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#1 2018-11-05 06:55:51

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
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Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Hello,
it's decided, I sold my pinebook (3).

I do want a laptop though.

This is in addition to my desktop computer, which remains my main machine.
And I don't game, so it doesn't need to be a powerhouse, but video playback needs to work (1).
I want it to be small & light, but large enough to house a real keyboard (2).
The less moving parts (fan, hard drive) the better.
A good screen suitable for outdoor daylight use.
General sturdiness.
And of course it should work well with Linux (archlinux most likely, but debian would be ok too).

I prefer to buy used, most likely via ebay, so please recommend stuff that's been on the market for at least 1 year.
no dual/hybrid graphics please, that still seems to be a nightmare on Linux?
i'm guessing all-intel would be best.

(1) one of the reasons i got rid of the pinebook
(2) from what i've seen recently, i would say 11" here, but that's screen size, not the device itself. if the bezel was really narrow, the screen could be slightly larger while keeping the device small enough. but i'm not averse to a slightly larger laptop.
(3) not a tablet! must be a "real" laptop with keyboard.

Last edited by ohnonot (2018-11-06 03:52:38)

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#2 2018-11-05 07:23:09

Martin
Member
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 273
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

I bought a second-hand/refurbished Lenovo X230 a year ago. Running BL with i3. So far so good.

/Martin


"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back."
Piet Hein

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#3 2018-11-05 12:23:36

cherkie
Member
Registered: 2018-08-09
Posts: 64

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

I second used/refurbed Lenovo.

thinkpad reddit - and there is quite a few thinkpads for sale there as well - most are spiced up by thinkheads - can run two batteries, two hard drives, super easy to fix/replace keyboard, screen, touchpads and all are DIRT CHEAP. I am talking £200-£250 for 8/16gb ram + sizeable SSD (250GB) + at least Haswell CPU and FHD screen.

I have got a free Dell Latitude E6540 from work but it does not tick your box regarding it being small, fairly chunky but it does have 1080p screen crammed into 15" along with i5 Haswell and 8GB Ram with SSD and SSHD, runs parrotsec flawlessly.

Last edited by cherkie (2018-11-05 12:36:24)

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#4 2018-11-06 03:32:58

hhh
That's easy!
Registered: 2015-09-17
Posts: 6,142
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

cherkie wrote:

I have got a free Dell Latitude E6540 from work but it does not tick your box regarding it being small, fairly chunky but it does have 1080p screen crammed into 15" along with i5 Haswell and 8GB Ram with SSD and SSHD, runs parrotsec flawlessly.

Me, please. My Inspiron's keyboard is about done, and the screen's chipped.

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#5 2018-11-06 03:51:37

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

i forgot to mention in my OP that i would like to have a good quality screen, suitable for usage in outdoor daylight / indoor strong light.

cherkie: thanks, the reddit links probably help to get a better overview of all the different models. not sure i'll be buying from there in the end...

Martin: so what i see is a fairly old thinkpad, with a gigantic (at least for its age) intel CPU?
of course the design isn't so hot, but one important question: what is the screen quality? outdoor usage in daylight?
also, a very specific question: can you play back HEVC video? here are same samples: https://x265.com/hevc-video-files/ - so HEVC are only those on the left side (x265), but the more feedback you can give the better!
and how is battery life?
and how sturdy would you say it is?

i wouldn't be averse to a different manufacturer either.

it seems the term laptop is nowadays reserved for a particular type of laptop; one probably needs to specify "netbook", "ultrabook", blah blah... mad
there's just too much choice...

PS:
could some one tell me what exactly "refurbished" means in this context (used laptops)?

Last edited by ohnonot (2018-11-06 03:53:45)

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#6 2018-11-06 07:20:27

Martin
Member
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 273
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

My understanding is that (older?) Lenovos come with a range of screen qualities depending what boxes the original customer ticked. Mine has one of the lower (lowest?) quality screens.

I have to come back to you about the video test when I am back home from work.

Battery life is quite OK. This machine is designed for that rather than number crunching or gaming.

Sturdy? Very! It makes me think of HP's pocket calculators of old.

