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Re: OT: Laptops

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Do you want a internal CD/DVD drive?  Do you value speed or battery life
more?  How much CADD do you plan on doing on it (i.e. what size screen do
you want)?

Questions like these will help some.

If you really want "small and lightweight", then you could be looking for
what some refer to as "sub-notebooks".  These are laptops that can be a
little as about 3 or so lbs.  They typically will not have an internal
floppy or CD/DVD drice, but will have an internal HD.  If so, then they
will either come with external drives or offer the option of getting them.
They will usually have at best a 15" screen but usually will have a 12" or
13" screen.  You will usually "pay more per pound" (or power) for these otherwords, you can get more "bang for your buck" with
heavier laptops.

There are some laptops in the 5 lb range that do include internal CD/DVD

Most laptops will be in the 7 to 9 lbs range (i.e. the "bricks").  Here
the question will be what do you want for a processor, a screen, and
expansion possibility.

For processors, you can do Pentium 4, which is basically very similar to
the processor that you can get in a desktop.  This will get you the best
speed, but can be tough on the batteries.  There is the Pentium M, which
takes a slight hit on speed, but does much better for heat dissapation and
battery life.  Celeron will be the processor for the lower end laptops,
but still will usually crank out enough speed for what you want.  And you
can look at the non-Intel alternative...Athlons can get you close to
Pentium 4 speed for less money (typically).

Most laptops have 15" screens.  You can now get some laptop with 17"
screens, which can help with CADD (but would probably be a waste for you
since you don't seem to want a desktop replacement).  You also will need
to decide what screen resolution you want (WXGA [1280x800], WSXGA+
[1680x1050], WUXGA [1920x1200], etc).  You will also want to decide video
controller/RAM.  Many laptops use part of the main system RAM for video
RAM.  Others will have dedicated RAM just for the video card.  Most will
now use 64 mb for video RAM standard, but it might be worth while (for
CADD use) to get 128 mb.

Then there is expandability.  Obviously, every computer now comes with USB
ports, which can do most things in terms of expandability.  A FireWire
port (also known as iLink on Sony laptops and 1394 on most others) can be
useful, especially if you want to transfer video to the laptop (i.e.
digital camcorder) or want to hook up an external HD or DVD burner
(although some can be done with USB 2.0 as well).  Most laptops will be
comparable on the issue of PC card slots, unless you go for a
sub-notebook.  Some laptops still use the "expansion bay" system which
will allow you to by different drives (extra HDs, CD burners, DVD drives,
ZIP drives, etc) to use in them or even put in a second battery for extra
working time.

In terms of brands, IBM is known in general for their laptops.  They are
especially known for their keyboards.  Obviously, Dell is another big one.
Toshiba is the long-live, historical leader, but their image has suffered
some in recent years from what I understand.  HP/Compaq are pretty good,
but their support is attrocious (at least from my experience).

FWIW, I have a Compaq with an Athlon processor.  It has a 40 gb HD (if I
remember correctly) and I believe about 512 mb of RAM (64 of which is used
as video RAM).  It is rather heavy (about 7 lbs not counting the power
adapter).  Does have a built-in CD burner/DVD player.  I can get about 2
hours of battery life even when watching a DVD (i.e. when travelling on a
plane).  About 1 year old...paid about $1200 for it.  It can function as a
desktop replacement for the most part (but did not get it for that or
really use it for that).

Hope that helps...and that I did not get too verbose for you.

Adrian, MI

On Wed, 2 Jun 2004, Bill Allen wrote:

> I'm looking for a laptop. I haven't had one in years (I think my last one
> was a 386SX to give you an idea).
> I don't need a desktop replacement, but I would like to run everything on it
> that I run on my desktop including AutoCAD, STAAD, MS Office, e-mail and
> Internet.
> I don't want to spend a lot of money, but I don't want to under-purchase
> either.
> I want something reliable and durable (might take it camping with me).
> I would like it to be small and lightweight.
> Any suggestions?
> TIA,
> T. William (Bill) Allen, S.E. (CA #2607)
> San Juan Capistrano, CA

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