Buying a Notebook

I will be working out of the home a lot on my new job, so it’s time to replace this 6 year-old notebook. While a PC might make more sense, I’ll probably buy another notebook. I’m looking at IBM Thinkpad A31 or T30, or comparables by others (Pentium IV, 1.8 or 2 GHz, 512 MB). Money is not a big concern, but I’m not very tech-savvy. Few questions.

  1. Notebook v. PC? If I buy a notebook and decide to upgrade my home office after a few paychecks, can I add a nice monitor, keyboard and docking station later? Reasonable idea?

  2. Screen size. My eyes often feel tired from too much computer time, so I want to get a screen that will be easiest on them. Is 15 in a good idea or is 14.1 just fine?

  3. Resolution. In light of the above, is 1400x1050 max resolution a good idea or is 1024x768 fine? The better resolution does look clearer, but the sales guy says better resolution isn’t necessarily better because the icons are smaller (I think he just said that because he doesn’t stock the better one but am not sure).

  4. Which brand. I’m looking at IBM, Dell, Toshiba partly because my job will subsidize the first $NT30,000 but they don’t want me getting an Acer or other local brand. I had a Dell at my prior job and really liked it but am concerned about possible servicing in Taiwan (only available by mail; no local service center). Valid concern? For that reason, would IBM be a better choice (buy locally; local service center)? Aside from service issues how do Dell and IBM compare?

  5. IBM A v. T series. Anyone else compared the A and T series? Which did you choose and why?

Thanks for your help.

yes. you can hook up a monitor for better/larger display. same things can been done to the keyboard and mouse. when i’m at home or have desk space, i pretty much always hook up the external mouse…don’t like those navigation buttons very much.

i keep icons and everything about the same size between my 17’’ desktop and my 14.1 laptop. the only difference is that i can fit more stuff on my 17’’ destop.

i like higher resolution…

i would definitely be concerned about service. you may be lucky and not have a problem…but it really depends on your luck. if a laptop goes bad, you most likely have to bring it in to service. a desktop is not so bad. when my dell desktop motherboard went bad, i got dell to send me a motherboard. but with a laptop, there is no way you can pop open that baby and put in a new motherboard yourself (like you can with a desktop). but then again, how good is the ibm service here? when i had a problem with my ibm laptop, it took them forever to fix the harddrive. i don’t know… i like dell (as a brand/company) so…

i have a T series…but i think at that time, i chose it because the T series is cheaper. the T series is also thinner and lighter than the A…and i wanted something i can carry around a lot.

The case for the PC:
*Vastly cheaper for the same performance - you can pick up a no name box for (from) NT$15,000.
*They are also easily upgradeable (although I think this only really applies for a couple of years. After that things have moved on and start to become incompatible).
But if money is no object for those bathing in the benificence of the Lord, get a notebook.

Notebooks mostly have 3 or 4 USB ports so you can plug in full size keyboards and large monitors. I got a rotatable 17" inch recently for NT$13K. Looks very big to me.
As for local brands, they’re (almost) all local brands under the skin. Don’t know how the big names compare (I did the tech literature for many of the recent Toshiba laptops though so if you have any questions there…)

OK, I’ll bite, Salmon. What do you think of the Presario 2800?

I know this shouldn’t matter, as I should care only about the guts of the machine and shouldn’t be bothered by esthetics, but I think the silver cover on the Compaqs looks stupid. On the other hand, a girl in my office, who’s also preparing to make a purchase, finds their Evo models adorable. They’re small with a silver accent strip along the bottom, and as she described it to me she cooed and gestured excitedly as though it were a Gucci handbag. Barf.

But would YOU buy one?

Oops, I just realized you were talking about Toshibas and not Compaqs. No matter, I scored extra guanxi with this post, and besides I am curious how the Toshibas and Compaqs compare with IBM.

A few things to think about.

1-do you need the portability of a laptop?
2-how much power/functions do you need?
3-how much do you want to spend now?

There are basically three types of computers you need to consider.
1-desktop - bulky, easily expandable(unless you buy very no frills stuff which makes it hard to expand and repair), much better if you need high end appications like video.
2-notebook - can be heavy(up to 7lbs), for occasional travel. You don’t want to lug this thing everywhere, they usually have a lot of the features of a desktop. I recently bought a compaq presario 915us. It’s got a 1.8ghz processor with 256 ddr ram, dvd/cdr-w combo drive for about $1200USD. With usb, firewire and port replicators, you can pretty much add to it and not miss much of the speed and function from a desktop.
3-sub-notebook (very small laptops like Sony picturebook series) - usually less processing power and without cd/floppy drives. They are very light weight about 2lbs. Everything is attached to it externally. This is the laptop you want to carry around without all the external stuff.

A note about monitors, a 19inch tubed monitor has the same amount of viewable space as a 17inch lcd. So a 15inch lcd is about a 17inch monitor. Yes the icons become smaller if you turn up the resolution on the same monitor. lcd monitors have the maximum resolution of 1024x768 no matter what size you buy.

Also one thing about notebooks, you should see if you like the touchpads or the mouse nub(IBM). I personally hate the mouse nub so I would not buy IBM notebooks.

I believe Compaq has a has a service center in Taiwan. You might want to check into that.


