Prebuilt Is my laptop worth upgrading?

zovc

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Jan 5, 2017
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I have a Toshiba Satellite Fusion 15 L55W-C5259. It's sporting an i5-5200U, 8GB of ram, and a 120GB SSD.

It's functional and I use it for work, but it feels a little lacking in most aspects. I like the 15" display and the touchscreen, but the other day in a cafe there was some sunlight and it made seeing things on the screen pretty difficult (plugged in, brightness at 100%).

I keep seeing in articles that Skylake and/or Kaby Lake have made big advancements for mobile devices but never really see that quantified. I definitely would appreciate better integrated graphics, but the ones I'm using right now (to my surprise) are able to emulate and oversample PSP games so they're definitely suitable.

The battery life on this thing isn't great, under any sort of gaming load (like a DS emulator or a PSP emulator), even 2 hours of gameplay is a stretch. Just doing basic stuff, like keeping the laptop handy for a RPG (with webpages and PDFs open) is like 4 hours of battery. For whatever reason, this device only charges up to "80%" battery and has done that since I've paid attention to it.

I like the aesthetic of "thin & light" laptops, but having a HDMI out on the laptop is important for work. I could be dense and just not be aware that USB C can output to HDMI?

Part of the reason I'm so hesitant to shop for (and bad at shopping for) laptops is because I don't really understand how to figure out which ones are 'the best' (even relatively) and then compare them. When I bought this one, I basically just looked for similarly priced ones that had HDMI-out and picked one that seemed like a good value.

Anyways, here's my attempt to quantify what I'm looking for in an upgrade if you're interested in making suggestions:
  • '15.6" form factor' is the right size for this unit. It fits in my bag and I appreciate the screen real estate. I wouldn't mind a display that had smaller bezels. This display is glossy and I'd definitely prefer a matte one.
  • 1080p is fine for me.
  • I like having a touchscreen, supposedly they drain a lot of battery--I'm willing to compromise it if it's something like an extra 2 hours of battery life, but not otherwise.
  • I think I would appreciate upgrading to faster storage, more storage, faster RAM, and more RAM.
  • I like the idea of getting a laptop with a 1050, but would rather improve my battery life overall.
    • If a unit could get 3-4 hours of unplugged 'gaming' with a 1050 I would definitely consider it.
    • If a unit can last 6+ hours unplugged when not gaming, I would consider it.
  • My ideal target for non-gaming battery life is ~8 hours, but I'd appreciate as much as 10.
  • My ideal target for gaming battery life is ~4 hours, but I'd appreciate 8. (I think that's unrealistic.)
  • I don't mind the weight of this laptop, but in terms of dimensions it's as big as I'd want a laptop to be.
  • I don't need another "Convertible" or 2-in-1 laptop.
  • Toshiba's bluetooth adapters specifically, apparently have weird issues with lots of devices. I haven't been able to pair a PS4 controller with this laptop successfully, but I've had problems pairing the same controller with nearly every device I've tried... Having a PS4 controller that would pair issue-free with the laptop would be a blessing.
 
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EdZ

Virtual Realist
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May 11, 2015
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If you want a matte screen and long battery life, and are willing to trade off GPU performance to get it, then you're probably looking at a 'business' laptop like a Thinkpad T570 (with battery extension) or P50s. The T570 is nice in that it has two batteries, so you can hot-swap one while it runs off of the other (if you;re willing to carry around a second charged battery).
 
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Phuncz

Lord of the Boards
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May 9, 2015
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I wish other manufacturers included hot-swapping batteries, as far as I know this is a Lenovo-only feature.

In my own testing I've done at work, it's not hard reaching 3 hours of battery life with almost any non-extreme laptop using a heavy CPU load. But the laptops that claim 8-12 hours usually do this with a severely reduced brightness and completely idle usage. Touchscreen displays might have an increased brightness to offset the brightness blocked by the touchscreen filter, although I'm not sure that's still an issue. This would explain the battery life descrepancy.

16GB RAM and PCIe storage isn't always a given and is often times easier and cheaper to upgrade yourself if you find a compatible laptop.
I'd personally look at Dell and Lenovo, with your requirements. Though the availability of certain models will depend on your country.
 

Thehack

Spatial Philosopher
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Mar 6, 2016
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I have always find the performance of laptop disappointing even if they are well specced. Their reliability is a gamble and without any easy to replace components a failure puts you out of commission for a while.

Suggestions for Lenovo or Dell business laptop are great. Also consider getting an XPS laptop. For Dell you should go for the premium or business laptop if you want any kind of after sales support. After sales support is more crucial for laptop due to low reliability and repairability.

Consider adding a small 13" Chromebook to your mobile load out. For quick research and document editing they are superior in cost, reliability, and battery life.
 

zovc

King of Cable Management
Original poster
Jan 5, 2017
852
602
Hot-swappable batteries sound great, but it's probably not worth the hassle of keeping a second set of batteries handy/charged. It's more of a convenience issue than it is a "I need my laptop at all times!!!" one. But, for real, why do manufacturers make it so difficult to swap batteries?

I'll definitely look over Lenovo and Dell's offerings, thanks for the suggestions folks.

I've considered getting a Chromebook, but a lot of what I do is software/Windows-based. I want to get one--if only to play around with it--but I want to make sure the devices I use every day are up to snuff before making that sort of 'luxury/accessory' purchase.

Anyone have any advice over Skylake vs Kaby Lake? Will the prices even be that different?
 

Ceros_X

King of Cable Management
Mar 8, 2016
746
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Usually the newer the generation, the better the power savings. Kaby Lake should be the way to go. I know when I was looking last year, the difference in battery life between Skylake and older chips was pretty crazy.

Honestly I'd check out more laptop oriented sources - most of us build SFF rigs so we can take them instead of laptops :V


Hot-swappable batteries sound great, but it's probably not worth the hassle of keeping a second set of batteries handy/charged. It's more of a convenience issue than it is a "I need my laptop at all times!!!" one. But, for real, why do manufacturers make it so difficult to swap batteries?

I'll definitely look over Lenovo and Dell's offerings, thanks for the suggestions folks.

I've considered getting a Chromebook, but a lot of what I do is software/Windows-based. I want to get one--if only to play around with it--but I want to make sure the devices I use every day are up to snuff before making that sort of 'luxury/accessory' purchase.

Anyone have any advice over Skylake vs Kaby Lake? Will the prices even be that different?