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Discussion Starter #1
I'm in the process of selecting a new laptop and I think I've narrowed it down. I've narrowed down my selection to three laptops (technically 2 because the HPs are almost identical). I'm considering the HP 15-U111dx ($930) and HP 15-U110dx ($780) and the Asus Q551LN ($1000). All three are 2-in1 style laptops with a 15.6" screen. The main differences between them are these. The Asus has an Intel i7 4510U with Nvidia 840M GPU, the HP 111dx has an Intel i7 5500U with onboard HD5000 and the 110dx has an Intel i5 5200U with onboard HD5500.

The two i7 CPUs are very closely spec'ed the 111dx slightly faster (.2 GHz faster base freq. & 4MB cache vs. 3MB) but comes with 12GB RAM instead of the 110dx's with 8 GB. The Asus also has 8GB, but the 840M GPU has 2GB discrete. Besides that, I don't think there's much of a difference worth noting. My last two laptops were Acer and Gateway. I don't know what the build quality, reliability, and customer service are like from either HP of Asus.

Based of the price of the HP 110dx, is a CPU that's mildly faster and 4 GB of RAM worth $150? In comparing the HP 110dx to the Asus, essentially, is an Nvidia 840M (2GB) worth $220 for the light and at most moderate gaming?

What I need from a laptop is to be able to playback blu ray movies at 1080, both on the device and output. I'm not much of a gamer, but I would like the ability to play an occasional game. Any true games, my desktop would be able to likely handle, but I'm not familiar with laptop graphics. I purchased the Star Wars Humble Bundle a few weeks back, and it seems Empire at War is a little too taxing on high settings for my current laptop (Gatway NV54 - Intel T4300 2.1GHz w/ Intel GMA 4500M GPU). I don't suspect that to be an issue for my top 3 picks, though.

Any thoughts are appreciated on narrowing down the selection.
 

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GMA 4500 chipset-graphics are indeed slow like molasses, even when it was new it was dead slow (in terms of 3D/gaming performance). It was never designed to do any gaming at all though, so keep that in mind.


OTOH just because your old laptop is "too slow" to play any games doesn't mean you need an i7 laptop with 12GB of RAM either, lol. As for 1080p video pretty much anything after your GMA4500 C2D machine can do it in hardware. In fact, there was even a version of the 4500M that could as well (4500MHD) but it was relatively rare. Essentially your laptop is about one generation short of doing everything you want it to, unfortunately.


840M is also slow like molasses for gaming BTW; I don't even know why they bother with the 2GB dedicated because you could have 20GB dedicated and it wouldn't make it any faster. It's slower than a GTX 730* which is a very low-end desktop card. The good news though it's much newer than your old 4500M so despite being slow by todays standards it's much faster than that. Therefore you should be able to play Empire At War on the 840M. TBH though I'm not even sure why they bother putting these GPU chips in laptops where the CPU already has an iGPU. The Broadwell CPUs you're looking at have HD 5500 in them, the 840M is pretty much the same performance--it's a sideways move and totally pointless. But, I guess that's what sells consumer laptops--dGPUs and 12GB of RAM even though they'll make no difference at all to the average user :rolleyes:


*There are two versions of the 840M, one is slightly better than a 730 desktop and one slightly worse, but either way they're both slow like the ol' blackstrap--neither 840M is going to be able to play games at 1080p.


The "i7" in these laptops are actually dual-core CPUs so the main advantage of a 5500U over the (i5) 5200U (other than the 200Mhz higher base speed) is the i7 gets higher turbo bins. 5500U can run 2.9Ghz/3.0Ghz (2c/1c) whereas the 5200U is 2.5/2.7.


One thing I would do is stick with the Broadwell CPUs (5xxx). This is because they have markedly better energy-efficiency. They're running up to 1Ghz faster on average than their Haswell counterparts, for the same 15W TDP. This should translate into better performance and battery life that's unaffected.