Refurbished in my case: I bought mine from a company which recycles computers from other companies doing up-grades. So the machines are a few years old, they make sure they work and there is nothing left on the HDD. My HDD turned out to be a bit dodgy issuing warning messages. I got a replacement at no cost. I bought mine with no OS but you could get Windows as part of the deal. Battery health might be a gamble with used laptops but mine is OK and replacements are easy to find for these Lenovos.

/Martin


"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back."
Piet Hein

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#7 2018-11-06 18:55:30

Martin
Member
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 273
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

I am back.

My x230 plays both x265 and x264 videos just fine using VLC and mpv. I get no sound. Should there be sound?

Yet another note on buying a recycled Thinkpad from a company like I did. It is not the cheap thing to do. You could get a new consumer grade laptop for less. I have seen my nieces' laptops and I didn't want something like that...

/Martin (with x230 in lap listening to a podcast from DW on self-driving cars)

Last edited by Martin (2018-11-06 18:56:10)


"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back."
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#8 2018-11-06 20:46:03

doxanthropos
Member
Registered: 2016-01-26
Posts: 26
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Dell Latitudes are nice machines, somewhat like Thinkpads, but from Dell. Built to be repaired and not just thrown away.
If older laptops are your thing an E 4300 is quite nice.
I use one since I rescued it from my companies waste bin and am very pleased with the form factor and the matte display.
The only ones I would really stay away from are the current touchscreen versions. They have very glossy screens and are thus not suited for any outdoor use.
Also like Thinkpads the older ones have docking station ports that are usable across the whole product range.
The videos you linked play, but the 4k one produced a noticeable rise in temperature.
When someone says "refurbished" I would expect: replaced broken parts, replaces parts that wear down with time like the battery. Maybe an upgrade in terms of RAM or HDD.

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#9 2018-11-07 18:23:02

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Martin wrote:

My understanding is that (older?) Lenovos come with a range of screen qualities depending what boxes the original customer ticked. Mine has one of the lower (lowest?) quality screens.

sorry to be a nuisance, but how do you determine that?
i look at laptop reviews quite often and i don't think i've ever seen "high quality screen" defined or even mentioned anywhere...

Martin wrote:

My x230 plays both x265 and x264 videos just fine using VLC and mpv. I get no sound. Should there be sound?

i didn't get any sound either, so i guess that's on purpose (after all hevc is a video codec).

doxanthropos wrote:

Dell Latitudes are nice machines, somewhat like Thinkpads, but from Dell. Built to be repaired and not just thrown away.
If older laptops are your thing an E 4300 is quite nice.

it looks nice and small enough, but a bit old.
do dell nowadays still make the distinction between latitudes=business and everythingelse=consumer?

the matte display.

ah.
how does it fare in sunlight or similar conditions?
(the review suggests well)

The videos you linked play, but the 4k one produced a noticeable rise in temperature.

that would suggest that it uses the CPU for decoding, so there's no GPU support for hevc. to be expected, i think hevc is fairly new still. it also suggests that the cpu is crazy powerful for a machine that old.

thanks also for explaining "refurbished".
it's not really my thing, i guess i like hunting on ebay on the off-chance that there might be a bad egg every now and then...
preferably buying off clueless consumers. devil

i'm starting to develop a clearer picture of what to hunt for.
well, so far it's dell and thinkpad.
i saw something called dell xps 13, right form factor, probably not available cheaply yet.

the matte display seems to be a rarity, i don't really understand why?

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#10 2018-11-07 20:03:07

Martin
Member
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 273
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

ohnonot wrote:
Martin wrote:

My understanding is that (older?) Lenovos come with a range of screen qualities depending what boxes the original customer ticked. Mine has one of the lower (lowest?) quality screens.

sorry to be a nuisance, but how do you determine that?

It is the TN TFT display -- the type for which colour saturation and brightness varies quite a bit with viewing angle.
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X230

Works for me, though.

Some colleagues have xps13 with (tweaked) Ubuntu as work computers. They are well liked, I understand.

