Laptop Recommendation?

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Trying to find a laptop for my girlfriend that is $500 or below with
at least a 15.6" screen.

Pretty much for home use only. Maybe 3-4 hours a day usage.

This will only be used for surfing the web, email, Skype, etc.

I did a little research last week, but couldn't really come up with
anything w/o seeing/touching the computer in person.

Today (yesterday now) we went to Best Buy, Walmart, and Comp USA. (she
wants to buy something from a store so if there are any problems she
can return it, and not have to deal with shipping)

They pretty much have the same computers on display. She uses a
ergonomic keyboard at work, so the bigger the keyboard the better.

So, in our search that pretty much narrowed it down to a Toshiba or
Asus (which I've never heard of).

Of course you can't get ANY info from the people at Walmart, and the
"Geeks" at Best Buy want to try and sell you Norton, instead of
telling you about the computer itself.

The guy at Comp USA told us that Asus was "the Volkswagen of

IOW, new on the market, and a great product for the price.

He also said that, HP, Gateway, and Dell were way down on the list
when it comes to the best laptops. He said that Asus was number one
followed by Toshiba.

After looking at Comp USA's website, it appears that most of the Asus'
that they carry are refurbished. That is a huge red flag for me.

I've done some more research tonight, and it looks like Toshiba has
really good reviews.

So, I've pretty much narrowed it down to this. My local Walmart has in

Thoughts and suggestions.

And please don't tell me you can buy this (generic) computer at
Newegg...or were ever, blah, blah, blah.

It's not gonna happen. I happen to enjoy my sex

Re: Laptop Recommendation?

Ron wrote:
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You can look up the processor in the machine here, if the processor is Intel.
This looks like an acceptable processor - dual core, 2GHz is my minimum. So
this just meets the minimum (as needed by bloated OSes like Windows 7). I
notice that the processor has Integrated Graphics (GPU inside the processor
chip), but the GPU doesn't have a name. Your usage description, doesn't suggest
3D gaming performance is a priority. -(2M-Cache-2_00-GHz)

I think there are good reasons to shop in person. You get to test the
keyboard (and there are lots of barely acceptable keyboards out there).
Personally, I'd prefer the keys have a longer travel, but you have to
put up with what you can get. And the company making the laptop, may be
buying the keyboards from someone else (so it isn't their fault that
the quality isn't very good). It's their fault for buying the keyboards,
but they may not be making them in house and the poor quality isn't
their direct responsibility.

By shopping in person, you also get to check the screen appearance.
Some people like a matte finish, others like glossy, and when you
examine them in person, you get to verify the appearance.

"He also said that, HP, Gateway, and Dell were way down on the list" -

You can get a "report card" from sites like this, to get another opinion.

To save you the trouble, I put all the report cards in one image.
Asus and Toshiba aren't that far apart in the ratings. And HP
actually did slightly better. The only thing that is an anomaly,
is the rating for Apple. Their rating is high enough, there must
be a "Steve Jobs Afterglow" problem :-) My experience with Apple,
is they do appearances first, and ergonomics second (stares at
his white Apple keyboard with barely readable black lettering, or
that stupid mouse they made, with no buttons on it).

The worst ratings in that table, go to Acer and MSI. MSI is a motherboard
maker like Asus, and has relatively recently started making things like
netbooks. Acer has been around long enough, to have been given a fair


Re: Laptop Recommendation?

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Thanks. I've read so many reviews today my head hurts.

Also, I need to clear this up "The guy at Comp USA told us that Asus
was "the Volkswagen of laptops". IOW, new on the market, and a great
product for the price."

He was talking about Acer, not Asus.

Besides the Toshiba I mentioned above, we are also considering this

Not buying anything until next weekend. So, I can read some more
reviews. Ugh.

Re: Laptop Recommendation?

Ron wrote:
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The reviews on the Best Buy page, say it has Asymmetric Crossfire.
That means, the processor (CPU) has graphics (GPU) inside. For
whatever reason, there is a separate GPU soldered to the motherboard.
The two GPUs work together - each GPU draws 50% of the scan lines
on the screen. Terms for this are SLI and Crossfire (when that is done
on a desktop computer). The "asymmetric" I threw in there, means the two
GPUs don't have equal computing power. One is more capable than the other.
When you're not gaming, the external GPU should be turned off. That's
how they extend the battery life.

