Help Me Buy A Laptop

It’s time to buy a new laptop. I don’t want to spend a lot. I want everything. Are they necessarily mutually exclusive?

Let me throw this out now – your advice is solicited and will be appreciated. Where to buy? What to buy? Any tidbit!

I might not do what you suggest, but I can assure you, right now I don’t know what to do!

Helaine and Stef both have Dell laptops, which they’re happy with. I am using a very old (PII 300 128 mb RAM) Dell laptop which is built like a tank! I had a Sony and it always seemed fragile.

With all that experience, Dell seems logical. I’m willing to consider anything.

I want a small laptop with a high resolution screen. I’ve looked at the Dell Inspiron E1405 with a 14.1″ screen and the WXGA+ upgrade (1440×900 pixels). Maybe a 12″ screen would be OK too, though I’m not sure I want to give up the pixels (though I’d gladly give up the pounds).

Dell offers loads of choices for the CPU (the ‘brains’ in the package), but there’s very little documentation to actually explain the difference between any two. What’s the difference between a Core Duo, Core 2 Duo and Pentium dual core?

The same goes with the new four flavored Windows Vista. How ‘deep’ into their marketing must I plunge to know which is which? I think Vista Home Premium will be fine – though I’d just as soon use Windows XP (or Linux, if I could get away with it… which I can’t).

Since I do a lot of photo editing, I suppose more memory is better – maybe 2Gb? I really don’t know. I’ve heard varying things on how memory intensive and efficient Vista is.

I am extremely disappointed with Dell’s website. No matter what I enter, I am unsure if I’m getting the best deal! There are always coupon codes listed on websites like FatWallet and Techbargains, but I’ve never seen them really bring the price down. If you add those online discounts, you lose Dell’s seemingly automatic discounts. And, it would seem, no one really pays the posted price.

Also, Dell’s site does a terrible job in explaining the differences in the CPUs that are available. The site has links that promise this info, but fall terribly short.

As a Dell stockholder (minor position in my retirement account) I am disappointed that their website makes the buying process more, not less, confusing! If it’s baffling to me, a knowledgeable power user, how do neophytes know what they’re looking at?

Anyway, advice is being sought. Let the games begin. Aloha.

12 thoughts on “Help Me Buy A Laptop”

  1. If your disappointed with their website….

    Just wait until you have to use their customer service!

    We’re on our third Dell. Third and Final Dell. The quality of their customer service has gone down incredibly in the past few years. I’m extremely disappointed as I really was impressed in previous years.

    By the way…Love the blog. You really are an interesting guy and talented writer!

  2. Geoff–

    Check out Toshiba Satellite laptops.. I’ve had two and they are really great & affordable. 17″, Duo Core, 2GB for $1,500.. Can’t be beat!

  3. I know I’m alone in this, but we bought full, everything coverage on Stef’s laptop. When there was a problem, someone from Dell was there the next day to replace the keyboard. And, with all due respect to Stef, this wasn’t natural causes.

    I think the software/hardware paradigm is so tortured, no one can simply provide tech support anymore.

  4. Geoff,

    Check out this website:

    They have great reviews and comparisons as well as all the current deals. One disclaimer, you might get a little more confused as you can find info on almost every laptop available.

    As for my opinion, I have a Dell Inspirion 9300 (big 19 inch screen since I don’t travel much)and have had Dell’s my whole computer life with the exception of an HP. While I can relate with the customer service issues of some, fortunately I’ve never needed it, except with the HP. With that said, technical support is probably equivalent throughout the industry so I wouldn’t base my decision on that (and you seem like you know your way around a PC anyway). I’ve also heard some very good things about Fujitsu Laptops, take a look at their website as well. My cousin is a programmer in San Francisco and swears by his.

    Well, enjoy your new found confusion and let us know what you decide on.

    P.S. – You can always go the Apple root if your not ready for Vista, just a thought.

  5. Geoff,

    It’s time to take a bite out of the Apple! I’m ready to jump in with an Imac 24″ but their users swear by them….my brother in law is in web design up in New Hampshire…17″ PowerBook

    Pro….sweet indeed. He’s at if you have any Mac questions.

  6. Geoff,

    My 2 cents…

    I’ve had IBM ThinkPad laptops for years – now they’re “Lenovo”, but they’re still the same machines and same quality. They’re built tough and reliable, and XP on them is rock-solid.

    I do software development for a living, so the laptop definitely gets a workout every day.

    – Phil

  7. Yes Jeff, bite the Apple.

    The OS is already years ahead of the just released Vista, and to rub more salt in Microsoft’s wound, Apple will be updating in just a few months. ( I won’t have to change a thing to use the update.)

    The PowerBook Pro sounds like the ticket. It has everything, and you can even get more. You can configure it any way you choose in a 15″ or 17″ screen. This is their best laptop, and it is a bit pricey. Their MacBook (13.5″) is less, but has less horsepower.

    All these machines will run Windows apps if that is essential to you.

    Go to and look around.

    You’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.

  8. Ever single Dell computer I’ve had experience with (my tally is up to four) has had its hard drive fail. Other than that, they aren’t bad computers. The Core 2 Duo is definitely the way to go. The difference between it and the Core Duo is that the Core 2 Duo is 64-bit, which will be wave of the future. It’ll make the computer last a bit longer.

    That said, I have also found Lenovos to be top notch, so give them some consideration as well.

    Vista is aesthetically pleasing, but it is still riddled with incompatibilities here and there. If you do bite that bullet, make sure you’re prepared to work out any problems which may crop up.

    I also highly recommend a MacBook Pro, but I’m under the impression that you don’t want to go down that route, so I didn’t focus on it. That said, MacBook Pros do have Intel processors now (Core 2 Duo) and they also run Windows XP natively… as well as Photoshop which has always been a big program for Macs.

  9. I’ve also used the IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad laptops for years, and would never go back to a Dell. We have Gateway desktops at home that serve us pretty well, too.

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