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Future Spending, Two Big Items, Part 1: New Computer

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I own a Fujitsu C-6631 Lifebook notebook computer, which I purchased in 2001. At that time, my living situation was in a state of flux and I was working at a non-profit organization, spending more money on my commute than I was making. It was bad news all around. To bring in extra money, I developed some websites for a couple of clients, but I was working from a friend’s computer.

I decided to go for Best Buy‘s 12 month 0% interest by opening a credit card. Dealing with Household Bank, the operators of the credit card, was a pain but I got through the whole period without having to pay any interest.

I’m not quite sure how the Fujitsu managed to last so many years in an environment where technology is out of date within 18 months. The computer is no longer in perfect shape. Sometimes, I must hit the side of the screen to stop the display from having an LCD seizure. The machine is also what would be considered by today’s standards as “painfully slow.”

So I’m considering the purchase of a new notebook computer. I do have a desktop computer which I built a few years ago, having bought the parts separately. It’s an AMD Athlon XP 1800+, and is also a few generations old at this point. I saved some money by not buying a Dell, Gateway, or HP, but the Soyo KT600 Dragon Ultra Platinum motherboard is a little unstable, resulting in occasional impromptu restarts.

The newer notebook computers are quite powerful, so I’m considering replacing the Fujitsu. I would consider a Mac if the price reflected the fact that software isn’t as readily available or as polished as software for an “IBM compatible” (except for multimedia production, which I rarely use). Alas, Macs are too expensive for what they provide, in my opinion.

If I go through with the purchase, I’d probably spend around $2,000, and I’d want to find the best value for the money, which probably does not include the major manufacturers. Toshiba seems to be a popular lower-cost brand, so I’ll probably start there.

Feel free to share your opinions and experiences.

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published August 14, 2006.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Buy a MacBook for a slew of reasons: 1) Apple is no longer the expensive option 2) support is excellent. 3) You have an active and helpful users community. Where do you go if you have a question about using Windows? or need to poll others for experiences with widget xyz 4) comes with a lot of sw that actually works well (iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, etc.) … and if you have to 5) runs Windows!

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avatar 2 Anonymous

If you don’t mind a little fun (i.e. horrible pain), you can assemble your own laptop. Just order a case, screen, keyboard, and all the internal goodies and assemble it yourself. I did this for my current laptop almost three years ago; it’s still running beautifully, and I now feel very comfortable diagnosing hardware problems and swapping out older parts. The monitor and case will probably last me for years to come, and I can just upgrade everything else as I please instead of buying a whole new machine.

Building your own computer (PC or laptop) isn’t for everybody, but it’s definitely a great way to become better acquainted with the inner workings of your computer. And it can save you lots of money since you can probably double the machine’s lifespan simply by upgrading parts as needed.

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I would suggest not going the DIY yourself route anymore – that’s what I would do in the past, but these days, you just can’t be competitive with the big names. The only exception to this is if you want a high end machine or a server (which it doesn’t sound like you’re looking for) – in either of those cases, it does make sense to build it yourself.

I have an Acer tablet PC that I’ve been fairly happy with – it was right around your price range when I got it a year or so ago. The HDD did fail, but in all honesty, you’re going to have that risk on anything so just back up your data with an external HDD or something similar and it doesn’t matter. A friend of mine has a Toshiba tablet PC and it performs fairly well, but he had some issues with it not too long ago (it had a loud whistle for some reason and would lock up every once in a while) – Toshiba support is horrible (based on what he’s told me and he’s a very techical person as well).

I’ve seriously thought about upgrading to a MacBook / MacBook Pro myself – I have another friend that got one of those and he’s fairly happy with it – remember that you can use Boot Camp to run Windows XP on it so it’s not like you have to run OS X only.

Your best bet is to figure out the specs you think you need and then start looking around – if you just set your budget and then see what is out there, you may see something that’s a “good deal” but you wouldn’t use those features…so it might be a better deal to buy a lower priced computer, invest in a good external backup device and a nice large & fast HDD for a laptop (since most laptops you’ll find have the slower HDD with lower cache by default) and maybe up the memory. If you go with a laptop, remember that the one thing you pretty much can’t upgrade is the graphics chip so if you want to play games or any 3D stuff, you’ll want to make that a priority. I would suggest going dual-core though in whatever you get just because it’ll be a bit snappier even for everday use. Don’t worry too much about 64-bit or not…I have an AMD 64 chip in my desktop (single core) and it doesn’t perform much differently than anything else in it’s speed range (even with 64-bit software…at least 64-bit windows and linux).