The processor is a quad core, running at 1.4GHz. Under light load,
running single threaded code, it "turbo boosts" to 2.3GHz. What that
means, is they take advantage of the power envelope. When running
all four cores (like, when a video editor program is rendering
the movie output), the processor gears down to 1.4GHz so it won't
overheat (or pass the 35W power rating it's got). But when
the desktop is idle, if a single threaded process runs for a moment,
it gets to enjoy a slightly faster clock rate. Without that turbo
feature, in some situations it would feel like a slug.

One side effect of all this monkey business, is it's pretty hard for
me to guess how responsive it will feel. Still, an interesting design
for a $450 laptop.

This design is partially a side effect of AMD's strategic design decision.
Namely, to put a GPU with the CPU. When AMD bought the ATI video card
company, they announced they were aiming for a "Fusion" objective,
of combining CPU and GPU. This is one of the first generations to
deliver that. And in this particular laptop, they still end up
bolting an external GPU onto the thing. Kinda a strange strategy,
but fine as long as the power can be turned off to the external
GPU when unneeded.

Another effect of the two GPUs, is a mixed memory bandwidth situation.
The internal GPU, uses "shared" memory. It uses host memory to hold
3D game textures. The external GPU appears to have its own memory chips.
Which means it *could* have more memory bandwidth than the internal GPU.
And this is all part of the "asymmetric" design.

(In case it wasn't clear, I'm from the "KISS principle" group of hardware
designers. "Keep It Simple, Stupid", meaning the machine should have only
one GPU. Integrating an internal GPU makes no sense to me at all, if you
have to bolt on an external one for product differentiation. The laptop
could have been $50 cheaper, and a better fit for your girlfriend, if
they dumped the second GPU :-) It still would have played movies fine, as
it has an excellent video decoder design. The second GPU was put there
to make it more attractive to gamers, but without thinking about how
stressful modern games are. Some users still aren't going to be that happy
when playing 3D games. The second GPU is kinda like a "bandaid" solution.)

Using two GPUs isn't that uncommon, and it's been done before. One difference
is, in a past life, when there were two GPUs, they alternated in usage.
The "little" one was used, when nearly idle. The "big" one was used when
gaming. They both weren't used at the same time. I don't remember the
trade name for that feature.


Re: Laptop Recommendation?

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These functions could be handled well by a 2nd hand office machine
of (say) 2005, nowadays available for $100-$200.  OP does not say
why the user needs a laptop with battery.

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If the OP does not know one of the biggest motherboard manufacturers,
in the business for 10 or 20 years, he may not be the best adviser for
this user.

Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)

Re: Laptop Recommendation?

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   However, in response to the above point the OP is thoughtful enough to
ask others what their opinions are and not simply rely on his own knowledge
or to take the word of a sales person.
  My own experience with 3 notebooks over the past 8 years (Sager, Asus,
Lenovo) would point me to getting an Asus again . However, the Asus we've
been using for the past two years cost $1200 and may not be comparable to a
model costing $500.
   One suggestion I would further make to the OP is to simply go to Newegg
and read some of the user reviews of their own impressions of the laptops
that could also be found at Bestbuy or Walmart, or whereever.
Jan Alter

Re: Laptop Recommendation?

Thanks for all of your help Paul.

We ended up buying the Toshiba today.

The Asus and Toshiba were the same price, and for what she wants to
use the computer for the performance was perry much equal.

The selling point was a 17.2" screen over a 15.6" screen. And the fact
that the Asus has that banding issue.

The Toshiba has a REALLY nice screen with high resolution. Puts my
"old" 19" Dell desktop monitor to shame.

Re: Laptop Recommendation?

On 08/28/2011 12:40 AM, Ron wrote:
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2.0GHZ sounds really slow for Win7.

Ok so don't buy at Newegg but it would be wise to check out the reviews
there to see what other people think about a laptop you are considering.


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