The $150 difference for the laptop with the 5500U (instead of 5200U) and 12GB (instead of 8GB) is worth it if you look at the part cost. A 5200U is a $280 part, a 5500U is nearly $400. 4GB of RAM is around $40-50. So if you add it up like that, yeah it's worth $150 but only just about that. However, more importantly, you don't need either of these things for your use, so it's also of a waste of $150.
 

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Thank you for taking the time to respond. I didn't realize the 840M was on par with the HD5500. But it does make sense that unless I needed to use every MB of RAM for the system, would I ever need the dedicated 2GB of the 840M. It's kind of funny that my Gateway with the GMS 4500 was an extended warranty replacement and that it just happens to be one generation older than my ideal system. I've been putting a bit of thought and don't think I see the justification for $150 more for the i7 unless for some reason it could possibly carry games a little further than the GPU would typically allow. My first computers with Half-Life and Quake has such weak graphics cards (16-32MB Radeons) that the CPU carried most of the burden. But for the games I foresee myself playing, I don't see that that a likely scenario. I'll likely end up with the U110dx with the i5 once it goes on sale or I don't want to wait any longer. ;-) If the 8GB of RAM doesn't seem like enough, although it will probably be plenty, I've considered upgrading it to 16GB with a low CAS. Either way, an M.2 SSD will be added to the computer as well to make up for the 5400 RPM stock drive. Again, thanks for you input, much appreciated.
 

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This is a good thread for me; I want to learn from people with knowledge in that department. :)

Quick question (generally): Is it a good thing to buy a refurbished laptop from say few years back that was retailing @ that time say @ $1,200 (limousine, full metal jacket),
that is selling now for say $300 (pro business laptop), or a new laptop retailing @ say $600 (full plastic).

I would love to truly know what are the main essential features to look for in a laptop, and for roughly $500 (MSRP).
I Know it's not an easy task as each person has very limited experience with only the ones they used in the past.
But their experience is valuable in their own intertwined pros and cons.

* I have heard that Asus is a better bet than HP? ...Looking @ the price range of the OP ($750-1,000), it opens doors to a vast range of high performance laptops from the likes of Dell, Asus, iMac (Apple?), ...and with SSD hard drives, and from here I don't have much knowledge on what is truly essential.

Plus I don't know if a touchscreen is a good thing to have? ...Also what is the best size's screen? ...And what about those where you can disconnect the screen all together from the main keyboard and still be able to operate it with its own touchscreen's keyboard?

AMD16 core computer; is this the best? ...Expensive, say as compared to AMD10?

Is i7 (Intel) a better IOS? ...Is i5 sufficient enough for a less expensive model like say for $500-600 or so?
How much RAM is good enough; 4 or 8? ...Is more truly essential and that much more beneficial, like 12 or 16 for example?

How reliable laptops truly are? ...Do they break often, and do you need a nearby repair center?

Last; the battery. What is the average time that it last in a laptop that you have picked for yourself based on performance, durability, reliability, support, nice batch of features that you can essentially use for your own personal lifestyle of day-to-day operation?

__________

This is all very important to me because I was ripped off big time with the laptop I purchased from my local store.
...And only to find out later that they cannot repair it near where I live but would have to send it somewhere else.
Yes, it's a Sony VAIO, unfortunately. ...I bought it without knowing that the left speaker was broken, the screen unglued from its bottom surround, a blotch (quite large) in the screen (whitish), few more little things like this. They did not have a replacement (discontinued model), and I kept it after a $50 discount.
So I made my choice; but for my next laptop I want no more turmoil like that. ...And Sony is out of the picture, forever, because they abandoned their laptop's division.

I will follow this thread closely; and the OP's first post has the right questions that are very near my own alley.
The main difference is our budget but not by much really because I'm willing to invest up to $600-700 and him $800-1,000 or so.

Anyway, my first experience with my first laptop was disappointing; I want no more of that.
I'm happy to have stumbled into this thread so that I can learn. ...And be ready for my next laptop.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
This is a good thread for me; I want to learn from people with knowledge in that department. :)

Quick question (generally): Is it a good thing to buy a refurbished laptop from say few years back that was retailing @ that time say @ $1,200 (limousine, full metal jacket),
that is selling now for say $300 (pro business laptop), or a new laptop retailing @ say $600 (full plastic).
I think the plastic case is probably fine, but it just needs more care in not dropping it. The biggest flaw with my Gateway NV54 is the power button is on the end of the hinge. A power button needs to be a button on a non-moving part. The plastic trim has broken on power button and I had to remove the button from the laptop. To power on and off I have to touch the bare wire to the hinge metal.

