Advice on buying a laptop

Thanks for help with the monitor. Noe I’m thinking of upgrading my personal laptop, too. The little HP spectre 360 i bought shortly before the pandemic turns out to be underpowered for some of what I’d like to do with it.

Had i known we were about to have a pandemic, i would have bought the larger HP Spectre, which has a separate graphics card and a lot more ports, and that might have been good enough. But i got the little one.

So now I’m thinking of upgrading. I’d use it for some light gaming (I’m too old for stuff that requires great reflexes, so not that kind of game) and maybe some photo editing and possibly audio editing.

What should i be looking for?

I’d like a laptop that comes with a decent keyboard and an excellent touch pad. I don’t want to have to connect it to a bunch of peripherals most of the time. I need lots of storage space. I know i want better graphics processing than what i have. I love the flippy screen of the spectre 360, but i probably don’t need that on a larger device, since i plan to keep this one, and will still use it for stuff like watching video on tight places.

What are the specs on your current one?

Because when I Google HP spectre 360 the first result shows i7, 16GB ram, 512GB SSD, which is already decently powerful.

Any budget preference?

Hmm, i now have a more serious problem. My windows laptop is screwed. When i try to change a setting, it says:

This file does not have an app associated with it…

I know how to pay Apple for support… Are there legitimate vendors who sell windows software support? I’m pretty sure this is out of warranty.

I can’t even turn the damn thing off.

Update, i was eventually able to force it off, and two more reboots did the trick.


I had that happen once on linux!

Lol, no I didn’t. But stuff like that is exactly why I went to linux. Windows did it’s thing, it cost me a day of work and I decided I was never going to lose another day to windows. That was 15-20 years ago and haven’t missed windows.

For the odd time I have to run MS, I run it in a virtual window. If windows acts up, I just say ‘yeah, shut up’ and close the window.

Not that anyone’s jumping over to linux. Just saying, I’m awful happy with it, and both my SO and my 80yo mother are quite happy with it as well. No more tech support.

When i was wrestling with it, my husband offered to put Linux on the machine.

But one reason i use that laptop (when my “primary laptop” is a Mac) is that it’s standard. I can run excel that’s completely compatible with what i use at work. I can play all the games.


Anyway, i guess the two things I’ve been dissatisfied with, spec-wise, is that the graphics are mediocre and it doesn’t have enough ports. I guess i can just buy another “dock” (which is really just a USB-C dongle that charges the sucker and has a bunch of other ports on it.) But that doesn’t help that games all lack dynamic range, so it’s hard to see stuff. I think that’s the graphics card. (Or lack thereof.)

I really wish I’d bought the larger one. It has a graphics card and an HDMI port integral to the laptop.

The challenge when it comes to laptops these days seems to be power vs battery life.

I recently retired a first-generation Microsoft Surface Book and moved to a “gaming laptop” from one of the custom-build shops.

The Surface Book was a really nice machine, although a bit on the expensive side. I did use an external USB3 hub with it for peripherals/monitor at my downstairs desk, making it possible to only need to disconnect one USB cable and the power when sticking the machine and put it into a bag.

However, there are a couple of games I enjoy (Cities Skylines, Crusader Kings…) that didn’t work so well on the Surface Book. They both need a lot of RAM to run well, as well as a dedicated video card.

After poking around (and going through a lot of sticker shock), I ended up getting a “gaming laptop” customized-to-order from Xidax: an 11th generation i7 chip, an RTX3060 video card, 64GB of RAM, and a 2TB NVM.e drive, put into a no-name Chinese chassis.

It’s handled everything I wanted to throw at it, and it’s pleasantly fast.

However, the built-in speakers are disappointing. The built-in keyboard includes a numeric keypad which is nice, but the key spacing is just enough compact as to make touch-typing a bit of a problem, given the muscle memory I’ve developed with my mechanical keyboards. Under load, the fan is noisy, and it’s a big machine despite having at 15.6" screen. And the battery life…maybe 90 minutes?

But most of these are common faults with “gaming laptops”. I knew that (but perhaps didn’t fully appreciate it) when I put in my order. I was willing to trade battery life, size, etc. for the performance.

I came up with the specs, and my willingness to go big / sacrifice battery life / … by looking at the specs of machines used by YouTubers who specialize in the games I wanted to play.

