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laptop manufacturers

Any recommendations? Between Dell, IBM, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Gateway, etc. which ones are the most reliable in your experience, best quality, etc. Any I should avoid?

Also, is there a good site with laptop reviews? I'm only finding cnet.com.

AEB
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

We've had problems with all of them over the years -- Dell, Gateway, IBM, Toshiba -- until we switched to Sony (VAIO). We've had a dozen or so of the Sonys around the office for the last 5 plus years, and never had an issue with a single one of 'em.

Sargent Sausage
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I'll second the Sony recommendation.  We use several of them around here, and the only problems we've had were problems we made ourselves.  MUCH better than the HP's we had been using before.

Whapow!
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Different people swear by different manufacturers.

The problem is the difficutly of collecting reliable statistics as to reliability.

With desktops it's easy. Go to a large company and a college and look at the failure rate. But with laptops the problem is that the way they are treated varies so much. Some people basically use them as a desktop and may not even move them from their place on the desk. Others carry them around with them everywhere; some just use them occassionally, and some don't have another machine.

One of the most important factors is the quality of service, but even that can change. Dell used to come near tops for that, but now it seems things have changed a lot. And Sony might one day decide to redesign their web site so you can actually find some info there.

One thing that is unlikely to change however is Compaq's refusal to actually let you know what drivers you are supposed to install, or how to actually access the BIOS to do anything useful. For that reason alone I hate buying Compaq's

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I have a Compaq Presario 2701US that I've used for more than a year, and it's done well by me. I know that a lot of people don't like them, though.

I've had a number of Dells, and they all had problems. Some had displays that died for no reason, some had wacky keyboard and/or mouse problems, some would just die on a regular basis. This was pretty widespread across the company I worked at, so the sampling was large enough for me to know that I'm not going to be buying a Dell laptop.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I don't see ThinkPads as being particularly reliable and I really hate the joystick mouse.

My VAIO is nice, Sony has up on their website the individual drivers for Win2k so that I could rebuild the machine (which shipped with win98) with win2k easily.  However, I couldn't get my wife's VAIO to work with win2k even though they made an identical laptop that shipped with win2k pre-installed.  So it's rather hit-or-miss, even between brands.

Flamebait Sr.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I have had a dell for the past 2 years, really good...but their customer support is PATHETIC.

BTW: The others manufactures are even worse.

Stick to the big guns when buying a laptop, and do yourself a favour and get that 3 year warranty.

Prakash S
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I thought the thinkpad dropped the eraser in favor of a little toucpad thingy like every other laptop in the world.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I've had a number of IBM Thinkpads, never had any problems. Very reliable. BTW, I'm glad it has the pointing stick; hate touchpads.

BTW, are you limited to Windows? Apple makes very good notebooks. My next one will be an iBook.

raindog
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Dell's Inspirons tend to be significantly better than their cheaper models, but spring for the 3 year warrenty if you get one. (The 8500s have fairly nice 1920x1200 displays now.)

Toshiba's high end Satellites are fairly nice. A lot of people at work swear by them.

S. Gwizdak
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

When I was buying laptops (previous job) I personally liked Toshiba stuff - I always had good luck with them. We also had some Dell machines, and their support was good. Sony I don't like - I bought a low-end Vaio for my wife, and had the power supply fail 3 times in the first year. On the third failure we beat on the retailer (I had bought the extended warranty). Ended up with a Compaq, which is ok (except for Windows ME, but that's hardly Compaq's fault).

Michael Kohne
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I'm on my second Vaio 505 (The ultra-light model). I replaced my previous one because I outgrew it, not because there's anything wrong with the old one.

Haven't had any problems at all with either machine.

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

For reviews, check out:

http://www.pcmag.com
http://www.pcworld.com

Himanshu Nath
Tuesday, May 27, 2003

No one mentioned HP?

Better than Dell or Compaq.

_@``@_
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

When my Dell display went bad, I ended up emailing michael@dell.com for help, but that worked - I got a phone call from his executive staff and the notebook changed out within the week. When that notebook went bad, I got another upgrade within 48 hours.
In the past, Dell always led the pack on display resolution and capability - they seemed to have the best price/performance ratio of any notebook I found.

