Laptop Recommendations?

Hey Stormtrackers!

It's time for me to begin shopping for a laptop, so I can FINALLY have data while on the road. While I've got plenty of experience with home machines, I really don't know what's hot and what's not in the laptop world. Could anyone stir me in a good direction? With all the options out there, it's hard for me to decide on a brand. I don't need a lot of bells and whistles on it - just something reliable (Sony? HP?) and has integrated 802.11b/g wireless (and NO wide screen, bleh).

I appreciate any suggestions!

Thanks,
Scott
 
I have an HP I bought back in 2000 and it has been through hell but it is still working well. It even has a small crack on the bottom left corner of the LCD screen casing. The monitor started to wig out for a while becuase of it but my good freind Bill fixed that for me. So just from experiance and nothing else I would say HP is good.

I would like to get a Sony Vaio Laptop some day but they are way out of my price range. I have a Sony Vaio for my desktop but that was cheap compared to the laptops.

Mick
 
I also bought an HP with built in wireless last year and love it. it automatically detects wireless signals and connects (security permitting). I used a number of "hotspots' last year including a refinery I was driving by in Oklahoma and a home signal in nebraska. Just driving by and detected and connected.

it is a 2.4 mhz with 768RAM and 40gb drive. i got it for just under $900 after rebate at Office Depot. It has 3 USB ports for GPS etc...

I have owned Toshiba and Fujitsu previously and this is by far the best I have had.
 
Originally posted by Jay McCoy
it is a 2.4 mhz with 768RAM and 40gb drive.

Isn't it amazing how fast technology changes. My HP (bought in 2000) is only 550mhz and I just now upgraded from 64mb RAM to a wopping 128mb RAM. 550mhz to 2.4+ mhz in just a few years.

Mick
 
Originally posted by Mickey Ptak+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Mickey Ptak)</div>
<!--QuoteBegin-Jay McCoy
it is a 2.4 mhz with 768RAM and 40gb drive.

Isn't it amazing how fast technology changes. My HP (bought in 2000) is only 550mhz and I just now upgraded from 64mb RAM to a wopping 128mb RAM. 550mhz to 2.4+ mhz in just a few years.

Mick[/b]

Mine is already outdated too. They now are 3.0 ghz and a full gig of RAM standard. You can get one like mine new for $750 now (with rebates). Jut make sure it pays DVD's for the long drives (passengers only please :wink: )
 
I still have and occasionally use my first Laptop.
120Mhz Processor, 1.3 Gig Hard Drive,16Meg of Ram Runs Winows 95- Toshiba Satellite Pro 430CDS
Currently using an IBM Thinkpad with 4Gig Hard drive and 64Meg Ram.
Don't know the processor speed but fairly old. Runs Win ME no problem with 1 USB port.
Both units have 2 PC card slots and Serial ports on the back. They cover most evils for me.
Also have IPAQ pocket PC running pocket 2003 which I use more than both laptops.
 
I don't own a sony laptop, so maybe one of you guys can confirm or dispell this: A sale person at Fry's described at great length how Sony's touchpads do not work well, and that they know of the problem and are still producing machines having not addressed the problem.

I have an Averatec, a no name brand as far as I know, but its working very well for me. Wifi is a must for any new laptop. My laptop has a generic wifi adapter hardwired to the motherboard. This adapter picks up a signal much better than my PCMCIA Linksys wireless adapter (needed it for school). The unit is small and light (13 inch screen and 4 pounds), which I also consider important for applications such as storm chasing. There isn't much room in my hatchback.

You'll probably want to go for a mobile processor also instead of a Pentium 4. They eat far less power which is good for either your car bettery or your laptop's battery. They are also what allows laptops to be so small and light nowadays. I have an Athlon XP-M in my laptop, and at 1.8 GHz its ties my P4 2.0 GHz desktop in speed.
 
I have a Dell Inspiron 5100, and while it is not exactly portable, it gets incredible battery life (I can program for 3 hours and over without a problem). The processor inside this laptop is not a mobile processor like most other laptops, but a full-fledged desktop processor, so it benefits from better performance (at the sacrifice of battery life, which is already great anyway).
 
