New or Used Computer Recomendations

Discussion in 'Ask DACS' started by dragonbite, Mar 19, 2014.

  1. dragonbite

    dragonbite Well-Known Member

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    As my laptops have been having problems, and considering their age, etc. I am starting to look at a replacement computer or Chromebook. I do have the advantage of anything used I can be perfectly happy with installing Linux over whatever OS (such as XP) it currently has in case there are no OS disks available.

    I have been looking for a little while, and I will probably be looking for some time as well. Not only do I want to make sure I get the right device for me, I also have to make sure the funds are available which would be a lot easier if my car didn't need 4 brand-%^&$(-er, um.. "spanking")-new breaks! :tongue:

    What I am looking for are recommendations on
    1. Good devices that meet my needs/wants (outlined below)
    2. Reasonable price (<$1000 +/-), with the possible inclusion of MS Office (otherwise can get by with LibreOffice)
    3. New or Used devices are fine, so long as they are working
    I have broken down what I am looking for into a couple of categories. Each category has its own focus and acceptable limitations and these are more guidelines (concepts) rather than hard-and-fast requirements.
    • Any system with Windows 8 needs to be touch. Touch isn't required for Windows 7, Chromebooks or Linux though.
    • I would love to find a convertible system (tablet & laptop) whether it is a 2-in-1 or a tablet with attachable keyboard. ( I really like the idea of the Lenovo Yoga)
    • There are 2 "sizes" or "concepts" I am looking for :
      • A portable device for taking to meetings and around the place for easy access to files (like presentations or spreadsheets, being able to take notes, and to be able to easily take with me to waiting rooms (my daughter's dance class, for example). This is the most likely candidate for tablets but also for Chromebooks, which my Cr-48 provided me.
        • Something small and light
        • Screen size would prefer 13-14" but may consider 10-12" in some circumstances
        • Needs a battery life of 4-5+ hours, even if it can achieve more than this with an optional extended battery (my Thinkpad has one that gives it 4-5 hours)
        • A dual-core device at least (I'm tired of single-core devices, which is all I have)
        • Does not need an optical drive (at home I have a USB external CD-Rom drive which works fine)
      • Desktop replacement, which would enable me to do more heavy computing things such as VMs, Games and programming (web or local).
        • Size is less of a factor. Screen size could be 14", 15" or 17"+
        • Would prefer an i5 (or equivalent) or better
        • Want something that can expand RAM to 4-16 GB
        • Needs to have a couple of hours of battery life, but not as much as the Portability category
      • These are not hard-and-fast rules either. They are just concepts but depending on the system (and price) I could deal with an i3 desktop replacement or a slightly bulky portable.
    Like I mentioned, these are ideas only and I can be very flexible about what fits into each of them.

    Since the time I had the Cr-48 Chromebook I have managed to move a lot of my stuff to the cloud and to utilize it there so any system can reach "base-line" if it has an up-to-date browser.

    Anything running Windows XP would be fine because I wouldn't even bother with it, I would install Linux right over it and not skip a beat!

    So I am asking, what systems do you recommend or where do you know they sell good quality refurbished or 2nd hand computers?
     
  2. jscheef

    jscheef Administrator
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    Drew,

    My primary laptop (that huge, thick ASUS that I bring to the general meetings) failed a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was a hardware problem and started shopping. I started to go for a newer gamer's machine but instead bought this -
    ASUS Q550-LF. At $999.99 it is at the top of your range but has the processor (4th gen i7) and RAM (8G) to do the stuff you want. What sold me was this was 1/2 the price of the gamer machine, lighter, and *touch screen*. At 15", the touch screen is a bit large - 13" might be the sweet spot. It comes with regular Win 8 which I immediately upgraded to Pro (I already had the license) so it can connect to my Windows domain. Right now I'm using the new machine as a desktop connected to a keyboard and large monitor. One key to my enjoyment of Win8 is Classic Start Menu, an open source replacement start button and menu. With this installed I can work with regular apps in desktop world pretty much like Win7. Tile world is just a (Windows) key keystroke away. BTW, there are less expensive versions of this machine with "less".

    I have not tried to run Linux under Hyper-V, but that will be my first approach to running VMs. Don't get less than 8G if you really want to run VMs.

    Jim

     
  3. richardc

    richardc Administrator
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    Drew,

    For your portable device I would recommend an iPad which has a 9.7" screen. $399 now gets you a brand new 16GB iPad 4 with Retina Display. (Just last week the same price got you the much older iPad 2 model.) This will be even more interesting if Microsoft, as expected, announces Office for iPad on March 27. Regardless you'll get Pages, Numbers, and Keynote for free with the iPad. If you think you need more storage, check out the refurbished models at http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/ipad . Bluetooth keyboards are readily available for the iPad if you decide you need one. My coworker even bought one for $30 that included a case. Normally it's a good idea to sync or back up the iPad to iTunes, but if you don't have a Windows machine (or Mac) you can back up to iCloud instead.
     
  4. dragonbite

    dragonbite Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the replies!

