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coolflame57
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University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:02 pm

Hi all,

I was looking to buy a laptop now that I hope will last me well into grad school, hopefully all the way through grad school, around 6-8 years or so. My requirements were 16 gb of ram, a touch screen, 500+ gb of storage, a comfortable typing experience, and good build quality. Nice to haves would be a good screen (the screen I look at every day is trash, so anything is an upgrade) and a fingerprint reader for windows hello. I look to spend $800-1000 on it if possible, and am definitely open to the idea of buying refurbished laptops from reputable brands.

My university will have an authorized Dell and Apple campus store that can provide free repairs, so I was mainly looking to buy one of those two brands. I'm opposed to buying Apple products for many, many reasons (please don't try and convince me otherwise here), so Dell became my main choice.

I was searching around on Dell's outlet website and managed to find a Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 that managed to fit most of my criteria. It has 16 gigs of RAM, a 512 gig ssd, the QHD+ touch screen that dell sells (3200x1800), is convertible (like the names says), and costs $990. With the 17% off coupon that the outlet has going on right now, it gets down to $820: not a bad deal at all.

My only problem is that it is equipped with a last gen core i7-7Y75. In the future, this is bound to be my bottleneck, but I'm hoping that it won't be too limiting. Is this a bad purchase and should I try and find a model with the i5 or i7 8th gen CPUs or do the other strengths of this system more than make up for the processor's lack of power?
 
mikewinddale
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:53 pm

Overall, that sounds like a good laptop. The processor isn't the fastest, but it sounds like it has a lot of great features (plenty of RAM, a spacious SSD, and a VERY high-end screen).

The processor, as you noted, is a question. It depends on what you plan on doing with this laptop.

I have a laptop with a Core i7-7500U, which is very similar to the i7-7Y75 in this Dell laptop. My processor basically has a higher TDP (electrical usage and thermal output) and a higher base frequency, but the same number of cores and the same burst frequency, and they're both from the same generation. So I think they make a good comparison.

My laptop with the 7500U is plenty fast enough for things like word processing. If all you're going to do is browse the internet and type up school papers in Word, then this Dell laptop will be plenty fast. In fact, I have an older laptop too with an AMD A10-5750M that gets about 1/2 to 2/3 of the 7500U's scores in CPU benchmarks, and even that is plenty fast enough for running Chrome and Word. So the i7-7Y75 is more than fast enough for that.

However, if you'll be doing anything more intense - e.g. maybe you plan on taking art courses that require the use of Photoshop, or engineering classes that require CAD, etc. - then you'll definitely need something beefier, with quad cores. Preferably, one of the HQ quad core processors, not the 8th generation U quad cores. (The new 8th generation U quad cores have more cores than the 7th generation U dual cores, but they still have a lower thermal envelope than the HQ quad cores. So even though the 8th generation U and HQ processors both have quad cores, the HQ processors are still faster.)

Also, if you want to be sure that the laptop will last 6-8 years, I'd suggest looking into a business class laptop, like the Dell Latitude. Business class laptops - including the Latitude - are generally engineered to be more physically durable. Often, they're even milspec (military specification). So that will help ensure that 8 years from now, after heavy use, the laptop won't have physically suffered.
 
mikewinddale
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 8:08 pm

So I just did a search on Dell's outlet.

If you're willing to drop the touch screen, and drop the resolution down to 1920x1080, you can find a lot of Dell laptops with 16 GB of RAM and a quad core Core i7-7700HQ, all for about $900 to $1000. They also tend to have discrete Geforce graphics cards, which you might find useful.

If you specify touch screen too, then the price goes up to about $1200 or so. That's a bit out of your budget, but maybe not terribly so. You might be willing to go $200 above your budget in return for doubling the number of cores. The following URL is for laptops without a touch screen, but just change that one search parameter.

http://outlet.us.dell.com/ArbOnlineSale ... g4CQdbY%3d

(Unfortunately, Dell's search parameters don't let you specify U vs HQ processors. So just do a Ctrl-F and search for "HQ" that way.)

Now, most of them have a 128 GB SSD and a 512 GB mechanical hard drive. But one of them has a 256 GB SSD for about the same price. So that one looks good.

And one of them has a 512 GB SSD, but it's marked as "scratch and dent." So you'll have to decide. You can always upgrade to a 512 GB SSD later for about $160. I would suggest either the 256 GB model or else the 512 GB SSD + scratch and dent model.

