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  • Last Update 2005 June 8 Added information about IBM T43 units.

News Flash: The IBM T43 is available on the Duke Computer Store web site. See below.

NOTE: The information about IBM's T43 line is updated. The others are not. Please take that into account.

Below are specific recommendations. One table (near the top) has recommendations for those who do not want to study but want a good machine. The other has recommendations with many specifics, and in most cases, I try to list my reasoning so you can adjust according to what you value. Please send any additional comments (I will give first-name credit unless you request that I not do that).

Please let me know if you have info on other great options. I'll add it. Thanks to those who contributed.

Table Of Contents


See my Notebook Checklist to be sure you get the options that you want.

For alternate sources of notebooks, see my links.

Get the best warranty/protection plan you can, and if it's available, buy the accidental protection too. Even the most reliable notebooks (Toshiba) break 17% of the time (see statistics below). That's not too great of a record for a machine on which we will rely heavily, and I doubt that includes Coke-in-the-keyboard accidents. If about 20% (or higher) of us will have computer trouble, I think we should heavily consider a great protection plan. I would consider a "less reliable machine" if it has a great protection plan and support. Look at it this way: given the same features, would you rather have a 17% failure rate with no protection or a 24% failure rate with great protection? Buy the warranty!

See CNet's Ratings on notebook computers.

Microsoft Office Issues

In the prices, I do not including the Microsoft Office Suite because some may already have it, and the Duke Computer Store has a great price, so I plan to buy from them.

Be sure you check out what is included in the Microsoft Office Suite that you are considering. The names change fairly often and you need to be sure that your selected package contains all the programs that you need. I will guess that you need Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You may; also need Access, but I'm not sure. Please let me know if you find out exactly what we need at Duke.

Purchasing Issues

Best Buying Process: The Duke Store's web site has been updated (Summer 2005). I did not check all machines, but the IBM machines listed seemed like a great setup. Keep in mind, you can order most models and brands through The Duke Computer Store. You can also buy using Higher Education web sites (I provide links to many such sites in the table below) for the manufacturer in which you're interested (HP, IBM, Dell, etc.). Then, configure a machine, print it out, and then talk to The Duke Computer Store. They will order it for you.

Buying From Duke: There are big advantages to buying at Duke, mostly concerning OIT support. See their web site at to see the differences between TAP (those bought from Duke) and non-TAP computers. (That support link is also listed in the Fuqua Computing Links at the bottom of each of these Fuqua Computing pages)

You can roll 100% of the cost of your computer (including printer, cables, etc.) into your student loans. This could be very helpful now, heading into two years of unemployment. Remember, the $2k difference while repaying loans will be trivial (so don't skimp too much. Be sure you buy a machine that is right for you). All you must do is save your receipts from your computer purchases and send them to the Financial Aid office. They'll hook you up with some additional loan money. The computer does not have to be purchased through Duke and can be purchased right now. This could be very helpful for some who either want to become familiar with the machines, and/or take advantage of corporate discounts or employee purchase plans. (Thanks Jodi)

If you want to see if more savings are possible, don't forget to check out each manufacturer's refurbished units. Many refurbished units (like Dell) carry the same warranty as a new one. (Thanks Suneet) Maybe you can order those though the Duke Store too. I'm not sure. If you know, let me know.

Specific Recommendations

If you have no preferences and just want someone to tell you which machine would be the best in general, I'll give you this list.

For those who want a good all-purpose machine without the research, here are my top picks,
one is a Thin&Light pick for those who want an ultra portable.

Position Machine Notes

IBM ThinkPad T43 Item #W40254

14 inch screen and 5 pounds WITH a high resolution screen.

This year (unlike last year) the mainstream 14 inch screen IBM has a high resolution screen. It is a pound lighter than my 15 inch IBM "high performance" is fairly thin (1.2 inches), very easy to take in and out of a bag, etc. It has 512MB RAM on one module, and has a great price for what you get. for me, one of the best parts is IBM's phenomenal keyboards. I can type quickly on these machines whereas on some others, it's harder to feel the position of my fingers while touch-typing.

The only drawbacks are

  1. The removable drive will write CDRW's but not DVD's. CDRW's can be used for backup but it can be a pain because of the low relative capacity. Be sure to back up your data.
  2. The hard drive is only 40G. While adequate for most, if you store pictures (from your digital camera), video or sound (MP3's, etc.) then you will consume this hard drive fairly quickly.

