In this article I’ve outlined what I would get in a Dell laptop – it might serve as a general guideline if you are looking for a laptop as well. I’ve actually included two different systems – the first is a general use system and the second is a power house. You’d use the first for internet, email, word processing, multimedia (e.g. movies, tv), and some gaming. The second you could use for all of the above but would also be able to use for more heavy duty tasks such as application development.
For a general use machine I’d pick the Dell Inspiron 17R. This is a general use laptop, so you can stick with Windows 7 Home. Bump up the warranty to a 3 Yr Limited Warranty for an extra $89. You’ll want an extra AC adapter, but purchase that separately from a third party to save money. Total price should clock in at $1128 list and $888 actual.
Now, Dell is a stinker and won’t let you do much customization on many of their lower end systems – so here is what you get with this system besides that already mentioned: Intel Core i7-3612QM CPU, 8GB DDR2 RAM, 1 TB 5400 RPM hard drive, Intel HD Graphics 4000, 8X DVD+/-R drive, 17.3″ display, and so on.
The most important aspects to note above are the hard drive and the video card. The hard drive is ridiculously slow (5400) and ridiculously large (1 TB). You’ll need to purchase an a hard drive from a third party afterwards – probably for around $100. I’d recommend a 128 GB SSD. You can always get an external USB case for the 1 TB drive and backup all your photos or what-not onto it.
Also notice the video card – this isn’t a particularly powerful video card and it is likely that some more serious games will run into limitations (e.g. not running at all) b/c of the video card – so don’t buy this system if you are a serious game.
I’d go with a Dell Precision M6600 Mobile Workstation. Upgrade the CPU from the standard Dual Core to a Intel Core i7-2760QM for an extra $140. Keep the OS as Windows 7 Pro 64-bit and the graphics card as the AMD FirePro M8900 Mobility Pro Graphics with 2GB GDDR5. The 8X DVD+/-RW Slot Load should be sufficient for most users – and paying $370 extra for Blu-ray is ridiculous.
Grab the 3 Year ProSupport Warranty with NBD service. You could get a 4 or 5 year warranty, but I recommend refreshing your hardware every three years. Increase the RAM from 4 to 8 GB DDR3-1333MHz SDRAM. Set the primary hard drive as a 128 GB SATA3 SSD, which boosts the price by $100 but should result in significantly improved performance.
The first hard drive is pretty small – which is fine – but you’ll want a second hard drive to store data on. Dell is charging out the nose for their hard drives, so purchase this separately later.
Doesn’t matter which wireless card you pick – both should perform adequately and the difference in price is only $15. The list price is $2962 on the site, but their discounted price when I’m scoping out the system is $1494.