Thanks very much for all the suggestions. I was thinking I would have to spend more, but based on what you guys are saying, I may be able to get away with finding what I need for less than a grand.

Originally posted by Jay McCoy
I also bought an HP with built in wireless last year and love it. it automatically detects wireless signals and connects (security permitting). I used a number of \"hotspots' last year including a refinery I was driving by in Oklahoma and a home signal in nebraska. Just driving by and detected and connected.

it is a 2.4 mhz with 768RAM and 40gb drive. i got it for just under $900 after rebate at Office Depot. It has 3 USB ports for GPS etc...

Then Jay said:
Originally posted by Jay McCoy+--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(Jay McCoy)</div>
They now are 3.0 ghz and a full gig of RAM standard. You can get one like mine new for $750 now (with rebates)[/b]

Jay, thanks for that information... I'm very interested, especially in that price for the specs you mentioned. Which model are you speaking of? There is an Office Depot down the street from where I work... I'd like to see if they have the same one! :)

<!--QuoteBegin-Skip Talbot

You'll probably want to go for a mobile processor also instead of a Pentium 4. They eat far less power which is good for either your car bettery or your laptop's battery. They are also what allows laptops to be so small and light nowadays. I have an Athlon XP-M in my laptop, and at 1.8 GHz its ties my P4 2.0 GHz desktop in speed.

Thanks Skip. I just asked a buddy here at work to give me a better understanding regarding the Centrino (sp?) /mobile procs. I see how they benefit extended battery life now. I figure I'll be using a power inverter while in the field though, so I'm not hugely concerned about battery life, since chasing would be the primary use for my owning a laptop. (though long battery life would be nice for business trips/flights/etc..!)

Thanks again for all the input.
Scott
 
WHATEVER YOU DO, do not buy from some store. Buy from manufacturer direct. I've had nothing but problems when buying from Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-mart, etc.

My experience:
Gateway - (Rating: 7/10) my custom built desktop model didn't make two months before burning out. Great support if you don't mind getting parts sent to you if yours are broken. Unreliable factory hard drives. Warning: Customer support is mainly outsourced to India.

HP/Compaq - (Rating: 9/10) My new HP laptop (zd7140) has been running great since I got it. Only one problem - my media ports don't work. (Those are the ones that the Sony memory sticks plug into) My brother-in-law has the exact same computer and they work. Sadly he left it sitting on a couch running and the cat went and laid on top of it and suffocated the computer to death (burning out various parts). He has had nothing but problems since.

Word of caution for all laptops: Don't suffocate the CPU - always make sure you have plenty of airflow.

Another word of caution: Unless you're building your own computer and know what you're doing, don't go custom. Standard models are tested much more rigorously than custom.

Some more tips:
1. Centrino processors are better on battery time/life.
2. Watch battery usage - make sure you drain the battery occasionally
3. You can never have enough USB ports! (mine has 4)
4. Invest in a good carrying case
5. Define your purpose of your laptop and buy accordingly i.e. it might not make sense to take a laptop that is the equivalent of a desktop replacement on a chase with you.

I could go on for a while. Just message me with any questions you have. Hope this helps.
 
Thanks Edward. Appreciate the comments.

My current home system was actually built by myself, since I enjoy building and fiddling with PC towers. Never delved into laptops before, therefore I mainly was needing to know about reliability. I'm going with the mobile laptop because my main use for it will be for getting data in the field. I won't need to run any power apps on it, I'll save those for the desk hoss at home. :)

Thanks again for the thoughts!

Scott
 
I have the HP ZE5730US. You will have to try and get it on sale like I did because it normally is about $1100-$1200 but they offer it on sale all the time through office depot's "Tech Depot". also check places like www.tigerdirect.com or www.newegg.com they both have good deals and I have bought from them a number of times.