/Martin


"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back."
Piet Hein

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#11 2018-11-07 20:49:25

doxanthropos
Member
Registered: 2016-01-26
Posts: 26
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

ohnonot wrote:

...

doxanthropos wrote:

Dell Latitudes are nice machines, somewhat like Thinkpads, but from Dell. Built to be repaired and not just thrown away.
If older laptops are your thing an E 4300 is quite nice.

it looks nice and small enough, but a bit old.
do dell nowadays still make the distinction between latitudes=business and everythingelse=consumer?

I'm not sure exactly how sharp this difference is, but they differentiate between business and consumer and I have only seen the Latitudes on the business side since I work with them (2 years now in a company that uses Dell business products only). It is their range of "normal" business laptops, with the Precisions as business workstations (laptop and desktop) on the other hand.
Both lines, like the classical Thinkpads are easy to disassemble and you can find manuals with detailed pictures about that on the Dell website, even for the older models that are out of order for years.

ohnonot wrote:

the matte display.

ah.
how does it fare in sunlight or similar conditions?
(the review suggests well)

Of course in direct sunlight it will be as problematic as any other laptop screen, but I used this one outside this summer on many sunny days, without problems.

ohnonot wrote:

The videos you linked play, but the 4k one produced a noticeable rise in temperature.

that would suggest that it uses the CPU for decoding, so there's no GPU support for hevc. to be expected, i think hevc is fairly new still. it also suggests that the cpu is crazy powerful for a machine that old.

I am somewhat surprised myself. Took that baby home with me after my boss wanted to throw it away, which we usually do not do. We have a donation program for laptops that are going out of use at our company and the ones that are still usable find a second life in schools, with refugees and such. But he decided that this one is to old to even donate. I liked its haptics, so I took it home and installed BL on it. Now I even use it more than my much newer Latitude 6420 ATG.

ohnonot wrote:

thanks also for explaining "refurbished".
it's not really my thing, i guess i like hunting on ebay on the off-chance that there might be a bad egg every now and then...
preferably buying off clueless consumers. devil

The only case where I am seriously considering buying a refurb in the near future is to get a laptop that runs only with Free software. I am considering a Libreboot x200 Tablet, which is a Thinkpad tablet with libreboot instead of a closed source bios and a wifi card that is able to run with free drivers. But I might end up doing these changes myself on a second hand Thinkpad from ebay.

ohnonot wrote:

i'm starting to develop a clearer picture of what to hunt for.
well, so far it's dell and thinkpad.
i saw something called dell xps 13, right form factor, probably not available cheaply yet.

the matte display seems to be a rarity, i don't really understand why?

That's something I also cannot understand. But many business models seem to have them while consumer products tend to go into the glossy direction.

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#12 2018-11-07 21:08:23

stevep
MX Linux Developer
Registered: 2016-08-08
Posts: 327

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

If you want to get hardware decoding for hevc on Intel GPUs that have it, you'll have to install the appropriate va-api packages.  Then you can run vainfo to see what's going to work:

$ vainfo
libva info: VA-API version 1.2.0
libva info: va_getDriverName() returns 0
libva info: Trying to open /usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/dri/i965_drv_video.so
libva info: Found init function __vaDriverInit_1_2
libva info: va_openDriver() returns 0
vainfo: VA-API version: 1.2 (libva 2.1.0)
vainfo: Driver version: Intel i965 driver for Intel(R) Coffee Lake - 2.2.0
vainfo: Supported profile and entrypoints
      VAProfileMPEG2Simple            : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileMPEG2Simple            : VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileMPEG2Main              : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileMPEG2Main              : VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline: VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline: VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264ConstrainedBaseline: VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264Main               : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264Main               : VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264Main               : VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264High               : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264High               : VAEntrypointEncSlice
      VAProfileH264High               : VAEntrypointEncSliceLP
      VAProfileH264MultiviewHigh      : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileH264StereoHigh         : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVC1Simple              : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVC1Main                : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVC1Advanced            : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileNone                   : VAEntrypointVideoProc
      VAProfileJPEGBaseline           : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileJPEGBaseline           : VAEntrypointEncPicture
      VAProfileVP8Version0_3          : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileHEVCMain               : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileHEVCMain10             : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVP9Profile0            : VAEntrypointVLD
      VAProfileVP9Profile2            : VAEntrypointVLD

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#13 2018-11-08 06:36:45

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Martin wrote:

It is the TN TFT display -- the type for which colour saturation and brightness varies quite a bit with viewing angle.
http://www.thinkwiki.org/wiki/Category:X230

this leads me to this which seems to suggest that all thinkpad displays are somewhat better than average wrt viewing angle, and the TN TFT is just an older, less evolved version?
sorry to be a nuisance, but is it matte? because i think a screen has to be matte to work outdoors or in strong light.