So if you think you'll be doing anything intense - like Photoshop or CAD - I would suggest getting one of these Dell laptops with the HQ processor.
 
coolflame57
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:37 pm

@mikewinddale, Wow, thanks for the quick and thorough reply.

Most of my work will be dealing with just taking notes and surfing the internet, and papers, so I think that the laptop I found would be adequate (for that at least). I'm not planning on doing much intensive besides the odd emulated game, 3D printer model (Fusion 360, perhaps? I'd like to get into this but have no idea what I'm doing as of right now), or some light coding. Would the xps 2-in-1 be up for that? In addition, my sister is in the research field and manipulates absolutely MASSIVE amounts of data in excel that she usually has to download from an external database. I see myself potentially doing something similar and want to avoid waiting over 20 minutes to load and be able to view the data. Are massive excel files CPU dependent, or do they mainly rely on RAM?

Lastly, something I forgot in my original post is that I don't really game at all, and would like to handicap my abilities to game so that I keep my distractions to a minimum. Since I'll be lugging this thing around all the time, I value battery life and portability over sheer processing power. Touch is something I really would not like to give up, also.

It may appear that I have my heart set on this specific laptop, and while that may be the case, I've made bad decisions about laptops before and wanted another opinion so that I won't be bitten again.
 
DPete27
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:49 pm

I highly doubt the Dell campus store is going to give you free repairs after the 1 year warranty (or less if you're buying refurb) runs out on your machine. I'd suggest you do some careful research before you assume that they're just going to take care of your laptop for free for the next 6 years. (although I could be wrong and that the university has worked out some sort of deal with Dell)

In that regard, you don't HAVE to confine yourself to Dell (although they do make good laptops).
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ludi
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:52 pm

coolflame57 wrote:
Hi all,I was searching around on Dell's outlet website and managed to find a Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 that managed to fit most of my criteria. It has 16 gigs of RAM, a 512 gig ssd, the QHD+ touch screen that dell sells (3200x1800), is convertible (like the names says), and costs $990. With the 17% off coupon that the outlet has going on right now, it gets down to $820: not a bad deal at all.

My only problem is that it is equipped with a last gen core i7-7Y75. In the future, this is bound to be my bottleneck, but I'm hoping that it won't be too limiting. Is this a bad purchase and should I try and find a model with the i5 or i7 8th gen CPUs or do the other strengths of this system more than make up for the processor's lack of power?

That's about the best price you're going to find for Dell's best laptop. For what you're doing now a 5yo Ivy Bridge or Haswell CPU will be adequate, as for the future...it really just depends. For manipulating large datasets with relatively simple math or sorting, a large amount of RAM and SSD will take care of most of your bottlenecks. If it comes to instensive transforms or multi-GB datasets then hopefully by the time you're in grad school the university will provide a desktop workstation or server with the necessary capabilities.

If it were me, I would add a docking port adapter and an external monitor. QHD on a 13" display will be an eye-burner when you're trying to finish a report at four in the morning. A 22-27" monitor with at least 1080P resolution is a nice place to be when working at your desk, and a port replicator allows you to have a better mouse and keyboard available if necessary (especially for data entry tasks).
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synthtel2
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sat Jul 14, 2018 11:26 pm

Emulated games - may barely work depending on the games and emulator. Dolphin, for one, is liable to be pretty shoddy on that CPU.
3D printing - should be fine so long as you don't go for crazy polycounts.
Light coding - depends what light means, of course, but it should be at least servicable.
Excel - could be pretty slow, especially once you get to working with enough data that thermals become a problem.

If gaming chops may be a bit of a minus anyway, Excel sounds like the big reason to consider a quad-core and/or a bigger power budget. I'd look at the 15W quad-cores first, though; it sounds like a tight power budget is important to you, and if the workload multithreads well (which Excel purportedly does), throwing more cores at it will always give better perf/W than turning up the clocks at a fixed number of cores. Even the 15W quads have much higher base clocks than the 7Y75, too.
 
coolflame57
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 8:47 am

DPete27 wrote:
I highly doubt the Dell campus store is going to give you free repairs after the 1 year warranty (or less if you're buying refurb) runs out on your machine. I'd suggest you do some careful research before you assume that they're just going to take care of your laptop for free for the next 6 years. (although I could be wrong and that the university has worked out some sort of deal with Dell)

In that regard, you don't HAVE to confine yourself to Dell (although they do make good laptops).


