Ubuntu boot results?
The HP looks tempting (if the stock Win8/10 can be removed). Neither of my offspring uses Windows so the usual "does it run Linux" question is not moot.
The rest are definitely not setting the world on fire.
The summer’s been and gone already, and it’s the time of year when our brightest and best leave home to enter the hallowed halls of academia. Any young student will need a decent laptop to help them out with essays and other work, but the chances are that most students will also be on a pretty tight budget. Fortunately, every …
Most important question for me. I'm on the lookout for a new laptop, preferably with a nice 17" or larger screen and my first question is... will it run Linux without hardware / driver issues. I gather Nvidia graphics cards are to be avoided. I'll probably make it dual-boot and leave whatever version of Windows is already on the computer unused in case I'm ever forced (e.g. by Customs and Excise) to run some software that only works on Windows.
I had a look on the Dell site the other day and they were quoting something like £1500 (cough!) for a 17" laptop with Linux pre-installed! I expect to pay nearer 1/3 of that figure.
I've got one, Dell M3800 with the 4K screen and run Linux Mint 17.2 on it. The 17.2 made all the difference. Installs easily and looks great. I use it as a desktop replacement driving a 32" Benq monitor via it's mini-display port. I'd have preferred a 13.1" unit but wanted the 4K screen for GoPro editing so it's a 15.6" and slightly heavy. Otherwise, loving it.
If you deal with official bodies you are often at the mercy of what they tell you to use. Until recently Companies House required that I used a full-fat version of Adobe Reader with the ability to enter form data for submission directly to them. Thankfully they've since changed to using a web-based entry system; but you never know what may be imposed on you with these organisations.
You've to be a little careful about battery life with Ubuntu installed on a laptop
Err... It is the same in all OSes - it all depends on the amount of candy. The default candy in Unity is quite a lot for a laptop which has no proper GPU. So if you have an Intel IGP you are likely to see reduced run times.
If you have an AMD, even with Unity the run-times are on par or even in Linux favor. Switching to XFCE4 easily gets you into a position where Windows has lower battery runtime for doing the same stuff (f.e. surfing, editing, etc).
I'd say it rather depends on your requirements. If all you plan on doing is a little browsing, email and writing letters, even 1-2GB might suffice (The Linx 8 is a good example of this). 4-8GB is probably more typical for a full fat laptop though, as the use may well be a little more demanding. However, I think it's a little premature to say that 8GB is the new norm, particularly at the bargain end of the market. I think SSD (or at least SSHD) will penetrate faster in this market before 8GB becomes ubiquitous.
"I would suggest that nowadays 8GB (and a 64bit OS to access it) is the new norm."
The new norm should be SSD. It really is the best way to level up any computer in 99% cases. And 32 bit (Windows) operating systems haven't really been sold to consumers for several years now (with the exception of some low-end 32 bit only Atom CPUs)
These laptops are fine for surfing, watching films, light gaming, Office software and such. None of those scenarios really need 8GB. If Chrome is the top reason to standardise to 8GB, I'd just select another browser that works correctly.
With otherwise identical specs I'd choose each time a laptop with 4GB & SSD than 8GB and HDD.
Just ordered a 250 gb ssd for £50ukp which should be more than enough for an average PC.
If you need more storage then external drives are cheap as chips.
However once you add bells and whistles such as better screen and SSD then the cost creeps up and people looking for "budget" shop elsewhere.
"The new norm should be SSD."
Agreed after seeing first hand how upgrading to a SSD in this core i5 laptop has really boosted the running of the operating system.
But I can't reccomend the WD Black2 Dual Drive which is the one I installed, 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD in one package sounds good in theory but how they got both to work simultaneously through a single SATA connection is nothing short of a kludge which requires special software to activate the 1TB HDD after you've installed the OS on the 128GB SSD. The system effectively sees a single drive split into two partitions, meaning things can get tricky if you have to reformat the drive to replace the OS.
Yet that's not the worst of it because at random intervals the drive light goes on for a full minute or two, completely locking up the laptop for that time, I've lost no data but it's an issue that has plagued users and WD know about it but they haven't made a firmware fix, it mostly happens if I'm transferring many gigabytes to/from it but can strike at any time.
Absolutely. Running 4GB here on a on Core 2 Duo, 5 year old laptop. SSD + Ubuntu turned it into a strong runner, far more than the tat-box I thought it would be.
I now divvy time up 50% between this ol' duffer and my shiny new self-build upstairs.
I've no intention of upgrading the RAM - and that's running writing software, Chrome w/ around 8 hungry tabs open including Deezer, Thunderbird, and other Chrome apps inc Hangouts that I'm sure you don't care about.