If either of the above are concerns, and an extra pound won't matter to you, consider the 15 inch IBM.


IBM ThinkPad X40 or X43.

The only recommended very thin & very light machine.

This machine is for those who want an ultra portable. You will run into drawbacks for any tiny portable, but with this machine, the drawbacks are minimized. It is the only thin & light machine that I recommend. Why? In a large part, because of the keyboard. See review below. This is the lightest and thinnest full-function machine (with at least a 12 inch screen) that I've seen, AND it seems to be extremely well thought out.

I can handle these other weaknesses: The screen is 12 inches, XGA resolution (1024x768 - however, given the 12 inch screen, this is a reasonable limitation), CD-RW/ROM must be external, no trackpad - only has a pointing stick (that is supposedly much better than old ones, but I have not used it). It will not be quite as fast as the IBM T41, but more than sufficient for our needs and VERY portable.

This is as of last year - Note: Toshiba is great, and I would recommend them if their Satellite line had higher resolution screens. If you don't care about the lower resolution, then you might rate them above Dell.

List of Machines



Averatec's main web site

Averatec Notebooks listing of Averatec machines

I cannot recommend them because I know little about them. But for some, these may be cheap enough to take the risk.

SUMMARY: a machine that is VERY inexpensive, and seems to have all we need and most of what we want. Several models weigh only 4 pounds each, and are only 1 inch thick. They have ample RAM and disk space, AND a DVD/CDRW all for around $1100. If they're as good as the user reviews say, they're one of the best deals out there.

There is one model for which one user reported long battery life. It has a DVD burner and a 15" screen. It is 6.3 pounds and still only 1 inch thick.

I know very little about these machines, therefore, I cannot recommend them, but they appear to be very good machines and GREAT buys. Check out the comments from purchasers on (there is a link to the left).


  • According to the user reviews on, the battery life is very short. But for that price and 4-pound weight, you can buy a spare battery and STILL be lighter than most.
  • I did not see screen size for many models
  • Screen resolution is likely low on all these machines. It's XGA (1024x768) on the 15" screen. That's too low of a resolution for me.
  • I know nothing about their reliability or their long-term customer service.

Dell Latitude D600

Dell's Higher Education Web Site

Dell's Educational Page with the Latitude Line

Recommended - A good machine for a bit more of a price conscious buy. If you can afford close to $300 more, I like IBM's T41 and T42 machines better because of the history of reliability, support, and their great design. However, this machine has better graphics (higher resolution) than the comparably priced IBM (T42 #W40151) and thus, is a very reasonable pick. This machine has just about everything I want. It's fairly light (5 pounds) and thin (1.2"), powerful, and has great graphics.

Note: The Latitude line of Dell doesn't change as fast as Dell's Inspiron line and at times can be more compatible with software drivers or additional hardware. That is why I recommend it above the Inspiron line. However, I'm sure the Inspiron, on most cases, will perform as well - and maybe a bit faster at times, if it uses cutting edge hardware that might not be available on the Latitude line.

Here's a direct copy from Duke's Computer Store web site

The below was copied directly from Duke's Computer Store ( then choose the "icon" Computer Bundles, then "Dell" - from the left menu, then "notebooks")

  • Dell Mainstream Notebook - Item #W40131
  • Dell Latitude D600, 14.1" SXGA screen
  • 6 cell battery
  • Intel Pentium M 1.7 GHz CENTRINO
  • 512 megabytes RAM (1 DIMM)
  • 40 gigabyte hard drive
  • CDRW/DVD combo drive
  • Intel 802.11b wireless
  • Ethernet and modem
  • Windows XP Pro 6 cell battery
  • 65W AC adapter
  • 4.7 pounds
  • Fellows Mighty 8 Surge Protector
  • PC Guardian Security Cable
  • 25' Ethernet Cable
  • * 4 year Complete Care warranty
  • $1989 from The Duke Computer Store

(* Complete Care warranty is a comprehensive warranty covering labor and parts to include screen breakage, liquid spills and broken plastic. Complete Care does NOT cover theft.)

