislike:

    5) What are the primary tasks will you be performing with this notebook?
    MS Office, internet research, PDF and journal reading, email. Occasionally convert a Tivo video to ipod format. Crop and print a photo or two.

    6) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places, leaving it on your desk or both?
    Both. It will travel with me most days, from home to office to school. I won't be lugging it far tough. No long treks across a campus.

    7) Will you be playing games on it; if so, which games or types of games?
    Nothing beyond freecell or solitaire.

    8) How many hours of battery life do you need?
    4-5 with wireless enabled. (Ideally any extended battery will not interfere with a docking station)

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

    10) What OS do you prefer? Windows (XP or Vista), Mac OS, Linux, etc.
    XP or Vista.

    Screen Specifics

    11) From the choices below, what screen resolutions would you prefer?
    a. WXGA – 1280x800 or occasionally 1280x768; For people who like big text and icons that are easy to read. Less stuff fits on the screen, which translates into more scrolling.
    b. WXGA+ – 1440x900; A modest bump over WXGA. Text and icons are a bit smaller. A little more stuff fits on the screen.
    c. WSXGA+ – 1680x1050; The middle ground. Again, text and icons are smaller than WXGA+, and more stuff fits onto the screen. Good for having applications open side by side, like a web browser while playing a video.
    d. WUXGA - 1920x1200; Very small text and icons, that can be hard to read. Lots of stuff fits on the screen, which means less scrolling. Good for applications that require a high level of detail like CAD or Photo Editing.
    I prefer larger screen text. On a 13" or 14" display WXGA, 15" (WXGA+). At home I can use a bigger monitor if I decide the screen size/resolution is too small. I have no real problem with the 15" WXGA+ on the MacBook Pro I have now. I have a 14" WXGA+ laptop at work and find the text a little small sometimes, especially at the end of a long day.

    12) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen?
    Matte screen.

    Build Quality and Design

    13) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you?
    Not really, will take function over form.

    14) When are you buying this laptop and how long do you want this laptop to last?
    3-4 years.

    Notebook Components

    15) How much hard drive space do you want; 80GB to 500GB? Do you want a SSD drive?
    120GB+. SSD is not important, but wouldn't turn it down.

    16) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a CDRW/DVD-ROM, DVD Burner or Blu-Ray drive?
    Yes, need DVD burner.
     
  2. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    The ThinkPads T400 or T500 could be worth a look. You will find no better notebook than a ThinkPad. The Dells e6400 or e6500 might work too.
     
  3. davepermen

    davepermen Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    the hp elitebook line is quite robust, and i like their keyboards.
     
  4. HerrKaputt

    HerrKaputt Elite Notebook User

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    I second these recommendations, although I find the E6400 better than the T400 because of the eSATA and DisplayPort ports. The T400 has switchable graphics, which are unimportant for me but might be a decisive factor for you because you value battery life. However, since you don't plan to do gaming nor graphics-intensive work, I suggest you take a laptop with just an integrated graphics card, and in that case I would say the E6400 is superior because of more ports and better warranty/support.

    I can confirm that the extended battery of the E6400 does not block its docking station (which, by the way, is great). I am quite sure Lenovo wouldn't make such a mistake either (although ASUS did with the G2S not so long ago).

    If you end up going for the 15-inch size, there yes I think the T500 is better than the E6500 because its graphics card is considerably better. Although it's a shame it doesn't have eSATA, it has become quite standard these days.
     
  5. Paul_H

    Paul_H Notebook Enthusiast

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    I had narrowed it down so far to the E6400, E6500 or T400. I dropped the T500 because it's not offered with the WXGA+ and the higher resolution is too much for what I want, and if I went with WXGA I might as well go with a 14" model.

    Thanks for the input. I'll also go look at the HPs. Do you know off hand if elitebooks have a docking station available?

    Thanks.
    --
    Paul
     
  6. peli_kan

    peli_kan Notebook Evangelist

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    You'll be able to easily find a E6400, E6500, or T400 for well under a thousand dollars. At $600, a base configured E6400 can be had from the Dell Outlet.
     
  7. Paul_H

    Paul_H Notebook Enthusiast

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    It looks like the T400s on the outlet site do not have the LED backlight, but the E6400/E6500s do. How much of a difference in brightness will the LED make? Any sense of how much more battery life I would get with an LED display instead of the CCFL?

    Thanks everyone for your input so far.
    --
    Paul
     
  8. HerrKaputt

    HerrKaputt Elite Notebook User

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    The LED screen is considerably brighter than CCFL. I heard someone here at NBR saying that a CCFL at full brightness is about the same as a LED at half brightness. My own experience with this laptop and other laptops from colleagues confirms this. Note that this is measured with a complex neural-network system on a biological substrate connected to a photo-sensitive device based on water and other chemicals, AKA human eye.

    No clue on the battery life question.
     
  9. ZaZ

    ZaZ Super Model Super Moderator

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    Right now you can only get the WXGA+ LED ThinkPads on eBay.
     
  10. Paul_H

    Paul_H Notebook Enthusiast

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    I'm leaning towards the 14" WXGA screen. I have a spare m2300 at work with the 14" WXGA+ screen that I'm using a test bed for screen size vs resolution. So far I'm finding it a little too small for my liking. And, it seems that by the time I increase the DPI size on the WXGA+ screen I have about the same usable screen content as if it was just WXGA to begin with.

    Thanks.
    --
    Paul
     
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