Still loads of memory to play around with (even with swapiness optimised to prefer RAM) - it was the SSD that made the critical difference, even with this being 'only' a SATA II.
Can El Reg please stop promoting laptops that have only 768 vertical resolution. The review almost sounds apologetic when mentioning the screen size.
What with MS Office and its darned Ribbon taking up close to 20% (if not more at times) of that space it really does increase the amount of scrolling that you are gonig to have to do.
Yes, I know these are cheap as chips laptops but if no one bought them perhaps the manufacturers would stop making them for us to buy.
768 vertical was ok 10 years ago but not now.
"Yes, I know these are cheap as chips laptops but if no one bought them perhaps the manufacturers would stop making them for us to buy."
Perhaps. But you need to consider the people who buy the cheapest things because they just don't have any extra money.
Then again I've met plenty of (older) people with poor eyesight who complain about small text when they're given a FullHD display to use even with a desktop monitor. And next minute you're adjusting the resolution down. Or hoping that the 200% scaling works with all the software...
Turning off the ribbon preferences makes it take up none of your real estate. If you still want the functionality of the ribbon without the size then you can simply minimise it. All in ribbon preferences.
I don't care for it much myself but I do get tired of the endless 'ribbon bashing' from people who don't seem to comprehend that it's entirely optional.
Serious office product users who are at it all day for work would be well aware of all their keyboard shortcuts for their needed and most used services so will have no need to look at the ribbon ever again.
Ribbon? What Ribbon is that? Or perhaps you need to update your software to something from the last decade before you get a new laptop. (I actually can't remember exactly when MSOffice started allowing you to auto-hide the ribbon but it has been quite a while.)
Though I do agree that 768 is not really acceptable since most phones exceed this now and it seems daft that you can actually see more detail on a phone screen than on a 10" - 13" laptop screen.
768 was definitely NOT "OK" ten years ago! Ten years ago I had 1200 v. pixels. Still possible if you're willing to pay through the nose. The laptop industry seems to have cleaved the market in two wildly segregated sectors: cheapish-total-shit and unbelieveably-extortionate-slightly-less-shit - with the sole differentiator being the panel fitted into the thing.
That "review" thing was an ad for crappy selection from the cheap-shit sector.
Reg, if I EVER read "the resolution is only 1366x768 but here's the rest of the sales pitch regardless" again on these hallowed pages, I'll cancel my subscription on the spot.
Oh, and my current (five year old) 17" laptop has a 1920x1200 IPS panel which is visibly TOO COARSE for the size/working distance... The 1600x900 resolution of the 17" unit advertised is COMPLETE SHIT.
A fun game when bored is to play "Who's taking the absolute piss" by looking up what's the most expensive laptop you can buy with a 1366x768 shitscreen. Ultrabooks are a good place to start.
"£800 for the same 15.6" 1366x768 screen as a £200 laptop? Of course sir, step this way."
So you want Reg to stop reviewing things that don't meet *your* specific requirements, which, by inference, you are suggesting we should all feel shackled by? Because....?
Different horses, n'that. Not all of us care about the same things. Not all of us can afford or even need ultra-high resolutions on their laptops. And if having something than only do 720p video cuts the cost down then, well, I'm all for it and I daresay there's a decent market size that feels the same.
And if having something than only do 720p video cuts the cost down then, well, I'm all for it
I'd wager it increases the profit margin rather than cuts the cost down. I had a Dell Inspiron in 2001 that had a 1600x1080(?) screen. More than that shower of shit reviewed anyhow. That was 14 years ago. Disgraceful.
The GPU in the typical Bay Trail CPU is decent (HD4000 for example), but will probably struggle with higher resolution frame rates (when gaming). I suppose good HW scaling could solve that problem and let us have decent resoluton screens. Let's ask for IPS and good color balance backlight at the same time, BTW. If Apple can do it on the iPads... (Not for the cheapest offerings, of course, but the next tier up at least, rather than the TOTR £1500+ silly priced stuff.)
Most universities are playing around with ChromeOS, if only for the cost savings and the ability to completely wipe them to factory settings in seconds. This makes ChromeOS particularly well-supported, especially given that the web versions of Office365 and Skype now work perfectly well on them. Printing is the only gotcha, from what I've seen.
I picked up the Full HD 13" Toshiba. About as expensive as the cheapest ones on this list, but performs quite a lot better, can't pick up a virus, and has limited capability for the teenager to fuck around with it too much before he (inevitably) breaks it.
