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Laptop Buying Advice

mr_eddymr_eddy Posts: 748
edited November 2018 in The cake stop
Ok so I work as in IT Support and I seem to get a steady stream of customers who come to me with some POS laptop they bought from Argos or PC World and want me to sort.

To that end I thought it may be of benefit to anyone on the forum who is not IT savvy to give some buying advice - Note I am not an expert but I have worked for the same IT company as 2nd line IT support and onsite engineer for over 8 years so I have a decent amount of experience , Currently studying my CCNA (which is a pain in a**e).

So my advice to anyone looking for a Windows based laptop is as follows:

1. If its new and under £350 it WILL BE s**t (baring any huge offers assuming paying retail price) - In much the same way that a 'road' bike costing £150 new will be naff. A cheap laptop will almost certainly have a very basic processor - something along the lines of a old style P4 or Intel Atom etc. Decent entry level processors (Ci3 / AMD A6 etc) will generally not be found on machines costing much less than £350.

Also a cheap laptop will almost certainly have a old 5400 rpm mechanical hard drive (advertised with big capacity i.e 1TB but really slow read/write speeds) or maybe a cheap MMC style digital chip (small capacity and hard to upgrade). Pay a bit more and look for laptops with proper SSD hard drives - Even if they are small capacity they will be fast meaning the laptop will boot up quicker and generally run quicker. If you need more storage get a 128GB SD Card (can be had for £60 on eBay) or get a portable hard drive.

I recently had to go and do a site install job for a school who ignored my advice and thought they were being clever by buying 20 'cheap' laptops from Argos - In the end even after removing all bloatware etc they are still painfully slow and as such the job took a lot longer (negating the cost saving in the first place).

2. If you need a laptop to be on a domain - So if you need a work laptop and your workplace has a server (AD controller / SBS etc) then you will need Windows Pro - Almost all laptops sold from Argos/ PC World irrespective of price will be Windows 10 Home edition - Meaning they will not go onto your work domain - This makes managing accounts / permissions / group access a lot more tiresome. Bear in mind to 'upgrade' to Win Pro from Win Home will cost you a Win 10 license again negating the cost of the cheap laptop buy price.

3. MS Office sold at PC World / Argos / Tesco etc will almost certainly be 'Home and Student' meaning no MS Outlook - If you need MS Outlook for email you need either 'Home & Business' or 'Professional' - Anything sold on eBay stating Pro Plus etc is at best a ripped of Volume License copy or at worse a full on fake. Anything labelled Pro Plus means its associated with a Volume License agreement i.e a company or institution that wanted 100's of copies so paid for a license to cover large volumes of installs hence Volume License.

Remember also any laptop that has a Office sticker on it usually means you get a 60 day trial - MS Office is not given away for free, it maybe included in the total price but again this will probably be for 'Home and Student'.

Some offer 365 1 year subscriptions that do come with Outlook - This is all good but after 1 year you will need to pay for another year (cost dependent on what license type you had/want).

4. Avoid Mcafee / Norton etc like the plague - These Anti Virus systems are so massively system hungry they can cause even well specced computers to slow down. Windows Defender which is included with Win 10 and is actually half ok - Failing that look at other slimmed down products like ESET or Trend.

5. If you have a issue that is not covered under warranty - i.e a virus or you need Windows reloading due to a corrupt install etc then DO NOT take it to PC World - We had a apprentice that worked for 3 years at PCW and rose to the rank of 'PC Expert' yet he did not even know how to format an external hard drive - If you pay someone £8 an hour they are not an expert. Go to a well regarded independant PC specialist - You would not take your Trek Madone to halfords for a wheel truing essentially its the same thing with PC repair.


Anyway hope that helps if

Ta.

Posts

  • mr_eddymr_eddy Posts: 748
    Of course some exceptions can probably be found but my point mentioned above (point 1.) generally rings true - I would suggest people buy online and look at places like eBuyer. Good prices and decent after sales service.
  • orraloonorraloon Posts: 5,897
    Interesting. Do you have similar advice re desktops? I have an old CPU limited HP which is failing to cope with latest W10 versions and needs to be replaced with summat with more grunt. Just starting the process of choosing.
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    edited October 2018
    your ''old ''laptop will work fine for everything but games if you partition the HDD and install ubuntu as the first boot OS. It is not the machine that is the problem it is the poison microsoft send it to force you to upgrade.

