Author Topic: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?  (Read 1823 times)

Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« on: January 21, 2019, 03:24:47 pm »
After a very bad laptop purchase a few years ago I'm thinking of replacing it. No idea what I need. Blank canvas for the specs. Although I'm favouring windows 10 os and prefer office.

Now, my use involves typical home use of Internet and email. On top of that I occasionally bring work home. Work has w10 and office (old version). Mostly excel and word with some ppt / publisher. Work comes home on usb2. 0 flash drives or a usb1.0 or 2.0 remote hard drive. I might buy a USB 3.0 hard drive soon.

Other than that I use apps like fitbit and Garmin connect. I would like to use viewranger more on a laptop and transfer to handheld unit but that is a future use.

I'm not currently into photography but I'd like it to handle a bit of image handling. No gaming, it's really not my thing. I've not needed a dvd drive with my home laptop to be replaced so I don't need it now I think.

Location of use? Anywhere I can sit down. Usually on my lap or a cushion on my lap. Or I might take it to work occasionally if small and light enough. I currently use a 15.6" at work and home but the home one looks bigger (hp envy). I'm thinking a 13" to 14" might be good.

OS? I am used to Windows and w10 of late. Linux never had it and iOS is something I am unlikely to ever agree with. I'm not  tweeker of the OS so I'm thinking Linux isn't for me.

Office suite? I prefer ms office because that's the work suite we use. I'm used to it and it works well when using two or more computers. Which version to get? My partner bought us the 365 4 user version but it ran out without continuing because my partner gets it free on her home pc from work. I could too but it would not be strictly legal so I'm not keen on that. What are the benefits of 365 and the various full versions? Any suggestions?

I'm thinking of buying new from John Lewis because of the 2 years cover. I got burnt with my last laptop which tbh never worked right from about 2 months. The network adaptors played up so Internet access was very unreliable. I'll accept the unit isn't the best deal but it's got a bit of confidence built in with them.

So can anyone offer any advice?

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2019, 04:29:55 pm »
Usual advice, any current computer will effectively be overpowered, so if you want to pay more consider the screen and keyboard, form factor, battery life, those kinds of things.

People will, for some odd reason, fight to the death over Win vs. MacOS. I like Macs, obvs, and I find they do just work. Someone will be along in a few minutes to say the same about Windows. Linux is perfectly functional, but you're still sailing close to the command line at times.

There are various free office suites like LibreOffice. They work fine unless you need the full features or you are collaborating with other Office users. I find subscription products a con – there are standalone versions of Office available, but they're not cheap and the licences are for one machine.

Sale of goods act covers computers, so you should expect problems to be reasonably put right even outside of the warranty period. That said, there's some comfort in actual customer service and quibble-free fixes, and it might be nice for there be a couple of bricks and mortar stores left on the high street.
!nataS pihsroW

hulver

  • I am a mole and I live in a hole.
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2019, 04:43:42 pm »
I got a Dell, with a DVD drive and an SSD drive.

I promptly ripped out the DVD drive and put a caddy with a large hard disk in there. So I've got SSD for the system drive, and a large spinning disk for data such as photos and such like. Works well for me.

Pretty much any modern machine will do for you (more memory is always good). Get an SSD. Seriously. Best feature on any computer is an SSD or any other Solid State Drive.

I subscribe to office 365 for the 1TB OneDrive. It's a decent backup, cheaper than dropbox, plus you get Word and everything with it as well.

I ended up going with a Business Laptop direct from Dell, as the specs were good and the business laptops had Windows Pro on them (which I wanted for some features you don't get with Home).

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2019, 04:51:02 pm »
So celeron, intel, i3 + or AND equivalent will be good enough for home and work use?

What's a Smaller screen like to work with excel on? I seem to recall my old work laptop had a 15.6" screen and my home laptop had one too but my home one is bigger. How does that one work?

Smaller screens = longer battery life, right?

What size screen is the smallest you'd choose if it was up to you?

