Don’t buy a “desktop replacement” laptop

I found this oldie but goodie Lifehacker article: When two computers are cheaper than one. It advocates buying a cheap laptop and building a desktop PC to meet your computing needs.

I think it makes a lot of sense. A few weeks ago, a coworker asked me what the most I would be willing to pay for a laptop. I hesitated, thought for a while, and said you might be able to convince me to spend $600. “Wow,” he said. “I’m considering a $3,500 laptop.”

I wouldn’t. Read more

The trouble with Dell

Note: I wrote this in mid-2010 and, for whatever reason, never posted it. I found it this week. Although the information in it is no longer fresh and new, it’s still useful, so for that reason, I’m posting it now.

Dell is standing on some shaky ground right now. Bill Snyder has a good summary of the problem.

In recent years, Dell computers have, shall I say, made me nervous. Some of it’s been concrete. Some of it’s just been touchy-feely. Now one of those touchy-feely problems is more concrete. Read more

How I bought a battery for my aged laptop

The aged battery in my aged Dell Inspiron E1505 held on better than I expected, but when I went to upgrade the machine–I upgraded it with two unsupported but perfectly functional 2 GB SODIMMs and then installed a Samsung 830 SSD–the battery went downhill fast.

I did the memory first, and the battery wasn’t happy with me. I literally went from about three hours of battery life to 20 minutes immediately after the change. Maybe it was a coincidence, and maybe not. Installing the SSD extended the battery life a little, but not enough to make it useful. It was time for a new battery.

There are pitfalls with buying batteries for aged hardware. Here’s how I negotiated them. Read more

The Samsung SSD 830: A user review

I didn’t need much convincing to purchase a Samsung 830 SSD; I was in the market for a bigger SSD, and my short list consisted of Samsung and Intel drives. So when I found a good price on a 128 GB Samsung 830, I bought two.

The laptops I put the drives in aren’t able to fully take advantage of what the 830 brings to the table, but it’s still a worthwhile upgrade. I thought that two months ago when I installed them, and two months of living with them hasn’t changed my mind. Read more

The Dell Inspiron E1505 and its maximum memory

Last year, I got a deal I couldn’t refuse on a Dell Inspiron E1505 laptop. It’s old and quirky, but modern enough to make it serviceable. It has a dual-core processor and SATA2, so you can put an SSD in it. It uses DDR2 memory, which isn’t as cheap and plentiful as DDR3, but at this moment isn’t unreasonably expensive either.

Its biggest problem is that it’s officially limited to 2 GB of RAM. Officially, that is. Read more

What I would do to fix Dr. A’s computer

I left my conversation with Dr. A nearly convinced he doesn’t really need a new computer. The local store is pitching him a new $700 Dell Inspiron with a 1 TB hard drive and 6 GB of RAM and a 17-inch screen. But he could upgrade to a 1 TB hard drive for less than $125. If he doesn’t want to switch to Windows 7, his current Windows XP Professional will only use 4 GB of RAM anyway. Upgrading to 4 GB of RAM will cost less than $40. And looking at the new system, I don’t know that its CPU is all that much more powerful than what he already has.

To me, the clincher was this. I asked myself the question whether, if I were offered a machine exactly like his for $200 or $300, would I buy it. And it was an easy answer. I would.

I haven’t done a thorough analysis of the machine, but I’ve seen enough to have an idea what it needs. Much of it will seem familiar, if you’ve been reading me a long time.
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The amount of system memory has changed – Dell

I added some memory to a Dell Inspiron E1505, an aging but serviceable Core 2 Duo-based laptop. And it greeted me with this: THE AMOUNT OF SYSTEM MEMORY HAS CHANGED .

IF YOU DID NOT CHANGE MEMORY
TO RESOLVE ISSUE RESEAT MEMORY..

And then it appeared to freeze. The problem is, I did change the memory! And it was Kingston memory, straight out of another working machine, so I knew it was good stuff.

Read more

Don’t use gadget buyback programs

MSNBC consumer reporter Bob Sullivan does a thorough analysis of how gadget buy-back programs work, and why you shouldn’t use them.

There’s no need for me to rehash everything that’s wrong with them, because Bob covered all those bases admirably. I’ll just run through his hypothetical scenario and tell you what you should do instead.
Read more

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