College Student Q's

Drtro

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Mar 12, 2013
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Hello, this Fall I will be entering college and I'm not sure what to do about the laptop situation. I will be getting my Bachelor in Finance with hopes to major in Sociology as well. 

I have roughly $5,300 to spend but this includes everything to clothing to personal furnishings. 

I'm an avid gamer and music production is a hobby of mine. My plan is to build me a Desktop (have built 3 previously) and buy a laptop or tablet for class purposes. I have been researching and wondering if it was worth the money to buy a Dell XPS or ThinkPad if I'm only going to be using it to research the web, MS Office, and store my eTextbooks. Possibly a little Minecraft if lectures get boring. 

I'm now leaning towards buying a Chromebook or Windows 8 tablet with a keyboard. But I'm not familiar with laptops or tablets as much as I am Desktops. 

What do I do here? Buy a cheap laptop for class and build me a nice PC or buy me a well built laptop? 

Is the ThinkPad reputation just hype? I really like the slot-load optical drive and that's the only reason I like the XPS 15. But I've read so much about Lenovo and their quality builds. But even then I'm worried the T530 or W530 isn't portable enough to carry about all day and if I bought a x1 or Yoga, the performance wouldn't be so great 2 years down the road. 
 

dgriffs

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I am currently in college right now. I built a desktop before leaving and have a netbook for portable needs. I was able to build a decent gaming pc for under $1000. My laptop only cost me $300 and it is sufficient for web browsing, email, and word processing. I would check with the school first and see if they have laptop requirements. Chromebooks and tablets may seem convenient but can't always run common programs like microsoft office or business specific programs. I wouldn't bother getting a beefed up laptop. The better the performance, the worse the battery life. Even high-end laptops will become outdated fairly quickly. And with texts books, something lighter is always better. People don't like lugging around 15.6" laptops all the time. The only draw back to the desktop that I have found is that it is a pain moving it in and out of the dorm. The thinkpads are solid laptops though imo. If you do end up building a desktop I would recommend a light case perhaps one that even has a handle.
 

Drtro

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So would you recommend a x1 Carbon taking it could last me 4+ years? I wouldn't mind making the investment if I knew it would still be a solid laptop 4 years down the road.

I will be living in my own apartment.
 

dgriffs

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It seems like it would be a decent buy but it does not appear to have an optical drive if that is something you're interested in. I'm probably not the best person to give out laptop recommendations. When comparing laptops, the processor will be most important component to look at though. SSDs are nice but usually come at a premium and don't usually offer a lot of disc space. Also keep in mind that most manufacturers like lenovo offer student discounts. Another consideration for a laptop that will be used 4+ years is the ease of battery change. Most laptop batteries will lose capacity over a few years of regular use. I know some single piece bodies for laptops don't allow for easy battery swapping.
 

kennai

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For the desktop honestly, there's tons of good resources on this website about budget builds done by the Editors here.

For a laptop I can recommend the A10's with hybrid crossfire. Even more so with the new Richland chips coming out that give better performance with roughly the same if not slightly lower power consumptions. If you go for a flat Richland A10, you can expect decent gaming, and the hybrid crossfires are really nice on the 768 screens.

i5/i7 With geforce 650m/640m are also good budget laptops. Just make sure your i5/i7 aren't ULV and third gen.

And by good budget I mean you should be able to find these for under 700. Had a friend pick up A10-4600m+7670m from microcenter refurbished and base model for like 350.
 

DarkSable

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Sep 27, 2012
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I'm in my first year of college, and disagree HUGELY with dgriffs.

I've got a gaming desktop that I built at the start of the year (selling my old one in favor of a mITX portable rig).
That stays in my dorm / comes home with me over breaks.

Then I've got a netbook from, oh, 2008? Something like that. It cost $200 on sale at Costco when we bought it, and I brought it from home. I took out the hard drive and replaced it with a 128GB SSD. I can pull it out in class, boot it up instantly, and take notes / give powerpoints / go online with ease. It doesn't feel slow at all, and the SSD helps immensely with battery life.

I highly, highly recommend just grabbing a cheap little laptop and throwing a SSD in it. It's more than enough for school when you have a desktop to run hefty applications / write / store old data on.
 

dgriffs

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I don't have a problem with SSD's and they can make just about any computer feel much snappier. I use one in my desktop. I was just pointing out that they are usually expensive especially when purchased from a pc vendor. 128gb really isn't a lot of space if you plan on storing games or large music collections. Now im sure you could shop around and find a good deal on a decent size one and clone the original contents over but harddrive swapping capabilities will also depend on the design of the laptop.
 