I looked at their policy and realized just how wrong I was. The 1 year warranty (that still comes free with this refurb) does cover unlimited repairs, but after it expires, I have to shell out $49 for a diagnostic and $88 per hour of labor. My hope is that buying a more popular product from the Campus store's parent company will be easier for them to fix (keeping in mind that fixing time does strongly depend on the nature of the fix required).

ludi wrote:
coolflame57 wrote:
Hi all,I was searching around on Dell's outlet website and managed to find a Dell XPS 13 9365 2-in-1 that managed to fit most of my criteria. It has 16 gigs of RAM, a 512 gig ssd, the QHD+ touch screen that dell sells (3200x1800), is convertible (like the names says), and costs $990. With the 17% off coupon that the outlet has going on right now, it gets down to $820: not a bad deal at all.

My only problem is that it is equipped with a last gen core i7-7Y75. In the future, this is bound to be my bottleneck, but I'm hoping that it won't be too limiting. Is this a bad purchase and should I try and find a model with the i5 or i7 8th gen CPUs or do the other strengths of this system more than make up for the processor's lack of power?

That's about the best price you're going to find for Dell's best laptop. For what you're doing now a 5yo Ivy Bridge or Haswell CPU will be adequate, as for the future...it really just depends. For manipulating large datasets with relatively simple math or sorting, a large amount of RAM and SSD will take care of most of your bottlenecks. If it comes to instensive transforms or multi-GB datasets then hopefully by the time you're in grad school the university will provide a desktop workstation or server with the necessary capabilities.

If it were me, I would add a docking port adapter and an external monitor. QHD on a 13" display will be an eye-burner when you're trying to finish a report at four in the morning. A 22-27" monitor with at least 1080P resolution is a nice place to be when working at your desk, and a port replicator allows you to have a better mouse and keyboard available if necessary (especially for data entry tasks).


This is why I like these forums so much. This is a great idea.

However, those docking port adapters can actually be more expensive than some monitors (the cheapest one Dell bundles is $160). Would I be losing anything if I just connected anything to a TB3 dongle ($60-70 max)? If not, then can you recommend any TB3 dongles?

synthtel2 wrote:
Emulated games - may barely work depending on the games and emulator. Dolphin, for one, is liable to be pretty shoddy on that CPU.
3D printing - should be fine so long as you don't go for crazy polycounts.
Light coding - depends what light means, of course, but it should be at least servicable.
Excel - could be pretty slow, especially once you get to working with enough data that thermals become a problem.

If gaming chops may be a bit of a minus anyway, Excel sounds like the big reason to consider a quad-core and/or a bigger power budget. I'd look at the 15W quad-cores first, though; it sounds like a tight power budget is important to you, and if the workload multithreads well (which Excel purportedly does), throwing more cores at it will always give better perf/W than turning up the clocks at a fixed number of cores. Even the 15W quads have much higher base clocks than the 7Y75, too.

Emulating - I want to disincentive games anyway, so this isn't that bad. The emulators I'd probably be using (desmume and citra) I think are less demanding than Dolphin.
3D printing - I seriously doubt I'd be doing anything with super high polycounts.
Light coding - defined as "I don't want to be a complete coding noob when I get out of undergrad, so I'm going to take a couple of coding classes to keep my skills"
Excel - There are multiple other quad cores+HT computers that can be had for around the same price. However, almost all of them are a significant downgrade in RAM, storage, and lack touch functionality. Touch aside, would halving the RAM and storage be more limiting than halving the CPU for excel?
 
synthtel2
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 1:19 pm

I don't have much feel for where the cutoff between being bound by CPU and RAM would normally be on Excel, but if you do run out of RAM, it'd definitely be more of a problem than not having enough of a CPU. Taking 20 minutes to load may be a sign that it is RAM-bound in the use of it you're seeing right now (finding 20 minutes of work on a 16 GB in-RAM Excel dataset doesn't sound likely to me).
 
Kretschmer
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 2:06 pm

The old 2-in-1 only has two cores and anemic clockspeeds; big Excel datasets will choke and cry. Trying to stretch a laptop 8 years seems a bit unrealistic.
 
DPete27
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 2:22 pm

Keep in mind that 2-in-1s almost always have soldered on RAM (not upgradeable), so you're on the right track looking at 16GB. Do careful research regarding this for any laptops that have < 16GB if you plan on keeping it as long as you say.

Typically* you can change/upgrade the SSD even on thin laptops though.
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coolflame57
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 3:16 pm

Kretschmer wrote:
The old 2-in-1 only has two cores and anemic clockspeeds; big Excel datasets will choke and cry. Trying to stretch a laptop 8 years seems a bit unrealistic.