Some colleagues have xps13 with (tweaked) Ubuntu as work computers. They are well liked, I understand.

can you elaborate on "tweaked"?

@all: again thanks for all the info.

i was since told elsewhere that dell still uses the differentiation between latitude=business and inspiron=consumer, but it's less pronounced nowadays.

they also recommended hidpi chuwi laptops, hp chromebooks...

and that's the problem really: all the brands are more or less cheapo, and there's no reason why ALL Lenovos would be better than ALL, say, Acers or Dells etc. some of them surely are, but it seems to be rather model specific... sigh.

when the weekend comes i'll start the actual search.

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#14 2018-11-08 20:48:17

Martin
Member
From: Stockholm, Sweden
Registered: 2015-10-01
Posts: 273
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

ohnonot wrote:

this leads me to this which seems to suggest that all thinkpad displays are somewhat better than average wrt viewing angle, and the TN TFT is just an older, less evolved version?
sorry to be a nuisance, but is it matte? because i think a screen has to be matte to work outdoors or in strong light.

Some colleagues have xps13 with (tweaked) Ubuntu as work computers. They are well liked, I understand.

can you elaborate on "tweaked"?

TN is one screen technology, IPS another. It is my understanding that the difference is not trivial/evolutionary but fundamental.

Yes, matte. No, I don't know how it works in bright light. I have never used it outdoors and bright light won't happen in a while since we are in early November now and close to 60 degrees N.

"Tweaked" means corporate document templates and everything needed to play well with our intranet. It mostly does, sometimes it does it better than Windows. I find that the Pidgin/remmina combo works better for taking part in Skype-meetings than Skype for business does on Win10.

/Martin


"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth by hitting back."
Piet Hein

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#15 2018-11-09 08:28:23

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Martin wrote:

Yes, matte.

cool.
it seems such a small detail but in my experience it's rather important for a mobile computing device.

thanks again.
also for the dell info; archwiki has a whole bunch of pages for various xps 13 models; i guess it works well.

let the hunting commence.

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#16 2018-11-11 11:18:25

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

anybody have any experience with Jumper Ezbook 3?
it's a fairly new (2017->) device. it's extremely cheap & has received good reviews.
i seem to remember that various forum members (not only here) are using it succesfully.
searches show some touchpad problems, but i just got confirmation that kernels 4.18+ support the touchpad (fully?).

i am now considering buying a jumper ezbook pro 3 from gearbest.
there's an italian keyboard on offer (why italian, of all languages?) that has the right physical layout, and it seems they do ship to finland for a very fair price.
there currently is an offer, 176.20$ incl shipping!!! hard to believe.
ordering from amazon, it would be 240 euro plus shipping from china, which adds another 90€.

does somebody know what (if any) additional tariffs are to be expected when buying consumer electronics from the USA, into EU?
thanks.

my initial comment about being able to get really good deals from "clueless customers" might have been exaggerated.
the laptop market seems to be different than e.g. buying components for a desktop.
there's a lot of consumer-grade hardware (read: cheap sh!t in every respect) out there that can be had for a few bucks.
but certain brands are automatically offered for a higher price: thinkpad, dell latitude etc.
it's particularly extreme with thinkpads.

for a non-english speaker (and writer) there's the additional challenge of getting the right keyboaerd. i can put stickers on a foreign keyboard, but US keyboards unfortunately are physically different.

i have since learned that a matte display is not the only aspect for outdoor use.
there are incredible differences in screen brightness & contrast. the notebookcheck.net site has helped me a lot these past days.

