Something in the 14" or under class

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Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:25 am

Gerbils...I am looking to upgrade an 11.6 Gateway/Acer single core Core 2 'netbook' in the coming months. I've loosely followed some updates on the mobile side of the tech world, but I haven't been dedicated to following all the changes closely. A lot of terms seemed to have merged or expanded over time, so I don't even know what qualifies as a 'notebook,' 'netbook,' or 'ultrabook' at this time. But, terminology aside, I'll list what I'd like to see such a machine have, and you can point me from there. Usage: this is strictly for Web browsing and consuming media (mostly .avi files). I may introduce an external Blu-ray or DVD drive (assuming the machine acquired does not have one/won't support an internal one). There will be no gaming done on the machine.

Things I'd prefer:

*Screen size 14" to 11.6"
*IPS panel with at least 1600x900 resolution (would prefer 1920x1080 if possible)
*SSD for OS and programs, don't care if it has any mechanical storage at all, to be honest
*Decent keyboard and touchpad that don't have a million negative reviews (is this even possible?)
*4GB of RAM at the minimum
**if, and only if the chassis supports it, Blu-ray or DVD drive with the ability to be replaced
**Windows 7 is preferred over 8

So, who makes stuff along these lines? The Vizio Thin & Light series are nice looking, but at $1,100 for a 14", they sure are proud of 'em, and I don't see them offering up Windows 7 over Windows 8. In any event, what I am looking for simply may not exist in the market at this time. Thanks!
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 12:17 pm

I had an Acer Aspire S7-392 (Haswell), it had horrid hardware, design, and quality issues and got to be unusable after a bit. I hated it after 30 days and returned it. Synaptics clickpad (yay), terrible keyboard (shallow throw, but mainly some keys could be mechanically actuated without being electrically activated). Too thin to be durable, screen was nice but had bleeding and wasn't properly shielded from pressure. Touchscreen crapped out and would have episodes of freaking out every few minutes (like a serious calibration/sensitivity issue), this appeared after 30 days.

I currently have a new Asus Zenbook UX32VD (Ivy Bridge), but you might be fine with the UX31A variants (thinner, no dGPU). They all have drivers for Windows 7 but some might be sold with Windows 8. The FHD matte IPS display is the absolute best I have ever seen in any notebook, ever. You can swap out a single stick of RAM usually, mine has DDR3 1600 CL11. I made the mistake of getting DDR3 1600 CL10 and now it runs as a 10GB 1333 CL9 (which I guess is actually comparable). Touchpad is Elan and therefore mediocre, but large and workable. Keyboard has superb travel, but has some minor flex (might not be present on the thinner models). SSD is proprietary-length mSATA in the thinner models, or a full 7mm SATA in the thicker model (UX32VD). Beware, some people with the thicker model report the integrated SSD cache dying after a year or two, but the UX32VD-DS72 variant (dual RAID 0 SSDs on a 2.5 to dual mSATA bridge of some sort) is spared from this flaw since it lacks this iSSD chip entirely.

ANYWAY

You might also have a look at the Samsung ATIV Book 7 (same as the Samsung Series 7 Ultra), some new Lenovo Ideapads (U430p) or Thinkpads (T431 or similar). The Dell XPS 12 is chunky but has good reviews if you really want a touchscreen. Sony has new super light Vaios made of carbon fiber something, but they feel incredibly flimsy and flex a lot. Toshiba has the KIRAbooks which are overpriced super-retina laptops, if you crave resolution. Vizio's stuff looked great but lacked the specs I was after. Maybe they fit for you though.

Ivy and Haswell perform virtually the same, but Haswell gave me nearly double battery life (6-8 hours vs 4-6 hrs) when doing light work. I settled for Ivy since 5 hours is plenty for me. Haswell commands a ~$200-600 premium over Ivy Bridge.