I don't anticipate doing anything with monstrous amounts of data until at least grad school. As ludi said earlier, if I really need anything super powerful, the school should provide me with it. If I'm able to provide some more cooling (better thermal paste, maybe?), then it can turbo up to 3.6 GHz in theory, so I think I should be good on this front.

synthtel2 wrote:
I don't have much feel for where the cutoff between being bound by CPU and RAM would normally be on Excel, but if you do run out of RAM, it'd definitely be more of a problem than not having enough of a CPU. Taking 20 minutes to load may be a sign that it is RAM-bound in the use of it you're seeing right now (finding 20 minutes of work on a 16 GB in-RAM Excel dataset doesn't sound likely to me).


I've been looking for something like this for a long time. I never knew that running out of CPU wasn't as bad as running out of RAM. Thank you.

I think I'm going to buy this laptop within the next day or two.
 
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:18 pm

I'm still using a Dell D820 for basic notebook service. It has a 1.8Gz Core processor and a Quattro graphics card. I've upgraded it through the years. It now has 2.5gb of RAM and an 80gb SSD. The only real problem I've had with it was the WinXP install crashed and I was unable to get it working again. I installed Linux Mint on a partition and it's been good to go. Granted, I can't game on it, but as a surfer and document machine, it works great. The machine you described should last a long time.
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ludi
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:00 pm

coolflame57 wrote:
However, those docking port adapters can actually be more expensive than some monitors (the cheapest one Dell bundles is $160). Would I be losing anything if I just connected anything to a TB3 dongle ($60-70 max)? If not, then can you recommend any TB3 dongles?

Not in particular, but if you want something like the Dell J00G9, you can get those all day long for about $35-65 on eBay. If it doesn't have a power brick, you can get a Dell OEM unit for about $15-25 on eBay. Large corporate IT buyers tend to dump both of these into eWaste when they upgrade, and then the recyclers sort out the working ones and resell them.
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synthtel2
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Sun Jul 15, 2018 8:13 pm

coolflame57 wrote:
I don't anticipate doing anything with monstrous amounts of data until at least grad school. As ludi said earlier, if I really need anything super powerful, the school should provide me with it. If I'm able to provide some more cooling (better thermal paste, maybe?), then it can turbo up to 3.6 GHz in theory, so I think I should be good on this front.

Given this is all designed around a 3.5-7W TDP, 3+ GHz will only ever be achievable for very short bursts on one core. It's great for keeping interactive stuff running smoothly, but for long-running workloads, even 2.0 is probably a tall order.

coolflame57 wrote:
I've been looking for something like this for a long time. I never knew that running out of CPU wasn't as bad as running out of RAM. Thank you.

No problem! That's a tough one because they don't behave very similarly at all; running out of CPU is a pretty subjective thing in the first place, as for something like Excel having a quarter of the CPU pretty much just makes everything take four times as long. On the RAM side, if you've got a 5GB dataset it doesn't much matter whether you've got 8, 16, or 128 GB of RAM, but if you've only got 4, things may easily take multiple orders of magnitude longer.
 
Kretschmer
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Mon Jul 16, 2018 8:20 am

coolflame57 wrote:
Kretschmer wrote:
The old 2-in-1 only has two cores and anemic clockspeeds; big Excel datasets will choke and cry. Trying to stretch a laptop 8 years seems a bit unrealistic.


I don't anticipate doing anything with monstrous amounts of data until at least grad school. As ludi said earlier, if I really need anything super powerful, the school should provide me with it. If I'm able to provide some more cooling (better thermal paste, maybe?), then it can turbo up to 3.6 GHz in theory, so I think I should be good on this front..


As a grad student likely in off-campus housing, having to go to the computer lab every time you want to iterate a dataset is going to be annoying. This really sounds like you may be purchasing two laptops: one thin-and-light for note taking and Youtube in undergrad and another for grad school datasets.

And no, breaking your warranty to apply thermal paste on an ultraslim laptop won't magically increase the number of cores from 2 or upgrade the cooling components and power subsystem from the manufacturer. I live in Excel, and you're going to want a lot of RAM, and 4+ fast cores if your datasets or calculations become merely large. If they actually become monstrous, you're better off in Access or Oracle, anyways.
 
synthtel2
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Re: University (and beyond) laptop

Mon Jul 16, 2018 1:41 pm

Today's front page deals post has a relevant-looking machine in it. It's Dell, fits the RAM/storage/budget requirements, and has an 8550U (4C8T, 1.8 base, 4.0 boost).

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