Bought a ThinkPad T410 for £120 off eBay, added Linux Mint Mate on an SSD and it flies. What more is needed? Tough and easy to repair. T420 and T430 are also available at about £100 increments - a couple of sellers have sold 1000s at 100% reputation, mine came looking well clean, OH and LO thought was new.
+1 for old ThinkPad T4xxs. You can even add an eGPU to get an Alienware-thrashing gaming performance when plugged in back at the dorm, and a reasonable 24" dorm monitor / TV is a very cheap addition too. Away from the dorm you get robustness, easy repair as you mentioned, and a boring looking laptop that will be near the bottom of the pile in attractiveness to thieves.
This is pretty much the same story as with my T410 lappy. :) Paid AUD 300 for it on eBay. 4GB RAM, Samsung 128MB SSD, Nvidia Quadro GPU, Firewire port [extremely useful to me as I'm into audio and use firewire audio interfaces], ExpressCard port, and you can put an additional HD in the UltraBay instead of a DVD. Bloody perfect! I've put Debian Jessie and Windows 7 on it both. W7 only for audio work and Debian for everything else. Works like a charm. I don't think this thing can break, like ever, lol and it performs admirably. Except for the battery, but I use it as an additional computer to my DAW PC anyway, not for portable work that much.
I can't in good conscience recommend a Windows laptop to students these days. If you have the money, and there's an Apple store in your university town, then buy a Mac: the ability to take a faulty machine into a shop and get it fixed or replaced quickly is worth the price tag. If you're on a budget then consider a Chromebook; there's less to go wrong.
Obviously those rules don't apply for computer-savvy students; but then they wouldn't be asking me for recommendations in the first place.
From the tone of your post I can see you haven't actually tried to rock up to an Apple store with a broken computer and see how long you have to wait...
If you don't want to throw away a morning or afternoon waiting for a Genius to tell you what you already know (it's broken) then you can always book online and wait days instead.
In 2015 I wouldn't call the £ 750 price tag for a 11" screen, 4GB, 128GB SSD MacBookAir remotely good value for student money though. Despite the build quality and battery life, it has zero upgrade potential because all pieces are soldered and the proposed 128GB of storage is just very limited. Also unless I'm mistaken Applecare support only covers the basics for one year and everything else is optional (and costly).
However there is truly a gap in the cheap laptop market that no Windows laptop currently covers well IMO, hence the success of Chromebooks.
"If you have the money, and there's an Apple store in your university town, then buy a Mac: the ability to take a faulty machine into a shop and get it fixed or replaced quickly is worth the price tag."
We are a group of Apple customers that paid more than 2000 USD/EUR for a Macbook that is showing horrific stains in the screen.
The stains can start as early as 7 months after the purchase. There is no clear pattern as to how it starts: some experience it in small spots around the edge, on other screens it appears in the middle as large patches.
Apple hasn’t responded accordingly to this problem and have told us that this is a “cosmetic damage and it is not covered by the warranty”.
Repair costs are around 800 USD/EUR with a 3 month warranty, so probably in 12 months the Macbook would start showing stains again.
Can we please stop using the -gate suffix for everything?
Also, those pictures look like splatter burns to me, most likely someone attempted to clean the screen with alcohol or ammonia (and possibly made it worse by trying to scrub off the splotches that appeared). I'd be really surprised if Apple doesn't include instructions for proper care and cleaning.
"Can we please stop using the -gate suffix for everything?
Also, those pictures look like splatter burns to me, most likely someone attempted to clean the screen with alcohol or ammonia (and possibly made it worse by trying to scrub off the splotches that appeared). I'd be really surprised if Apple doesn't include instructions for proper care and cleaning."
In general, when people spend thousands on a premium product they take good care of it. Also, it's happened to several computer journalists who know how to look after their laptops.
There's currently a lawsuit in preparation, so I'm sure we'll see a climb down from Apple in the not too distant future as we saw recently with the GPU failure issue that affected certain MacBook Pros.
Is that they are moving to solid undertrays.
So no easy HDD/SSD/Battery swaps. You have to unscrew the whole bottom tray then separate the top tray, keyboard and trackpad then clip it all back together etc. to do what was a 2 minute job on any other laptop.
Not fun and eases them out of my 'recommended' list.
Also TOSHIBA and HP - was caught by this on a TOSHIBA laptop recently.
Not helped by most review/shopping sites not giving you a screen shot of the underside either.
I have found that http://www.notebookcheck.net are good about providing ease of maintenance/upgrading on laptops they review.
(I seem to recall reading somewhere that consumer models are tending to this, while "business" models are still provided with access hatches.)