Any suggestions for a portable but user friendly laptop if they're all good enough? Should I stick with 15.6" or do drop to 14" or 12"?

I bought from pcworld last time but in our house we've had poor service from them so prefer elsewhere. Argos is the only place locally unless you pay over the odds at a local office equipment supplier. Everyone rates John Lewis but they're never knowingly undersold by stocking their own "exclusives". Seems a con to me. You can't get them to give their 2 year warranties but at price matched cost because there is no way to price match it. So prices are higher. Any other source of laptops? What's the returns policy like on anyone you suggest?

Really don't but computers much so I'm in the dark about this.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2019, 05:14:59 pm »
So celeron, intel, i3 + or AND equivalent will be good enough for home and work use?


No. Given your usage think of i5 as being the minimum. Screen size is personal but I'd go for the larger sizes. Large screen i3 vs small screen i5? i5 every time.  But, check the actual speed.  Multi core processors are only useful if you are running an app that supports it, future photo editing may well benefit.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2019, 05:26:18 pm »
Do not, repeat do not use LibreOffcie, Open Office or any other Office package other than Microsoft Office. It will drive you mad and waste days and weeks of time if you do.

It's not that these applications are no good, far from it LibreOffice for example is excellent and if it was for home use only or for education then great I would highly recommend it. The problem comes when you have to interact for work a lot with docs written in MS Office with loads of formatting. Then things go a bit pear shaped. LibreOffice will open them in a readable format but there will be formatting inconsistencies you have to hut down and change then when you do sort them and go to work and open the doc in MS Office it will be all weird again.
Fighting with formatting when everyone is using the same office app is bad enough but when you use a different one it will send you mental.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2019, 05:34:55 pm »
I've got unused PCs in my shed that'll do all you want.

Cheap laptops are cheap for a reason and don't stand being hauled around too much. I've been a happy user of s/h Lenovo Thinkpads for many years now, business quality build (good keyboard, bomb proof).

I paid £160 off ebay I think for an older i5. Its got a small screen though (11") which I find fine. Agree that an SSD is the best investment you can make. I've always got away with 4Gb system RAM I wonder how much difference a proper amount of memory would make?

Considered a Chromebook? Not my thing but they're big and have decent battery life.

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2019, 06:06:46 pm »
Do not, repeat do not use LibreOffcie, Open Office or any other Office package other than Microsoft Office. It will drive you mad and wast days and weeks of time if you do.

It's not that these applications are no good, far from it LibreOffice for example is excellent and if it was for home use only or for education then great I would highly recommend it. The problem comes when you have to interact for work a lot with docs written in MS Office with loads of formatting. Then things go a bit pear shaped. LibreOffice will open them in a readable format but there will be formatting inconsistencies you have to hut down and change then when you do sort them and go to work and open the doc in MS Office it will be all weird again.
Fighting with formatting when everyone is using the same office app is bad enough but when you use a different one it will send you mental.

This.

Libreoffice is absolutely fine for doing a bit of coursework or grinking your MP or whatever.  But as soon as you need to do anything non-trivial involving Excel or PowerPoint, or exchanging documents with Office users, you need the real thing.

This pretty much implies that you need MS Windows (there are Mac versions, but they're subtly different, and seeing as the whole reason for using it is compatibility, that seems unwise).
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2019, 06:25:52 pm »
The latter Mac Office versions (2016) actually play fine with Windows, never had an issue.

Screens and portability are important. If you're lugging around a laptop, I find a 13-inch Macbook to be a perfect balance between portability and usability. If I wasn't lugging it, then maybe bigger. Don't forget you can easily plug in an external monitor. Screen resolution is also important – retina and other high dpi screens are the bees' knees and frankly are sharp enough to see actual bees' knees. It also means you can make more use your screen real estate, though bear in mind your eyesight. They look a lot better.

