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View Full Version : Your Advice Needed: Desktop vs. Netbook


wildhawker
10-23-2009, 9:02 AM
Here's the issue: my wife needs a computer for her Master's program that will allow her to research topics and save data, play back video lectures, write papers and provide the general features expected of a web-capable pc.

Since her Mac laptop went down in flames she's regularly annexed my Lenovo T60P which is the only work tool I have available. It pretty well kills my productivity and it's time to correct this deficiency.

So, with that in mind, here's the question: should I buy her a desktop she can use for her various projects or a netbook/mini for my web-based work (which would get me 33% there, but much more productive than I am today sans laptop)?

Not sure if it's possible anymore but would prefer a Windows XP based system.

Thanks for the suggestions in advance.

orb451
10-23-2009, 9:10 AM
Just my .02, get a desktop. They're cheap enough that you can get a decent spec'd one that can be upgraded later to fill other needs. The netbook may not be as easily upgraded later on and from my understanding their main advantage is ultra portability. If being mobile for you/her is a MUST, then obviously a netbook or laptop is the way to go... if not, I'd go with the desktop.

wildhawker
10-23-2009, 9:26 AM
I just ran a desktop at Dell, :eek:. $1710, I'm thinking $1400 without some of the optional software.

Was trying to stay under $1k. For $1710 I'd just get her another laptop.

*SYSTEM COLOR Piano Black
*PROCESSOR AMD Athlon™ II X4 620 (2.6GHz, 2MB)
*OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows® 7 Ultimate, 64bit, English
*WARRANTY AND SERVICE 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
*SECURITY SOFTWARE McAfee SecurityCenter, 15-Months
*MONITOR 24" Dell ST2410 Full High Definition Monitor
*MEMORY 8GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 4 DIMMs
*HARD DRIVE 640GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
*OPTICAL DRIVE 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
*VIDEO CARD nVidia GeForce GT 220, 1024MB
*SPEAKERS Bose Companion 2 Series II Multimedia Speaker System
*SOUND Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
*KEYBOARD & MOUSE Dell Wireless Desktop Keyboard & Mouse
*MODEM No Modem Option
*OPTIONAL PORTS 1394a High Speed AV Port
*OFFICE SOFTWARE Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 + Adobe® Acrobat ® 9
*DATASAFE ONLINE BACKUP Dell Online Backup 2GB for 1 year
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Adobe® Photoshop® Elements + Adobe® Premiere® Elements
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Wild Tangent Games
*FLOPPY & MEDIA READER Dell 19 in 1 Media Card Reader
*Inspiron 546 MT Inspiron 546 Minitower w/ Black Bezel
*Mouse Mouse included with Keyboard purchase
*Network Card Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
*Adobe Software Adobe® Reader 9.0

maschronic
10-23-2009, 9:36 AM
black friday ads for office max is out. hope that helps. i attached it on pdf.

orb451
10-23-2009, 9:40 AM
The desktop above is pretty up-there for specs, I would think changing models or paring it down to what's necessary is a better approach. Yes for $1700 or even $1400 you're far better off with a laptop of some kind than paying that much for a desktop. Although if you go the laptop route I'd max the RAM on there and if at all possible replace the stock HDD with a 7200RPM HDD.

What model did you go with to get those specs? I always go to their "business" side and steer clear of their "home/home office" side for configuring machines, had a lot better luck getting a basic system than the "home user" side that tends to bundle all the crap-ware and trial-ware they can cram onto it.

bigmike82
10-23-2009, 10:48 AM
The small business sub-site generally has pretty good deals.

I'd get a desktop over a netbook. The netbook is cheaper, but I hate it as a primary machine.

sephy
10-23-2009, 11:17 AM
Look around for coupons. With coupons I picked up an $1100 HP laptop with pretty good specs for $650 earlier this year. So in fact I'd go for the third option not listed here -- pick up an HP laptop for her. I know in my masters program I use my laptop every time I'm in class.

Edit: it was the DV3Z if you're wondering, and the $1100 did not include all of the free upgrades HP does, such as RAM, hard drive, etc.

Casual_Shooter
10-23-2009, 11:22 AM
We almost never use our desktops anymore. Just too convenient to sit at the dining room table, on the bed etc.

