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September 09, 2009



Wow, sorry, I have absolutely no idea. Good luck, tough!


...that's supposed to be "though"


My current laptop is a 15" HP model with an AMD processor, cost about $400US. Took a bit of doing but I scrapped the Windows Vista it came with, partitioned the drive and installed Ubuntu Linux as my primary operating system and XP for when I have to use Windows. I've been quite pleased with it, though Ubuntu does require some tweaking here and there. Generally, though, it has the stability and user-friendliness of Mac but costs nothing. The good thing about it is that there are geeks out there on the forums who figure these things out so that you typically don't need to know how to do it yourself.


Oh, as to your other questions, I have no idea about wireless N vs. G. They should be pretty much universally compatible, in theory, since it behooves nobody to get into a Beta/VHS match out in the wider world. AMD is the upstart in the processor chip world, so those models are often cheaper than Intels, as I understand. The faster the processor speed the better, and there's no reason to get anything less than 2GHz in this day and age. The more memory you can get the better, too, since the computer can multitask better if it has the memory capacity to do so, but the computer will generally have an upper limit of how much it can handle. Mine came with 2GB and I installed another 2GB, which was cheap.

The hard drive capacity is where you've got a good bit of leeway. If you're storing lots of ginormous files - the complete works of all the Baroque composers, plus raw image photos of you listening to all of them to show your facial expressions, then you probably will need a 320GB hard drive. If you're mostly going to have snapshots, recipes, and maybe a small catalogue of music and/or video, then you're probably fine for the life of the machine with 100GB or so. I think my current one has 120GB.

Jacqueline Bacon

How often are you going to be using the Laptop away from home?

That's the main question you have to answer. If it's about once or twice a month then I'd stick with a desk top. Mac Mini's are cheap. So are Monitors these days.

Also you could look at refurbished mac ibooks. Try Macmall for one.


my two cents...

13" screen is pretty small. you've mentioned eye issues. i bet it would drive your eyes (and your back) mad (even for occasional use).

this is a good time of year to buy (back to school specials).

unless you're into gaming you probably don't need anything flashy (ie. components with designating big numbers) - IMO, the $500-type deals are usually just fine.

both my systems are AMD and i have no complaints (and would be considered pretty basic by some standards) but i don't have a clue if they're better or worse than Intel... AMD was just more popular when i last purchased a few years back. i have a modest 2GB of ram with an NVIDIA card (i don't recall which one it is). right now i have about 30 tabs open in Firefox (i know, don't have a coronary ;) - i am a fickle surfer, just like i am a fickle knitter), Acrobat, email, publishing program + the calculator + spreadsheets running (and i've been known to also be running the printer + photo-editing simultaneously in addition to these programs). everything is running just fine. i have XP on both systems (deliberately chosen - Vista gives me hives).

i would suggest to find a deal to get a free upgrade to Windows7 (if you're going the PC route) given Vista's issues.

wireless N is going to (has it already arrived?) be the new standard over G. most adapters are backwards compatible, tho.

maybe that's five cents. ;) good luck! it will be nice for you to have a new one, especially if you're on an older monitor.

Diane F.

Good luck! My experience with my Dell PC, and J with her HP Notepad, leads to some recommendations:
1) Avoid 64 bit Windows Operating System for now because you might run into limitations (I have run into some); 32 bit Windows is good enough. If you don't know what this means, ask.
2) J got an inexpensive HP laptop/notepad that has a light brown keyboard. It is impossible to see at home. She can't read the keys, so she had to get an auxiliary keyboard (back w/white letters). Otherwise, she likes the HP well enough. This is her second one in 10 years.
3) Lori's suggestion to get a free upgrade to Windows 7 is a very good idea. Whether or not you get a free upgrade, it would be good to think about upgrading to Windows 7 soon after it is available.
4) Mel's route: installing linux is good, but it does take a little bit of fearlessness. I installed Ubuntu on an old, underpowered Thinkpad. It was easy. It works. You will probably want to run some Windows apps, so would have to find a way to do that.
Have fun!
Hope you aren't using your new computer for job hunting :-/

Deborah Fillmer

You said a Mac is out of your price range and I used to think that too. But once I made the "investment" I realized that I should have done it a lot sooner! Get a mac anyway you can, you won't be sorry, especially if you are doing anything with videos. Good luck!