Don't bother with anything that isn't SSD and you may as well plump for 8 GB unless the budget is tight.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2019, 11:10:39 pm »
I must admit that I'm anti-apple. Firstly I've always hated the price for them. Second the iPhone was supposed to have the most intuitive and easiest mobile phone os but IMHO android is better. Or rather I found it easier and just worked for me. I use an iPhone for work (no choice) and it's a real pain. Plug it into the laptop and it sometimes just doesn't connect to my laptop so I struggle to download photographs. Since I need them for work it's a big failure. Android just works with my laptop. Never fails.

Then there's the price. It's a computer with a similar architecture to computers that have Windows as the os. Why so expensive?

Then I iTunes. On my laptop it always comes up with needing an update which never seems to load properly. Besides I don't want or need iTunes.

Then there's the apple os. People rate it highly once they have tried it. However in the UK Windows is the os most organisations use. Is it really worth paying at least twice the money of a Windows laptop to try it out and then any compatibility issues with work files from a Windows environment? At work a few directors like apple but they use Windows for work because apple doesn't work with the network at work.

Why would you use apple for work on the UK? I really don't know unless you're on the graphic arts/printing sector.

I saw a review of iirc a vivobook laptop that has a shortcut to turn certain keys into a number pad for entering numbers into a spreadsheet. I prefer a separate number pad for number entry. A long time ago I got a temp job as a data entry clerk so I learnt to use a number pad very quickly. I can't get used to using the numbers at the top of the keyboard. A number pad makes it a bigger laptop. Does anyone know if a smaller laptop has an efficient way to type numbers such as a switchable number pad?

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2019, 06:45:23 am »
Could I suggest a separate good monitor and wireless keyboard. My work computer now is a dell surface pro clone.  At my desk I have a USB C  box which does power, monitor and keyboard.

The screen is good on its own and great with the monitor. The speed is enough to edit multi page word documents, run endnote and have excel open (relatively small) although the last file I opened had 10000 rows.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2019, 07:44:21 am »
for Win machines, Dell or HP business variant, 13"/15" screen, SSD with external drives + cloud for backup (thinking photos here). i5 or i7. 8Mb memory. Get the best resolution screen you can afford. You can always get a larger battery if you're worried about battery life with a larger screen.  Later if you get into the photography a dock, with external screen and keyboard.
We are making a New World (Paul Nash, 1918)

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2019, 08:49:43 am »


Then there's the price. It's a computer with a similar architecture to computers that have Windows as the os. Why so expensive?


While I'm not an Apple fanboi in any way, shape or form I can answer that question. By retaining control of the hardware and not selling any low grade "entry point" machines, Apple make certain that the user experience is consistent. Like for like, the Apple premium is not that huge, say 15-20%, against similarly specced Windows machines and part of that difference is accounted for by the improved customer service ("Apple shops") which mostly leave the user with a positive experience. Of course, there are a large number of users for whom a £400 Windows machine will be as serviceable as an £800 Apple, but they still buy into the brand.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2019, 08:56:23 am »
I’ve never understood why people buy bikes that are double the price of perfectly good ones that do the job just fine.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2019, 08:58:54 am »
The non Apple equivalent I guess as an IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad. Great design, robust, easily and no problems with drivers for Windows or Linux but again a premium price. Lenovo have unfortunately diluted the brand of land. Still my favourite laptops.
I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #15 on: January 22, 2019, 09:03:23 am »
To be fair though, why do more people pay more for a watch (or a car or a fridge) than the cheapest possible? There's obviously value more than the sum of the components. That said, it's for the buyer to decide based on their priority and budget.

I like Apple stuff because in my experience it does mostly just work. The hardware is good and well designed, the human interfaces mostly unmatched other than in other premium models, and MacOS a lot less faff than Windows and certainly in my experience a lot faster. That said, I dropped Windows a couple of years back, who knows perhaps Win10 has changed things.

Anyway, horses for courses, if you don't like Apple and prefer a Windows-based machine you should, of course, buy one.
!nataS pihsroW

DaveJ

  • Happy days
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #16 on: January 22, 2019, 09:43:09 am »
+1 for the SSD.  Don't buy a machine without one.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #17 on: January 22, 2019, 09:54:30 am »
There's a very poor customer experience with apple shops round here. Put simply there aren't any! I'd be interested to know what their service is like. Got to be good to worth paying 15-20% more (premium mentioned above).