Dell Latitude D800

Here's The Duke Computer Stores pick for the Dell's High Performance Notebook. It's capable, and has everything one needs, but there are drawbacks compared to the IBM "high performance" choice, preventing me from giving this a general recommendation.

Compared to IBM, this Dell weighs 1.1 pounds more and is 1.5 inches thick (IBM dimensions are 1.2" thick x 13"(w) x 10.6"(d) - yes, it makes a difference when you're stuffing it in a bag with books.) and IBM is generally a very smart design and known to be a bit more reliable.

Dimensions 1.5"(h) x 14.2"(w) x 10.9"(d)

Who would want this? The plus side is that the video card is notably higher resolution than the IBM's. If you are heavily into graphics and want the extra 0.4 inches of screen size with the higher resolution, this would be a great choice. I also like the wide aspect ratio of the screen, making it nice if you decide to watch a widescreen DVD movie.

  • Item #W40123
  • Dell Latitude D800, 15.4" WUXGA screen
  • Intel Pentium M Processor 745 (1.8 GHz) CENTRINO
  • 512 megabytes RAM (1 DIMM)
  • 80 gigabyte hard drive
  • 4X DVD+RW drive (I'm sure this is also a CDRW but you should check, then let me know :-))
  • NVIDIA GeForce 4200 Go 4XAGP graphics (64 megabytes)
  • Intel 802.11b wireless (I do not know if this includes "g" like the IBM. Ask the Duke Computer Store then let me know. :-))
  • Ethernet and mode
  • 9 cell battery
  • 90W AC adapter
  • 7.0 pounds
  • Windows XP Pro
  • Fellows Mighty 8 Surge Protector
  • PC Guardian Security Cable
  • 25' Ethernet Cable
  • * 4 year Complete Care warranty
  • $2379 from The Duke Computer Store

(*Complete Care warranty is a comprehensive warranty covering labor and parts to include screen breakage, liquid spills and broken plastic. Complete Care does NOT cover theft.)

Dell Latitude Other

Dell's Educational Page with the Latitude Line

For a much lighter system, consider the Dell Latitude D400 at 3.7 pounds (the X300 is 2.9 pounds and 0.8 inches thick, but is slower). All the very thin machines are limited in screen size (12.1) and resolution (1024x768). But they are convenient. They generally have very good battery life. (See the Fujitsu section for info on a very small computer.)
For a larger screen (15.3) consider the Dell Latitude D800 at 7 pounds and 1.5 inches thick.
For the highest performance but high price, consider the Dell Precision Mobile Workstation. You can get the best of most everything, but you pay a premium price (and it's 7 pounds and 1.5 inches thick).


Dell Inspiron 600M

Dell's Educational Page with the Inspiron Line

This machine is fairly light (5 pounds) and fairly thin (1.3") and has everything needed in a good general purpose machine. Keep in mind, that you might find better compatibility in the long run with a Dell D600.

  • Pentium M Processor 1.5 GHz (with SXGA+ ATI 32MB)
  • You could optionally buy a floppy disk but you might try to live without it first. You may not need it, especially if you get a CDRW (listed below).
  • 14.1 SXGA+ ATI 32MB display
  • 60GB Hard Drive - it didn't state the RPM (I would consider a 5400 or 7200 RPM if it's available)
  • Dell 1350 internal Wireless (802.11b/g,54Mbps)
  • Windows XP Pro, Service Pack 1
  • 24x CD-RW/DVD Combo Drive (with Sonic RecordNow)
  • 3 Yr Limited Warranty plus 3 Yr NBD On-site Service and CompleteCare
  • 5 pounds; 1.3 inches thick
  • Dell educational web site price: $2,156


Fujitsu Web Site

I could not find an educational site for Fujitsu

One Fujitsu is Recommended with a disclaimer - (see following paragraph with disclaimer) The E4000 series is good if you like the size (7 pounds and 1.6 inches thick). The others are not recommended, as they all had weaknesses (specifically stated below).

Disclaimer: I have not seen solid statistics for reliability or support, however, some students on BusinessWeeks message board think it's good. It appears to be a reliable machine.

