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Which Laptop

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Peter G. Shaw22/12/2020 11:05:58
1359 forum posts
44 photos

Just to put minds at rest. I have indeed asked a similar question some time ago, so I need to explain why I am here again.

At the moment, I am running Linux Mint v.18.1 on a 13 year old laptop with all sorts of peripheral devices plugged into the various ports. Start up speed is reasonable, although I suspect nowhere near the best. Running speed, other than when disk thrashing starts, is generally satisfactory. Unfortunately, Mint 18 reaches end of life in April 2021, and my suspicion is that the latest version, Mint 20.1, is likely to reduce start up speed to a crawl. This is because I also have two other laptops, one of which is an ageing Advent which on Mint 18.1 was ok on start up, but on Mint 19.1, takes 5 minutes to start up, after which it is ok. Why it should take that long I do not know, and in any case that machine is overdue for recycling. The third laptop, arguably the best of the three, also had problems on Mint 19.x. In effect then, I’m looking at April/May 2021 as being crunch time. One thing that is worth mentioning is that the Advent has a very nice 17” screen, the other two being 15.6”.

Another consideration is that being aged 77, and having lung cancer and hence being classed as extremely clinically vulnerable, I do wonder how much more time I have left. Mint 20.1 has a five year life, hence if I am still here I will be 82 when it expires. Which means that although I could go out and buy a £manyK machine capable of giving me what I want before I have even thought of it, it could well be a total waste of money as there will be no-one left who would want the machine.

In terms of my usage, I use Firefox, Thunderbird, Libre Office Calc & Writer, a Win 32bit Cad program via Wine (Design Cad 3D Max) and a DOS database program via DosEmu (Mpro). Plus occasional use of Gimp, Skype, Terminal, & Solitaire. So nothing too onerous.

My son showed me this:


which is apparently a 17” screen, 10th generation i3 running at 1.20GHz but with up to 3.4GHz Turbo boost, with 8GB Ram and a 256 Gb SSD. Priced at £360 special offer (now closed).

To me, it seems retrograde to be using a slower processor, especially as I seem to remember many years ago there were some machines then using a turbo system, so I wondered what people think of this, or similar, machine.

Peter G. Shaw

ega22/12/2020 11:32:49
2392 forum posts
196 photos

If your disk is thrashing why not just replace it with an SSD?

Adrian R222/12/2020 11:33:10
134 forum posts
5 photos

"Disk thrashing" suggests you are still on a traditional hard disk. if you are happy with your software and just want it to start a bit faster and not get bogged down you might want to look to see if a retrofit solid state drive upgrade is available. I did this with my son's laptop last year, it involved a straight clone of the old disk to the new SSD (this was connected via a USB adaptor and took several hours as it was a 750MB drive) without any software reinstallation needed, then swap the drives over and off it went, reducing the startup time from multiple minutes to 30 seconds and giving the machine a whole new lease of life.

Frances IoM22/12/2020 11:38:29
1195 forum posts
28 photos
Peter - one option is to buy a new hard drive (or recycle one) and try it out before switching to it. It's usually trivial to swop out a harddrive and most older laptops will boot from CD Roms - download a network install CD Rom on your current machine - swop out the harddrive and play with Mint 20. CEX sell 150GB drives for about 10-15 pounds - I have a number of such spare drives I use for testing distros - I'm still running Mint14 on my 'archive' laptop that does not get connected to the net but hold my databases etc when I research in Archives.

On an old Acer Aspire I installed MX Linux basically as a try out to see what life was left in this old laptop but reasonably impressed with it - midweight running Xfce4 desktop (not too far from Mint but different) + based on Debian10 the latest - usually one small update per day keeps it current - it's not my main machine but wine seems to run ok but have had one funny with a program that runs ok elsewhere but not on this machine but so far not investigated it.

