Saturday, November 14, 2015

Getting a laptop in Singapore? What to look out for?

Whenever I am set out to look for laptop, I am never prepared. The thing that I took into consideration first was always price, CPU performance, and RAM. Most times, the acquired laptop would last me more than 5 years while one time it only lasted a year.
I have a Samsung notebook that I am still using for > 10 years. It can no longer support most of the software in use today, but is can still permit playing yesteryear games and doing some MS Office 97.
This particular notebook elevated my impression on Samsung product. I have another netbook and ultrabook from Samsung. Both never disappointed me so far. In our household, we have NEC Versa notebook and it is still working. However, NEC design was bad. the wiring from MB to LCD got severed when the notebook was repeatedly flipped open and closed. I had to disassemble the machine to notice the severed wire and get replacement cable to replace it. I did that DIY as the 2 years warranty was over.
Acer TravelMate was a bad experience. The machine constantly burns up whenever in use for a duration of time. It crashed after less than a year. A visit to the Service Centre suggested that the MB was dead. The tech guy suggested that I top up few hundreds to get a newer and better version. I adamantly declined since I didn’t want to invest further on a brand that didn’t do a good job in the first place. After the MB change, the LCD kaput after few months later. Fortunately it was the backlight problem and EBay again solved my problem. I scoured for the right inverter and got it delivered to me. DIY to replace that part. A visit to any store would have requested that the whole LCD be replaced, which would have cost S$200 or more as compared to S$20 to 30 for the inverter.
Now, after 3 years of using the current Notebook from Samsung, it is time to get a new Notebook that will support most of the current software in use. I am still a MS Windows supporter. Although, I have dabbled with Linux, Mac and Android, I think MS Windows is still the choice for me.
Criteria for the next machine:
  • Processing speed. Intel is best, AMD is good and affordable. A review of processors at ComputersShopper and TechRadar. I would want one that is power efficient and “cool-headed” (not burning up with fever).
  • RAM. Slots and maximum RAM available for upgrade.
  • HDD. Now there are two main types, spindle-type/mechanical HDD and solid state SSD. The latter is like a thumbdrive/flashdrive storage, only better. The spindle-type HDD makes noise and if dropped, it will damage the mechanical parts, whereas SSD will not. Talking about that, a salesperson at Challenger did that demonstration for a colleague to make that point! I was an accidental observer. SSD is faster than HDD but SSD is expensive. Soon, there will be light-based memory to take the spot of SSD. Probably then SSD will cost less. The capacity of SSD/HDD isn’t very important (as long as most software/games can fit into it comfortably). A 1 TB should be safe, while 500GB is no complain. Cloud storage is the way to go nowadays with their great sync and RAID function allowing better protection of our precious data. For example, Dropbox charges approx. USD10 per month for 1TB to USD15 per month per user/team for unlimited storage.
  • Graphic and sound should be above average.
  • Additional features: USB-A, mini- and micro-USB ports are going obsolete, there is a newcomer in town and it is USB-C. However, I still don’t like the feel of USB-C. Similar to USB-A, mini- and micro-USB, they jut out like a patient wearing intravenous (IV) cannula on an arm which is easy to accidentally shift the connection (Fig. 1). Thumbprint security feature is a joke. Longer battery life is a must (at least 6 hours). Screen size should be > 10.1” diagonally. Should have desired preloaded software, e.g. OS, MS Office, Brand’s additional bundled software, etc. Noise level tolerable (without internal cooling fan making aeroplane turbine sound). Trayless DVD writer. Don’t get Blu-Ray Disc (BD) ROM because a 25 GB BD disk is very expensive (at a range of S$0.50 to >S$1.00 per piece. If you get an equivalent 1 TB, it is about 40 pieces BD. That will cost 40 x S$0.75 = S$30.00 (for comparison 1TB “rewriteable” external HDD is at S$85.00). Moreover, BD is rare in Singapore. Bluetooth, HDMI, and network port are must. Touchscreen is okay but not necessary. Built-in webcam. Wireless connection should dual band at both 2.4 and 5 GHz (e.g. 802.11ac) but not necessary because a  dual band wireless adapters are selling at S$20 to 40 on EBay.

USB-C vs IV cannula
Fig. 1 USB-A, mini-, micro-USB, and USB-C all share the same bulky plug that jut out precariously like an IV cannula.

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