A 17" laptop is too big -- it's far heavier and larger than you would probably want to carry around with you. 16" is the way to go. Something else about laptops is that they can be expensive to repair and virtually impossible to upgrade.

The difference between Wireless "N" and "G" is that N is faster and has a larger range. Do you currently have a wireless router in your house? If you do, make sure that the laptop you buy is compatible (i.e., if your router is G, make sure that the laptop can do G, though as someone else said most adapters are backwards compatible and N is becoming ubiquitous)

I have wireless G in my house and have no complaints -- I watch HD media using it and have no trouble getting a signal anywhere is my house or even on my porch.

I have a Mac Mini and would not trade it for a PC ever. It was just so easy to setup and never has any problems. Plus, it was cheap (~$700 CAN.) I used to have a Linux box and wouldn't recommend it for your main machine -- it can be a giant pain. Plus, no iTunes (though there are alternatives, I never managed to get them working.)

A really great way to get a cheap Mac is to buy a refurbished unit from Apple. Go to apple.com, click on store and then search for "refurbished." Their refurbished units are indistinguishable from new units, and sometimes actually are new units but are last-gen models. If you are at all nervous about it, AppleCare is really worth it. Go to a computer store to get a monitor, watch for flyer deals, or watch for deals at Dell.com. You can get a 20-22" LCD monitor for $200.

There's no point in getting 4 GB of memory unless you get a 64-bit machine -- a 32-bit machine simply can't address that much memory. You should get a 64-bit machine if you have the choice -- the performance boost is worth it.

For what you describe doing on this machine, the processor is not really going to matter. As long as it's new, you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them. That being said, from a spec point of view, the Core 2 Duo is *MUCH* better than the Pentium processor. Also, in general these days geeks seem to prefer Intel over AMD.

If you do go with a PC, make sure you get a future Windows 7 upgrade included. I know that Dell is providing this now and other companies probably are as well.

Those are my (rather random) thoughts!

Kenny Chua

Wow, you got ALOT of solutions out there. All great ones.

But Ted, if you don't think you really want to deal with the minutia of all the details, I say go simple. Most of the things that you're contemplating really don't matter for what you're doing.

Unless you're doing DVD video editing, animation, making movies etc...... simpler the better.

Dell has a great site where you pick and choose and piece your machine together. I did a configuration for Chris French and he is happy with it. He twitters all day long and uses the internet and e-mail.

Call me or write me and I can help you out.....


Here's a bit of non-technical advice: figure out your needs. Write out what you do (use case scenarios). Make sure you include absolutely everything, including boring stuff like paying bills. Add in other constraints like space limits and mobility needs. Think about what annoys you with your current setup and then list that. Add your budget. Then take your master list and go talk to a tech, preferably one that isn't selling. Those guys lie like the dickens. (Hey, I'm middle-aged and female and couldn't possibly know anything about computers. But I do and don't tell. The lies amuse me :-) Good luck.


Hi Ted,

I have a 27 GB Dell laptop with an external 500 GB hard drive that stores all my huge files (images, music, and backup files). It has dome me well for seven years. If I had my ideal computer though I'd go to a Mac.

What I would recommend is getting a good processor (Core Duo), expansion potential (can additional hardware be installed if need be in the future), and built in wireless. Lots of RAM so that your programs can respond quickly (they need lots of virtual memory nowadays). Have it built instead of getting a prepackaged set up.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Deborah Robson

Hi, Ted: You've got a lot of great tips. You know about my PC experiences and why I'm now on a Mac. I'll say that in general Mac software is less expensive than PC software, and more fun to use. Mac refurbs from the Apple site are *excellent* deals. I had a 17" Toshiba that got heavy for hauling around. My 13" MacBook (white) has a much smaller screen but very crisp display--and is much lighter.

Laptop = notebook computer (sort of, although sometimes they use "notebook" for other purposes as well). NETbook is a very small computer, with workable (not full-size) keyboard, mostly for toting around and connecting to the net. Probably half the weight of a laptop.

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