This was from Fujitsu's web site. Keep these things in mind:

  • The machine that I liked the best was the E4000 series, but keep in mind that it's 7 pounds (like the Dell D800).
  • The S7000 machines had a good sized 14 inch screen, but they were limited to 1024x768 resolution. That's too low for me. The clarity of the screen will suffer.
  • The C2240 machines all had a great screen and great resolution, but didn't offer Pentium M processors (rather, they offered Pentium 4 processors that use the battery much more quickly)
  • The P5000 is simply too small (10.x inch screen). Be sure you know what you are doing before you order a machine with a screen size of less than 12 inches.

If you really want the smallest out there and are willing to sacrifice features for it, check out these machines by Fujitsu: One of them weighs 2.2 pounds.

(Thanks to Anshu for info on these machines.)

HP zt3000

HP's Higher Education Web Site

Recommended if you want a 15.4 inch screen - It has everything I want except that it's 6.5 pounds. (I like the 15 inch machines from IBM a bit better, and they are 6 pounds). But for a machine with these capabilities (including a large 15.4 inch screen), it's somewhat thin (1.3 inches) so, even though it weighs more than I want, it will fit where some others won't.

  • Intel(R) Pentium(R) M 1.5 GHz
  • Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP Professional
  • 3-year HP Accidental Damage Protection with Express Repair extended service plan
  • 512MB DDR SDRAM (1x512MB)
  • 60 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive (I wish all had Hp's hard disk selections. I would likely choose the 80 GB 5400 RPM Hard Drive but for many, the 60 is large enough)
  • DVD/CDRW Combo Drive (I would consider the "DVD+RW / R & CD-RW Combo Drive", but it's not absolutely necessary)
  • Intel(R) Pro Wireless 2200 802.11b/g & Bluetooth
  • 15.4" WVA WSXGA+ (1680x1050) (I would consider the 15.4" WVA WUXGA (1920x1200) but it's not necessary)
  • 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon(TM) 9200
  • 8 Cell Lithium Ion Battery (this is just the standard battery that comes with the machine - you could consider the extra battery option, but many won't need it)
  • 6.5 pounds 1.3 inches thick
  • HP Web site price: BEFORE EDUCATIONAL DISCOUNT $2,143 - If/when I have time, I will revise this according to Hp's educational web site.

Hypersonic Aviator CX5-11

Hypersonic Web Site

(Thanks to Matt for researching this machine and giving me a lot of details.)

I do not know this name but the machine seems very well equipped and capable for its price. You can configure your machine on their web site.

The base configuration is as follows:

  • 1.7GHz Petium-M processor
  • 512MB PC3200 DDR400 RAM (on 1 512MB DIMM, not two 256)
  • 15.1" SXGA+ display
  • ATI Radeon Mobility 9700 (128MB) Graphics card
  • 40GB 7200rpm Ultra ATA Hard Drive w/8MB Cache (this hard drive is faster than most 40GB drives because it's 7200 RPM - yes, I can tell the difference)
  • Windows XP Pro (upgraded from XP Home Edition)
  • 802.11b + g 54Mbps Wireless Mini PCI Card
  • 1yr 24/7 "Platinum" support w/ lifetime regular support
  • $1,909 + shipping (about $25) and NO TAXES (The Duke Computer Store must charge NC state taxes)

Want a more beefy machine? Make these changes...

  • 1024MB of memory
  • 60GB 7200RPM hard drive
  • about $2100


Item #W40254

Thanks to Matt M. for pointing out that the T43 was available.

Highly Recommended. The below, for the most part, was copied directly from Duke's Computer Store ( then choose the "icon" Computer Bundles, then "IBM" - from the left menu, then "notebooks", then "High Performance Notebook)

  • IBM High Performance Notebook (Item #W40254)
  • IBM ThinkPad T43, 15.1" UXGA screen
  • Intel Pentium M 770 (2.13 GHz) processor, CENTRINO
  • 512 megabytes RAM (I DIMM)
  • 80 gigabyte hard drive (5400 RPM)
  • 4x DVD multi-burner
  • ATI Mobility FireGL V3200 (128 megabytes) video
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG, 802.11a/b/g wireless
  • Ethernet and modem
  • Windows XP Pro
  • 5.7 pounds, 1.4" thin
  • Fellows Mighty 8 Surge Protector
  • PC Guardian Security Cable
  • 25' Ethernet Cable
  • * 4 year PC Protection warranty
  • $2249 from The Duke Computer Store

(* PC Protection warranty is a comprehensive warranty covering labor and parts to include screen breakage, liquid spills and broken plastic. PC Protection does NOT cover theft.)