My only experience is with a work imposed mobile phone. Admittedly a previous year's model. At the time the model was equivalent age to my android phone. Probably personal preference but my phone was simply better IMHO. I know that's probably going against the flow of public opinion but it simply did not play well with other devices. I've never had that issue with android or Windows os computers.

I haven't had any experience of apple computers though. I know a few people who prefer them but they're talking about home use. They don't use for work because they can't easily get out playing well with business systems. There's no tech support for them to get out sorted. Everyone I know with an apple computer has a Windows computer for work use and certain other uses too. However they all rave on about how great they are. I don't really understand that. If they're great use them for everything instead of going back to inferior windows.

Personally my choice will always be to use something that works for me. I'm open to change but I need convincing.

Anyway thanks everyone. I think I am probably best with the following ;
- 13" / 14" screen
- Intel i5 or if budget does not allow an i3 possibly an amd ryzen???
- 256ssd (if possible)
- Ram is an issue, my view is 8gb but looking around you tend to get a lot of 4gb with the above specs for my preferred budget level. Might need to spend more, what do you think?
- Windows with office 365
- external drive USB 3.0
- lenovo, hp (my envy was a dud so wary about hp), dell, acer, Asus. Prefer lenovo out of these.
- budget £500 or less of possible.
- new only, no s/h

Liklihood of getting this at my budget is slim. Does this sound a decent laptop if I can find it. Any suggestions.

I've been looking online at what is offered in local stores (pcworld, argos) and further away (John Lewis). Not seen anything that grabs my attention. Saw one very portable unit that had decent ssd, chip and size but only 4gb all fit £349 (saving of £150 apparently but we all know it's real price is what they're selling it for).

Part of me is wondering if my hp envy could be saved. Network adaptor is always needing to be reset plus a few other tricks I've learnt and the battery doesn't hold charge. Seriously cool charge is flat next time it's used. Is that a new battery or something more serious? Perhaps I should start a thread about what could be wrong and save money. It's a fast enough laptop for my needs if bigger than I now want. Not that heavy though.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2019, 10:02:37 am »
One of the benefits of being the Apple special children on a primarily Windows mothership is that it means IT leave me alone and don't break the bloody thing.

These days with most of the services online and browsers being much of a muchness, and Office 365 playing nice across platforms, I don't really have any issues.

I don't see why your old computer shouldn't be fixable, a replacement battery is a lot cheaper than a new machine.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2019, 10:20:17 am »
SSDs are so cheap nowadays. ~£60 for a 500GB SSD is bonkers.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2019, 10:23:25 am »
It's the network adaptor issue that's possibly harder to sort out or it might not be the battery but the power supply part from the batteries, I just don't know. This laptop was a dud and I should have taken it back from day one. I did not PC World isn't the greatest when you've got problems with computers near the year guarantee date. Lesson learnt. Fortunately it was a rare deal at that shop, one that was genuinely a couple of hundred knocked off the usual selling price. Didn't find it cheaper anywhere else by some margin.

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2019, 10:26:23 am »
There's two types of ssd. Iirc sata and pcie but I wasn't paying attention. Which is best? Does it matter?

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2019, 11:27:47 am »
PCIe is much faster. SATA is mostly for retrofitting in place of a hard disk.

Real Apple Store customer service is amazing - if there’s something wrong with your phone and it’s even vaguely in warranty they’ll hand you a new one without any argument.

(At least in my experience)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2019, 11:39:08 am »
If the laptop was a 'dud' I'd take it back, the warranty date doesn't trump the sale of goods act.

All said though, with computers you get what you pay for, and cheap is cheap.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: Home / work use computer - what specs to look for?
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2019, 11:50:51 am »
It was a £399 hp envy that I couldn't find for less than £499 anywhere else. More mid range that a lot of ppl spend I reckon.