I would avoid a netbook for anything other than email/ simple web browsing. I think for real work, the screen would be too small.

eaglemike
10-23-2009, 12:20 PM
Netbooks were still available at Costco with XP a few weeks ago, perhaps still are. About $400, very decent screen, fast, and came with an external DVD/Cdrom drive and cordless mouse. Easy to use or store.
all the best,
Mike

1JimMarch
10-23-2009, 12:56 PM
There are some very, very good deals out there for basic laptops in the 6lb class, 15.4" screen. That's what I've run for the last year: "Pentium dual-core" CPU (low-grade dual-core), 160gig HD, 2gigs RAM. Cost me $500. I've since dropped a 250gig HD in it, and bought a $10 USB chassis to hold the original 160 as an external backup drive.

It's as much horsepower as most people need right now, unless you're doing graphics production or gaming.

Of course, I run Linux on it so that's a speed boost from hell. Cost? Oh yeah...nothing.

froman118
10-23-2009, 1:04 PM
I just ran a desktop at Dell, :eek:. $1710, I'm thinking $1400 without some of the optional software.

Was trying to stay under $1k. For $1710 I'd just get her another laptop.

*SYSTEM COLOR Piano Black
*PROCESSOR AMD Athlon™ II X4 620 (2.6GHz, 2MB)
*OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows® 7 Ultimate, 64bit, English
*WARRANTY AND SERVICE 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
*SECURITY SOFTWARE McAfee SecurityCenter, 15-Months
*MONITOR 24" Dell ST2410 Full High Definition Monitor
*MEMORY 8GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 4 DIMMs
*HARD DRIVE 640GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
*OPTICAL DRIVE 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
*VIDEO CARD nVidia GeForce GT 220, 1024MB
*SPEAKERS Bose Companion 2 Series II Multimedia Speaker System
*SOUND Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
*KEYBOARD & MOUSE Dell Wireless Desktop Keyboard & Mouse
*MODEM No Modem Option
*OPTIONAL PORTS 1394a High Speed AV Port
*OFFICE SOFTWARE Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 + Adobe® Acrobat ® 9
*DATASAFE ONLINE BACKUP Dell Online Backup 2GB for 1 year
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Adobe® Photoshop® Elements + Adobe® Premiere® Elements
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Wild Tangent Games
*FLOPPY & MEDIA READER Dell 19 in 1 Media Card Reader
*Inspiron 546 MT Inspiron 546 Minitower w/ Black Bezel
*Mouse Mouse included with Keyboard purchase
*Network Card Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
*Adobe Software Adobe® Reader 9.0

Totally overkill for what your wife needs. For research and school use (lots of writing I assume) I'd go for a desktop. The full size keyboard and screen real estate are nice to have.

Some of my thoughts:

* Get Windows 7 Home, it's awesome and it finally got me off XP

* You really don't need more than a dual core for the intended tasks

* 2GB of memory is the minimum, but going above 4GB will be overkill

* Skip all extra accessories from Dell, they're overpriced

* Upgrading the video card is useful up to a point, since you aren't gaming I'd get the cheapest option that gets you away from the integrated chipset

* Upgrade the monitor to something bigger than 20", it's money well spent

* Office 2007 is $60 from Microsoft with a school email: http://www.microsoft.com/student/discounts/theultimatesteal-us/default.aspx

That being said, you can get something for closer to $600 with a nice big monitor:

http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=dddora2&c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&kc=desktops_great_deals

wildhawker
10-23-2009, 4:03 PM
Thanks for all the great advice and suggestions, I'll be digging in more tonight.

Came across this deal at Costco (http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11495654&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|84|56671|4579&N=4017759&Mo=7&pos=3&No=4&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=4579&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC10600-Cat56671&topnav=)and thought it might fit the bill:


$699.99 S&H Incl.

