View Full Version : Laptop advice?

07-30-2008, 04:36 PM
My laptop died recently. It looks like it will be prohibitively expensive/difficult to fix (apparently parts are region specific - what nonsense from a global brand). This has lead to a mapping hiatus - I'm having to fall back on my work desktop this weekend instead. As a result I'm looking for recommendations from people with different brands. Also, if anyone has any must haves in a spec for map design then I'd like to hear them. The highest hardware demand I will be placing on the laptop will definitely be mapmaking. Ideally it should be able to handle an A4 image with many layers at 600dpi. Any suggestions?

This is of course why I've been a little quiet. No laptop and very limited internet has not made me a very happy bunny of late.

Steel General
07-30-2008, 05:10 PM
I've always had good luck with Dell - and they usually have some kind of specials going on. I just bought a new desktop, granted not "maxed-out" but it is more than good enough for anything I do. I was able to modify the "base model" to something more to my needs, and the price was good.

07-30-2008, 05:26 PM
My new Dell m1530 should be here today. It is probably overkill for most people, though, as I packed it with $2500 worth of goodies (2.5 GHz Core 2 Duo, 3 GB RAM, GeForce8600M GT, 160 GB disk). Sadly it will probably die just after the warranty goes out as there seems to be a thermal problem with the implementation of the NVIDIA 8400/8600 series chips in laptops.
I would expect that pretty much any modern laptop with 2GB+ and a 7200 rpm hard disk should be able to handle what you ask.

07-30-2008, 05:37 PM
Myself, I won't touch a DELL. But that is more because I had a DELL desktop and then found it impossible to upgrade what with all the proprietary stuff in it.

Also, my work uses DELL, and even though I could likely get a discount, and I have never been impressed with the laptops I have to use for work.

Personally, I prefer Toshiba (after trying COMPAQ for a few years), and I likely will continue with toshiba. Of course, I also have not upgraded my toshiba in a couple of year, so I am not as hip as to what is good.

07-30-2008, 05:37 PM
How much of an priority is the hard drive speed? I realised that it had an impact, but don't really know how much.

07-30-2008, 05:55 PM
I have a Fujitsu Tablet PC that I recently got that I am having a blast using for mapping. It is a Fujitsu Lifebook T4220 and has a nice resolution on the screen(1400x1050). I like the feel of the Tablet much better than the IBM Tablet we have at work, much more fluid response to writing.

So if you have pondered a tablet at all, I really like this one.


07-30-2008, 06:35 PM
How much of an priority is the hard drive speed? I realised that it had an impact, but don't really know how much.

It really depends on how you use the system, but it looks to be around 10%-50% performance difference based on several benchmarks out there. In short, for things where you're doing stuff that slams the hard drive like Photoshop swap files you should see 25% or more improvement. However, main memory is always better than a disk drive (subject to OS limitations and the like the modern 32-bit OS will let you use between 2GB and 4 GB of main memory; 64-bit OSes will let you use all the memory that you can stuff into the machine).

07-31-2008, 08:52 AM
I use a HP/compaq nx6325 running XP.
-AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core
-2GB Ram
-80GB 5400RPM drive
-1400x1050 screen.

Love the screen resolution. Wish I had a 7200rpm drive, and wish I had splurged for the extra 2GB of ram.

I borrowed a friends fire-wire drive for a few days and set it up as my swap drive - performance went up quite a bit with any large images that got into swap space. I would suggest trying that on a permanent basis if you will be editing large images. (I believe Adobe actually recommends that the swap space be on a separate drive from the OS/application for photoshop.)

-Rob A>

07-31-2008, 09:48 AM
I build my own desktops, but for laptops: Dell is pretty much the default. Get the better warranty if you can, and (though I've never actually used it myself) I'm told the extra accident care is worth having, especially on a laptop.

I'm not even a novice mapper, so my best guess would be to go for something with a good resolution and better than basic on-board video. A faster hard drive is usually worth it. Memory is expandable later, and usually at a good price if you wait a year, but make sure you get enough to not be a handicap from the start. When it doubt, look at the recommended specs for the software you use to map and aim to exceed them whenever it isn't cost prohibitive.