Good luck with your decision and don’t forget to check out (and other online outlets) if you haven’t already…every once in a while you’ll find a *really* good deal there, but it’s hit or miss. And is always good for PC stuff – that’s where I bought my tablet PC and it’s usually some of the cheapest prices you’ll find.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Keep checking or for nice deals on Dell. I have been configuring some dells notebooks and have seen extremeley reasonable deals floating around. Look out for a $750 off on $1999 and up or 35% off on $1999 and up. For $1500 I could configure a 15″ screen, including a 2 GB RAM, 256 Mb ATI Radeon graphics card, TV tuner, the new “Draft N” networking and lot more. With $2000 you can max out available warraty with accidental protection too.
I know some guys who dont have a very high opinion of Dell quality but I have had a good experience. Dell Tech support sucks…but now-a-days you can google anything you want. Good luck with the purchase.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I recommend checking out They are basically the generic maker of Dells, Alienware (now Dell I know), HP, etc. You’ll get the best bang for you buck with on of these. I recommend actually buying the machine from who tend to sell the machines a little cheaper.

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avatar 6 Anonymous

I am currently a huge fan of the Lenovo Thinkpad T60. It is the best notebook I have ever used. Its Core Duo processor makes Windows XP positively peppy. But now that Intel has just launched the Core 2 Duo series you may want to hold off just a bit for Lenovo’s T60 replacement to surface. The Core 2 Duo runs rings around anything else, and uses less power and runs cooler to boot.

Regarding your Soyo KT600 motherboard I would suggest trying two things:

1) updating its BIOS to the latest stable (non-beta) release , and

2) installing the latest VIA chipset drivers , currently 5.09A as of this writing.

Some people say VIA chipsets are crap, but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve been using the KT333 Dragon Ultra Platinum for the past four years and have had zero problems with it.

A few more things to try after BIOS and chipset driver updates:

* make sure your BIOS’ memory timings are correct for your RAM, and use Memtest86 to test your RAM for defects
* try setting your AGP slot to 4x in the BIOS, rather than 8x, and make sure the voltage is set correctly
* don’t overclock your CPU if you are doing so currently
* ensure adequate cooling in your case; instability in modern systems can often be traced to overheating issues
* ensure your power supply is providing adequate power for all of your system’s components. Use a power supply calculator to get an accurate estimate
* procure a $15 ATX power supply tester in your local computer store and test all of your power supply’s leads to ensure you don’t have a faulty PSU

After all of the above, sometimes a format and reinstall of your OS, coupled with updated hardware drivers for everything, can do wonders.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

Forgot one thing… don’t forget to back up your data first before trying any of the above. ;) I had a crusty Win2K install on my Soyo KT333 + Athlon XP 2200+ setup a few years ago and a VIA chipset driver upgrade killed it (BSOD). Subsequent format + OS reinstall followed by the same chipset driver version made for a stable build, and I’ve been running the same Win2K install for the last three years now.

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avatar 8 Anonymous


If you end up going brand name. HP and Lenovo are probably the most dependable. If you want a high quality machine that isn’t exactly name brand, price out an Asus. It’s a very dependable and very solid computer. Sturdy. Honestly, you may end up paying more for an Asus than you would for a HP or Lenovo.

Personally, I just picked one up and after a short hesitation, I bought it off of ebay.
For $400 I picked up a machine thats about 2 years old, but is better(spec wise) than the desktop machine I’ve been using. If you take the precausions and protect yourself using buyer protection services available through ebay, paypal or your credit card, it’s pretty hard to get scammed.

Just be wary of the ones that are just too good to be true.

A laptop that sells retail for $2000, can easily go for about $1400 on ebay. Quite the savings to ignore the option.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

The low-end MacBooks look cheap and have a funny keyboard that doesn’t feel like it has enough throw. The 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pros are better, but larger and more expensive.

I’ve owned a Sony Vaio — awesome computer, but Sony has *the worst* customer service. I’ve been really happy with my Sharp for the last five years and may buy another if I find a current model I like. Friends have had bad luck with HPs.

Good luck in your search!

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avatar 10 Anonymous

Hey Flexo,
I would HIGHLY recommend using to get coupon codes for a new Dell. You can buy a very nicely configured Dell laptop for about $650. I personally would never consider buying anything but a Dell for the value. If you want me to send you some examples, send me a PM and I’ll find some for you. I made the mistake of buying a “higher end” HP from Costco a couple years ago and later realized I could beat that significantly with a Dell. And I’ve been very happy with the quality of all the Dell stuff I’ve purchased. (And I’ve purchased a LOT for my employer as well)
Just my two cents

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avatar 11 Anonymous

I have a Mac desktop. I agree that they are expensive, but, lately, almost everything I’ve wanted to do has been no problem in terms of compatibility (which wasn’t true when I bought the first Mac about 3 years ago), the customer support is amazing (come on, the in-store guys are actually called “geniuses” and a lot of them really are), it’s fast, but, most importantly, it is such a reliable computer — it almost never freezes or fails to do what you want it to do. I am a walking Mac advertisement — I love that I made the switch and when I go back to being allowed to spend money on non-essentials (if ever) or, if a laptop ever becomes an essential (hard to figure that’s going to happen), I would definately go Mac.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

I just checked tiger direct, they have a Gateway laptop for 500 bucks. I live near Raleigh, NC where they have a store so they’re the first place i check. But, I’m sure they’re not unique, so i’d expect there are lots of places to get a new laptop for 500 bucks.

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