I would love to truly know what are the main essential features to look for in a laptop, and for roughly $500 (MSRP).
I Know it's not an easy task as each person has very limited experience with only the ones they used in the past.
But their experience is valuable in their own intertwined pros and cons.
I think a $500 laptop will probably be limited to an i3 or possibly and i5 CPU, maybe even an M-Core. The hard drive will probably be maxed to 1 TB, maybe more commonly would be a 500 GB. And I suppose RAM will likely be 4-8 GB. The resolution of the screen will probably be less than 1080x1920, and I don't know what the probably of having a touch screen in. I didn't price out laptops at the $500 range, but I'm basing this off of what one step down would be from what I was looking at.

* I have heard that Asus is a better bet than HP? ...Looking @ the price range of the OP ($750-1,000), it opens doors to a vast range of high performance laptops from the likes of Dell, Asus, iMac (Apple?), ...and with SSD hard drives, and from here I don't have much knowledge on what is truly essential.
I would suspect Asus has good chipsets in their computers, but since no one actually manufactures their own boards, I don't know if there's a big difference between brands or not. Just whatever the computer computer submits as their specs. I did read a review for 2014 laptop brands that HP has decent customer service and Asus' was nearly non existent. Apple was best, and I don't think that's a surprise to anyone. The hard drive that comes in a laptop, if it spins, will likely be 5400 RPM and will slow down over time as it becomes filled. The 500GB laptop in my Gateway was getting pretty slow and replacing it with a 256 GB SSD made a huge improvement. It's still running strong and giving fast load times. The SSD should never slow down, and the laptops I'm looking at will have a spot for an M.2 (mSata) SSD. Corsair has a 250 and 500 GB drive that should be compatible.

Plus I don't know if a touchscreen is a good thing to have? ...Also what is the best size's screen? ...And what about those where you can disconnect the screen all together from the main keyboard and still be able to operate it with its own touchscreen's keyboard?

AMD16 core computer; is this the best? ...Expensive, say as compared to AMD10?

Is i7 (Intel) a better IOS? ...Is i5 sufficient enough for a less expensive model like say for $500-600 or so?
How much RAM is good enough; 4 or 8? ...Is more truly essential and that much more beneficial, like 12 or 16 for example?

How reliable laptops truly are? ...Do they break often, and do you need a nearby repair center?

Last; the battery. What is the average time that it last in a laptop that you have picked for yourself based on performance, durability, reliability, support, nice batch of features that you can essentially use for your own personal lifestyle of day-to-day operation?
With Windows 8 coming shipped on the laptop, I think a touchscreen is the way to go. Once Windows 10 is available, it may not be as much of an issue. I'm not familiar with AMD processors, but I do know that their architecture streams the process threads differently than Intel. When comparing Intel i5 to i7 CPUs, the best way it to search something like "Intel 5200U vs 5500U" and you'll get a number of benchmark test sites to give you an idea. Just because an i7 is a better processor, it may not justify the cost, I've I've found between those two particular CPUs. I've had a few failures with my current laptop (power button, CPU fan, broken LCD), but I was able to find replacement parts and fixed it myself. A battery is always going to slowly lose its ability to hold a charge over time. Personally, I almost always have my laptop plugged in. I've noticed with new laptops, many of the batteries are inside the case and not as easily swap-able.
 

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Thank you very much for taking the time in your above post; this is all good beneficial info to me. :cool: ...And I'm sure to few others as well.
 

