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11-14-18 12:59:24 PM

Jul - Computers and Technology - Laptop shopping New poll - New thread - New reply
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Since: 03-12-12

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Posted on 01-12-16 09:30:15 PM Link | Quote
So Sept 2015, my beloved HP ProBook 4540s running W7 Pro x64 bit the dust. It heartbroke me, because I handpicked this laptop and bought it essentially for free Black Friday 2012 ($500), due to earning a one-time $1000 scholarship for school supplies. It was an affordable business laptop, with powerful hardware and features. Half of that scholarship went to textbooks, the rest went to a new laptop. The laptop died due to eventually refusing to ever boot up again, for unknown reasons last summer. I tried many things to fix it within my tight college budget, but I gave up fixing it. I plan on turning the old HDD into a VM with an USB-to-HDD interface so that I can recover data (no backups since July 2015) onto my next laptop, and reinstall the same software I had earlier. I am currently using a university rental laptop, which a professor loaned to me last semester for a video game project for a class. It's rental is technically overdue (the prof is extending it to end of January), I need to return it, and I need to recover the data from the old HDD and move the important data from this laptop to a new, permanent one.

I am shopping for a solid, powerful 64-bit Windows 7 laptop (mobile workstation preferred), and could use some suggestions for one within a $300-$500 range, new, used, or refurbished. I would prefer to have its hardware be expandable for future hardware upgrades, but have support for legacy hardware, be a reputable, reliable HP model with no serious design flaws, and have its specs to overpass the old HP ProBook 4540s. I do not plan on traveling with it much, so weight and size are not too much of a concern. I have a legal boot disc of W7 x64 Pro that I can upgrade to, as long as the new computer doesn't come pre-loaded with W8/W10 crap that is fine, since I heard downgrading from them is extremely difficult and do not wish to deal with re-partitioning. Due to Microsoft's shenanigans on killing off Windows 7 soon from being pre-loaded onto new PCs in order to sell their swan-song Windows 10 junk, I am looking on maximizing specs and future proofing a Windows 7 machine to make it last long into the future until it completely dies, because after it dies, I am moving to Linux permanently, as I am done with M$'s junk OSes post-Windows 7. I do not like the direction their newer OSes are going, with it looking like a simplified tablet OS and Microsoft robbing control from us "ignorant" power-users (mandated software updates, removal of start menu, draconian and privacy-limited EULA, difficulty in downgrading, businesses socially rejecting W8/W10, etc.)

Specifically, I will be using the machine for heavier computing such as:
[*]General computing (office work, emails, etc)
[*]Modern PC video gaming
[*]Retro emulation
[*]Unity3D video game and retro homebrew dev
[*]3D CAD design
[*]Video editing and capture
[*]Audio editing
[*]Software engineering
[*]Embedded systems development
[*]Running VMs of older OSes and the old HDD

And would like the following base features and hardware:
[*]RAM: Dual-slot DIMM or better, preferably expandable to 4GB+
[*]HDD: 500GB+
[*]OS: W7 x64 pre-loaded
[*]Processor: Intel i5 or better, 2.3 GHz+, with HAV
[*]Separate Mike and headphone jacks
[*]Motherboard should have chipset to support a sound driver with hardware Stereo Mix. (On old laptop, was able to upgrade from SRS Premium Audio driver to IDT HD Audio Codec, both which had Stereo Mix)
[*]USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports
[*]SD Card slot
[*]Dedicated Graphics card
[*]Gigabit or better Ethernet port
[*]VGA port
[*]14"+ screen size
[*]Either HDMI or DisplayPort ports
[*]Normal laptop slimline DVD-RW Drive or better
[*]Some means to use legacy serial/parallel port devices (ISA/PCI port or a docking station)
[*]Full-size keyboard (with Numpad)
[*]Not be breakably super-thin

Optional features/hardware:
[*]Fingerprint scanner
[*]Dedicated sound card?
[*]Be powerful enough to run the Exodus emulator for Sega Genesis at a high framerate (40-60fps)
[*]Be powerful enough to handle Dreamcast emulation
[*]Be able to support a slimline BD-ROM drive future upgrade
[*]Legacy RJ-11 modem port

The best hardware I have found meeting or exceeding the desired specs currently are refurbished Elitebooks 8560w mobile workstations (specs) which run for an affordable $300-$500. They are slightly older models (~4 years old) and cost ~$1000 new, but are affordable when found refurbished, especially considering the powerful specs. They have 2-4 DIMM slots expandable up to a massive 32GB of RAM (usually ships with 4 or 8GB RAM), 500GB HDD, i5 or better processor at 2.6 GHz+ speed, W7 pre-loaded, and separate 3.5mm mike and headphone jacks. They also have 2.0 and 3.0 USB and SD Card ports, Gigabit ethernet and WiFi, VGA and DisplayPort ports, 3 dedicated graphic card options and 15.6" screen, a slimline CD Drive, an ExpressCard slot and a docking station (for legacy Serial/Parallel ports and other hardware) and more. According to the HP docs for this machine, the unit is certified for CAD and graphics work, and I think it should perform with flying colors for modern video gaming and other compuatationally-intensive work. Also, physically, it is built like a tank.

So what is your opinion on this laptop/mobile workstation? For its price refurbished, I think it has powerful, solid specs meeting my video gaming and development machine requirements, although it is a slightly older machine. Not sure how the graphics card and specs stack up against modern video gaming requirements, but the heaviest game I would probably be running are some 3D Steam games such as Trackmania and Transformers Devastation; nothing too insane such as Skyrim.

Have any of us Jul'ers experienced using an HP Elitebook 8560w unit, and will it perform as a reliable, powerful machine for development, multimedia, and gaming? Which processor options indeed have HAV, how do the graphics card option compare against each other, and should this machine have Stereo Mix according to the chipset? Or are there newer, better machines than the Elitebook 8560w within that price range and pre-loaded with Windows 7 that I should look at? Due to graduating last semester and still looking for a job in my field, my budget is extremely limited, and I can't be hording this rental forever.


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Posted on 01-13-16 04:21:22 AM Link | Quote
i was going to suggest the Elitebook actually, so i think it’s cool you singled it out as a potential model to use. i haven’t used the 8560w model, but i bought the 2540p refurbished (the 12.1"—i like my laptops small) & loved it. so i can attest that it’s a good line of computers to get refurbished.
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