Not having bottom panels to access the HDD and RAM isn't neccessarily the end of the world depending on the rest of the construction.
Admittedly some are a single bottom panel and assembled in such a way as to make it impossible to get in without doing damage. But my previous Dell XPS 15 (L501X) wasn't too bad, removing the cover around the keyboard to get to the HDD was simple a matter of taking the battery out and popping the first catch by pushing it up from the battery bay, the rest then came fairly easily.
Same with my cheap Toshiba I currently have, take out all the screws and pull out the optical drive (or in this case the blank plastic insert in the shape of an optical drive) then use the optical drive as some where to get your fingers in and start popping the catches around the edge.
In a lot of cases it's not especially difficult to get into them, it's just a matter of knowing the right technique to use for that model
"Is that they are moving to solid undertrays."
Is that new? I've a Acer Netbook bought in 2010. Upgrading the RAM by 1GB meant 'almost' disassembling the entire thing to base components in much the manner you describe. It took me twenty minutes (plus several hours pouring over the disassemby manual for repair staff and a few youtube videos - I really didn't want to make a mistake).
At least there was no glue used anywhere...
For the very budget conscious an interesting option might be the Toshiba Satellite C50-B-14D, currently £179.99 from Currys/PCWorld.
By no means a high spec machine, however for web browsing and word processing and other basic requirements of school work it performs perfectly acceptably. I have one and have even managed to play some Civ 5 on it (albeit with the graphics turned wayyyy down).
As a cheap laptop for web browsing and Office apps this is quite a decent option, especially for kids who's parents are wary of buying online and would rather shop at a high street store.
My thinking too.
And all these were Windows machines. I'd be much more interested in a review of the sub £200 machines (esp what's the trade off vs more expensive kit?), and the speed diference running Ubuntu or Mint vs Windows.
(particularly as I'm currently looking about for a friend with an aging Apple laptop but not much money to pay the £££ they want for a new one)
My son's 11 inch Acer dual core new Atom (Bay Trail I think) with HD4000 graphics stomps all over my TOTR Vaio with Core 2 Duo. And the Acer is fanless too.
"Atom" and "Celeron" doesn't mean what it used to mean any more. His is a "Celeron" which is just a slightly slower clocked normal Atom.
My Vaio can probably just about keep up if I switch to the nVidia graphics, but then the fan will go crazy, and probably the motherboard will soon burn up.
Price for mine new? Around £1500 I think.
He runs Minecraft at decent speed on it (God, oh God, why not reimplement MC without java..)
So it depends on how old the alternative is.
I can only seem to find two versions, neither of which have the SSD mentioned in the review. One has an even poorer processor than the review model, and the other seems to cost about £50 more than the reviewed model, and still doesn't have the SSD.
I mean seriously, just giving a list of devices would just be as informative, and the readers are just going to complain that it's not in the slightest way a "review" or even a sensible selection of laptops you would buy a child for school.
It's been a niggle of mine for some years that reviewers seldom seem to take into account that some folk will want to know how Linux performs on a device. Now that MS has done such an excellent job of annoying what looks like being a majority of the commentards on this website with Win10 and it's Win7 and Win8 'upgrades', methinks it's time to start making the Linux experience on kit a priority in kit review.
When there are plenty of much higher spec ex business lease refurbs out there.
I recently picked up a refurb lenovo W520, 1920x1080, i7, 16GB, 500GB HDD for sub £300 with 12m warranty to boot. Couldn't be happier with it, though i did go and add a 250GB mSata SSD just to make it perfect.
1366x768 was just not a consideration as my previous laptop sported a 1920x1200 screen from 2007 vintage!
Looking around uni is always interesting, as students put down their own cash for laptops and expect to use them seriously rather than for games. The typical notebook by far is the Macbook Air, followed by the Dell XPS 13. With that in mind I'd suggest that this review doesn't give enough attention to dimensions, weight, and battery life. Just on dimensions alone it is difficult to recommend a lot of the laptops in this review, as they're not going to fit well into a school bag.
If you want to see what bargain manufacturers could be doing for school users then look at the Toshiba Chromebook 2. Small, light, good screen, quiet. It's well underpowered for WIndows, it's lack of sockets limits its upgradability (and thus lifetime), but you'd hope that manufacturers would take hints from the form factor.
Dunno why people even consider the Pentium chip, every review says it is down powered, underperforming or something similar.
Yeah it is a cheap laptop but you still want to do stuff. Having a woe full chip that can barely run oversized OS' isn't helpful. I would look at i3 minimum these days. AMD is okaaaaaayyyyyyy I guess.