Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Opinions solicited

I've mentioned before that my laptop, a Toshiba Satellite Pro which I wouldn't have wished on my worst enemy, finally died some time ago. I've put off replacing it for a number of reasons, but the biggest - by far - has been dread at the whole decision-making process. Researching and choosing a laptop is way up there with picking a cellphone plan or buying a car in the "I just know I'm going to make the wrong decision" category.

My criteria are that the machine must have a 17" screen and must have a processor, memory and graphics card capable of supporting at least the current generation and hopefully the next generation of games in the FPS genre (Half-Life, Bioshock, Halo, etc.). It goes without saying that it has to have wireless capability. Other than that, if it doesn't overheat regularly and runs Office so I can work from home and Agent so I can start hanging out in RACS again, it'll do.

After some research, I'm leaning heavily towards this computer: HP AMD Turion X2 TL-60 Dual-Core . One of the benefits is that there is a Future Shop in town, and I can buy a warranty package that will let me just return it there for repairs if necessary.

So if anyone has any Hewlett-Packard laptop horror stories, or even better, Hewlett-Packard Turion X2 horror stories, by all means speak now - or suffer listening to me refusing to hold my peace when the damned thing dies on me and the warranty doesn't cover what happened...



Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

I can't speak to the current generation of HP laptops, but one Diane had eight years ago... Nah. Story's too old to have any relevance.

Also probably too old to have any relevance is my experience with my current Gateway laptop. Its durability and dependability have been astonishing. I bought it almost exactly six years ago today (to take with me to a planetarium conference in Wichita). It was top-end then, and had/has really nice graphics capabilities. It was a crucial part of our Ireland trip two years ago; I can't imagine how we would have managed 2,400 digital photos without it. But its durability is the most amazing thing about the machine. I still use it a lot every day (usually in the Planetarium, since I have desktops in my office), and it has yet to present a single problem except for a few keys' labels wearing off from six years of heavy use.

FPS's! You keep surprising me! I prefer hack-n-slashers ("Oblivion" and its addons being my current guilty pleasure), but I've spent too many hours on Half Life and Deus Ex, too, the latter eagerly awaited before its introduction because it was designed by the team that was responsible for Ultima Underworld, way back in the first age after text adventures.

This hasn't been much help, has it?

1:32 a.m.  
Blogger Brian Fies said...

Like Sherwood, the list of things I can't speak to is long. Gaming, for example, though I hear that duo-core is indeed the way to go for that. But we've got three HP laptops in the family and have been very satisfied with their performance, reliability, etc. HP isn't the company it once was (famous for quality and service), but I think they still make a solid product.

Another issue that's no doubt crossed your mind is Windows Vista. Our girls needed new computers a few months ago and I was very wary, having heard the Vista horror stories. Your mileage may vary (particularly since your applications will vary), but it's been no trouble for them so far. Not a single compatibility issue, crash, etc.

So no promises, and I seldom recommend anything, but my experience with HP laptops has been good.

12:56 p.m.  
Blogger Brent McKee said...

I'll agree with Brian on Vista. I think the really big problems with Vista have come not from fresh installs like you'd have on a new computer but from people who have upgraded from any one of a number of versions. That's not to say that it's perfect - there are some games I can't play because they're deemed to be too old and the maker hasn't done what was needed to upgrade (I really miss playing "Freedom Force").

Of course if you hadn't mentioned the gaming side I'd have told you to get a Mac. Macs are great for working on, and are a small enough niche that they don't have the various types of malware, but they're lousy for games because their slice of the market is so small.

3:38 p.m.  
Blogger Carl said...

My current laptop is my second HP DV6100 series. The first had to be sent back when the speakers broke.

HP Repair lost it. It took weeks to convince them to send me a replacement. (It turns out that customer service people hate it when you call the corporate VP of Customer Service to complain about them. They also scurry around like ants from a smashed hill to make you go away.)

The second one has worked well for me. I hate Vista, but that's not HP's fault. If (as you wrote) you won't have to use their horrible customer service, an HP might be a good choice for you.

Is it weird that I was uncomfortable writing about broken speakers to a person with total hearing loss?

10:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Ted Goldblatt said...

I recently got my older one an HP dv9700t to take off to college next month, and I believe that is basically the same laptop as you are looking at, but with an Intel processor instead of an AMD. I bought it through Costco online, which might have saved me a few bucks and gave me a 2 year warranty. I don't think it made a huge difference over ordering it directly from the HP web site - since I customized it, I ended up on the HP site anyway and it was shipped from HP. Future Shop appears to have similar models, but it doesn't look like they allow you to customize.

I have hopes that it'll last him through at least most of college (and he is a gamer), so I upgraded several things: I significantly upped the processor from the base model, got the best graphics card they offered (they offer different choices for the Intel based and AMD based models, so I can't really compare) and got the 1680x1050 display.

So far, he has been very happy. I don't think he has any current FPS's installed, but he's played a lot of Counter Strike and Oblivion and is happy with the performance of both. I'm going to guess that the graphics card upgrade helped with this - the other 2, probably not as much.

Problems: the touchpad and speakers aren't great, but I've never found a touchpad or laptop speaker that I liked - dealt with by using a mouse and outboard speakers.

4:02 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks hugely for the feedback, everyone. Very helpful and so far very hopeful.

It's true - I am absolutely mad about FPS's (an acronym I am too embarrassed to spell out). I can't explain this obsession, which is at odds with everything else I think, say or do. From Call of Duty to Halo to Half-Life to F.E.A.R. (which I played in the dark with my CI plugged into the machine - the equivalent of watching a really good horror movie). Husband just shakes his head (and buys the latest release for me at Christmas). The Half-Life series is my favourite because of the characterization and strong plot lines.

Carl, I find it touching and amusing that you found it uncomfortable writing about broken speakers to a person with total hearing loss :) I notice Ted mentioned the speakers too. The happy-happy thing is, I plug a line directly from my processor into the laptop when I am using it; the speakers are not an issue for me. So if they're one of the unit's biggest problem I'm uniquely blessed to not care. As for the touchpad, I despise the things and have plugged a USB mouse into every laptop I've owned; just a personal preference. So again, a crappy touchpad wouldn't be much of an issue (I appreciate Ted's mentioning it).

Again, thank you all for taking the time. I've also continued online research and it's really looking like this is going to be the one. I'll be very happy to be back in the wireless world.


8:59 p.m.  
Anonymous m.e. said...

i just saw this post and am way behind the parade of commenters (not to mention the times)...but i absolutely LOVE my mac. have always. i have a nice big dell pc with a humongous screen at work (and when it arrived, it was the envy of the folks in IT, who wished they could have one that powerful), but it's still clunky compared with the mac. games? gee....why not get one of those cute little asus eee pcs? they are too divine...and they weigh like 2 lbs. i know you want a big screen, but i'm thinking you can have the big screen at your desk and zoom around with the eee on ur bike (if you have one) to various wireless hotspots!

9:28 p.m.  

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