An aside: I'm currently boycotting Sony for two reasons:
1) the abysmal quality of their consumer electronics, coupled with awful warranties
2) they continue to push their proprietary Memory Stick technology, now to the detriment of their products.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Our department used to use Sony's when the rest of corporate was using Toshibas. (long story)

IT did not really support them, and boy, were they a nightmare. Dealers would ship them with win XP, or 2k, and they would be stripped and have 2k or 98 intsalled  respectively. (our IT is always a generation behind)

Boy, what a mission it was to find drivers.

Now, we all use Tosh's. We have had a couple of DOA. A couple of failed monitors. A harddrive crash after 2 months....

Like someone said, they are few differences between the machines. A lot of it is also up to usage patterns.

I would suggest finding a couple of brands in the price range you like. Check out the dealers around you. It will be the after sales support that makes the difference. There are a few high-street authorized dealers, and you really would rather deal with them than some drone on the other end of the phone/website.

tapiwa
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Bear in mind that almost none of the main laptop sellers actually make the laptops anymore. It is outsourced to a Chinese/Taiwanese company usually. Finding out who actually makes the laptop, and how far away the branded name is from that manufacturing is a good way of finding out how good your customer service is going to be. Good indicator of the overall product too.

Though it is actually very hard to find out who the OEM manufacturer is anymore - there certainly aren't that many of them.

Richard
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

"No one mentioned HP?"

I was under the impression that, after the merger, all the laptops were now Compaq branded. Not true?

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Not true.  I bought a new HP laptop for my wife last week.  We're happy with it so far, but a week isn't much to go on.

Bruce Perry
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I've got an HP Omnibook 6200. Machine is great; one dead pixel but nothing else in a year. Got it because all others seemed to have XP Home and the HP had XP Pro.

HP Service in Saudi sucks though. Given up on trying to get a floppy. And of course they have a seven (?) pin S-video outlet, and I haven't been able to get the cable, so I've had to buy a separate DVD player.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Most video output on PCs is actually designed to directly take an S-Video cable (even though there are more holes in the connector than pins on the cable; that's not a problem). The extra pins are "broken out" with a special cable to give you a composite video signal. This way, one connector can do both and you save more on connectors (and all important space on the back of the card or the back of the laptop).

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Also...

Quality of laptops really can't be reviewed, except perhaps destructively.  By the time you know if your laptop is any good, that particular laptop is no longer being made.  The new laptop by the same manufacturer could have fixed those faults, or it could be worse.  Similarly, if you pick up a great laptop from one manufacturer and pick up another laptop later  on from the same company, the quality could have gone down the tubes.

Major lesson is to be prepared for laptop downtime, either way. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I've used Sony Vaios for years but recently switched to a Mac Powerbook G4. I still do most of my work on XP - so the fact that MSFT released a terminal server client for OSX makes this platform choice easy to swallow.

In terms of fit and finish, the new (Yao Min) Powerbook G4 is superb. Also, wireless integration/use is better than on XP and Mac's new Safari browser - the new OSX web browser is quite good.

Sleep operation is also better on the Mac than on typical PC units - though the Mac (OSX) doesn't seem to have a hibernation feature. So, if you leave it sleeping too long it goes dead - and will typically screw up its non-journaling (in Jaguar, at least) file system.

David Geller
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I think tablets will be a great help here.

My experience with laptop failures is that the vast majority of them are related to problems that a true tablet form factor won't have; that is, dying built-in, non-user-replaceable peripherals like keyboards and screens (particularly with screens, the contact stress from opening and closing the lid).

At least, I hope so. It's going to take for tablets to get cheaper until we know for sure, though...

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

No objection to the seven pin S-video input. It's just that I can't get a single cable here that will actually play on the TV. The computer shops send me to the consumer electronic shops and they send me back to the computer shops.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

The problem is a true tablet form factor will still have the problem of screen damage, which is the big thing that kills a laptop, because the replacement costs more than the laptop.

