Laptop Advice


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Founding Member
Jul 30, 1997
Leawood, Kansas USA
Our business is in the market for a notebook computer. Other than the usual need for Ram, speed, and hd space, does anyone have advice for us? We're looking at a Dell with a CD-RW, etc., but we're confused as to whether we need this CarePackage thing: that which protects against accidental death, as it were. Any suggestions for screen size as well? I'm leaning toward the 15" as we won't be traveling with it very much.

Any help would be most appreciated, as well as manufacturer suggestions. Thanx.
One of the most vulnerable parts from accidental damage of your Notepad (Laptop) will be the screen and keyboard, ie. spilt coffee, busted screen from leaving a pen on the keyboard and closing the Notepad (one of the top killers of a Notepad) etc. it will cost you about $600 to replace either, I think the cost of CompleteCare in the US is about $150 for three years about 18 cents a day, you must buy this when you purchase new, you cannot add this after you take ownership ie three months later for example, remember CompleteCare not only repairs your Notepad but will replace it should it become terminal within the three years.

The screen will be LCD, so a 15” will be super, LCD screens have more viewable area than CRT screens this has to do with the construction of the screens, my notepad has this size screen and is more than adequate.

I hope this helps.
You'll love the Dell laptop. I have a couple of them here and theyre much more durable than ones I've had in the past from IBM, Sharp, toshiba, etc. Haven't had any major problems with ours.

Often its cheaper to get them with a small amount of RAM and get the ram online for a fraction of the price. (it just snaps in underneath the laptop with the removal of one screw).

15" is a decent viewable size.

I'd suggest getting a bigger than usual hard disk, adding more ram, carrying case, and maybe one of the 3 year mail in warrantees. If you plan to use it more than 2 hours at a time without power, maybe even a second battery.

There are often some GREAT coupon deals at for laptops and computers, usually from Dell. Last week they had a 2.4ghz Intel P4 system, 15" flat LCD monitor, 128 Ram, 20gb drive, 48x cd, WinXP, network card, Word, shipping, etc for only $538. The WinXP and monitor alone would cost that much if you bought from a retail store. You can also save 2% more at Dell by going to first and signing up for their free rebate program. If you do, use as a referral
Ebates is great and I get a check from them every 3 months. They've sent about 700.00 so far in 2 years.

Best of luck in shopping for the new laptop!
I tend to take pretty good care of my computers and laptops, so this is one type of insurance I choose not to purchase. If you will not be traveling too much with this machine, then as long as you use common sense you should think of this no differently than if you were purchasing a desktop machine. That is don't eat or drink near it, get a padded bag for it for the inevitable traveling you will do, and please, don't leave it on the floor of your bedroom (as my son does) where someone can step on it (ouch!).

As far as screen size goes, what are your needs. 13-14" is fine for most people, but nothing beats a 15" screen and 32 million colors. That said, your budget will tell you what you should reasonably purchase.

Also, don't forget weight of the machine in your final determination. While a 15" screen is easy on the eyes, it usually is married to a hefty machine that the computer companies rightly call a desktop equivalent.

Hope this helps.

THanx to all you guys for the good advice. Keep it coming as I'll not be deciding for a week or so. Great endorsement of the Dell, Mike. I have a Dell desktop which is a good machine; and the machine we're replacing for the business is a six-plus-year-old Gateway. And now, I'm off to check out the deals Mike mentioned...........
I am also looking for a laptop. With all the doctors and hospital time that I log in lately, I'm looking for something to help me with my writing. I have about 5-6 books in the works now.

I am real happy (read: comfortable) with my Windows 98 on my shop computer. Is there any way I can get a laptop with the same "stuff" as I already know how to use?

We bought a Gateway last year, and like Bill, didn't get the insurance. We're both real(read fanatic) about the machines here. We really like the Gateway. The only drawback is the mouse. It takes a little getting used to. One of the things that I really like about the Gateway is that it will accept CD's, floppys, and pc cards. All 3 drives are already build in. It's also somewhat smaller and lighter weight than some of the others, which is important to me, as I'm handicapped, and can't lift anything heavy. The keyboard is comfortable to use, and the LCD screen is easy to see. I think that ours is about 15". I'm not sure. Since I've reached that age where you've got to either get bifocals or grow longer arms, I've still been able to read things on the screen ok. Hope this helps, B., and good luck with all of the medical stuff. That's familar to us here. It's a way of life.