    I am typing this on a 10 year old netbook with bits of gaffertape holding it together.

    google how to do it and try it. You have nothing to lose.

    And I have never bought a Word or MS Office suite. Libre is fine and free.
    I only keep a Windows OS on one machine because some XRay discs have .exe password protection I cannot be bothered to sort out.
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman

    http://s189.photobucket.com/albums/z122 ... =slideshow
  • robert88robert88 Posts: 2,706
    Excellent advice Mr Eddy. ( I am an ex-IT professional with a computer science degree). Have an HP (from ebuyer) with Ci3, a 256 GB SSD and 2 older 1TB hard drives for data and backing up. My AV is Defender after its scan found a virus on my system that AVG missed. I ditched AVG. It's a bit flimsy compared to my old Compaq but much faster and booting up is no longer a PITA! The display ain't great but I can use the tv for that.

    Interesting advice Priory - might give it a go on the Compaq. I fitted it with an ssd but it didn't make a huge difference and anyway I am going to take the thing apart and give it a good thrashing.. oops, I meant upgrade.
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    i have put an ssd in the netbook mentioned above , and I would agree the difference is not huge. and increased its RAM to a mighty 2Gb which is far better than 1Gb. It was Ubuntu that rescued the machine from obsolescence. Mint is also popular.
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman

    http://s189.photobucket.com/albums/z122 ... =slideshow
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,904
    I only use mine to speak censored on here and similar forums, and buy stuff.

    So a £250 Chromebook does me just fine. And it remembers all my passwords, which helps as you get older.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    cooldad wrote:
    I only use mine to speak censored on here and similar forums, and buy stuff.

    So a £250 Chromebook does me just fine. And it remembers all my passwords, which helps as you get older.

    If you need any help remembering your bank details feel free to send them my way and i'll write them down and keep them safe for you.
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,904
    Thank you. You don't even look Nigerian in your pic.
    I don't do smileys.

    There is no secret ingredient - Kung Fu Panda

    London Calling on Facebook

    Parktools
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    cooldad wrote:
    Thank you. You don't even look Nigerian in your pic.

    no, but funnily enough I am trying to get out of the country and need an account to deposit a large amount of money in order to aid my escape. Obviously if anyone was able to help with this they would be handsomely rewarded.
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,286
    Our Core 2 duo laptop became a pain in the @rse once MS stopped issuing Vista security updates and various applications then wouldn't run any more. I installed Ubuntu as a dual boot and for a while we were very happy with it's speed, much cooler running, and Fisher-Price interface for internet shopping, banking, email and documents. It wouldn't talk to my TomTom or Garmin though, and then Ubuntu started to behave erratically and refuse to shut down. I suspected the hardware was starting to fail, so decided to cut my losses.

    So I got a grade A refurb Fujitsu laptop from Morgan for £250. 64 bit Win 10 Pro and full MS Office Pro. OK so it's not the latest processor, but it's got plenty of RAM and I can cheaply / easily stick in an SSD to give it a bit of extra zip.

    I reckon to get something similar brand new would have cost £6-700. Can't see me ever buying new again TBH
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,481
    Could I have an opinion on this please:

    https://www.ebuyer.com/805723-hp-250-g6-i7-laptop-2sy44es-2sy44es-abu

    Not a gamer, and not going to use Zwift.

    We bought my gf the i5 version earlier this year, for around £430, and it's been solid, and she's happy with it.

    I have an aging HP which is coming towards the end of it's life, and am familiar with the advances of ssd (my work laptop is one) in terms of lack of heat, speed of boot up, and battery life.
    Think 15"\15.6" is a big enough screen for my requirements, work one is a 17, but mostly because I could, and is useful to have extra screen space for multi tasking.

    Not brand loyal to HP, but my current one and the new one for my gf have been solid and reliable.
    Any other models out there that fulfill a similar spec for similar cash?

    Ideally, i7, 8gb+ ram, SSD, not too worried about capacity.

    In a perfect world, £500 would be the most I would spend, and the above is £550, but IF there was something with a serious performance advantage for say, £600, or £650 even, I would consider it.
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • FishFishFishFish Posts: 2,238
    Chris Bass wrote:
    cooldad wrote:
    Thank you. You don't even look Nigerian in your pic.

    no, but funnily enough I am trying to get out of the country and need an account to deposit a large amount of money in order to aid my escape. Obviously if anyone was able to help with this they would be handsomely rewarded.


