Buying laptop way beyond needs so will last 6 years+ = stupid??

JM8

Novice Member
Sorry for a) quite a detailed post and b) any glaring naivete/stupidity.
Anyway, would hugely appreciate your help if you have time!

Considering buying a high spec laptop or ultrabook that's waaay better than I need, so that I won't need to replace it for a long time (maybe 6yrs).
Have looked at custom built laptops and ultrabooks, leaning towards these specs: Intel i7 quad core, 16GB RAM, approx 250GB SSD (possibly could stretch to 500GB). Would like a full HD screen or better. (I've listed other requirements/preferences/usage etc below my questions). This would be my sole computer.

My questions are:

1. Is this a stupid strategy (ie should I spend less and replace sooner) and if so, why?

2. If I did go for it, what do you think of the specs - are they unbalanced, eg should I add more/less or something?

3. What do you think of these base models (to then be customised to specs already mentioned) -?
Utopia SABRE-13 | Compact Custom Gaming Laptop | The Compact Assassin
PCSPECIALIST - OptimusV 13 Laptops, OptimusV 13 Gaming Laptops, Build Your Own OptimusV 13 Laptop
Chillblast - The UK's most awarded Custom PC builder - Cheap PCs - Gaming PCs - Workstations
Pegasus 13.3" GTX 765M Laptop - Laptops
Schenker S413 14" Slim Laptop

4. Is there any reason not to go for a custom built laptop/ultrabook? I thought it would give the best quality and specs for my money, but maybe I'm wrong. Originally looked at a Macbook Pro but decided a custom built laptop could give the same quality with better specs for the same price. Also looked at Asus Zenbooks.

My usage and requirements:
Budget - £1000
Usage - internet browsing, fair bit of streaming, some photo editing, lots and lots of word processing. No gaming whatsoever.
Portability - Medium - eg won't just be on my desk, want to use at various places around the house. In early stages of journalism career so may need to carry about more at some point. Would prefer lighter and thinner just because they're nicer to have, aesthetically!
Battery life - Pretty important
Storage - Reasonable number of high res photos, but not loads and loads (from an SLR+ expensive lens) and some videos but not loads, medium number of documents, not many programs I need or want, not many films
Size - 13"-15" (torn between portability and price of 13" and the better size for streaming of a 15", but leaning towards 13". Suppose there are some 14" available as compromise)
Operating system - Windows 8.1
Refurbished versions - maybe but prefer not unless can get excellent warranty/aftercare

Thank you so much for your help!
 

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
1. Is this a stupid strategy (ie should I spend less and replace sooner) and if so, why?

A few of reasons this may not work out as you expect.

#1 Exponential Growth. Computer capabilities double every 18-24 months. This means that if you buy something twice as fast it'll last two years longer. If you're a demanding user and expect the slower hardware to be insufficient after two years then it's a great choice as it doubles the lifetime. If you're less demanding and mid-range stuff will do you for five or six years then it's a much less appealing purchase.

#2 Compromises part 1, weight and power. Faster components of the same generation are essentially faster because they can draw more power when going full tilt. This means a larger and heavier cooling system and can mean a larger and heavier battery.

#3 Compromises part 3, cost divisions. Fast components are expensive and lots of money spent on components means less money to be spent on things where durability or quality is more a concern than obsolescence. Screen quality, materials, build quality, touchpad and keyboard.

2. If I did go for it, what do you think of the specs - are they unbalanced, eg should I add more/less or something?

I'm surprised you want 1920x1080 if you're doing lots of typing. I'm not familiar with the intricacies of word but are you sure you're going to be happy with the text size?

I don't know how much on the go laptop work journalism involves in practice but have you considered whether you need a high brightness screen or not?

4. Is there any reason not to go for a custom built laptop/ultrabook? I thought it would give the best quality and specs for my money, but maybe I'm wrong. Originally looked at a Macbook Pro but decided a custom built laptop could give the same quality with better specs for the same price. Also looked at Asus Zenbooks.

I don't know which aspects of quality you're looking at, but I'd be surprised if those clevo barebones were up to the same materials standards as a top of the range Portege/Thinkpad/Zenbook/Elitebook/Macbook/Latitude/Lifebook etc.
 

MarkE19

Moderator
An i7 will eat battery life compared to a slower, lower powered CPU.
Nothing you have listed as your usage requires anywhere near the listed specs.
Getting a custom specs laptop is likely to add to the overall cost as it is built specifically for you.

IMO you would be far better getting a lower spec laptop and replacing it in less time, or spend the money to get better battery power and portability.

I've got the Sony Vaio Pro 13 laptop that weighs in at just over 1Kg, has an i5 CPU & 8Gb RAM and a battery rated at 8 hours (~6 hours is more realistic though). You can add an additional battery to double its run time should you need it to last longer. The cost though is the heavy part at around £1k, but that is the budget you have listed so perhaps a good option for you.

Mark.
 

JM8

Novice Member
Thank you so much for your replies and all the advice, it's all greatly appreciated.

I'm really glad I posted this; my understanding is as limited as I suspected!!

EndlessWaves - Re: text size - Do you mean that the text could be uncomfortably small on a high resolution screen? Couldn't I just set this differently when using Word, and keep it higher resolution for other uses? (Again, sorry if I'm talking nonsense, which is perfectly possible).