Toshiba also has servicing in Taiwan; I had a new keyboard installed and an internal cleaning after the doG spilled pop in it.

When you’re looking for a notebook, also note the ports that are included; if you plan to use a mouse and/or digital camera, it’s best to get 2 usb ports. Consider the peripheral devices you’ll use BEFORE you buy the computer, and tailor the computer to those devices. You’ll also want to consider the drives it has (burner, if applicable combined with cdrom and dvd is always nice, as well as a floppy drive. Battery power is also important if you will be taking it places; if it will mostly stay at home on your desk, this is not a huge concern. Another good idea is to get one with a smartmedia drive; you can use it with a camera AND as extra memory/backup if necessary.

In short, the more ports and drives, the better. As long as you don’t compromise weight.

Also, I find the trackpoint more precise than the fingerpad or rollerball, but this is an individual preference. Most companies don’t make trackpoint anymore.

We just bought an ASUS 4415 notebook at Nova Center for 31K and happy with it except for the resolution issue. The icons and print are very small and we are trying to solve this problem. Changing to a lower resolution makes the words larger but not as clear as with my desktop. Any way to solve this problem other than using an external monitor? We are using Win 2000pro. Would XP do better?

A slightly different perspective: When buying a notebook in Taipei your main concerns should be portability, portability, and portability. People in Taipei actually carry their notebooks on subways and to cafes and the like. Anything over 2.5 pounds or so is going to be too heavy and you will leave it at home thus obviating the whole purpose of having a notebook. If you think the Sony picture books are too small, take a close look at the Toshiba Portege 2000, which is very slim and lightweight. Most serious Linux and and BSD freaks in Taiwan go with Toshiba.

Avoid built-in drive (CD, DVD, floppy etc) but do make sure you have wireless networking.


This is a problem with LCDs. If you aren’t running at the “native resolution”, it has to use multiple pixels to fake one. Thus, your words end up jagged. The solution is to make your font size bigger under Display Properties->Settings, Advanced. However, this may mess up the way some programs display menus (not too big a deal).

Otherwise, I just push the zoom in Word up to 160% or so :smiley:

I personally prefer IBMs over Toshiba and especially Compaq. I’ve had nothing but trouble with Compaqs. Sure, IBMs don’t look as stylish as other brands but the engineering and service (at least in the US) are top notch. Additionally, they don’t install a bunch of junk on your computer.

Toshiba was always a bargain laptop in my mind until they came out with the Portege. Very nice looking laptop but I still prefer my IBM X22.

If you aren’t planning to move your computer around much, get a 1.8Ghz desktop with a high quality 17" CRT. You’ll have money left over to buy a light and small Twinhead Crusoe laptop.

After my gf and I inquired of various reps in the US and Taiwan we came to the conclusion that one can’t buy IBM with English OS in Taiwan except counterfeit. And IBM service in Taiwan may be a problem. So I went with teh Compaq Evo N610c, and so far I’m very happy with it.

I bought an ASUS laptop in Taiwan a few years ago and was very happy with it until we moved back to the US and it needed service. I spilled some coffee on it and fried the keyboard. ASUS doesn’t have much of a sales presence in the US, and I had the worst time trying to track down a place to get a new keyboard (I have a friend who was going to put it in for me. Reps from resellers kept failing to return my calls, and I finally just gave up and bought a new (desktop) computer. I would buy another ASUS notebook if were planning to stay in Taiwan for several years, but not otherwise.

buy a laptop, I will suggest a Dell with a 3 year intl next day service, there is service is great, I had a problem my keyboard and HDD died they replaced it next day.
I have been using Dell for 4 years now no problems, except they laptops are not upgradeable.
my $.02

My Trouble and Strife has had a Thinkpad for about a year and only had one small hardware problem with it early on, which they took care of in one day at the IBM offices on Kuangfu S. Rd. Other than that, its been very reliable.

A few suggestions if you get a Dell or any laptop for that manner. Things you can upgrade on a laptop is RAM, Harddrive, and sometimes your graphics card. So when considering a laptop, I usually get the fastest CPU. Then as prices drop and you finally have need of a larger HD or some more RAM, the parts you can upgrade will be more within your limited budget.


Apple’s new 17-inch PowerBook might be the best of both worlds for you in that it’s portable and has a whopping great screen. It’s among the fastest notebooks available and includes virtually everything you’ll need built-in, including LAN, video out, FireWire, USB, etc.

They also ship with a “SuperDrive” which burns/reads both CDs and DVDs.

Also, Apple’s OS is now Unix-based (though you won’t see it unless you go looking for it) and almost never crashes. For example, I’ve got a pair of G4 towers (one at home, one at the office) and each has only crashed once. My home machine has been in use for over a year.

Moreover, unlike your average PC notebook, the 17-inch PowerBook it’s beautiful.

Top-to-bottom a really elegant machine.

Computers here are cheap - I don’t know whether to buy a notebook or a desktop. I’m thinking of an Asus or an Acer.

I’m looking at getting an Asus too. Been doing some research. Which model number is that one you are getting?

If a computer is cheap,will it be missing anything? Alot of people recommend the A3000.

That was the model I was looking at too. The A3000 series seem to be the best value. That price sounds pretty good. Maybe too good. It is advertised for about $36,000 retail. Is this brand new or legit?