Processor & Memory:
Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Processor Q8300 2.5GHz
4MB L2 cache
1333MHz Front Side Bus
6GB DDR2-800MHz SDRAM memory (3 Dimms)

Drives:
640GB (7,200RPM) SATA 3Gb/s hard drive
LightScribe 16x max DVD±R/RW SuperMulti drive

Graphics & Video:
HP w2338h 23" diagonal widescreen flat panel monitor with integrated speakers
Integrated Graphics

Communications:
Integrated 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN

Audio:
Integrated 7.1 channel capable sound w/ front audio ports

Keyboard & Mouse:
HP Multimedia Keyboard
HP Optical Mouse

Expandability (Total Slots):
Total memory slots: 4 DIMM
1 x PCIe x16
3 x PCIe x1

Ports:
Front headphone and mic ports
6 x USB 2.0 ports (2 Front, 4 Back)

Operating System:
Microsoft® Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)

Additional Software:
Microsoft Works 9.0

Additional Information:
CPU Dimensions: 16.85" D x 6.97" W x 15.32" H
Power Supply: 300W

whobob
10-23-2009, 4:06 PM
Who wants to carry around a 15" laptop? Netbook is the way to go, just don't run XP.

sierratangofoxtrotunion
10-23-2009, 4:09 PM
Who wants to carry around a 15" laptop? Netbook is the way to go, just don't run XP.

XP? XP always ran a hell of a lot better for me than any other version of windows except for 98 2nd edition, which I couldn't kill.

froman118
10-23-2009, 4:28 PM
Thanks for all the great advice and suggestions, I'll be digging in more tonight.

Came across this deal at Costco (http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11495654&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|84|56671|4579&N=4017759&Mo=7&pos=3&No=4&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=4579&Ns=P_Price|1||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC10600-Cat56671&topnav=)and thought it might fit the bill:

Nice machine at a decent price. Whenever I buy computers for people I watch this site:

http://www.xpbargains.com/index.php/search__keywords?keywords=desktop

It's hard to do much better than the daily deals that Dell and HP put out. If the $699+tax price tag on that Costco HP isn't out of your price range then it will be a nice machine for years to come.

Who wants to carry around a 15" laptop? Netbook is the way to go, just don't run XP.

Netbook for writing research papers and doing work for a Master's degree? The keyboards on laptops are bad enough. If my work took away my keyboard and 24" monitor and told me to program on a netbook I'd quit.

sephy
10-23-2009, 5:59 PM
FWIW I have a 13.3" laptop and it's the perfect size. Portable and a big enough screen to work on... and I do a lot of research / writing for my program.

Blackhawk556
10-23-2009, 8:20 PM
Have you thought about a 13" laptop may be? There are some really great deals on them right now at amazon for about $675.
What about a new tablet pc? The ones from a couple of years ago sucked but now they are better. I've been thinking of getting one to take notes while in class instead of carrying around notepads. Also, screen size is 12" not 9" or 10" like a netbook plus way more powerful.

That computer you listed first is overkill for her. That one at costco you posted is much better for her needs. May sure you buy office from that link someone posted earlier, those are the advantages of being a students. Microsoft is willing to lose money to get you addicted to their software but it's a good thing for students because not all students have money. Please don't buy her a netbook for research and stuff. She is going to spend a lot of time infront of computer so she needs a bigger monitor

RudyN
10-23-2009, 8:41 PM
I just picked up a Dell notebook for my wife and set a Wireless LAN. She can surf the web and check e-mail downstairs while I am at the desktop up stairs. I cost all of $299 plus shipping. It doesn't have a CD/DVR reader so if she wanted one I would have to buy it separately for about $100.

artherd
10-23-2009, 9:58 PM
15" Macbook Pro FTW. (I like the non-unibody's keyboards, keeping my 2.6Ghz for a long time.)

wildhawker
10-23-2009, 10:06 PM
Do you realize how cheap Lindsay is?!

15-inch MacBook Pro
The mobile computing powerhouse.
From $1699

Blackhawk556
10-24-2009, 5:48 AM
Think about this for the price of the Mac you could buy her a monster machine AND a netbook so she can take while she is out.

wildhawker
10-24-2009, 8:16 AM
Obeygiant pointed out a nice HP laptop at BestBuy, $599 I think. Looks like $500-800 is the sweet spot for value on Win7 machines.

artherd
10-24-2009, 1:45 PM
Do you realize how cheap Lindsay is?!

So not even gonna go there... <deletes the pictures for good measure>

artherd
10-24-2009, 1:46 PM
ps: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/family/macbook?mco=MTAyNTM5ODc $999 pretty decked out.

Saigon1965
10-24-2009, 1:49 PM
I would combed the Fry's ads on Fridays - Always great deals to be had - I would get another laptop -

Uriah02
10-24-2009, 1:52 PM
I just ran a desktop at Dell, :eek:. $1710, I'm thinking $1400 without some of the optional software.