There have been comments elsewhere that these cheap SSD (usually non expandable) can be awkward to install anything other than win10

Edited By Frances IoM on 22/12/2020 11:39:38

Ramon Wilson22/12/2020 11:39:19
1239 forum posts
330 photos

Peter, I cant advise on computers - I'm a nerd where they are concerned but I empathise with your situation and your outlook on matters.

My sincere advice would be - ignore the cost (given it is affordable) and definitely disregard how much or little use you'll get out of it. Buy what suits you best - now - and enjoy it - now - for as long as you are able.

Make the most of the future - bugger the cost (excuse the phrase) - you can't take it with you.

Whatever you do I wish you well and may you have many years yet to use it.

Regards - Ramon (Tug)

Brian G22/12/2020 12:13:48
805 forum posts
35 photos

Worth considering that a current core I3 may outperform an older I5, as although it will have a lower base clock, its turbo speed could be higher and it will have the same number of cores and threads as the older processor. My son was very pleasantly surprised with the performance improvement when he replaced his second generation I5 laptop with a modern I3.

The lower power consumption could prevent it throttling and extend the life of the battery (which isn't as easily swapped out as on older machines). As long as you don't often run processor intensive applications like 3D games, video transcoding, rendering or massive spreadsheets, you should find an I3 fine.

It may be worth looking at storage though, as although by the time you get to a Core I3 you should be getting a real SSD and not flash-based storage, the capacity may be limited. Lenovo appear to be quite good in this area, with some laptops having both M2 and SATA interfaces.

Brian G

HOWARDT22/12/2020 12:43:30
833 forum posts
28 photos

Not Linux but I run Windows 10 on a 15 year old laptop now with SSD and the startup is almost instantaneous. So +1 for SSD upgrade, plenty of choice for under £100 and if not satisfied just use it as an external drive with your new laptop.

SillyOldDuffer22/12/2020 13:14:45
7904 forum posts
1725 photos

Thrashing is caused by shortage of RAM rather than a small hard drive! Fixing the wrong problem is bad engineering,

Whilst patching up old gear is in the spirit of a hobby based on Victorian machine tools, it's not sensible to push old computers past their use-by date! Computer retro means poor security, creeping incompatibility, dodgy reliability and missing out on significant performance improvements.

The laptop Peter is considering looks fit for his purpose to me. Lenovo's are mostly Linux friendly. Although modestly priced it includes a 256Gb SSD, 8Gb of RAM, and a modern i3-1005G1 processor, with Intel graphics. Not the best performance available today but acceptable. Desktop linux runs comfortably in 8Gb, my guess it is will be at least as quick as the 13 year old machine it replaces.

I suggest the CPU's relatively slow cruising speed is intended to improve battery life, but it's not that slow, and can run up to three times faster on demand. Basically the thing accelerates when programs do something short and intensive, keeping response lively, but slows down to cool off when a voracious program like a 3D game asks too much. Fortunately seventy seven year old owners are unlikely to be into gaming!

Although the CPU is slow, RAM and cache are fast, which will improve performance, as will the SSD. The model linked is bottom of the range - faster versions available, but more costly.

I'd spend more money on a laptop myself, but some of what I do is performance intensive. The only item on Peter's list in the hungry category is GIMP, but even that should be OK unless Peter spends a lot of time editing gigantic photos!


Peter G. Shaw22/12/2020 13:28:50
1359 forum posts
44 photos

Hello all,

I deliberately didn't say it but there are other problems & limitations. The old Advent, rescued on it's way to the tip after having been mistreated by my grandsons, currently has an American keyboard (ok as long as I remember which key does what) and which doesn't fit properly, a non-functioning CD/DVD player, strange results on 5GHz WiFi, but ok on 2.5GHz, and a power unit which almost completely kills the powerline networking I have. Of the other two, one has a battery that sometimes fails to charge (requires the battery removing and the laptop unplugging from the mains to reset it), plus an absolute max of 2GB Ram, whilst the other has a glued in power socket and thus requires careful treatment along with a maximum of 4Gb Ram (currently 2Gb). Both these latter two machines have missing screws and/or broken pillars following dismantling to clean the exhaust fan. These machines are in the region of 10 to 13 years old.