Potential Drawback: does not have Bluetooth, but a Bluetooth USB module is available for $40 from The Duke Computer Store.


Item #W40256

Thanks to Matt M. for pointing out that the T43 was available.

Highly Recommended. The below, for the most part, was copied directly from Duke's Computer Store ( then choose the "icon" Computer Bundles, then "IBM" - from the left menu, then "notebooks", then "High Performance Notebook)

  • IBM Mainstream Notebook (Item #W40256)
  • IBM ThinkPad T43, 14.1" SXGA+ screen
  • Intel Pentium M 750 (1.86 GHz) processor, CENTRINO
  • 512 megabytes RAM, I DIMM
  • 40 gigabyte, 5400 RPM hard drive
  • 24x CDRW/DVD combination drive
  • ATI Mobility Radeon X300 (64 megabytes) video
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG, 802.11a/b/g wireless
  • Ethernet and 56k Modem
  • 6-cell Lithium-Ion battery
  • 72 Watt AC adapter
  • 4.9 pounds, 1.2" thin
  • Windows XP Pro
  • PC Guardian security cable and lock
  • Fellows "Mighty 8" surge protector
  • 25' Ethernet cable
  • * 4 year PC Protection warranty
  • $1579 from The Duke Computer Store

(* PC Protection warranty is a comprehensive warranty covering labor and parts to include screen breakage, liquid spills and broken plastic. PC Protection does NOT cover theft.)

Potential Drawback: does not have Bluetooth, but a Bluetooth USB module is available for $40 from The Duke Computer Store.

IBM ThinkPad X40

Note: The X43 is out and I have not modified this. But I did see one and play with it and all the virtues of the below machine seem to hold true. I don't know what extras it has (if you know, please tell me so I can update this page.)

Recommended (for a very thin & light machine): There will be tradeoffs for any machine of this size, but this machine seems to be extremely well thought out. For me, one huge draw is that the keyboard is very good. That is VERY rare for a machine this small. (See review in Laptop Magazine's May 2004 edition - page 159).

While it will not be as fast as the IBM T41, it will not be slow either.

This machine has a unique feature - it will detect a computer drop and will quickly park the disk head so when it hits the floor, the hard drive is much less likely to be damaged (protecting your data).

  • This machine only weighs 2.7 pounds (one of the lightest - lighter than my current machine - Sony Z505)
  • Editorials say that it's a GREAT keyboard (Warning: I have not tried it. The pictures verify that they shift keys are of a good size. Be sure to try it for yourself if you're as picky as I am about keyboards). From what I've read, this keyboard is as good as the other IBM notebook keyboards (which are known to be great) but this is on a sub-3 pound notebook! I want to try one myself.
  • 0.8 inches thick - thinner than my current Sony Z505! (I already get a lot of attention because of the thinness of my Sony.)
  • If you get the eight-cell Li-Ion battery you can run over 5 hours without external power (Laptop - May 2004)
  • Here's an intangible point that you can verify for yourself: This machine is one of the best thought out portable units you will ever find. There are several design areas that are just done right, yielding a very livable ultra portable.

I have not priced a specific configuration, but the prices that I've seen have not been too expensive (Laptop Magazine reported $1500).

Drawbacks: 12 inch screen. XGA resolution (1024x768). There is no track pad, only the mouse stick (although Laptop Magazine insists that it's not a problem - I'm not convinced yet - be sure to check it out for yourself). There is no firewire port (which may be significant for some who have certain devices - e.g. a digital camcorder - with that type of connection). No built in CD-ROM but external units are available (Laptop says that the external CD-ROM from IBM is "one of the sleekest external DVD burners we've ever seen... but.. it's [expensive]"


Sony's web site

I cannot find a Higher Education Site for Sony

Sony Notebooks

Not recommended: Z505 screens are limited to 1024x768 which, in general, isn't good enough for me (for a 12 inch screen, it will be acceptable by many people). They are small and light. The big drawback for me is the keyboard. They have a shallow keystroke and at least one of the shift keys is tiny. These two keyboard problems knock it out of the running for my recommendations.

