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Need Advice on a 17" Laptop

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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-02 11:08 PM
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Hey, folks,

I have an old friend who's been diagnosed with some pretty serious eye issues, so he needs bigger laptop (his apt is very small and he can't get his mind around a desktop set-up).

His budget is probably about $1000USD and power-wise, he needs just the basics: word processing, email, browsing. So a sharp display and machine durability are the real calls.

Does any model come to mind?

Jake
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-03 9:22 AM
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Are his eye issues ones that will require substantial text enlargement, on-screen magnification or any particular colour pattern combinations for legibility?
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-03 2:19 PM
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Thanks, Chris, for your thoughtful questions.

It appears to be macular degeneration. Older reading devices, I recall, would simply enlarge text, much like an overhead projector.

My friend is a Luddite and can scarcely turn on his aging Toshiba, so he doesn't know how to set bold-ed menu bars, etc, the works. (He's a writer and was working on novels that lived in one huge file with no backup; I finally introduced him to a usb drive, it's that bad)

When he gets the machine, I'll go up to New York City and set it up for him. While his sight is in danger, I'm almost positive that by setting up a 200-some dpi, letting WinAero Tweak do its magic, and maybe some white text on black screen work will make his computer one less worry.

The trouble is, my googling isn't turning up the boffo machine to meet the needs of a good display and a device that will last.

Jake
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-03 3:29 PM
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I asked because I have blind family members so have been through these issues.

Basically, you want the largest screen you can muster >> that has the HIGHEST resolution you can find. The second you start font scaling, you lose screen space exponentially. A 24" 1920x1080 screen with scaling for even moderate AMD turns it into an iPad. You start to have problems with a lot of websites not fitting as they render in desktop mode (or have rubbish / limited functionality tablet modes).

Another question to answer would be does he genuinely need a laptop? For ergonomics, typing comfort and vision - plus cost effectiveness if his AMD continues to deteriorate. It might be better to get a / and a larger external screen. This way if he winds up in an arms race with his vision he can get bigger screens without needing to replace the computer. An i5 NUC will last him a very long time.

A 2560x1440 (typically a gamer resolution but one down from 4K) like the wouldn't be expensive. It's older generation tech, but he doesn't need fancy.
At 4k, Samsung start off with in a 28" or a 32"

All of the visually impaired installs that I've done are external screen installs with a full size mouse and high visibility keyboard. Unless your friend can touch type. He is going to struggle to see the keyboard. High contrast, big button ones are not expensive .

My final tip is get a mouse with multiple extra buttons so that you can programme one of them to be the launch macro for the Windows Magnifier. A lot of the models have an extra side button or two and the driver has remap for windows magnifier in it.

If he really needs portability from it, then 17" and 2560x1440 or 4K in a laptop is a problem because it leaves only gaming laptops and you are looking $1800 USD++++++ there. There are plenty of 1920x1080, but we come back to the scaling and magnification issue vs. investment longevity.

The final option would be to get the external screen, mouse and keyboard but get a smaller laptop or tablet to dock it with. I've done this for a family member with a 3 and it works quite well. On the odd occasion they need the portability it's grab and go, but 98% of the time it's docked. The Surface 3 at the time was low cost (nothing remarkable and perhaps underpowered by my standard but not for email and web browsing plus the occasional Word document). Its DisplayPort could drive the single large external screen fine and when docked I have it set to turn off the internal display.

They have to use a physical optical magnifier to use the Surface on its own, but its tablet design is perfect for this (with a screen protector). Using a laptop with a physical magnifier would be a nightmare here. The Windows on-screen keyboard can be made big enough to poke at with a finger (or a pack of 10 generic stylus' from eBay for £1.50).

If you go down this route, as with the NUC. Spend now on the desktop setup and go cheap on the laptop/tablet to drive it.

Then finally think about software. Chrome has something called ChromeVox which is free (and be warned you get what you pay for, but it's a starting point). There are also programs like TextHelp that can read as you type, read program interfaces, the web, PDF files, Office files etc. It's pricey, but works.

If you Amazon or eBay, please consider using the site affiliate links ^_^
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-04 1:43 PM
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Chris, I can't thank you enough for your detailed overview of what is necessary. It clears the matters considerably. I had already pressed my friend to think about a desktop computer, but he's pretty set in his ways, has an old roll-top desk that can't be easily removed and that probably doesn't lend itself to the geography of a large monitor and cpu.

Instead, I will press him on the idea of spending more for a laptop with higher resolution that would take on an increased dpi without too much viewing punishment. Portability is not an issue; he rarely leaves his apartment. If I remember correctly, his current laptop sits on the desk's pull-out leaf. Thankfully, he's an excellent touch-typist and his computer is grossly antiquated so anything will be an improvement. Your idea of a gaming laptop is ingenious, though expensive--financially, he can swing it; it's more the psychology of it, I think.

The resolution specs you cite will help especially as I track down the right machine. My second concern is machine soundness, but I imagine a gaming laptop is far better built than a $1000 laptop, an angle I will explore with him as well.

Thanks again, Chris; this really helps.

Jake
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-04 6:33 PM
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Jake,

Happy to help. I personally feel that it's a bit of a mistake to go down that route, but I can understand the point.

