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Please help! Laptop decision causing grey hair

Discussion in 'What Notebook Should I Buy?' started by NotVeryTechie, Mar 7, 2008.

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  1. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    Hi there

    I am new to this board, so hope I get all this right.

    General Questions

    1) What is your budget? Up to £600

    2) What size notebook would you prefer? Would love a 17", but happy with 15.4"

    3) Please select your country's flag as a post icon and tell us what country are you buying this in. I am currently in the UK but will be returning to South Africa soon and will need an international warranty and good service in SA.

    4) Are there any brands that you prefer or any you really don't like? I like the Toshiba, not sure about Acer, would love a Sony, but they are expensive and have looked at the HP.

    5) What tasks will you be performing with the notebook? I do mainly office work (Word, Excel, Databases and PowerPoint) and also some Photoshop work. I also play a strategy game called Caesar 3, which is a city building strategy game (old). I want to load my copy of XP on the machine, either replacing Vista or as a partition (I have some software that won't run on Vista).

    6) Will you be taking the notebook with you to different places or leaving it on your desk? Mostly leaving it in one place

    7) Will you be playing games on it; if so, which games? City building strategy game

    8) How many hours of battery life do you need? The battery is the main reason for getting a laptop as South Africa is having power problems. If a machine doesn't have a great battery, can I buy a second one and switch them??

    9) Do you mind buying online without seeing the notebook in person? Will buy online, but retailer does make a difference, e.g. Misco and Comet are good when it comes to customer service.

    10) What OS do you prefer? Windows (XP or Vista), Mac OS, Linux, etc. I want to load XP, even if it comes loaded with Vista. I am looking at doing a partition.
    Screen Specifics

    11) Would you prefer standard or widescreen? Not sure about this

    12) From the choices below, what screen resolutions would you prefer?

    a. XGA -1024x768 - Large and easy to read text + graphics icons, but you fit less stuff on the screen.
    b. SXGA - 1400x1050 - Compromise resolution between XGA and UXGA.
    c. UXGA - 1600x1200 - Very small text and graphics icons, you can fit lots of stuff on the screen.

    d. WXGA or WXGA+ - 1280x768/800 or 1440x900; Wider viewing version of XGA, good for movie viewing or spreadsheets.
    e. WSXGA+ - 1680x1050; Wider viewing version of SXGA, good for movie viewing or spreadsheets.f. WUXGA - 1920x1200; Wider viewing version of UXGA, good for movie viewing or spreadsheets.

    13) Do you want a glossy/reflective screen or a matte/non-glossy screen? I would prefer the less glossy screen, but on my budget is seems that I won't have all that much choice
    Build Quality and Design

    14) Are the notebook's looks and stylishness important to you? Not particularly, but I type a lot so the keyboard is important. I will get an external one though and a mouse, so must be able to turn off the track pad

    15) When are you buying this laptop and how long do you want this laptop to last? I need to buy in the next week, and I want it to last as long as possible as I won't be able to afford a replacement for a very long time, if ever! :eek:

    Notebook Components

    16) How much hard drive space do you want; 40GB to 500GB? At least 160, or even better, a little more

    17) Do you need an optical drive? If yes, a CDRW/DVD-ROM, DVD Burner or Blu-Ray drive? DVD+-RW, DL would be nice

    I want 2GB Ram

    Looking through the models available in my price range and looking up the benchmarks I have found the following:

    Most have processors like the Intel T5250 or T5450 or the AMD TL 58, which are all benchmarked as ok, but not great. A few have the AMD TL 60, which is a bit better and one or two have the Intel T7200 which is even better.

    On the bulk of the machines the graphics cards are either the ATI Radeon Xpress X1200 or the Intel GMA X3100. Both of these are benchmarked as not great and the review says that they cannot handle strategy games. A few of the models have the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 or HD 2400XT and one or two have the HD 2600.

    The problem is that the models that have the better processor have the lower rated graphics card and those that have both don’t have XP drivers – as far as I can see.

    I am at my wits end. I don’t want to buy a computer that will end up taking a minute or more to refresh a screen when you have more than two things open, or that you have to keep rebooting to get it to work. I want to be able to play my one and only game (Caesar III) which is a strategy game and I want to be able to work in Photoshop and perhaps have one or two other things open at the same time, like a website perhaps.

    I am looking at the Toshiba Sat A200-244. The drivers for XP seem to be on their site, but I can't figure out if ALL the drivers you need are there, or if you will always get stuck on one of them.
  2. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    I am now looking at buying the Toshiba A200GE-26Q. I thought it would be worth spending a bit more and getting a really good spec.

    Any thoughts on this?
  3. John Ratsey

    John Ratsey Moderately inquisitive Super Moderator

    Apr 10, 2005
    If you want warranty service in SA then I suggest that you first identify those brands which have a good service network there. Then we are in a better position to make recommendations.