The GRT series does not come with Pentium M series processors so the battery life may not be as long as it would otherwise be. It has a HUGE 16.1 inch screen. I cannot quickly find the thickness nor the weight on Sony's site. But it's too big to be a general recommendation. If you want a large screen, consider this and the 17 inch model from HP.

The K17 (or PCG-K17) has a 15 inch screen, but is limited to 1024x768 resolution and weighs over 7 pounds. There are other options that are better (e.g. HP zt3000)

The Z1 series has all the features for which I'm looking. Sony's typical reliability is higher than most, but their support isn't as good, so that makes me favor the IBM line. Dell's reliability is not as high, but the support is better, and you can often find a great price on a Dell, so I would recommend Dell over Sony also.

The TR series is very tiny and looks great. I'm concerned about the 10+ inch screen being too small. But it might be a good option for some. IBM, Toshiba and Dell make some very small light machines. You could check those out too. If you like this machine, you could compare it to the Z505 Sony also. I don't know about the TR's keyboard. It might be better.

Toshiba Portégé M200 (fully functional notebook and fully functional tablet PC)

(See the Toshiba Tecra entry for links)

NOTE: This is older information. I still have not had much experience with these. If I do, I'll change this write-up.

I don't know enough about machines with tablet capabilities to recommend this machine. This is a full-blown notebook with full tablet PC capabilities (you can hand write on the screen, and the machine will fold such that you can use it with only the screen showing - like a thick pad of paper). It could be a great option. This is a small machine with a 12.1 inch screen BUT it has good resolution (1400x1050) - better than any of the Satellite line.

I played with this machine for about 30 minutes and was very impressed with the handwriting recognition. You could actually take class notes and it would convert your writing into text. It appeared to be accurate even with cursive writing. I experienced flicker in the demo program, but I later talked with a person who owned one. He was VERY happy with it and said that it did not flicker (he owned a similar type Toshiba prior to the Portégé and said it worked very well). If you are willing to take a risk to have these newer capabilities, you could take all class notes electronically and the machine will convert them to text. If I knew it were reliable, I would be severely tempted, even with the 12 inch screen.

Plusses that I see: Folds flat for handwriting, recognizes writing very well, high-resolution screen (although only 12 inches)

Drawbacks that I see: 12 inch screen, higher price than "standard" notebooks.

Unknowns: Not as proven as other computer technologies (e.g. how well does handwriting work with software not written for it - it appears to do well, but I want longer-term tests); I don't know how different XP Tablet edition is from XP Pro; I don't know how tough the swivel screen is.

  • Intel® Pentium® M processor 1.50GHz
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Tablet Edition
  • 60GB HDD (5400 rpm) (I'm trying to keep the price down, but I'm tempted by either the 80GB 5400 RPM or the 60GB 7200 RPM option)
  • NO internal CD is AVAILABLE - that is a drawback. Of course, you can use an external USB unit, and they are not too expensive
  • Intel® PRO/Wireless 2100 LAN 802.11b (I prefer the "g" option, which is backward compatible with "b" - but it's not necessary)
  • 4.5 pounds, 1.2 inches thick
  • Price at educational web site: $2,387

Toshiba Satellite

(See the Toshiba Tecra entry for links)

A10, A45 and P15: not recommended because they appear to be limited to an XGA screen. That's not good enough for me (it's especially a shame for the larger sized screens). They also use conventional processors, rather than a Pentium M (as is used in Centrino machines). That will consume battery power faster. They appear to be good in every other way so if these two limitations don't bother you then it's a viable machine.

M30-S350 and M35-S320: not recommended because of the limit on resolution (1280x800). That's better than XGA (1024x768) but still not good enough for me. These models do use Centrino technology, and have better screens, but they are still limited to 1280x800. For me, this is very disappointing for a machine that has everything else. It puts them out of the running for me.

The P25 is too big for me.

Toshiba Tecra

Toshiba Higher Education Web Page

Toshiba Education Store

Toshiba Portables (notebooks)

Recommended with caveat - This has everything I want and Toshiba is historically reliable. However, it is a higher price that other machines that have everything I want (e.g. the IBM T41 and T42).