MarkE19 - Thanks for the link, that looks really good. I may well go for i5 then, as you suggest. I hadn't considered getting a second battery for some reason but that's definitely something I'd be interested in, on reflection.

Ok so a more mid range, pre-built option looks like the way to go.

Have looked at various 'Best laptops/Ultrabooks 2014'-type articles so there are some options there, but obviously I need to look at the slightly older models available which should still be decent but have dropped a little in price.

It's really hard not to be influenced when you hear lots of people saying that certain brands are really useless, but you hear bad things about so many current brands that you are left with very few options!! So I suppose I need to focus on the merits of particular models instead.

A couple of final questions:

1. What are people's thoughts on hybrid/2 in 1 laptops? I wondered if they could be a good option seeing as this will be my only computer; I don't have a desktop or separate tablet and have no intention of buying either. But I have heard some negative things about hybrids.

2. What about laptops that are not hybrid/ 2 in 1 but that have touch screens? How important do you think this is, or is it just down to personal preference?

Thank you so much!
 
Last edited:

EndlessWaves

Distinguished Member
An i7 will eat battery life compared to a slower, lower powered CPU.

Only for specific applications that use all available CPU power. For things where the task is fixed (decoding or transcoding a video for example) then an i7 often uses the least power overall. It has a high power draw at full tilt, but is also completes the task quickly and as it has all of the features enabled it often turns out to be the most efficient.

It's a complicated picture so I can't say it'll be more efficient overall (idle power draw is often slightly higher for example) but I'd be surprised if it 'ate battery life'. Do you know of any practical tests measuring battery life with different processors?

Although all 'i7' really signifies is an Intel chip with all of the features enabled. There are four different i7 ranges and the ultra-low power Y suffix i7s are quite different beasties performance and power-wise from the monster quad core Q suffix i7s.

EndlessWaves - Re: text size - Do you mean that the text could be uncomfortably small on a high resolution screen? Couldn't I just set this differently when using Word, and keep it higher resolution for other uses? (Again, sorry if I'm talking nonsense, which is perfectly possible).

It's well worth experimenting with the settings on your current computer to get an idea of how it all works.

By default Windows treats extra resolution as more space. This means that for higher resolutions at the same size screen everything gets scaled down to make room for that extra space.

Resolution applies to the whole screen, while programs can change it it's generally only those that you'd want to run exclusively full screen that offer the option (games, some media players).

Windows does offer a scaling option and it's one of the active areas of improvement with Windows 8. This will allow you to scale everything up while still allowing programs that are aware of the high resolution to make use of it. So you get the space and text sizes of a lower resolution with, in supported programs, the detail of the higher resolution. There are a couple of problems however:

#1 1920x1080 isn't really high enough. Upscaling only works crisply with integer factors - 2x, 3x etc. As 960x540 would be too low to use you'd have to scale up by 1.3x, 1.5x or similar which will result in everything that doesn't support the higher resolution underneath looking slightly blurry. It's the same effect as if you run a less than native resolution on any screen so you could try it on your current PC.

#2 Program support isn't as widespread as you'd expect yet. All of Microsoft's programs support it of course but even some big budget programs like the Chrome web browser or Photoshop don't. Worse, Photoshop uses a custom interface which Windows can't scale so the interface size is stuck at normal 1920x1080 sizes.

Individual programs may offer options to adjust font sizes, and Microsoft does so for the windows interface, or zoom options. I don't know if that would interfere with your journalism though, if you have to handle any of the layout details then I'm guessing you'll occasionally need to work at a specific text size.

Go to your local store and see if any of the models there have a 1920x1080 screen in the sizes you're looking at and see whether you think it'll be acceptable in conditions you may want to use it in (i.e. washed out outside when being bounced about in a car/bus/boat/train etc.).

I hadn't considered getting a second battery for some reason but that's definitely something I'd be interested in, on reflection.

There are a few different battery situations so it's worth pointing out the possibilities.

#1 Internal battery. You can't swap it out easily and in some cases it's a big job to replace it when it dies after a few years. Typically found in laptops advertising based on looks and thickness.

#2 Single removable battery. You can carry a spare battery and swap it out when you're getting low, used to be ubiquitous but the first sort is gaining ground.

#3 Two batteries at once. Some laptops, particularly those with docking ports, have the ability to have a second battery attached alongside the first.

Have looked at various 'Best laptops/Ultrabooks 2014'-type articles so there are some options there

You should be aware that Ultrabook is an Intel trademark and they require a laptop to meet specific criteria before they'll let a company use it, it's not just a general label for a thin laptop.

It's really hard not to be influenced when you hear lots of people saying that certain brands are really useless

Yeah, unless there's a serious number of complaints in the last couple of years or consistent highlighting of the same issues I'd ignore them.

1. What are people's thoughts on hybrid/2 in 1 laptops?

2. What about laptops that are not hybrid/ 2 in 1 but that have touch screens?

Unless you've got a use for it then it's just extra complication/weight/expense. Resistive and capacitive touchscreens also block light and make the screen a bit dimmer which either means poorer outdoor visibility or more power going to the backlight to achieve the same brightness (infra-red touchscreens don't suffer from this).

Personally my focus would be on usability for journalism. Get a top quality keyboard and a nice matte high brightness screen so it's viewable in lots of different surroundings and then accept whatever specs it comes with, at the price and quality you're looking at you're not likely to find a budget processor on offer.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Sony Bravia XR A80J OLED TV Review
Subscribe to our YouTube channel
Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom