questionswhat sort of thin and light laptop should i get?

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Oh - budget. Around a grand, maybe $1200. Not going to complain if it's cheaper!

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To clarify, since I used to be a bit more interested in all of this stuff and may have left in some words that would have confused old me-- I am interested in "quick" but not necessarily "fast" - a la, I like the idea of a quick boot and a quick resume/wake - but I don't care to transcode video or play games. Not looking for a ton of horsepower, as my (probably out of date) thinking would mean that more horsepower = more power draw = bigger battery = more weight.

Also, my storage requirements won't be vast, so a 128gb SSD would be more than enough.

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The Air is mighty fine at what it does. I haven't seen anybody else with comparable battery life, but most of the other things you're looking for are standard these days.
Win8 boot times are mighty fine, though I've played with HDD ones, so your SSD would make for an impressive boot.
You probably won't ever need more than 8gb RAM unless you're into some intense computing, but I also wouldn't go lower.

As for particular computers, I'm not all that useful, as I just shifted to a desktop/netbook pair and neither is at that price range.

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An MBA should buy an MBA. ;-)

$100 to upgrade to 8GB of RAM is just the Apple Tax. But it's soldered to the motherboard so it's not like you can easily pay someone else to do it.

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Another consideration is that the chosen platform for major business and financial software is not apple. Depending on what your goals are, both during and after getting your MBA, having a mac could be positive or negative. Sure there's the argument that you can run anything in windows mode via parallels, or etc... and its a fine argument, except when the software fails anyway, or crawls to a halt because a lot of financial software in particular is... archaic lol.

Anyway - too much of a tangent - get the machine that best suits you from a usability standpoint, but do keep in mind the platform you will be using afterward. Though the landscape is changing, MS is still the largely chosen environment of corporate business, and that's not likely to collapse in the next few years.

I never liked the air - though a little bit thicker, i've preferred the pro, mainly for the much better display.

Other choices are the lenovo yoga (13") and the samsung series 7 or 9

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@trahentis: win8 boot times ARE nice - but also rarely needed. i have a few win8 devices now, and they can do a smart resume, where their standby can be measured in weeks while off. I've left my Surface in standby for 10 days, and it resumed nearly instantly (2 seconds or something not worth counting) and still have 50%+ battery on it. My last full shutdown was for updates.

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I haven't done enough research myself, but I would take a hard look at the Microsoft surface tablets. From what I understand, the pro models run full Win8 and very few laptops will be thinner. I like that it basically a tablet, because in my experience that means extra sturdiness and if you spill something on the keybord, no big deal, all the hardware is in the screen. If you don't like the keyboard you can always get an external usb one for it. I dunno, they look cool to me. I should do some more research though.

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I have a surface Pro and I would never look back. The keyboard is detachable. Its a full version on windows 8 pro, it uses both a Wacom stylus and biometric touch capabilities. The battery life is decent tho not the greatest. I love mine. I could go on for days about how much I love this thing. If you get it from a Microsoft kiosk or store, they have some great package deals.

Yes, the app store sucks for Microsoft, no, I don't care, because I have a full version of windows, no tablet OS, no phone processor, no need for apps, its a real i5 intel proc.

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summarily downvoting anyone who recommended this poor chap buy an apple product...you people should be ashamed of yourselves.

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@ragefear: Thanks for your review I really haven't seen enough of them for this device.

Ballpark, what kind of battery life are you experiencing? With what kind of usage?

I really want to get one of these for my girlfriend this fall so I appreciate your thoughts.

Thanks.

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Just a word of warning on Windows 8: On a traditional (non-touchscreen) laptop, it is one of the most frustrating experiences I have gone through in my computer history. I get angry and emotionally upset when I have to deal with win8 on a laptop.

If you already used it and don't mind it, go for it, but stick with win7 if you haven't.

Or just get the airbook like everyone else enrolled in your Business Admin. courses.

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Have you called the B-school office to see if they have a rec. for their students ? Might not be a bad idea. They may use/prefer one format over another.

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Thanks for all of your input! Couple of responses--

@ceagee: The school does not have a preference as to my platform
@goatcrapp: I have a 3ish year old Windows laptop that I will be keeping, and I anticipate that my firm will always be on Windows, and they issue me a laptop - so I am all set with regards to having Windows to run the horrible and old programs we are stuck using!
@ragefear: I have an iPad, so I hadn't considered a tablet. Is the keyboard cover any good? I know there are two types - one that is more like a real keyboard, and one that is like a touchscreen keyboard (oversimplifying I would guess). Which comes with the Surface Pro?

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@dcalotta: You can also buy a Macbook Air and install Windows 7 or 8 as the primary operating system. You don't just have to run Windows in a virtual machine like Parallels. The MBA makes a pretty nice platform for either operating system. And Apple has done a lot of hard work to make sure that Windows drivers are kept up to date for things like the trackpad, screen brightness controls, wifi and all that.

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@dcalotta: Or if you're really tech savvy, I'm pretty sure you can install Windows 8 as a native EFI boot:
http://blog.thedeltaflyer.com/2013/01/dual-booting-windows-8-and-mountain-lion-natively-using-efi/

But only if you've never tried to use Boot Camp. Boot camp changes the partition table in a way that makes Windows 8 think the drive is invalid to install to for EFI.

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@dcalotta: if you need to run Windows on it, bootcamp would probably be fine, and leaving Mac OS on there is probably a good call for the fun interactions with iPad, etc. Apple products play well together.

I've heard the Surface is a great device and an Apple fanboy I work with practically drools over their soft keyboard (the "touch cover").

Windows and Apple both have some agreements with academic institutions, which could save you a couple hundred dollars if you play your cards right. Which is a good chunk off the Surface, and a slightly less good chunk off the Air.

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The deals I found:
Apple gives you $50 off and a $100 itunes gift card.
Microsoft has a program to crowdsource your computer, where you ask people to help pay, and Microsoft covers the first 10%. Make your FB post private, pay for it all yourself, and treat it as a 10% off coupon.

@curtisuxor: That commentary about non-touch Win8 is about right. My system has a touchscreen and the first few weeks that was important, but after figuring out what the (intuitive with touch) commands are, I find it easier to use my trackpad most of the time.

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@dcalotta: I just ordered a surface for work and we upgraded to the "non-chiclet" keyboard that is standard. I think it was $120 extra, but I went and did a hands on test and there was no contest on which was better. FTR the person I ordered it for is getting roughly 7 hours of use at a time from the battery.

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Just because it hasn't been mentioned yet, I'll throw out the idea of a Chromebook.

You can get an excellent model for ~$300 with 3G. Great for taking notes in classes, very thin and light, excellent keyboards, long battery life. Basically an amazing laptop to take around with you regularly and travel with. The downside would be specific Windows software that you might need for class/work wouldn't run, and if you will be taking exams on the laptop it would not be appropriate.

You could easily spend the money you save on a nice desktop (much more power for your buck!) to use for any specific power user programs you might need.

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I love my surface pro... but compared to other laptops in it's price range (without it's small footprint though) - it's outclassed.

It's my go-to mainly because of it's portability - but for anything needing some muscle, i turn to one of my other machines.

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@goatcrapp: when I was in business school I observed many occasions where a teacher would not accept homework which was in the mac format, but this was back when we used floppy disks so I imagine things have changed between then and now.

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@cbaera: yes, the differences have narrowed considerably - macs can save documents in standard formats... though it was a gradual change certainly done grudgingly, lol.