Admittedly, for the kinds of specs I was looking at, a desktop PC would generally make more sense…and I do have one in my office at home. (The laptop is for amusing myself while in the living room / when traveling.) But if for some reason you want to play games and you need something small and portable…

MacBook is probably the way to go

Here’s my hot take on laptops.
If you’re gaming, don’t screw around. Drop the cash, get a high end gaming laptop.
If you’re not gaming, a refurb lenovo is the way to go. You can get stuff with decent specs, dirt cheap. And they’re built like tanks.
If all you’re doing is surfing the web, then a chromebook is fine.
If you need it for work, then you have to use windows because excel (linux has an excel clone, but the scripting isn’t compatible with excel) If not, linux is better, less resources and far more stable. If you’re on windows, you could still do a refurb lenovo, you just need more ram and a faster processor.

We’ve got:

  • a bunch of lenovo t540p’s I pick up for $300 Cdn. It’s what we use for work, and our coop students. I put linux on them. Students have absolutely no learning curve jumping to linux, I’ve never had a question yet. The only time it’s been an issue is when we did some video editing - not really suitable and won’t do that again on one of these machines. Otherwise, perfect. I pair them with a docking station, dual monitors and external keyboard/mouse so that they can work on a desktop environment, or grab the laptop and go to a coffee shop if they want.
  • SO has a cheap dell they use for streaming yoga videos. Works great.
  • we have a chromebook in the kitchen for recipes. Works great. Basically used as a tablet.
  • SO has a lenovo t540p for a side gig that has to run windows. All I hear are ‘how do I do this?’ tech support questions from them. LIke, I get this daily. I rarely get that on their linux machine they use for the rest of their work.

How about if i do light gaming?

Opinion, it’s tough to define light gaming. If I was doing any type of gaming, I’d load up on a high end machine. Because at some point I’d likely want to do some other type of gaming that does need the horsepower. Better too much than too little, and where that line is is difficult to draw.

Maybe when Omicron has receded a bit more, and I’m out of quarantine from spending time with my mom, I’ll head over to micro center and let them sell me something.

I’m not an expert on laptops by any means - but I bought an Alienware a couple years ago and it’s good for “light gaming”. I think I accidently gave the thing to my husband because he always has it and I feel weird using it - like I’m snooping or something.

I honestly bought this particular laptop simply because it was thick - I break a lot of laptop screens.

lol. We have different preferences. I like “thin and light” when I can get it. The only time I ever broke a laptop I was trying to replace the RAM or something, and I wasn’t patient enough taking it apart, and bent something. And… I think it still works, but it looks weird and doesn’t close properly.

you want thin and light? if so, the LG gram is the lightest laptop on earth. I have a 17".

I’m not sure of the specs other than that. The main thing that lured me in about this laptop was how light it was. It’s not even that I carry it around that much, but I hated how heavy the Dells were that I had prior to this one.

The E key broke on the keys, but i assume I can get that fixed if I’m ever not lazy about it. I have an external keyboard that I connect to it and an external monitor, so fixing the E key wasn’t on my list of priorities. It’s a good computer for what I need it for otherwise, which is work and posting on GoActuary and social media.

The new x-series is designed to be thin it looks like :slight_smile:. These laptops are around 2k+, so also depends on your budget.

My budget is pretty flexible. But I don’t plan to use an external keyboard, so I want something with a sturdy keyboard (and also, with a keyboard and touchpad that feel good to me.) I realize that “feel good” is subjective, which is why I ought to go to a brick&mortar shop and try stuff out. But “sturdy” is somewhat objective. And yes, it can be negatively correlated with “light”. But I value both.

i might have just been unlucky with this keyboard. can’t say if it’s the norm for a key to break on these.

i also specifically wanted a 17" monitor and light, so getting the two meant getting this laptop. smaller laptops aren’t heavy in other brands. my 17" Dell was freaking heavy.

There’s a few high-graphics games that require no reflexes–

– RPGs and turn based tactics such as Baldur’s Gate 3, which I’m playing now online with my brother.

– Pretty games like Subnautica, where you mostly explore and craft.

– A few nice time killers, like “gas station simulator” or whatever, where you do some virtual chores.

– Various VR thingies.

That said, it’s not an absolute requirement, especially when I know you have a Switch, just something to keep in mind…

Last I shopped having a GPU vs not having a GPU makes a huge difference in terms of cost, weight, and ability to play a lot of games.

I played Portal 2 (the full game) using the trackpad, so I would say it’s pretty comfortable on the AW laptops.