Author Topic: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?  (Read 4298 times)

Fletch

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Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« on: October 15, 2013, 03:10:25 PM »
Background:
I work with a variety of statistical analysis software packages at my job, and will start attending graduate school in the next year or two (and will most likely be working with the same or similar software), but I obviously can't take my work computer with me when I leave for school. I'm good at the type of programming I do, but am an idiot about computer hardware, so any advice on the kind of specs that matter and those that don't would be appreciated.

Current work computer setup:
Windows 7 pro, i-7 processor, 16GB ram, 64-bit

Other stuff:
-New one has to be able to run the pro version of windows (8 or 7 is negotiable to me, but I welcome input on this too. I don't have any problem with mac or linux, but I don't have the knowledge to do all the partitioning stuff to make this usable with stats software)
-I would prefer a laptop (smaller (<15in) and lighter is better for transportation reasons), and
-I refuse to purchase an HP laptop after a more than one motherboard failure that they refused to acknowledge was a known defect.

I don't care about screen resolutions or graphics or anything like that, outside of the stats stuff I pretty only use chrome and word, no gaming or video editing or huge collections of music or anything like that.
My searches have come up with options in the $1800-$2100 range, but i'm hoping it is possible to spend less than that. There is no rush, I'm looking at a 6+ month timeline to save and research this. Thoughts?

Deano

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2013, 03:23:06 PM »
Really? 1800 to 2100? That seems extraordinarily high. You could get a laptop with those stats for less than that. Check Lenovo, they're tops in the PC world in my book. A T530 with the specs you're looking for runs 1300, if you put the 16GB RAM in yourself you'll save a hundred bucks.

Even Smell (uh, I mean Dell) would be an ok alternative.

sleepyguy

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2013, 03:54:07 PM »
WTF?  $2k?  If you're not video editing or gaming... and your models don't sound super complicated.  Get a Dell laptop, even an older E4310 or something with an i5 quad, bump the ram to 16gb and 100gb ssd and it's super fast.  Win8 license is super cheap if you're a student, $29 or something.

You don't need a Ferrari to drive to the grocery store...

Fletch

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2013, 07:59:07 AM »
I think my biggest obstacle is the under 15in size, the small computer with i7 processors also come with a bunch of other upgraded stuff (I'm thinking of the toshiba kirabook in particular), or they are weird twisting screen psuedo-tablet models (which I don't want for durability reasons if I am potentially carting this back around in a backpack for a few years).

I'm just concerned that the size of datasets I work with will bottleneck something (don't know what though), and I'll be in computer labs until 1 in the morning like I was throughout undergrad. The SAS website lists this as the minimum requirement:

 a minimum of 2 cores
 2 GB RAM (available to SAS)
 Swap space: 1.5 times physical RAM or 250 GB, whichever is less

but then has a huge disclaimer about how this varies based on expected workload (in my case, more than a "drive to the grocery store" workload, but less than a "Ferrarri" workload).

I appreciate the input, good to hear the $2k was a crazy price. I'll keep looking

ritchie70

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2013, 08:17:14 AM »
Don't necessarily assume you need the i7 as much as you need the memory and a solid state disk if the data sets you work with will fit along with OS on a 100 GB drive.

My personal laptop is a first-gen i7 Dell with "standard" hard drive, 7200 RPM. My work laptop is a latest-gen i5 with solid state drives. The work laptop is considerably faster for everything I do.

I'm not sure why you want "Pro" edition of Windows. So far as I know, all that gains you is the ability to be joined to an Active Directory domain and managed as part of a domain.

If you can afford it, I'd look at a Lenovo ThinkPad. They're not as good as when they were IBM but they're still really good. Some of the new ones have gotten weird keyboard layouts, though, so if you're sensitive to that, look before you buy.

In general you're describing a business laptop. Try shopping the small business sections instead of the home user sections. I would never buy a consumer-grade Dell, and opinions vary about HP, but both of them have pretty solid business models.

Fletch

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #5 on: October 16, 2013, 08:19:13 AM »
The pro is not my requirement, it is a SAS requirement.

ritchie70

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #6 on: October 16, 2013, 08:54:31 AM »
The pro is not my requirement, it is a SAS requirement.

OK that makes sense then.

The thing I didn't say that you may be wondering about is the computer companies don't actually care if you're a business or not if you shop in the small business section. It's just a way of dividing up different models, just with some little quirks - for example, Dell will send you a separate statement if you buy from them there but it's marked paid because they're still making you pay before they ship.

ioseftavi

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2013, 09:17:06 AM »
Suggest you check out Dell Outlet.  Look into a refurbished 15" XPS laptop. 

XPS is Dell's gaming/premium line of laptops.  They're not quite as good as the Alienware series Dell offers (which is very very high end, and typically includes a lot of gaming stuff you won't want), but they're good for stuff that demands more computing power, like working with large data sets.

I've bought my last 3 PCs from Dell this way (though I bought desktops) and the value you get for the money is excellent.  You can get a very, very powerful PC that looks great, for about 2/3rds of what it would cost new.  You can probably get something that meets or exceeds your needs for $1,000-$1,200.

ritchie70

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2013, 09:38:25 AM »
One more thing...

Be warned that most "consumer" laptops run a vertical resolution of around 760. That may be substantially lower than your current work system, and depending on what use your analytical software makes of the screen, may make you very sad.

So if the screen resolution on your work laptop is about right for you, find out what it is and factor that into your buying decision. The laptop manufacturers sometimes make it very hard to find out what the resolution is on the computers they're selling. Probably out of embarrassment.

(To find out resolution in Windows 7, you right-click on desktop, then hit Screen Resolution - the "Recommended" one in the drop-down is the physical screen resolution.)

Jamesqf

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #9 on: October 16, 2013, 02:47:07 PM »
I'd second the recommendation to go with Lenovo Thinkpad (from the business/professional side, not consumer).  I'm still using my nearly 6 year old one.  Likewise screen resolution: there is absolutely no excuse for a laptop display with less than 1200 vertical resolution.

dadof4

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Re: Future computer purchase- what should I look for?
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2013, 09:08:04 PM »
You're asking now what computer to get in 1-2 years? Computer years are much worse than dog years. Buy it no more than 1 month or two before you actually need it.

Dell and Lenovo are good. I've had both, and have been  reasonably happy. My laptops tend to die after a couple of years though...
When you are ready, go to slickdeals.net and fatwallet.com, and search for laptop.
For example, there is a deal for a 15" i7 equipped laptop for $599 (8gb, 750gb HD, 1920X1080 touch display).
http://slickdeals.net/f/6346104-599-99-asus-q500a-bhi7t05-i7-2-2ghz-8gb-ddr3-750gb-hdd-intel-hd-4000-dvdrw-15-6-1080p-1920x1080-touch-display-laptop-refurbished-tigerdirect

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?sdtid=6346104&EdpNo=8512097&CatId=4935&SRCCODE=LINKSHARE&cm_mmc_o=-ddCjC1bELltzywCjC-d2CjCdwwp&utm_source=Linkshare&utm_medium=Affiliate&utm_campaign=lw9MynSeamY&AffiliateID=lw9MynSeamY-L9HdOMKEQUj.Syc5Tmo__g

Before you buy, ask yourself how much you really need the portability. If you'll do practically all of your work from an apartment or dorm, getting a desktop makes a lot more sense. You'll be paying a lot more to get comparable power in a laptop (think over 4x), and desktops will last forever. IMO, 90% of the time, having a dedicated computer work station is more comfortable to work on than using a laptop. If you also need to have portability, you can get a companion cheapie netbook to type in class or surf the web while you're on the can.