Personal laptop considerations?

It’s time for a new computer, and i don’t need a clunky tower any more. I don’t game, and i plug in external monitors, keyboard, and mouse. I’m not an apple person, nor am I savvy enough to install linux or make my own OS, so, working from the box windows is great for me.

I’m curious about the communities take for what to get in a laptop, i suppose my biggest question is, if you play around with python or R on your personal laptop, do you ever run into lag issues? Like, do you need the power of a gaming computer, to do heavier analytical lifting at home. I also figure i don’t really need a long battery life(though it’s very nice) if the machine spends most of it’s time in a docking station. Nor do I need extreme hyper6k quality video, just nice enough to the mandalorian from bed occasionally. My budget is approx 1-1.2k

Anyone have brands they recommend against or for? Is your laptop reliable? Did it come with windows and the Microsoft suite of products?

All recommendations/considerations are welcome.

Till All Are One,


PS: What’s the easiest way to toggle your home keyboard/mouse/monitors between work and personal laptop? Thanks again!

My mom recently asked me a similar question. I didn’t know the answer, but I ended up buying her a ASUS TUF Gaming laptop (from Canadian Amazon) because it was the mid-point of what seemed like good quality but inexpensive for a gaming computer (it’s in your range). Her former ASUS had also served her well.

I’m typing this message from my work ThinkPad because I use it for everything. The Alienware laptop that the kids use is on it’s last legs at ~5 years old.

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How long do you want to use this “new computer” until you want to upgrade update it?

You might also want to take into consideration what sort of connectivity (WiFi) capabilities you currently have in the places you want to use the laptop (in your home) and what might be likely to be needed in the near future (next 2 years, more or less).

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a long time if i can help it. In my adult life i’ve purchased two prior computers. They each gave me about 10 years. That may not be a realistic expectation, but it would be nice to get at least 5-7 years from the machine.

What’s your experience been? Assuming responsible ownership, how many years can you get out of a laptop?

I’m sure that a laptop will likely last several years in terms of its components operating, but the way somethings change, what is “top of the line” today isn’t available for purchase in 5 years.

One of the areas that I’ve seen considerable changes taking place is the system requirements for various software. I’ve seen more and more things getting pushed to the “cloud” . . . and if you’re comfortable with your stuff being on some remote server, and not physically located on your laptop, then you’ll won’t need a machine with a large HD (perhaps 256 GB).

If you don’t want that, then you might consider getting a machine with a large capacity SSD.

But I would look for a machine with as much RAM as you can get. Not necessarily for what you might be wanting to run now, but app needs in 2 or 3 years.

FWIW, “gaming machines” tend to have very high end video graphics board (separate RAM for video along with additional processors to accelerate graphics for “player-to-player” games). Last I checked, these components are some of what adds considerably to the cost of the system.

Simplest way to toggle monitor/keyboard/mouse among computers is a KVM switch, assuming the work and personal computer can use the same KVM switch.

20 years ago, it was easy. Now…I don’t know; I haven’t kept up.

Second choice would be for the work and personal machine to be capable of using the same hub, and manually unplug the hub from one computer to the other. That’s easy to do if both machines are using USB-C – the absolute newest computers should, but there’s not a guarantee.

To add to what our resident Kwisatz Haderach said – real gaming laptops have a discrete graphics processor. It’s handy if you want to play the latest games, but it does add considerably to the price and it absolutely kills the machine’s battery life. It’s overkill unless you are into gaming, you want to do video editing, or have other graphic-intensive needs.

If you’re looking to future-proof to the extent you can, get as much RAM as you can find, look for something that can be powered via USB-C, and look for something that has user-accessible batteries.

I think expecting to get 10 years from a laptop is probably optimistic. 5 years is certainly doable, if your battery doesn’t turn into a spicy pillow (again – look for user-accessible batteries, although they’re harder to find). I usually get 4-5 years out of my laptops.


Almost everything that you’ve described about your constraints require almost nothing in the way of hardware. I run all of our work laptops off of Lenovo’s T540p, which were released in 2003. Through the years I’ve swapped them all out so that they all have the highest processor available in those machines, plus a larger battery pack. They have so far done everything I’ve ever needed personally and for work - including entry level video editing, with two exceptions.
First exception, when we started to get into heavy duty video editing, 10 minute videos with 4k etc, the machine barfed up a hairball consistently. Not surprising, since the processor is an i7 and like what, 15 years old. Even current midline computers won’t do heavy video editing.
Second exception, I was doing some R stuff for school. The laptop ran it just fine, but took a bit longer than ‘instant’ on some larger datasets - like a few minutes. Not exactly a deal breaker, but if I was doing a lot of that I’d want a faster machine.

The tl’dr of that ted talk is that a 15+ year old laptop does almost everything ‘not high end’ perfectly fine. So if you’re not killing it with video editing or hardcore large R datasets, then pretty much anything current is fine - you don’t need big ram, big cpu, or high end video.

Oh, and I’ve got my son in law on the same laptop for his work, he’s happy. And my son has the same laptop for his school/research, and no problems either - they’re both super happy with the performance.

I would add that the one other case where you might still want a video card is if your python/R is dipping into AI/machine learning. You can do some stuff free with google colab, but if that is an interest, you may still want a (nicer) discrete GPU.

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If you have to ask, the answer is no.