It's also my understanding that the low Ram may also be contributing to poor performance, although I've no evidence to back it up.

In other words, I do feel that they are approaching end of life.


I understand what you say, indeed I remember many years ago, possibly early to mid 90's, a letter in ME in which the writer was remarking on the number of reasonably new lathes going cheap due to death. His comment was "Bye now before Bye-Bye!"

It is a valid consideration, but as a tight wad Yorkshireman, it does go somewhat against the grain to spend money on something from which I may not get full benefit. Ok, perhaps somewhat stupid, after all, given that our present car is nearer 8 years old, and I have had a policy of scrapping cars at 10 years old, it is reasonably certain that I may not get the full benefit of a new car in two years time (FWIW, possibly a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid at £35k or thereabouts) which makes my dithering over, say, a £500 laptop somewhat ridiculous.

Maybe I'll think again.

Thanks to one and all.

Peter g. Shaw

Frances IoM22/12/2020 13:36:50
1195 forum posts
28 photos
all modern linux systems allow choice of keyboard at install - MX Linux is especially good here as you can switch keyboard language etc via a simple panel app - it was the ability to use my french keyboard Lenovo with a plugin UK keyboard that got me to play with it (don't forget that plug in keyboards are cheap and often easier to use than that of the laptop.

Low RAM is certainly a cause of slow performance - the use of a simpler desktop eg the Xfce4 will run faster that the all singing dancing Mint one

Edited By Frances IoM on 22/12/2020 13:37:22

Harry Wilkes22/12/2020 15:12:16
1259 forum posts
64 photos

Hi Peter

If you have the cash upgrade to the new machine and make life easy, not 100% myself and my thinking is 'you can't take it with you'


Baz22/12/2020 15:29:31
632 forum posts
2 photos

Peter, if you can afford it upgrade to a new machine, life is too short.

old mart22/12/2020 15:38:08
3497 forum posts
216 photos

These new processors run much faster than the old ones, even if they look slower on paper. The current I3 Intel processors are quad core. I recently had an AMD motherboard start to cause big problems, the processor was a quad core FX 4300 running at 3.8Ghz. For my purposes a lower power consuming processor would do fine, so I bought a new motherboard and a twin core Athlon 3000G running at 3.5Ghz. With DDR4 memory, the new processor which uses 1/3 of the electricity runs rings around the old one, I couldn't believe how much better the new system runs. Microsoft kindly allowed the change of major components without my having to fork out on a new Windows 10 operating system.

Ramon Wilson22/12/2020 16:20:36
1239 forum posts
330 photos

....... but as a tight wad Yorkshireman ....

Well, I wouldn't advocate going mad Peter but in our final years - I'm 76 in a fortnight - I do think we have to consider 'ourselves' at this age before we get to the end of the perch.

Depends on personal circumstance of course but if we can't treat ourselves once in a while when we're here we sure as hell ain't going to be able to when we're not.

I can't even pretend to understand some of the techy advice you've received - all genuine and valid no doubt but all that potential struggling with out of date kit will be over in a flash if you are bang up to date.

All it takes is that 'close the eyes moment' - part with the cash surprise and hurry home to get to grips with that new toysmiley

Like I said I hope to see you on here for quite a while as yet and maybe even telling us about your latest acquisition wink

Whatever you do may it give you a great deal of satisfaction.




Sorry about the smilies but they are 'kinda' pertinent

Edited By Ramon Wilson on 22/12/2020 16:22:01

An Other22/12/2020 19:37:03
238 forum posts
5 photos

Hello Peter,

I had an Advent machine, running much the same software as you, but had to replace it because the screen failed (odd lines across the screen). I had used it for a long time, and it made more sense to change it than repair it.