I used to think that the perfect solution was ubiquitous computing, a la PARC's work in the early 90s, which would imply that what we really need is a lot of incredibly cheap relatively dumb terminals.  But then I realized that I was dreadfully wrong.

Flamebait Sr.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003

I had an Acer which I smashed. The screen replacement was half the cost of the laptop, and they couldn't even give me a TFT instead of a DST!

It's why I don't believe we will see tablets replacing clipboards, which some people on this forum are suggesting.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 29, 2003

Have you thought about a Mac?

I'm not a Mac user but I have a friend who swears by them and I have to say, his powerbook running OS-X makes me upset that there is no PC equivilent.

*) it's sexy as hell
*) it's relatively small
*) it's powerful
*) built in DVD burner
*) it's got good battery life (5 hrs)
*) it's got gigabit ethernet  builtin
*) it's got wireless 54mbig eithernet builtin
*) bluetooth
*) fireware
*) If you do any back end stuff it's running a version of Unix so that can be very handy to test out / write code for backend things

There are other little things, if you leave it in standby, when you open the screen it takes about 1 second to be ready to use.  Basically you open it and start typing.  The fastest PC I've seen is 10 seconds.  Although 10 seconds is not that long it's long enough that I wouldn't open my notebook just to take a note.  The Mac with it's 1 seconds readiness is fast enough for that.

It's also got an auto sensing ethernet port.  Whether you have a straight thru ethernet cable or a cross over cable it will figure it out and cross itsself internally to match so it just works.

Of course if you have to have a PC then you have to have a PC but I've seriously considered it because I don't use my notebook for much more than just word, web, e-mail so maybe it would be ok to have a mac notebook.

Currently I have a Sony VAIO SR-7K (one of their really small ones) It's been ok.  It's batteries last like 1hr,20mins max so I haven't used it much on batteries :-(  Because standby uses the batteries too I can't really use standby so it's not nearly as useful for notebook like stuff.

Gregg Tavares
Thursday, May 29, 2003

Stephen, laptops/tablet pc's/whatever will replace clipboards and pads of paper when they are inexpensive enough for everybody to maintain ownership of (i.e. buy and replace if borrowed/damaged/stolen/etc) and where the benefits of them outweigh any disadvantages as compared to paper.  This is probably at least partially related to the cost of flat-panel displays, but also potentially to other factors.

Typewriters have very much been replaced by desktop PCs.

Palmtops have reached that point for many folk.  They are more expensive than a Franklin, but they have a slightly better failure mode (i.e. PC synchronization is always available) if rendered inoperative.  The advantages of them being compact, having alarms, and reducing work and thought over a Franklin planner outweigh the problems of cost, battery life, screen resolution, etc.

Flamebait Sr.
Thursday, May 29, 2003

---"Typewriters have very much been replaced by desktop PCs."----

This only happened when everybody who would use a typewriter got a PC for other reasons, of which access to the internet was one of the most important.

There are plenty of things for which paper is useful, and I don't see it going away even if tablets became free.

Computers do two things well. They are a superb archiving system and they allow for exact copying and communication. For other things paper still wins; there is an excellent article someone linked to a couple of months ago that pointed out that ari traffic controllers still keep track of the skies using 3" x5" pieces of card.

The tablet PC may replace the clipboard in certain places such as hospitals where record keeping is at a premium. In other cases I'm dubious.

PDA's fit in the pocket, and often the people that used filofaxes would be carrying a briefcase around, so the PDA's actually saved space. The laptop is too bulky.

And it's still onlly a small section of the population that have PDA's. Mobile phones, on the other hand are owned by 90%, of those who can afford one
outside of the States at least. If somebody could get the functionality of a PDA into a phone with the form factor of a Nokia 3310 then they'd be on to a sure winner.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, May 29, 2003

I have an Ultra N30W laptop. I lost my hard drive and replaced it but I do not have any of the drivers. Can any one send me to a site where I can identify what this computer came with so I can get drivers downloaded. Reply to DMus898365@aol.com. Thanks

Dwight Mussman
Monday, June 07, 2004

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