07-31-2008, 10:06 AM
Does Gimp have any minimum specs posted anywhere :) ?

That accident care does seem to be a good idea. However I'm in the States next year so there's no point in buying a warranty that can only be used in the UK. I'll have to read the small print. It looks like I'll be picking up a new laptop after I move to the States, so I'll just have to bridge it for the next couple of months. Thanks to everyone for their advice. I now have a much better idea what I'm looking for.

07-31-2008, 10:44 AM
In addition to the Dell recommendations I would like to suggest that you take a look at a little known brand that really should get more attention. The company is Sceptre and they primarily make LCD displays which is what you would have in your laptop obviously. The awesome thing about Sceptre is that because they are an LCD manufacturer they have spectacular screens and video cards in their laptops. I bought one about 10 years ago and had a 1400x1050 resolution with a 16 meg video card. Note that that was 10 years ago. By now I'm sure they have really perfected their displays. Whether you get one or not, you should at least check out what they offer.

Also, as an IT person I deal with laptops daily. I build and repair them on a regular basis in addition to my other duties. We use Sonys and I'm familiar with pretty much their entire line and will tell you that you should not consider them as a contender. Their max resolutions leave a lot to be desired and the support is a serious bear to deal with. I've discovered that Dell stands behind their products 100% and will go to great lengths to keep happy customers, but I will strongly encourage getting the extended warranty on a laptop especially one that you travel with.

07-31-2008, 05:17 PM
How about a Tablet PC


12-13-2008, 10:47 AM
I'm just going to bump this quickly. My laptop was temporarily resurrected and had a glorious swansong - I even got a featured map out of it! However it has now died. I'm now definitely in the market for a new laptop and I have more specific requirements for it's capabilities. Ideally it needs to be able to handle an A1 image at 300dpi in Gimp :) Oh, and ideally under $1000 as well....

Specifically, I've heard lots of bad things about Vista 64bit - and RPMiller backed them up for me, but I'm happy to hear other opinions. Specificall, I've heard some good things about XP 4bit but I've no idea where to get a laptop that might have such a thing installed?

Other than the maps - I no longer game other than maptool so the gimp specs are really the most serious requirement. Thanks in advance for any further advice, and thanks a lot for the advice so far. Reading through this thread reminded me about hard drive speed again, which was a timely reminder.

12-13-2008, 01:48 PM
Why not go with a 64 bit linux variant like Ubuntu then. I run XP x64 and like it a lot but I wont go down the Vista route either. Unless you have more than 3Gb tho it wont make a huge amount of difference to be 64 bit.

12-13-2008, 02:13 PM
I use linux every day at work and I'd rather not have to use it on my laptop as well. I'm just not up to speed enough with the more complex side of computing to deal with that sort of stuff and find it fun.

There's a few toshiba satellite's here that have 4GB of RAM and 64bit vista and I'm trying to find good reasons not to pick them up. RPMiller already said on the rptools forums that Vista 64 bit just doesn't support enough business programs, but then all I really use are gimp, itunes, maptool and firefox. I need to ssh onto my work box using putty/xming and ssh secure shell, but other than that I'm good. There's one here knocking around for $700 that looks pretty tempting.

12-13-2008, 05:10 PM
Do you really want a LAPTOP to do your high end work on? How often do you really do work while on the move?

I strongly suggest giving the idea of a main development desktop PC, even one put together in a micro case with a large LCD monitor that tucks away nicely and can be boxed up and moved to the cottage easily for weekends and such, and then get a netbook for while you're on the move.

Now, most of my work is text and code, not digital artwork, so the netbook (ASUS EeePC 900 in my case) works well enough, but I still have GIMP on it for little things.

Just something to think about. Quality laptops that have large screens and long batteries usually cost an arm and a leg, and you'll put your back out carrying them around too often.

12-13-2008, 05:59 PM
I move jobs and countries every year or two years and spend a good amount of time in between visiting different universities and conferences so yes, I need to be able to do this work on a laptop. I was having a look at some of the desktop options, but I suspect the desktop might not survive the transport.

As for the weight, I'm happy to carry them around. That's certainly an area in which I'll take the extra weight for a saving.