Well, Betty, no computer guru am I, but I don't think you would get a positive response from a notebook seller if you asked for Win98: their aim in life is to mess with the absolute newest. And they will actually cease supporting their earlier platforms, more's the pity. From the grapevine, XP isn't tough to get used to, and it seems MS is becoming more friendly with the newer OS's. Good luck to you, and let me know what you decide on..........

Yeah, I expected that I couldn't get 98 on a new machine. What I'm worried about though is if I do work on the laptop with newer software, will I have a problem transfering that work to my shop computer?

It's doubtful that you'll have a problem. If you're installing the same software version from the same disc, it'll be fine. If the versions are different, perhaps. Even if the shop has an old version of Word (as an example)and the laptop has 2002 version, you can always save it to the 'older' format.

Windows XP is actually the upgrade from Windows NT, not from Windows 98 or ME. It's a very different product, although it looks almost identical from a user standpoint. It's very intuitive, faster, and stable. Some people have had problems with XP & USB devices on older machines with version 1.0 ports, and with XP & old MS-DOS applications, but that's old stuff.

Andy and I run XP on our home PCs, 98 on the laptops, and 98SE on the machines at the shop. I've been running XP since it came out about a year ago, and wouldn't go back.

If you run into any snags, don't hesitate to email or call! I'll be glad to offer assistance with any challenges that pop up.

Mike, CCG (Certified Computer Geek)
I have a Dell Inspiron 7000 that I bought new about 3 1/2 - 4 years ago. 15" screen. It's a bit heavy but I suspect they're a bit lighter now. But I haven't used it to much for travel. It does have a dvd drive, cd-rw not available then. The 4 desktops that I have are all DELL. and have been great!
You can always reformat the harddrive of the lap top and load 98 and any app you want. We're using Win 2000 professional at home and I must say that the newer NT platforms are much more stable than the Win9X Kernel. I've heard a lot of good things about XP, except the registration issue, but I still use 98SE at the shop and Novell 5.1 with several different windows versions for workstations at the lab.
I think mine is an Inspiron 4000. It takes a beating and keeps going. The newer one has come with me the past 2 years on cruise ships (RCL cruise line offers a 24 hour satellite feed in your stateroom, and I need to be in contact so its ideal) The rest of the time it is kept in the suv; rain or shine. It has survived new england winters and hot summers in the car, which is more than I can say for the last one.

I'm a telecommunications and computer contractor for the "other" job, and have to carry it around with me 24 hours in case someones equipment goes down. (I use her to program voicemail systems, routers, alarm panels, remote access, servers, restaurant POS system terminals, door access systems, etc)

If you go with XP, i suggest putting more memory in there. 384 is a healthy amount to have for the avg user. 128 (the default usually) will make the machine run slowly. Ram is usually about $40 for an additional 256. (128 chip + 256 chip brings you up to the 384 total) It's usually cheaper to get the ram afterwards and throw it in yourself. (one screw comes off on outside of the laptop and it plugs in easily)

Jerry: I ran into a similar problem last month with a client. Their antique MS-DOS Clipper/Dbase applications would not run properly with XP and Netware. The new Dell came with XP. I reformatted, put 98SE on, and ran into a LOT of issues because the motherboard, video card, and built in network card were designed for XP and they didn't release 98 drivers. It took hours of searching, but I ended up getting it working with drivers for previous versions of the products. (ones that had 98SE drivers) The network card was the only thing I couldn't get to work. If you do uninstall XP, I suggest looking for the drivers in advance. This was a real pain...

XP is great though. (Windows NT/2000 with a friendlier user interface and some extra features) I only uninstalled it because the person couldn't use their custom applications. (from the 80s)
That's why I don't buy prebuilt systems. However Laptops are a different animal altogether. I always try to make sure the Hardware is compatible with the software BEFORE I build it. Novell is EXTREMELY touchy in these cases at times and I would really like to boot it. However as in the Dbase/Clipper arena our applications are set up to run in Novell and won't run in Windows.
From an X computer guru, on a laptop get as large a hard drive as you can get (esp if you are getting xp) and as big a monitor as you can go. (15" at least)
Keep in mind on the cd-rw you can do you backups. Backup backup backup always. Dells are great and reliable. Have fun with it.