Was trying to stay under $1k. For $1710 I'd just get her another laptop.

*SYSTEM COLOR Piano Black
*PROCESSOR AMD Athlon™ II X4 620 (2.6GHz, 2MB)
*OPERATING SYSTEM Genuine Windows® 7 Ultimate, 64bit, English
*WARRANTY AND SERVICE 1Yr Ltd Hardware Warranty, InHome Service after Remote Diagnosis
*SECURITY SOFTWARE McAfee SecurityCenter, 15-Months
*MONITOR 24" Dell ST2410 Full High Definition Monitor
*MEMORY 8GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz - 4 DIMMs
*HARD DRIVE 640GB Serial ATA Hard Drive (7200RPM) w/DataBurst Cache™
*OPTICAL DRIVE 16X DVD+/-RW Drive
*VIDEO CARD nVidia GeForce GT 220, 1024MB
*SPEAKERS Bose Companion 2 Series II Multimedia Speaker System
*SOUND Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio
*KEYBOARD & MOUSE Dell Wireless Desktop Keyboard & Mouse
*MODEM No Modem Option
*OPTIONAL PORTS 1394a High Speed AV Port
*OFFICE SOFTWARE Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2007 + Adobe® Acrobat ® 9
*DATASAFE ONLINE BACKUP Dell Online Backup 2GB for 1 year
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Adobe® Photoshop® Elements + Adobe® Premiere® Elements
*ADOBE & ENTERTAINMENT Wild Tangent Games
*FLOPPY & MEDIA READER Dell 19 in 1 Media Card Reader
*Inspiron 546 MT Inspiron 546 Minitower w/ Black Bezel
*Mouse Mouse included with Keyboard purchase
*Network Card Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
*Adobe Software Adobe® Reader 9.0

This rig is pretty spec heavy... you could downgrade the memory on the video card and the RAM if you don't expect to do much gaming... Adobe is a pricey package as well.

dwtt
10-24-2009, 4:36 PM
Have you looked at the Fry's ad on Thursdays? Every thursday they have one day only sales on stuff with prices lower than the prices in their weekly Friday ads. I've seen some decent Compaq and HP desktops at $400.

minuteman
10-24-2009, 6:43 PM
I think you should only get a netbook if you intend to get a desktop computer as well. Otherwise just buy a regular notebook or you'll miss the extra features down the road.

wildhawker
10-24-2009, 9:41 PM
That's not a "pro". :p

ps: http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_mac/family/macbook?mco=MTAyNTM5ODc $999 pretty decked out.

wildhawker
10-24-2009, 9:45 PM
Looks like I need to comb the Fry's this week.

I did see a unit similar to that at Costco online at Costco today, except it had an AMD quad core for $799.

Looks like there are a few laptop options in the price range, so Ms. Indecisive needs to select a platform.

Ugh.

JDay
10-25-2009, 1:25 AM
Just get her a ~$500 laptop. The netbook wouldn't have much power and the desktop would be stuck in one place. You can get good deals right now too with the 7 days of Windows 7 sales.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/offers/7-days/

Blackhawk556
10-26-2009, 10:19 PM
read here these look nice and the u150 seems like a nice deal

http://blogs.zdnet.com/gadgetreviews/?p=8932&tag=content;col1

dwtt
10-29-2009, 7:10 AM
Looks like I need to comb the Fry's this week.

I did see a unit similar to that at Costco online at Costco today, except it had an AMD quad core for $799.


This is the Thursdays ads I mentioned earlier. They have these prices for one day only, on Thursdays, and are often lower than the prices on their Friday ads.
http://newspaperads.mercurynews.com/ROP/ads.aspx?advid=32664

JDay
10-29-2009, 2:23 PM
This is a business class HP for $519, its only got a celeron dual core in it, basically the same thing as the earlier Core 2 Duo's. Comes with Vista but it should qualify for the free upgrade through HP. There's many more in your price range on there.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834157008

Someoneelseok
10-30-2009, 8:44 PM
I get this question time to time from mom's and dad's when their kid is about to go to college.

Ask her one thing.
How much time is she going to spend on campus while studying for her Masters?

If she's going to be on-campus away from home all day, I'd say get a 12-14" laptop.