I did notice that all the hp ZE5730US I did look at online only had 256 ram. I guess they boosted mine for that sale to 768 and I was wrong on the speed. it is a 2.8ghz. If you can only find 256 I would recommend buying an extra 512 stick to put into the empty slot. makes a world of difference.
 
I'm running an older Dell Latitude. Really small, no CD, floppy etc. I've got the external CD for software though. I picked up the whole thing for about $250 and just added a 256 MB RAM Chip this weekend. Total investment is less than $300. Works pretty well for me. It's not the fastest or latest, but for running Delorme and getting the occasional Wi-Fi update, it's perfect.

I've got a Jotto Desk for it and so far, that seems to be pretty stable ($80). It's powered by an inverter that also powers the video camera and anything else that needs AC power.

Space is at a premium in my truck (small pickup) so this set up made a lot of sense.
 
Nicely done John, that's getting a lot out of 300 bux.

Speaking of power inverters, I suppose I should've included that in my original question. I'll google this very soon to see what I can find, but is there any standard name that people tend to go with, or will any pretty much do?

Thanks again folks for all the help!
Scott
 
I've suffered in the past for using cheap inverters. I threw a Rat Shack model in the trash outside some truck stop in 2001, walked in and bought a Cobra and it's worked like a charm ever since.

If you're running a laptop through an inverter, which I don't recommend, then it's even more important to get a good one. Best thing for an inverter is cell phone / camera charging. With power-sensitive stuff like GPS or especially XM, better to run the computer directly if you can.
 
Originally posted by Amos Magliocco

If you're running a laptop through an inverter, which I don't recommend, then it's even more important to get a good one. Best thing for an inverter is cell phone / camera charging. With power-sensitive stuff like GPS or especially XM, better to run the computer directly if you can.

Ahhh.. I see. Is there a tendency for non-steady currents in power inverters? If so, I could see why you recommend against them for running the laptop. Would it be OK or at least be safer to simply charge it while not having it on?

Thanks again, good info.

Scott
 
Originally posted by Scott Taylor

Ahhh.. I see. Is there a tendency for non-steady currents in power inverters? If so, I could see why you recommend against them for running the laptop. Would it be OK or at least be safer to simply charge it while not having it on?

Scott,

Lots of folks on ST know far more about electronics than I do and can answer that question more accurately. The truth is that I don't know why cheap inverters perform badly, but I've seen two examples versus the Cobra inverter.

I have an arrangement in my 4Runner now that I don't need to run the inverter (enough cigarette lighters plus a home-style AC outlet in the console), so I haven't dealt with the issue in a couple years.
 
I can't remember the brand name of mine but it's a 1000/1600 watt model. I've run the Laptop and camera off of it as well as battery rechargers all at the same time with no issue at all.

I remember that when I bought it, it was creating a "conditioned waveform" in that rather than a straight charge, it has some circustry that will give a better AC waveform getting out to the equipement. Of course I have the standard surge protectors on the machine just in case. I also have pretty beefy input cables going into the inverter as well (8 guage wire from a distribution block). Anyway, mine is the same model we use in the radio vans for remote power when we do on location stuff. It's not top of the line, but certainly not bottom of the barrel either.

To answer the last question, I ran the computer and a Canon S9000 printer for on site printing at a football game last year. Worked out pretty well. I ran an extension cord from the inverter to the power strip and ran the computer and printer from there. Not one burble. Worked out pretty well.
 
I have used power inverters for a most of my chase career until recently. I had too many problems with power fluctuations even with more expensive inverters. last year I swithced toa direct supply and it works great.

I recommend the Targus 120-Watt Universal AC/DC Notebook Power Adapter. it has multiple plug ends to fit any laptop. You can get one for about $100 which any good converter will cost. I got mine on sale at Best Buy for $90. Now you wont have any plugs for a camera charger etc... but i prefer to run my laptop seperately. i have a converter for my camera.
 
Regaeding printers,as all my laptops are pre-XP i picked up a cheap Dicionix 150Plus printer secondhand. alll I had to do was replace the Nicads. Great thing is it runs with Single sheet or tractor feed.
 
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