DarkSable

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That's true, but the laptop isn't going to be used for either of those things, as the OP wants a desktop as well. They can use any number of streaming media applications, and a netbook won't be able to play games anyways. That's why I was recommending getting a cheap-o little laptop and buying a SSD instead of paying the premium for the sort of computer that would come with a SSD.
 

dgriffs

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That makes plenty of sense. I think that is basically what both of us have done. I was advising against a 128gb ssd as the only disc. He suggested the x1 in his first reply which I assumed meant he was leaning towards a decent laptop as his sole computer. Powerful desktop + cheap laptop offers the best of both worlds.
 

cbrunnem

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honestly you need to go to college first then decide on a laptop. go ahead and build a desktop now but wait for the laptop. you will then realize that you really dont need the laptop as much as you think you do. honestly i have a laptop and desktop and the only thing i used my laptop for is watching movies in bed. thats coming from and engineering major where a lot of the homework is computer driven.
 

DarkSable

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Ah, gotcha. We just took it differently, I think. :p
And yeah, that's why I love it - the other advantage is that cheap laptops, especially netbooks, are small and plastic, therefore are lightweight.
 

Drtro

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So between these 3, which would be best for playing Minecraft or some indie game at the library or during a useless lecture:

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Or
Microsoft Surface Pro
Or
MacBook Air

 

DarkSable

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The lenovo, but none of those are going to be amazing.

Honestly, you'd be far better off not worrying about gaming during a lecture and saving the $600 than you would going for an ultrabook.
 

Drtro

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Well that's true. Should I wait for the new AMD Richland CPU laptops?

Those links provided above we're helpful, but most of them we're too large or bulky to carry around.

Will the AMD's be used in any <1" thin laptops?
 

Drtro

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Maybe this would help some.

1. What is your budget?
<$1,500

2. What is the size of the notebook that you are considering?
14-15" <1" Thin

3. What screen resolution do you want?
1920x1080 or 1600x900

4. Do you need a portable or desktop replacement laptop?
Portable

5. How much battery life do you need?
6+ Hrs

6. Do you want to play games with your laptop? If so then please list the games that you want to with the settings that you want for these games. (Low,Medium or High)?
A little Minecraft and maybe Crossfire (FPS). Nothing modern or fancy.

7. What other tasks do you want to do with your laptop? (Photo/Video editing, Etc.)
MS Office
Maybe (but I'm not positive) some occasional minor Photoshop editing

8. How much storage (Hard Drive capacity) do you need?
256GB SSD

9. If you are considering specific sites to buy from, please post their links.
Not really. I wouldn't really prefer eBay unless you insist. Newegg, Tiger Direct, Best Buy, Office Depot, Staples, etc would be preferred.

10. How long do you want to keep your laptop?
3-4 Years

11. What kind of Optical drive do you need? DVD ROM/Writer,Bluray ROM/Writer,Etc ?
Slot-Load or none

12. Please tell us about the brands that you prefer to buy from them and the brands that you don't like and explain the reasons.
Would prefer Lenovo, ASUS, Samsung, Sony Vaio, or Dell. I've had bad experiences with HP. Toshiba would be acceptable.

13. What country do you live in?
USA

14. Please tell us any additional information if needed.
 

dgriffs

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How big is the average class size at your school? I go to a rather small school and some teachers even ask that we don't use them because they're distracting to the user and surrounding students. I personally would feel awkward playing a game during class with other students watching. Not to mention that any game running on laptop hardware would probably cause the fan(s) to run at max speed drawing even more attention. I had always envision taking notes on my computer but almost everyone takes notes on paper.
 

Drtro

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Mar 12, 2013
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A majority of the classes I got to see we're in high school auditorium like rooms with 50+ students. It seemed like only the first few rows had students paying attention while the rest sat in the back with headphones in their laptops or tablets.

Then there were some smaller workshop like classes with 20-30 students.

Defitally saw a lot of laptops and iPad users in the large classes. I assume they were the basic academic classes; math, English, history, science, etc

But in the smaller workshops, students only had them out when working on something. I assume these were the core classes and electives.

The school is pretty large. It's actually ranked 2nd nationally in Top Public Schools and is ranked 5th in their business program.

Though that's the case; I first year will be spent at a small community college that neighbors the University. Saving almost $20k to take my academics there but still walking distance away to the "Uni Life".

The classes are still rather large. Most are 30-40 students. But it's in a typical classroom and they were all packed together. It wasn't spread out like at the University. They all still seemed to carry some sort of laptop or Kindle/iPad though.
 

cbrunnem

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what school is it? i am unaware of any public top business schools. but anyway my main question is why are you asking us for help when you wont listen to our advice. advice coming from people who have been where you are going. advice that at the minimum says wait on getting both an expensive laptop and desktop or to get a desktop and cheap laptop. yet you keep insisting on an expensive laptop. is the laptop a "need" or a "want"? i suspect you just "want" a cool expensive laptop to have.
 
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