    I am tempted by the HP 14 Chromebook which Costco was selling for $379 (+/-) the last time I was there. Considering ordering it from HP (if they had it in stock) though the shipping would narrow the gap in the 2 prices. This would fulfill my "Portable" system concept and may leave some left over for a cheaper, more traditional system too.

    • 14" screen
    • Celeron with Intel HD graphics (2 cores)
    • 4 GB of RAM
    • either 16 or 32 GB SSD (don't need a lot in a chromebook)
    • Free 4G for life!
    • up to 9+ hours battery life
    I don't know if this, from Costco, comes with the 100GB of Google Drive but I think it does. After the free trial period, Google only charges $1.99/mo for 100GB now so I don't have to go crazy to manage using space over the default allotment.
    [hr]
    Another possible system from Costco (because I am in Costco 1-2 times every week and it is one of the few stores I get to anytime during the week) is the Dell Inspiron 15R Touchscreen for $899 (or $999... it was running a promotion and I don't know if that is still valid)

    • 15.6" HD touchscreen
    • Intel i7
    • 16 GB of RAM
    • 1 TB Hard Disk
    • 15" Monitor
    • DVD-RW
    I don't know about the full version of Office 2013, though.

    This would work as a desktop replacement and if Office 2013 doesn't come with it I would probably be able to get by with LibreOffice (or see if Sean is still selling Office 2010 on Craig's List). Might be able to install Linux as well, after investigating installing Linux on a UEFA protected system (supposed to be doable).

    I do need to look through the various refurbished or overstock systems as well, to hopefully find a bargain.
     
  5. dragonbite

    dragonbite Well-Known Member

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    I have to admit, I like the versitility of the Lenovo Yoga. Understandably, they don't make a 17" Yoga (yet) but the flexibility of an always-attached keyboard and a pure tablet format can be enticing. Like having your cake and eating it too!

    The cheapest I have found so far for 13 in screens (the larger screen) is Lenovo Yoga 13 Convertible which starts at $799l
    • Intel i5 (3rd Gen)
    • 13.3 HD multitouch w/Intel HD 4000
    • 128 GB SSD
    • Estimated 8 hours battery life
    Unfortunately I would prefer the Orange cover. This is an older version of the Yoga (current ones are Yoga 2s) which explains the 3rd Gen Intel chip (instead of 4th) . The Yoga 2s (13") start at $999 and the orange cover is $50 more.

    Or if I want to go for the least expensive of them, the Yoga 2 (11 inch) and can even splurge for the Clementine Orange one (which is $30 more than the cheapest one) and that only comes to $529
    Yoga 2 11 - Clementine Orange
    • Intel Pentium N3520 (whatever that is... single core? dual core? the option is a Celeron)
    • Windows 8.1 (64 bit)
    • 11.6" HD screen with Intel HD Graphics
    • 4 GB of RAM
    • 500GB HD (spinning... 5400 RPM)
    • Up to 6 hours battery life
    The other advantage is one review talked about how the 13" version as a tablet felt too big. I'll have to find a store with it to try the difference between 11 and 13 inch models but that is a consideration, no matter how mild.
     
  6. richardc

    richardc Administrator
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    I'm a little unclear as to whether you are looking for one device or two. My iPad suggestion was assuming it was going to be the second more portable device. If you are trying to find one device to serve both roles, there are Windows 8 machines, like the Surface Pro, that try to do both, but I am a skeptic that they can serve well as a tablet. I held one that one of our speakers brought in and found it to be heavy compared to the true tablets I have--the NOOK HD+ and the iPad. If you are looking at a 13" screen, that's going to be even heavier than the 10.6" of the Surface Pro. The other problem with Windows 8 devices as tablets is the relatively poor selection and often quality of the touch-screen Windows Store apps.
     
  7. dragonbite

    dragonbite Well-Known Member

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    I would prefer 1 device ("to rule them all!...." ;) ) because my primary computer (Thinkpad) is less usable with the uncertain screen and this next machine will replace that.

    So on the one hand, I need a system that can handle the programs and anything else I need to use it as, as a primary computer.

    On the other hand I am trying to be realistic on what I usually us the computer for and what will suit my needs. For example a Chromebook could handle most of what I use.

    With devices going all touchy-feely, the tablet form-factor is the direction things are going. The Yoga provides a hybrid between working (keyboard) and relaxing modes, as does Surface and Dell's convertible.

    Since I have no problems with using Linux as my primary operating system, overstock and refurbished machines can be a cheaper alternative as the OS won't matter.

    So I go back-and-forth between using a tablet (Surface, though expensive, or other) or a traditional laptop, using Windows 8 or Chrome OS (or Linux), new or refurbished (and possibly more powerful for the buck)...

    It may be easier to pick up 2 machines (like a Chromebook and a traditional laptop) if they can be gotten cheap enough. This could give me the portable device (Chromebook) and something that runs local, native apps and has more power.

    Or could I find 1 ultrabook that provides portability and power, without breaking the bank? Or a hybrid to offer touch tablet and traditional laptop modes (detachable or attached, like a laptop, keyboard)?
     

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