  • Intel® Pentium® M processor 1.70 GHz
  • Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional
  • Gold: NVIDIA® graphics w/64MB, Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire port, Bluetooth Ready (I would get this in part because the combination of graphics speed and the future capability to add Bluetooth - If those do not interest you, you could save $100 with the "Silver" option.
  • 512MB PC2700 DDR333 SDRAM (512MBx1)
  • 14" SXGA+ Display (1400 x 1050)
  • 60GB HDD (5400 RPM) (If you can afford it, choose the 60GB 7200 RPM)
  • Intel Wireless LAN 802.11a/b (if you can afford it, get the Atheros Wireless LAN 802.11a/g - if you never plan to use another network and do not care to have the "g" wireless network in your home, the a/b is fine.)
  • Toshiba 3-Year On Site Repair Next Business Day Response for Portege and Tecra (if you can afford it, get the "Toshiba 3-Year SystemGuard and On-Site Repair Next Business Day Response" to cover accidents too)
  • 5 pounds, 1.2 - 1.4 inches thick (the site didn't make it clear as to what would make it 1.4 inches thick. It could be the long-life battery, but I don't know)
  • Price from Toshiba Educational Site: $2,344 (4/11/2004)

Dell Specific Information

Dell Inspiron vs. Latitude (New part added - second half - I'm biased toward Latitude)

The Inspiron line is the quickly changing lines of computers and generally offers a slightly more efficient setup because it can adapt it's shape and connections, and adopt new hardware without restrictions. The Latitude line retains it's basic shape and connectivity for years (for businesses that buy many and want them to stay the same over the course of several years). The Inspiron's advantage, is that it might be a bit cheaper for the same function (and some options will be on the Inspiron first). The advantage of the Latitude, is that the related software (drivers) and hardware are sometimes proven with time, which might translate into less hassle over time. (Also, you might be able to find parts more quickly, but that's all). I'm slightly biased toward the Latitude because I don't want the absolute fastest nor absolute cheapest. I want to hedge my bets toward stability.

Dell Specials

The Dell representative told me that we should watch for specials every Thursday. They are generally good for a week and different specials come out frequently. NOTE: watch the memory specials because they often only offer the special with 2 DIMM slots. That may be fine for your needs because you may never want to expand the memory. I want to get my memory in 1 DIMM slot so I have the second open for expansion - the special on memory does me no good. But their specials are often very good.

Dell Representative

If you decide to buy directly from Dell, this may help. The most helpful person that I talked to was Vernon Jackson: 800-695-8133 ext:48029. He is willing to set up an account with you and help you out. Be sure to tell him that you are a student and that you want the educational discount.

Reliability and Support

While this article is not new, I think the data is still valid as a generalization of the manufacturers. I looked at the March 2004 issue of Consumer Reports (CR). (They have a very cool online subscription - $26/year - searchable. See part of the original article - or the whole thing if you have a subscription). I will give my general impressions after reading the article.

See Consumer Report's article for more specific information.

Mark's Conclusions (concerning reliability and support)

My impressions below do not address price or features, but only reliability and support.

Primary point: They are ALL unreliable enough for me to recommend a great warranty! For example, 3 years parts & labor, Next Business Day (NBD) (4 year from Duke) and accident protection (Dell calls it CompleteCare - ask your sales representative for the warranty that will cover spills and other accidents).

Number two point: Since ALL of them have a relatively high risk of something going wrong, I put more weight on support. You should rate them differently if you put more stock in reliability compared to support.

Mark's Conclusions
Rank Notes Brand
1 Very good reliability, great support IBM
2 Great reliability, decent support Toshiba
3 (tie for 3rd) Decent in both areas Dell
3 (tie for 3rd) Decent in both areas HP
5 Great reliability, Support lacks comparatively Sony
6 Relatively poor reliability, Great support Gateway
7 Relatively poor in both areas Compaq



Fuqua Computing Links
Incoming Student Website - very useful initially
FuquaWorld - useful now and during school

Academic Preparation The long URL is in this link
OIT main page
OIT Survival Guide
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Fuqua IT Site
Fuqua's Hardware Recommendations The long URL is in this link
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Duke OIT Help Desk
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Duke email Information

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Dret's Glossary (Terms, Acronyms, etc.)
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Fourmillab (describes video standards) The long URL is in this link
BusinessWeek on Wireless The long URL is in this link AND Another
Duke Computer Store
Duke Computer Store Advantages Financing and local repair and support.
Pricegrabber (Thanks Peiman)

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