If you wait til Christmas or so, there are additional Haswell ultrabooks on the horizon, including the Zenbook UX301 and UX302 series, and additional ultrabooks from Lenovo et al. Samsung hasn't announced Haswell successors yet, so look for mid-2014 to be the peak of Haswell, before Broadwell models are announced. The market has been surprisingly slow to roll out new chips, and they cost a ton.

Also, an i5 is comically similar to an i7 in these TDPs, so don't pay much extra for the i7.

This is more from an ultrabook perspective, and is a wall of text, but I hope it helps!
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:43 pm

For the most part, I don't think laptops have changed all that much from when you've last looked. Generally, I guess things have gotten cheaper (both in price and build quality), but more recently, manufacturers have started to try to emulate apple (thin, high-res, high price). High res screens are still relatively new and expensive (only on premium 1000+ laptops). You can probably get 1600x900 TN on a cheap laptop, though. (I don't follow it that closely, so I could be wrong).

11.6 to 14" seems to cover a fairly large range. Are you looking for portability? Battery life? Build quality? Any weight limit? Price limit?


I've been personally eyeing the 14" Lenovo T440s (supposedly the "best" keyboard and nice trackpad / build quality / 1080p IPS / haswell / large batteries (up to 17 hrs battery life claimed and hot swappable even!)). This would by my choice. It's relatively small/light for a 14". (I think a lot of 14" laptops do have the DVD player and are correspondingly bulkier/heavier). I seem to recall some sites saying good things about the glass surface of the trackpad. Overall, I've heard a lot of good things about Lenovos (Carbon X1, T431s, T440s). (Ah, another thing I like is the docking station, but that's my own requirement).

On the smaller end of the scale, it seems like a Google Pixel would also meet all your requirements (not sure about the keyboard)? (2560x1700 IPS screen). That'd be the smallest laptop that I know of with at least 1600x900 screen. (If there is one that is smaller, it's probably even pricier). You can install windows 7 on it... probably.... Also, I think it actually costs more than the T440s...

That covers the size range. The previous post also mentioned a lot of laptops with very nice screens, mostly in between these two in terms of size, I think.


Drop the screen requirements a bit, and cheaper laptops will meet your needs. How do you like your current laptop? Acer makes newer versions. Example, AMD temash based netbook-type thing that I saw anandtech give away.
http://www.anandtech.com/show/7282/amd- ... -notebooks
The hard drive is user replaceable, so you can buy an SSD and put it in. Also, I think there's a low end haswell version if you want much faster speed, and possibly an atom version. They all should have decent battery life (low end CPUs that sip power)...

Oh, looking more into it, this is an IPS screen!? 1366x768. I'm not sure you'll get 1600x900 on an 11.6 screen, though.
http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Ace ... 321.0.html

Hope this helps.
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:40 pm

What models are out there with the Core i7-4650U or another two-core four-thread 15-watt Haswell processor?
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 10:08 pm

I recently picked up an Asus UX31A. Meets most of your criteria.

*Screen size 14" to 11.6" -- yep 13"
*IPS panel with at least 1600x900 resolution (would prefer 1920x1080 if possible) -- yep, 1920x1080 (glossy touch panel -- positive or negative depending on your preference)
*SSD for OS and programs, don't care if it has any mechanical storage at all, to be honest -- yep. I got the 128GB version
*Decent keyboard and touchpad that don't have a million negative reviews (is this even possible?) -- personal preference. Keyboard is ok, touch pad seems good, but I still miss having stand alone buttons. A learning curve on my part
*4GB of RAM at the minimum -- yes, but just. 4GB and thats all you get
**if, and only if the chassis supports it, Blu-ray or DVD drive with the ability to be replaced -- nope, get a slim external
**Windows 7 is preferred over 8 -- fails here. Came with Win 8. I hate it. Replaced with Linux and I'm much happier now.

As with any "ultra-slim" system, the ports are limited. Wired network is via USB adapter. Video is view micro-hdmi. Two USB-3 ports is it.

All that said, I'm pretty happy with it ($600 as a refurb). I've spent another $100 for a second power adapter, USB3 hub for the desk, and various cables. I haven't tested battery life yet, so I can't really speak to that, but it is an "older" Core i5, FWIW.