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Thank you for taking the time to respond. I didn't realize the 840M was on par with the HD5500. But it does make sense that unless I needed to use every MB of RAM for the system, would I ever need the dedicated 2GB of the 840M. It's kind of funny that my Gateway with the GMS 4500 was an extended warranty replacement and that it just happens to be one generation older than my ideal system.
Actually I looked at the specs page for your Gateway model and it looks like your laptop may have GMA 4500MHD in it which should be able to do hardware decode of 1080p content. Can you take a look at what CPU-Z and GPU-Z say about your chipset?


I've been putting a bit of thought and don't think I see the justification for $150 more for the i7 unless for some reason it could possibly carry games a little further than the GPU would typically allow. My first computers with Half-Life and Quake has such weak graphics cards (16-32MB Radeons) that the CPU carried most of the burden.
Most games these days are far more GPU-reliant than CPU. Some games have a mixed load, but for the most part a better CPU won't get you anywhere for games. In terms of gaming you'll get far better performance from running a Core-based Celeron or Pentium and a mid-level graphics card (say R7 260X or GTX 750) than you would with an i7 and a low end card. But for laptop gaming, you pretty much have to buy a "gaming laptop" or just stick with older and/or non-demanding games. In your case it seems like you'll be doing the latter so i5 or i7 doesn't matter, particularly when they're both dual core (if anything a tri-core or higher CPU will help gaming more than a few hundred MHz clock speed).


If the 8GB of RAM doesn't seem like enough, although it will probably be plenty, I've considered upgrading it to 16GB with a low CAS. Either way, an M.2 SSD will be added to the computer as well to make up for the 5400 RPM stock drive. Again, thanks for you input, much appreciated.
Yeah as said unless you're doing workstation stuff on the laptop, you will never need more than 8GB for the reasonable life of the laptop. Definitely agree with the SSD though--any computer from the Core2 and later days is seriously impeded in performance by using a HDD as the main/OS drive, so having an SSD is essentially a requirement for any modern day PC.


This is a good thread for me; I want to learn from people with knowledge in that department. :)

Quick question (generally): Is it a good thing to buy a refurbished laptop from say few years back that was retailing @ that time say @ $1,200 (limousine, full metal jacket),
that is selling now for say $300 (pro business laptop), or a new laptop retailing @ say $600 (full plastic).
My personal advice to people is actually to never buy a brand new laptop, provided you:
a) Know enough about computers to not need "tech support" and warranty.
b) Don't need cutting edge features like super-slim/thin, touchscreen, Haswell/Broadwell CPUs, super-resolution displays, 1080p webcams, etc.


Buying a new laptop is actually worse in most cases than buying a new car. I've never paid more than $400 for a laptop because it just isn't worth it. The best type of laptops in terms of bang for buck is definitely the business laptops. They're much higher quality than "retail"/consumer laptops and once they're a year or two old, they sell for much less than they originally did. Dell Latitudes are really good for this as there's tons of them available off-lease and through other channels very soon after they're new/released. For example a year or two after my Latitude E6320 (my current laptop) was released, I picked up a very lightly used one (which looked nearly new when I got it) for ~$350. This is a laptop that even at the time, would sell for over $1500 brand new as configured on Dell's site. 6-8 months before that I got an E6420 for my mom at around $700. They're nearly the same laptop and had about the same retail value but in me getting mine a little later I saved a bunch of money--I paid about 1/4th what it was worth, my mom about 1/2. Mine also came with an SSD while my mom's I swapped an $60 SSD in after purchase. Still my mom would have otherwise bought a consumer laptop at a big box store for over $1k and been much worse quality so I'm glad I intervened.

So really my best advice is to buy a 1-2 model-years old Latitude, at no more than $400, provided you don't want/need stuff like touchscreen or "convertibility" (though there are Latitudes with touchscreens now I think, though you will pay a couple hundred premium at least, I would imagine). If you want stuff like a convertible well then you're pretty much at the mercy of the retail market. There are some nice models you can get at decent prices though like Lenovo Miix, albeit you're dealing with pretty small screen sizes then as well.


I would love to truly know what are the main essential features to look for in a laptop, and for roughly $500 (MSRP).
I Know it's not an easy task as each person has very limited experience with only the ones they used in the past.
But their experience is valuable in their own intertwined pros and cons.