Desk space for a 17" laptop will be more than a screen and a NUC (NUC's are 4"x4" devices, not ATX desktops and can even be mounted to the VESA mounts on the back of the screen if you don't want them on the desk itself).



If he doesn't want the screen on the desk, arm mount it. They are cheap and make the desk really tidy. I have 4 screens arm mounted to my desk, all 4 screens essentially float over the desk.

Of course it is personal preference. If that's what he likes, that is what he likes. Simple.

You could save money by looking at a previous generation clearance Gaming laptop too. It isn't as if he needs the power of a current generation device and $500 USD off will probably help swallow the pill.

If you do Amazon / eBay anything, let me know, I'll send some custom buyer links
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-04 11:22 PM
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Re: the links--if he can figure that out, I'll certainly send them on to him. His response to my suggestion of $2K was quite skittish, so your monitor pic is very helpful, and I will try to steer him down that route--as you say, it's the right way to go in the first place.

Sucks to get old, but as my mother used to say, it's better than the alternative.

Jake
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-05 9:38 AM
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Based upon what you've said, I certainly think so. By compartmentalising the screen and the processor, I think he'll get better value for money. If he goes down this route, ensure he understand that he shouldn't try to cheap out on the screen as he wants that to last 10-years. He should cheap out on the PC instead if he needs to; just make sure that it has the correct HDMI/DisplayPort versions as well as integrated GPU to drive the screen (especially if going 4K).

I think that all NUCs come with built in WiFi and Bluetooth now (Intel's never used to, which was why GigaByte Brix were more attractive a couple of years ago). You can buy the parts (NUC, RAM, SSD, Windows) and self assemble or go to an assembler.

Finally, be aware that some NUCs will come in box with a VESA mount bracket, while others will not. Inclusion isn't always a good thing as the screen and the bundled bracket may not have the same spacing standard. So it is best to check that the NUC VESA mounting size matches the screen! If in doubt, get a NUC without a bracket and just grab a generic off of eBay . There are two types, some allow a screen mount and the NUC, while others just allow the NUC to be mounted.
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-05 1:17 PM
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Since I'll be going to NYC to set it up, I'm hoping to have as much pre-built as possible. Ideally, I'd like to have the whole thing shipped to my home, get it running, then carry it up, but don't know how cumbersome that would be.

I definitely would like the inner hardware--ssd, etc--arrive installed.

Thanks for the mounting advice. Sounds as if there are lot of moving parts to this--so to speak--and I'll only have an afternoon to get it running for him.

Jake
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-05 1:45 PM
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How about this then?
https://amzn.to/31UQUJS

Seems to suggest it is pre-assembled. I'd get at least a 256GB SSD, at least 8GB RAM (I'd prefer 16, but your instinct should prevail). States that it ship with Windows 10.

The included VESA mount won't work with a screen arm, but if the screen is free standing it will.

Then may be something like this for the screen for use over DisplayPort https://amzn.to/2IoC720 at 32" or if you think that is too big https://amzn.to/2AMX174 at 27"

A 100x100 VESA dual mount https://amzn.to/30NKA5h

And a 100x100 (very basic) claw latch mounting arm https://amzn.to/2LMytkQ

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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-10-07 8:30 PM
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I sent on all your helpful links/advice and he still couldn't get his mind around an ever-present monitor in his one-bedroom apartment, no matter the cost-savings or usefulness for low vision issues. He wants a laptop that he can close and therefore make less physically visible. Sigh.

I'm going to take another part of your advice, Chris, and look for last year's model of gaming laptop, to get the cost down. 2560x1440 will be the bottom line and maybe I can find something in $1200-$1300USD and get him to bite on that. Obviously, if I find an Amazon link, I'll make sure it passes through hpc:factor.

The good news is that he's had a series of injections in his eyes that perhaps has arrested the degeneration, and MAY have actually improved matters, which can happen, though not often.

Thanks again, Chris,
Jake

Edited by Jake 2019-10-07 8:33 PM
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-08 8:51 AM
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Lucentis injections? Been there, done that back when it was in early trials. It halted the bleed completely. Problem was that by the time they got approval to inject it, the damage was done. Lucentis halts, it doesn't heal. The bleed and all the extra fluid floating about in there will clear up and that can reduce pressure and improve vision quality. It is the underlying retina that doesn't heal.

I wish your friend luck with this. It is a hard thing to deal with.
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C:Amie Page Icon Posted 2019-10-08 12:46 PM
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There seem to be a few Asus and Dell options about. Not as many as I would have thought though!

http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=9&pub=55...

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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-11-09 4:05 PM
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Chris, my friend has agreed to bump up his price range to $1200-ish USD, but I cannot find a 17" that fits his price but has the high resolution needed. I've found this:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07C8D5QPS/ref=psdc_13896615011_t3_B07W7X8...

For another $100 USD, he can get a 1TB SSD, but I think 512GB will be fine and the CPU/resolution is the same on both models.

What's your opinion, and if you like it, could you set up the buy link for hpcfactor?

[One thing he and I have decided is that he'll buy but ship the machine to me, so I can leisurely set up the machine defaults, then travel to New York City and transfer over his personal stuff.]

Jake
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Jake Page Icon Posted 2019-11-09 4:15 PM
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