    Are you related to a good friend of mine - Sea Bass?
    ...take your pickelf on your holibobs.... :D

    jeez :roll:
  • @ Daniel B

    That will definitely serve you needs by the sounds of things.

    If its just for work and internet browsing then i often look at eBay for 'refurbished' laptops.
    Something like a Dell Lattiude E7240 i7 is a great little machine that you can pick up for ~£215.

    Your specs of i7, 8GB, SSD are great and then the biggest consideration I fine is battery life and that really depends on how you use it (for prolong use away from a socket?)
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,481
    ollie_cr80 wrote:
    @ Daniel B

    That will definitely serve you needs by the sounds of things.

    If its just for work and internet browsing then i often look at eBay for 'refurbished' laptops.
    Something like a Dell Lattiude E7240 i7 is a great little machine that you can pick up for ~£215.

    Your specs of i7, 8GB, SSD are great and then the biggest consideration I fine is battery life and that really depends on how you use it (for prolong use away from a socket?)


    Thanks Ollie, that little Dell looks ace vfm, just the size of the screen (12.5") would put me off. Might have a harder look at refurbs though, and see if there is anything for decent money with a 15" screen.
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • mr_eddy wrote:

    1. If its new and under £350 it WILL BE s**t

    Sure, but will it run Zwift?
  • simon_esimon_e Posts: 1,675
    IME a SSD drive is the biggest performance gain.

    MS Office Home & Student is fine if you don't use Outlook (which I don't, I've never liked it. More trouble than it's worth). You can register online and download the Office 365 Home subscription with all apps for £80/year. It will allow you to install it on up to 5 PCs / Macs and 5 mobile devices. You can also share the installation with 3 further people. Much better than the single installation versions like 365 Personal or Office 2016/2019.

    A cheaper alternative is LibreOffice, which will open & save all MS formats and many others and costs £0. It's a bit quirky but very capable.

    Unless you backup absolutely everything to the cloud already then FFS get someone to set up backups for you!
    Aspire not to have more, but to be more.
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,481
    Ok, decided to bite the bullet, my laptop is not getting any better.

    The one I posted above that was £550 seems to have vanished :roll:

    Did a quick trawl of Black friday deals, and found this on AO:

    https://ao.com/product/5ku43eaabu-hp-laptop-silver-62678-251.aspx

    Highlights are, i7, 256SSD, 16gb ram
    Lowlights are not a full hd screen, 1600 X 900 instead.
    Although the AO online chat person seemed to think this is a mistake, and it should be full hd, personally I think she is wrong, but we will see.
    Also found a £20 code, which knocked it down to £580, and then in theory (It's tracked at least) I may get a further £10 back through TCB.
    So £570 - decent enough, despite the likely slightly inferior screen?

    Free returns if I decide not to go for it.
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • Ubuntu has been mentioned a couple of times on this thread. I’ve got an old computer at work running Ubuntu 18.04 and an old hard drive in an enclosure that has it installed so you can boot-up from an external hard drive in necessary.

    My question is; has anyone got pytrainer to work. I’ve tried installing it from the Ubuntu Software applications and from a tarball. It seems to install but nothing happens when I try to get it to run.
  • priorypriory Posts: 743
    I suppose you have wine istalled. If so I have to admit that there must be some things that will not run on Linux unless you really can write code for them. I have to pull the sd card out of a sport camera , not a problem ,because it will not connect directly by usb; and I have some X=Rays on discs that will only run on Windows because they have some security barriers I cannot get round. Such incompatibilities happen with any OS one might choose.
    Raleigh Eclipse, , Dahon Jetstream XP, Raleigh Banana, Dawes super galaxy, Raleigh Clubman

    http://s189.photobucket.com/albums/z122 ... =slideshow
  • SJH76SJH76 Posts: 191
    green_mark wrote:
    mr_eddy wrote:

    1. If its new and under £350 it WILL BE s**t

    Sure, but will it run Zwift?

    For the price you're better off with Apple TV.
  • itboffinitboffin Posts: 19,576
    If you're dabling with linux desktops and or have an old underpowered laptop get thee over to https://elementary.io simple clean lightweight and as near to osx as you can get without an expense mac.
    Rule #5 // Harden The censored Up.
    Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
    Rule #12 // The correct number of bikes to own is n+1.
    Rule #42 // A bike race shall never be preceded with a swim and/or followed by a run.
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