Eventually, I bought an ASUS Vivobook. There are several models of this machine, at varying prices (lot seems to depend on where you buy it). Mine has a 512GB SSD, Intel I3. It is so much faster than the old Advent, which seemed attributable to the SSD, that I subsequently updated my 2 tower machines to make their boot drives SSDs, which confirmed that the SSDs booted very fast. The Vivobook with Mint is about 20 seconds max. I have no CD/DVD drive, but I believe some models are fitted with them.

The screen is comfortable to use - some reviews claim it has a narrow viewing angle - from my experience, I would say the reviewers had a narrow viewing angle, not the display. Good range of brightness/contrast, and easily adjustable, and colour acceptable.

I run the latest Linux Mint 20.1, with much of the software you are using (except I use VirtualBox instead of Wine). I do quite a lot of CPP and some RUST programming work, so I also have the required tools for that. I have never had any problems installing or running Linux Mint on this machine (or the Advent, come to that)

It is a vast improvement over the old machine in terms of speed, and also has a much improved keyboard (important when you sit key-bashing all day) - The old Advent used to get hot - working with it balanced on my knees was sometimes quite painful, but the Vivobook appears to run much cooler. As always, battery life depends on what you do with the machine, but I have no reason to complain. In fact, possibly the only 'complaint' I have is that the power unit makes an odd sound like an ambulance siren in the distance - I suspect it is a buck PSU, and when the battery is charged, it is switching on and off - very faint, but I can just hear it - no problems otherwise.

Ian Skeldon 222/12/2020 19:58:52
540 forum posts
54 photos

I hope whichever laptop you buy you get many years use from it and who knows maybe ask the same question again in years to come.

I would whole heartedly say do not buy the bag of crap I bought 4 months ago. My old ASUS laptop gave good service for about five years and then died, I needed a laptop in a bit of a hurry and there was not a lot of choice left on the shelf so I bought a HP 17-CA2 XXX it has an AMD Athlon CPU and 4gb of RAM, Windows 10 installed on it. It is the slowest machine I have ever owned, I mean really, really slow and it hangs at least once a session. I don't run much on it either so just a terrible machine and the last HP product I will ever buy.

Frances IoM22/12/2020 20:19:47
1195 forum posts
28 photos
there are 2 classes of HP machines - those aimed at the business market + priced accordingly which had + possibly still have a good reputation and those aimed at the bottom end consumer market which often seem designed to just make it past the warranty date - don't confuse these two markets.
old mart22/12/2020 20:39:03
3497 forum posts
216 photos

If one of the laptops offered by John Lewis is right for you, they give a 2 year guarantee.

Andy Stopford22/12/2020 21:04:41
127 forum posts
17 photos

You can't really compare processor speeds for different generations of computer - a modern processor with the same on-paper specs will perform far better than an old one.

None of the programs you list should tax even the humblest of modern computers (having multiple browser tabs excepted - they can really hog memory).

Don't be seduced by the multiple processor cores thing - most programs can only use one thread at a time. From your list, I should think the only one that might use multithreading is the CAD one if it does ray-traced rendering, and LibreOffice Calc apparently does if you enable it.

Also: I recently did a clean install, as opposed to an upgrade, of the operating system on my 9 year old Fujitsu laptop, and it now boots faster and generally works far better than it has for a long time. This is using OpenSUSE 15.2 with KDE desktop which must make comparable demands on the hardware to Mint.

So you might as well give a new install a try - you might be pleasantly surprised, and save yourself forking out for a new machine.

John Baron22/12/2020 22:11:04
513 forum posts
194 photos
Posted by Frances IoM on 22/12/2020 20:19:47:
there are 2 classes of HP machines - those aimed at the business market + priced accordingly which had + possibly still have a good reputation and those aimed at the bottom end consumer market which often seem designed to just make it past the warranty date - don't confuse these two markets.

Hi Frances, Peter, Guys,

I'm running a HP desktop machine, an 8300 small desktop model with an i7 processor, 12 Gb ram and 500 Gb hdd. I'm using Q4OS with the Trinity desktop. I agree with your comments about HP machine classes. I bought mine some time back as an "Open Box" purchase for £200. I'm very happy with its performance.

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