* I have heard that Asus is a better bet than HP? ...Looking @ the price range of the OP ($750-1,000), it opens doors to a vast range of high performance laptops from the likes of Dell, Asus, iMac (Apple?), ...and with SSD hard drives, and from here I don't have much knowledge on what is truly essential.
An SSD or at the very least a hybrid drive is essential for any PC in the last 8 years or so. The point at which Core2 CPUs were out, HDDs were becoming a largely limiting factor in performance. Though SSDs weren't popularised until several years after that time period, it will still greatly increase performance out of those PCs by adding an SSD to them today. Therefore stick with SSD--whether you're going to add one after the fact or get one at purchase, definitely make sure you have an SSD.


Plus I don't know if a touchscreen is a good thing to have? ...Also what is the best size's screen? ...And what about those where you can disconnect the screen all together from the main keyboard and still be able to operate it with its own touchscreen's keyboard?
That's up to you. The former is really useful for Windows 8/8.1, I'll say that much. However if you're just going to use desktop mode in 8 or stick to Windows 7 (lots of used/off-lease laptops will have 7), then touchscreen isn't necessary. The latter thing you describe are the "convertible" type laptops, which I expanded on above.

AMD16 core computer; is this the best? ...Expensive, say as compared to AMD10?
Huh? There's no 16 core laptops out there, lol. As for AMD, I'd say the only reason to buy AMD these days is for the desktop APUs if you want some decent integrated graphics. For laptops there's pretty much no reason as their power efficiency is just not anywhere near the level of Intel.


Is i7 (Intel) a better IOS? ...Is i5 sufficient enough for a less expensive model like say for $500-600 or so?
Covered above in my first post to the OP. If were talking about dual-core CPUs in laptops, i5 and i7 not much different, might as well go for an i5. If it's a quad-core i7 that's a different story but few laptops have those and you'd only really need one if you needed really good performance and didn't mind the lesser battery life you'll probably have.


How much RAM is good enough; 4 or 8? ...Is more truly essential and that much more beneficial, like 12 or 16 for example?
4GB is more than enough for the vast majority of regular computing uses by mainstream users. 8GB however has pretty much become "standard" so you'll probably find most current laptops have at least that much. You do not need any more than 8GB unless you have a specific purpose for more than that. If you're not sure if you have a specific purpose, I'm about 99% sure you don't.


How reliable laptops truly are? ...Do they break often, and do you need a nearby repair center?
If you buy a decent model and aren't careless with it (like dropping it, banging it up, etc.) then I'd say you'll get 4-5 years out of it though the battery may fail sooner than that, requiring replacement. A lot of the more modern slim/ultrabook type laptops don't have user-removable batteries either, so that's something to think about if you plan on keeping it a long time. The batteries aren't hard to replace if you've worked on a lot of laptops but it doesn't sound like you have so perhaps sticking to a laptop with standard removable battery is best if you plan to keep it for some years.

Last; the battery. What is the average time that it last in a laptop that you have picked for yourself based on performance, durability, reliability, support, nice batch of features that you can essentially use for your own personal lifestyle of day-to-day operation?
Two things shorten the useful-life of lithium ion batteries. One is heat, the other is frequent deep discharge. So if you keep the battery in the laptop at all times (like even when plugged in) it will be running warm all the time. A good idea if you use it plugged in a lot is to keep the battery out of the laptop and at no more than 80% state-of-charge. Charge it fully only when you're going to use it. Also discharging the battery to 5-10% on a regular basis is not good for it either. So if you use the battery a lot, try to charge it as frequently as possible/whenever you get a chance, instead of draining it completely before each plug-in. Most people don't understand batteries or battery chemistry and the above is too much "trouble" for many so if you're like the typical user I've come across you'll probably get about 2 years use out of a battery before capacity has noticeably decreased. With proper care OTOH you're probably looking at 3-4 years still having good capacity left.