--SS
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:28 pm

I'm typing this on an Asus Vivobook S400 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009F1JL5A/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ieUTF8&psc=1) I bought back in May for $600 and then added another 4GB memory in the open slot and swapped the 500GB mechanical drive for 120GB Samsung SSD so all told my expense was about $750 for a pretty quick machine. It's got W8 on it, but classic shell has made it pretty much W7 as far as daily usage is concerned with some nice improvments that 8 brings. The screen isn't the best - a TN unit with 1366x768 and a glossy finish. The touch feature is nice and it does get some usage. Keyboard isn't horrible and the touchpad works as well as any i've needed to use. Battery life isn't stellar (4 hours is reasonable) but performance is very acceptable both plugged in and on battery. it never gets any more than warm when I've used it. It doesn't look there is a haswell refresh of the line yet, but it may be coming soon I would guess.

I guess all that is to say you may need to adjust your expectations for either what you'll find or what you'll spend. I would suggest you get a Haswell based unit to get the battery life advantage if nothing else. The screen resolution and SSD requirements might be hard targets to hit for less than the $1100 you found for the vizio machines. I plugged those criteria (haswell, 11-14", higher res) into newegg and didn't get anything under $1200. The new Dell Inspiron 14 7000 looks like it might check most of your boxes except the SSD and W7 items, but that could be solved with an SSD and W7 install image on a flash drive (if you've already got both cost would be nil but could be up to another $200 if you're set on W7, $100 if you can live with the version of W8 that comes on the machine).

With your stated usage being primarily media consumption/web browsing, have you considered something like a convertible tablet or maybe even just a tablet? If you've already got a serviceable computer for the times you need to do work, a larger table would get you a lot of the requirments you have including a nice screen, excellent battery life... Maybe something like this: http://techreport.com/news/25375/hands- ... ransformer
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Mon Sep 30, 2013 11:36 pm

I just saw this and it checks a lot of your boxes for a lot less than I would have guessed. It's not a haswell processor (not one of your requirements anyways) but for this price I'm not sure I would worry http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msu ... .277784300 In case that link is broken by the time you see it, it's a VIZIO 14-Inch Thin + Light Touch CT14T-B0
14-inch HD+ touchscreen
AMD A10-4657M
8 GB memory/128 GB SSD
Up to 7 hours battery life
$600
i7-3770K | Asus P8Z77-V LK | 8GB DDR3-1600 | HD5850 | 128GB 840 Pro | Samsung F3 1TB | U2412M | Define R4 | Seasonic 520W M12II | Win7 Pro x64.
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Tue Oct 01, 2013 5:26 am

Thanks so much for the input guys. That Asus UX31A is pretty sharp looking and hits a lot of the right buttons! The good news is that I'll have to spend a little time budgeting for whatever I do end up purchasing, so there will be a Haswell and Kabini round of refreshes before I do make a purchase. I am not as adamant about a certain weight. Build quality over weight any day. I'd like to keep it under $1,000 if possible, too.
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Tue Oct 01, 2013 9:05 am

JustAnEngineer wrote:What models are out there with the Core i7-4650U or another two-core four-thread 15-watt Haswell processor?


Imo Haswell HD5000 graphics aren't much better than the Haswell HD4400 since everything is thermally limited at this TDP. For productivity, having the HD4400 coupled with the extra CPU MHz helps more, so the i7-4500U and i5-4200U may be "better." Of course any Ivy Bridge HD4000 such as the i7-3517U will also perform similarly, and will be cheaper (albeit with less battery life).
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Re: Something in the 14" or under class

Postposted on Wed Oct 02, 2013 12:47 pm

for my next laptop I have many the same requirements... except 1080p is a requirement for me.

Asus UX31A was my number 1 choice except all I could get was a similar Asus with 720p when shopping near home.

thanks for the thread as it has given me some food for thought as I may be looking again soon.
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