If that's too small, then just get a desktop. Nobody ends up carrying around a 15"+ laptop, they just get left at home.

V8toytruck
10-30-2009, 10:28 PM
My take on netbooks is they are too small to be comfortably used for extended periods.
I had a POS Asus/Acer? E1000 or something, what a PITA. Screen sucked, keyboard sucked, and resolution had me scrolling left and right and up and down constantly. If you get a 1024x600 screen even Artherd's sig will take up almost 1/3 of the width of the screen). Hands cramped up, trackpad was tiny. Worst experience ever. This diagram explains it best.

http://www.globalnerdy.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/smartphone-netbook-laptop.jpg


15'' is about as small as I'd go to do any work, unless you want to constantly be scrolling. There are tons of carrying solutions. A lot of backpacks now have padded laptop pockets. My suggestion, go ahead and treat yourself to one of these http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/alienware-area-51-alx/pd.aspx?refid=alienware-area-51-alx&s=dhs&cs=19

locosway
10-31-2009, 5:39 AM
Will she be away from home for extended periods of time while doing her schooling?

Do you guys travel a lot?

If either above are yes, do those places have wifi that's readily available?

Laptops are good if you need to regularly move your data from point A to point B, or if you need to do work in two locations often. If not, then a Desktop is a clear winner for numerous reasons.

If she's not playing games, you can get away with a computer for around $600. Now, if you need all the proprietary software then you'll increase your price a bit.

ilbob
10-31-2009, 5:44 AM
refurbished netbooks are available for $200.

i want one for surfing while sitting in my easy chair.

for real work, I would get a decent laptop with a seperate larger screen lcd monitor and a real keyboard.

the computer you spec'd out has far more horsepower than what she is ever going to need for the kind of work she is going to be doing on it. Really, any generic computer is likely to be quite adequate.

TaxAnnihilator
11-01-2009, 12:54 PM
:yes:
Laptop is where it's at IMO. Good laptop and docking station. For extensive writing projects dual 19" (or bigger) monitors are a dream! One side with source material, one side with your project.

I am fairly anti paper and hate printing out/copying the source material - it's scan and use the computer for me.

That Costco rig is not a bad deal, not to mention no hassle warranty they provide on many of their products.

refurbished netbooks are available for $200.

for real work, I would get a decent laptop with a seperate larger screen lcd monitor and a real keyboard.

the computer you spec'd out has far more horsepower than what she is ever going to need for the kind of work she is going to be doing on it. Really, any generic computer is likely to be quite adequate.

JaMail
11-01-2009, 1:10 PM
stay away from the min/netbook unless you have used one before and comfortable using it for extended periods.. they are nice for what they are for, which is casual browsing but if you tried to use one for work with out an external peri's your in for trouble, you can buy new cheap laptops for under 600.00 that are pretty damn nice. 15 to 17 inch screens. and if its for her masters program, you never know when she might want to grab it and do library research or meet with her study groups and have it avail, then your back in the situation of her borrowing yours and neither of you having all your own data where it needs to be.

costco 600.00 and it has the 2 year costco warranty. this is a damn good deal.


http://content.costco.com/Images/Content/Product/430793.jpg

Costco (http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?Prodid=11482422&whse=BC&Ne=4000000&eCat=BC|84|56670&N=4033838&Mo=47&pos=1&No=8&Nr=P_CatalogName:BC&cat=78129&Ns=P_Price|0||P_SignDesc1&lang=en-US&Sp=C&ec=BC-EC5-Cat84&topnav=)

JaMail
11-01-2009, 1:13 PM
order costco online, since you can return it to any store if you decide you dont like it, no questions asked in the first 90 days. you get a much better online selection and the option to return it to any local costco takes a ton of stress off, the 2 year warranty is a very important aspect, any other place you buy it, will charge you a couple of hundred for an extended warranty. ive heard nothing but good things about costco's cust service for their extended warranties however i have never had to use it before.

bombadillo
11-01-2009, 1:23 PM
www.cyberpowersystem.com They have some great pre built computers that they already configured and ready to ship. Their build to spec stuff will run you around 1200-1300 bucks for a monster setup with the best of everything. Great guys.

wildhawker
11-01-2009, 2:04 PM
Ok Calgunner, we decided to go desktop and started a thread on it here (http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=236949). Thanks for the advice and looking forward to whatever this turns into!