Sunday, August 5, 2007

Buying a Laptop for School

One of the things I had to do while preparing for school was purchasing a laptop. This is a must for any MBA student. There were several options, such as a tablet PC or a notebook. I decided that I personally will never write on the computer screen, so a tablet was out of the question.

In Israel the prices of laptop are high. In the price of an old generation computer you can purchase a new model notebook in the states. One more problem is that you cannot assemble your computer - you must buy what the supplier delivers. If the supplier provides only notebooks with Window Vista, then you cannot get a Windows XP computer. So I decided to focus on buying the computer in the internet, and have someone deliver it to me.

After some research I had to decide between Dell, the Latitude D630, or Lenovo, the T61 model. I purchased the Dell in the end, and it seems really good, but I guess the Lenovo would be just as good.

Here are some parameters that I considered when I purchased my laptop:
1. The laptop will be in use for only one year. After that if you need a computer at work, they will probably give you. I have a strong computer at home, so the notebook is not a suitable desktop replacement for me (from my experience laptops are never as strong as desktops). So for 1 year, spending more than 1000$ on a computer seems like a waste.

2. Well, you can get a decent computer for that price, but not the models I described earlier. I like my computer to be fast. I am a software engineer, so I know what I want from my computer. I am willing to go as high as 1500$ in order to get good specs for my computer.

3. I don't trust Windows Vista. Don't get me wrong, I like new technologoes, and I am always the first one to use them, but doing my research I got a bad feeling regarding Vista. The demanding requirements for video card and memory, the consumption of battery, the problems connecting to some hardware such as printers, and the lack of backward compatability to software from the XP generation - all were red lights. I guess I will wait for a year or two before I use Windows Vista. So I wanted Windows XP Pro - this way I don't have to get familiar with a new operating system, and I know the requirements of the hardware.

4. I wanted to get as much memory as possible, ie 2GB. It's not worth to save money here - because for the extra 100$ you boost your performance. I like to run a lot of processes at once, and memory is an important factor. You can never get enough memory.

5. Battery Lifetime is also very important. So for extra 40$ I got myself a nice 9-Cell battery - which lasts for about 4.5 hours.

6. Screen size - 12 inches is small. Too small to work. If I could I would have gotten the 15"4 (widescreen WXGA+), but then the computer would have weighed 3 Kg. the 14"1 screen that I got eventually weigh only 2.5 Kg. This is important, because as a student I would carry the computer everyday. I can tell you that the difference between them (in screen size) is very small, and the 14" screen is great.

7. Processor - I selected a Intel Dual Core 2 2GHz. I could have chosen a faster one, but I did not see the need for Win XP. This should be enough (a better processor cost more).

8. Connection to TV - OOPS, my computer was delivered without S-Video output (this is the 21st century, right?). Now I cannot connect my computer to the TV! I have to buy a very rare adapter, which is very hard to get, and cost around 70$. The pitfalls are always in the small details!

9. Warranty - For about 100$ I get a full warranty for 3 years, including if I spilled my drink all over the laptop, or I scratched the screen.

To summarize this, you can configure the laptop that you need (including all the parameters) in the manufactor's website. For 1500$ you get a fantastic computer with warranty. All you need to do is have someone send it to you from the States.

I will follow-up on this, and let you know if the computer is any good, and what useful software I installed on it.


venkatesh said...

Yariv, Thanks for the post. This is quite useful. I am starting at INSEAD in August 08 and I am looking to buy a laptop. Where did you end up buying it from? Does the Fonty campus have wireless internet access?

Yariv Hammer said...

Actually I bought it on Dell's website and someone brought it to me from the US.
People here have laptops from all brands - Dell, HP, Lenovo, Mac, ACER, and sorry if I missed something.
There is WiFi in INSEAD. No problem. Also in the main vendor for internet access is Orange, and they give you a LiveBox with wireless connection.

Tamar said...

wow.. you might be exactly what i'm looking for.. im in the states, returning to israel, and have no idea which computers i can get better support for in israel, thought you might know
i'm looking for something really simple.
if you have a min to respond that would be amaing!
thank you :)

Yariv Hammer said...

Hi Tamar,
I have seen in INSEAD all veriaty of laptops. I would still go for my Dell Latitude D630 (but with more memory, don't buy less than 2GB). My original preference was Lenovo T61, which is a good choice too (although it is a bit ugly).
But I have seen Sony Vaio, HP, Acer, and a lot of MacBook.

Regarding support in Israel - I really don't know. Maybe you should contact their agency in Israel to find out.