  4. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    Thanks John, I have done this and Toshiba seems to be the best of the bunch on that score. They have an international warranty and service seems to be ok. Dell has negligible service in SA and most of the others seem to have lots of problems.
  5. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    Any thoughts on the Sat Pro A200GE-26Q for the job I want to do with it, and for the future?
  6. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    Ok so here is my choice, what do you think? :)

    Satellite Pro A200GE-26Q
    Part Number : PSAE7E-016011EN

    Processor type : Intel® Core™2 Duo Processor T7500
    clock speed : 2.20 GHz
    Front Side Bus : 800 MHz
    2nd level cache : 4 MB
    Operating system Genuine Windows® Vista® Home Premium Edition

    System memory standard : 2,048 (1,024 + 1,024) MB
    maximum expandability : 4,096 MB
    technology : DDR2 RAM (667 MHz)

    Hard disk capacity : 200 GB
    certification : S.M.A.R.T.

    maximum speed : Read: 24x CD-ROM, 8x DVD-ROM, 1x HD DVD-ROM/ Write: 24x CD-R, 4x CD-RW, 10x HS CD-RW, 10x US CD-RW, 4x DVD-R, 2x DVD-R (Double Layer), 4x DVD-RW, 4x DVD+R, 2.4x DVD+R (Double Layer), 4x DVD+RW, 3x DVD-RAM
    type : HD DVD-ROM drive

    Display size : 15.4 "
    type : Toshiba TruBrite® WXGA TFT High Brightness display
    internal resolution : 1,280 x 800

    Graphics adaptor manufacturer : ATI
    type : ATI Mobility™ Radeon® HD2600 supporting HyperMemory™ technology
    memory : 256 MB dedicated VRAM (up to 1.023 MB total available graphics memory using HyperMemory™ technology with 2 GB system memory)
    memory type : DDR Video RAM (resp. DDR Video RAM and DDR system memory combined)
    connected bus : 16x PCI Express
    Internal video modes resolution : 1,280 x 800
    maximum number of colours : 16.7 Million
    Max External Video Modes Max Resolution : 2,048 x 1,536
    Max Colours : 4.3 billion
    Max Refresh Rate : 85 Hz
    Non-interlaced resolution with max refresh rate : 1,600 x 1,200

    1 x DC-in
    1 x external monitor
    1 x RJ-11
    1 x RJ-45
    1 x TV-out (s-video)
    1 x i.LINK® (IEEE 1394)
    1 x external microphone
    1 x headphone (stereo)
    1 x 6-in-1 Bridge Media slot (supports SD™ Card, Memory Stick®, Memory Stick Pro™, MultiMedia Card™, xD-Picture Card™, SD™ IO)
    4 (Left 2, Right 2) x USB 2.0
    1 x HDMI-out
    1 x integrated 1.3 Megapixel Video Camera

    2 x memory slots (1 to configure)
    1 x ExpressCard slot

    Wireless communication Wireless Technology : Bluetooth™
    Compliancy : Wi-Fi™
    Network Support : 802.11a/b/g
    Wireless Technology : Wireless LAN (802.11a/b/g)
    Wired communication topology : international V.92 modem
    speed : 56 Kbps data and 14.4 Kbps fax
    topology : Ethernet LAN
    speed : 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX

    Sound system supported audio format : 16-bit stereo
    speakers : built-in stereo speakers

    Keyboard keys : 87
    Windows keys : 2
    Pointing device type : Touch Pad

    Battery technology : lithium-ion
    maximum life : currently no official Windows Vista® battery benchmark result available
    AC adaptor input voltage : autosensing AC adapter (100/240 V) for worldwide usage

    Physical dimensions W x D x H : 362 x 267.8 x 33.5 (front) / 39.3 (rear) mm
    weight : starting at 2.72 kg

    Warranty 1-year international warranty. Upgrade your standard warranty with Toshiba warranty extension, uplift and all-risks insurance packs.

    Bundled hardware AC adaptor
    Bundled software Toshiba Bluetooth™ Monitor
    Toshiba Disc Creator
    Toshiba User's Manual
    Norton Internet Security™ 2007 (includes free Internet updates for 90 days)
    Ulead® DVD MovieWriter® for TOSHIBA
    Toshiba Value Added Package
    Supervisor Password Utility
    Toshiba Assist
    Toshiba HD DVD Player
    Toshiba Speech System
    Chicony Camera Assistant Software
    Toshiba DVD Player
    Free 60-day trial of Microsoft® Office Professional 2007
    Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition Recovery DVD-ROM
    Toshiba Bluetooth™ Stack
    Connectivity Doctor
    Security features main battery pack (by sliding latch)
    system password security
    wireless LAN switch
    user password
    main hard disk (by screw)
    supervisor password
    BIOS password
    main memory (by screw)
    slot for Kensington Cable Lock
    Special features Intel® Turbo Memory
    Enhanced Intel® SpeedStep® Technology
    integrated 1.3 Megapixel Video Camera for Video over IP
    integrated microphone for Voice over IP
    HD Audio support
    SM BIOS compliant
  7. John Ratsey

    John Ratsey Moderately inquisitive Super Moderator

    Apr 10, 2005
    That looks a good spec to me. It's faster than I would need.

    However, the dedicated GPU will hit the battery life (which isn't quantified) but it might not be more than two hours. So definitely buy a spare battery (yes, they are swappable).

    You might also want to look at a model which has the Intel X3100 integrated GPU. This has plenty enough performance for your applications and strategy games and is less power-hungry, so the 2 hours on battery may become 3 hours.

  8. NotVeryTechie

    NotVeryTechie Notebook Guru

    Mar 6, 2008
    Oh boy, I spent sleepless nights over this and finally decided to go for the highest possible spec I could afford (well not quite, but will make up the difference somehow). I hope I am doing the right thing, I think I have developed an ulcer trying to make this decision. I still feel a little sad that I can't get the 17" screen, which I really liked, but I felt that a better spec would last me longer.
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