Last edited by ohnonot (2018-11-11 11:19:49)

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#17 2018-11-11 15:01:52

tynman
Member
Registered: 2015-10-13
Posts: 72

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

The Jumper ezbook pro 3 looks promising, but lacks ethernet support, which could be a concern if the intended use is for running Linux. This is a common feature  missing from "notebooks". You can usually get wireless working in Linux one way or another. But while you trying to install and get wireless working, having a wired ethernet network connection is very handy.

You asked about tariffs on importing from USA into EU. I certainly do not know, but I would think if (1) it is manufactured in China, and (2) it ships from China, ordering from Amazon-USA shouldn't be a factor. Hopefully someone can answer that for you.

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#18 2018-11-11 15:39:14

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

the missing ethernet doesn't bother me; in a way, it's what i want from a laptop.
and it's an all-intel machine.

strangely amazon has much higher prices than the aforementioned gearbest.com.
gearbest seems to have some sort of contract with the Jumper company - i can imagine that they import the stuff from china in bulk and save on customs and taxes that way.
and fortunately they offer international shipping at very low cost.

i just looked online, i would have to pay another 40€ in taxes whether i import from china or the usa.
that would make the total just over 200€ - that's still a pretty good offer.
i have not seen that on amazon or ebay.

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#19 2018-11-11 19:40:34

damo
....moderator....
Registered: 2015-08-20
Posts: 4,397

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Importing to the EU should have Value Added Tax (VAT) added, probably @20%. And whatever tariff the Orange Monster has decided on this week sad


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#20 2018-11-11 21:48:37

cherkie
Member
Registered: 2018-08-09
Posts: 64

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

Damo, you're EU based? Why not try reddit.com/r/hardwareswapUK or reddit.com/r/hardwareswapEU ?

I have sold few things on HSUK and bought a couple as well. When you do PayPal goods & services you get protection. That is if you're okay with buying used. smile

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#21 2018-11-12 19:06:30

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
Website

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

i have since found this, and it told me that there's no customs, but 24% VAT to be paid for consumer electronics from anywhere outside the EU.
even so, the gearbest offer is still great - it will be just above 200€ altogether, incl. shipping & extra VAT.
and i finally managed to get the order through just now!
had to do it on my mobile phone, how dumb is that.
_________________

today (before i managed to place the order) i had a physical look at a very different laptop, a dell latidtude e6230. a gorgeous machine, just the right size, well made, not heavy, good (enough) screen. unfortunately it would not play any compressed (h264 or x265) video without going to 100%CPU immediately. i did not have a Linux stick with me, so i had to test on Win 10, but the result was very clear... i did not buy it (i could've gotten it for 100€).

Last edited by ohnonot (2018-11-12 20:26:20)

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#22 2018-11-13 08:53:45

cherkie
Member
Registered: 2018-08-09
Posts: 64

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

ohnonot wrote:

today (before i managed to place the order) i had a physical look at a very different laptop, a dell latidtude e6230. a gorgeous machine, just the right size, well made, not heavy, good (enough) screen. unfortunately it would not play any compressed (h264 or x265) video without going to 100%CPU immediately. i did not have a Linux stick with me, so i had to test on Win 10, but the result was very clear... i did not buy it (i could've gotten it for 100€).

I need to check how my e6540 fares in that video test. I know it plays 1080p60fps buttery smooth especially after I have added intel conf file that I found in another thread.

NB. I have sold my old gaming PC yesterday, here's to life without games!

grats on ordering your new gear. smile

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#23 2018-11-14 02:19:06

ohnonot
...again
Registered: 2015-09-29
Posts: 3,201
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Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

^ the machine i tested is supposed to be all-intel GPU-wise, but some of those latitude e-series also have nvidia cards.

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#24 2018-11-15 22:36:31

cherkie
Member
Registered: 2018-08-09
Posts: 64

Re: Hardware Recommendations for Laptop Please

ohnonot wrote:

^ the machine i tested is supposed to be all-intel GPU-wise, but some of those latitude e-series also have nvidia cards.


checked the vids - 4k bunny hevc pushed cpu to 44% peak, h264 4k sat at 28% on my latitude e6540 with 4th gen i5. actually I am quite happy. It definitely looks ancient, happy to see it performs *ok*. Need to buy some cheap 16gb so-dimms though.

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