This is all very important to me because I was ripped off big time with the laptop I purchased from my local store.
...And only to find out later that they cannot repair it near where I live but would have to send it somewhere else.
Yes, it's a Sony VAIO, unfortunately. ...I bought it without knowing that the left speaker was broken, the screen unglued from its bottom surround, a blotch (quite large) in the screen (whitish), few more little things like this. They did not have a replacement (discontinued model), and I kept it after a $50 discount.
So I made my choice; but for my next laptop I want no more turmoil like that. ...And Sony is out of the picture, forever, because they abandoned their laptop's division.
Though most VAIOs were actually pretty well built (myself having seen/used a lot of laptops including having seen the insides of many of them) they did make some crappier models. However your experience can be seen with any consumer/retail laptop IMO--quality usually isn't too great and parts can be scarce and repair can be difficult. A business laptop OTOH most of them are more robustly built and you can pretty much find any part for it easily and repair isn't tough, though if you don't know what you're doing it's still best left to a pro. But overall they have better longevity and a better reparability factor than their consumer/retail siblings.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I bought an HP Envy 360 and all the specs are good, but I don't know if I can get over the display. I don't like that the top is brighter than the bottom. For example, if there is a solid color on the screen, it looks like a vertical gradient with the brightest being at the top and the darkest at the bottom. Besides vertical contrast issues, the display is good. Today I went back to the store and looked at Asus and Toshiba laptops. I noticed the higher end Asus had some kind of verical line bleed or something. For certain shades of blue, particularly teal, the color looks crosshatched or something. It's not just a nice solid color. On the Asus model below that one, it wasn't quite as bad, even tolerable. I could hardly notice that issue on the Toshiba. But where the Toshiba display lacked that the Asus displays excelled was with max brightness and vertical contrast. On the HP, if I put the laptop in "Tent" mode, the screen is upside-down, and when looking down white becomes green. Neither the Asus or Toshiba had this issue. I think the Asus had the best "Tent" mode vertical viewing angle. The Toshiba was okay, but not as bright as the Asus. Both Toshiba models I'm considering aren't available as a store model, is it reasonable to assume the display will be the same? The salesperson did say the higher end Asus had a better display than the next level down because it had a dedicated GPU. I think the display was different maybe more sharp. Is it reasonable to assume the Toshiba displays are the same accross the different models? They're all 1080 x 1920 and have the same core model number. Is it likely that Asus uses a different display in a computer that they install a dedicated GPU on?
 

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If you don't already have an nvidia card in your desktop, sell the amd and get nvidia. Then just get a laptop with integrated graphics and longer battery life. When you want to game use this https://github.com/limelight-stream/limelight-pc/releases

I don't care for nearly any model of enterprise laptop that I've used. Thinkpad, Latitudes, and HP Probook

Battery life always sucks on them and they are heavy. Nobody really wants them either, so they hardly ever resell. Apple can be resold fairly easy. I've bought two and owned for about a year and sold both only losing $50 in the process (bought rMBP from craigslist and sold back, bought MBA from craigslist and sold on Amazon). I can chalk $50 up to a "lease" fee. You have to be ready to sell before a newer model drops though

I like Asus and Sony as well. I'm using a fanless Acer Chromebook 13 right now and love it. It dual boots ubuntu and I get around 10hrs battery life on it running mostly chrome/chromium. The apple mba gets a little better than 12 hrs battery life with a much lower res screen (I'm using the 1080p acer 13) BUT only when you stick with safari as your browser. That's too limited for me and doesn't give me the convenience I get with chrome (hangouts, android password sync, bookmarks, etc). When you run chrome on the MBA you only see about 6hrs battery life. When you run chrome on a latitude you only see about 3 hrs even with all your plugins set on "click to play" plus the latitudes and probook both spin up the fan all the time unless you just sit there letting it play music from windows media player

I like using ChromeRDP or Teamviewer from a lightweight, long battery laptop to do all my heavy lifting back on my i7 server. It's a much better model for me personally, because all the "decent" laptops capable of doing their own heavy lifting have super-suck-tastic battery life aside from Asus, Sony, and Apple ~ and those three have super high prices for their decent models (and the only one with any resell value is apple which many people can't adjust to for one reason or another)
 
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