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Antoine J.

Antoine J.

Joined on 10/21/04

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Product Reviews
product reviews
  • 31
Most Favorable Review

Good budget laptop, better for techies...

Lenovo Laptop Edge E545 (20B20011US) AMD A6-Series A6-5350M (2.90GHz) 4GB Memory 320GB HDD AMD Radeon HD 8450G 15.6" Windows 7 Pro 64-bit pre-installed / Windows 8 Pro 64-bit Upgrade Media and License Included
Lenovo Laptop Edge E545 (20B20011US) AMD A6-Series A6-5350M (2.90GHz) 4GB Memory 320GB HDD AMD Radeon HD 8450G 15.6" Windows 7 Pro 64-bit pre-installed / Windows 8 Pro 64-bit Upgrade Media and License Included

Pros: [If you are seriously considering the e545, read whole review before deciding, please] Good and reasonable prices if you catch it on a sale (I got mine here for 369).Classic Thinkpad bento box body with rubberized finish. At just over 4 pounds, the e545 is still light enough to be portable despite its massive screen real estate. Despite being the budget "Edge" series, the e545 still comes with Lenovo's full suite of tuning and management programs and shock-drop (called "Airbag") protection for the hard drive (which should be mandatory for all laptops honestly). Spill-resistant keyboard is fantastic despite left-skewed track pad. Keyboard still comes with the classic trackball for those who still use it. Battery estimates are honest when laptop is not under load and screen is on dimmest setting.Comes with secureboot for Win8 users. At such a low entry price, lots of room to upgrade for those who know how or have friends who do. This laptop comes with Win7 preinstalled, but the recover disks to upgrade to a Lenovo factory version of Windows 8. Make sure you make two sets of Windows 7 factory recovery discs using Lenovo's simple software and put those discs in a safe place. The Windows key is buried in the BIOS, so no, you cannot use the key anywhere else nor is it on the body of the laptop. *DO NOT install Win8 on the e545, you will hate yourself if you do!* If you must experiment, make sure you have the Windows 7 factory recovery discs you made in case you want to revert.

Cons: Most important: Wifi drivers from Lenovo's website are terribly out of date and as such, the out of box WiFi performance is abysmal (see my "Other Thoughts" for the fix to this problem). This is why 1 egg is dropped off. Lenovo, if you are reading this, fix the Realtek Wifi! Speaking of which, the newest versions of the e545 being shipped now DO NOT come with bluetooth anymore (don't bother buying the Broadcom card and doing it yourself, it's rubbish). No activity light of any kind; you only get two power LEDs which are cleverly located in the dot on the "i" in "Thinkpad" on the lid and palm surface of the lappy. At 5400 RPM, this laptop will be slow for more demanding users. The HHD activity light will be sorely missed for those sticking with the built in HHD. There is a freeware program to replace the activity light as a screen icon solution, so download that program if you need it. You have to make your own Windows 7 recovery discs. Lenovo is not unique in doing this, but with the factory HDD spinning at 5400 RPM, this takes forever (90 minutes for 5 DVDs made). Plan ahead to do this because if you don't, there is no why to get WIN7 back on this Laptop unless you buy it yourself.

Overall Review: About the WiFi: The combined WiFi/Bluetooth half card was a failure, so Lenovo quietly snuck it out and replaced it with a Realteck WiFi only solution. As you go about updating the laptop out the box, go online and download Realtek R181 WLAN drivers dated 04-17-2014. This will fix the intermittent WiFi problem. Lenovo's last wireless driver updates are from 02-2013, so because I had to learn how to fix this issue myself, I took an egg away. The Edge series is Lenovo's budget line to get new users into the elite laptop legend that is the Thinkpad. That being said, the e545 is not a 'cheap' computer in that it will fall apart (it most certainly will not) but it is low cost, which means things must be sacrificed. I have a 8-core AMD desktop with triple monitors, so a $1200 desktop replacement laptop would have been a waste for me, so starting off low and upgrading will work for me. I already installed a Crucial M500 256 GB SSD that was also on sale when I ordered the e545 and this laptop is now smoking fast. I will spend another $100 to upgrade to Crucial 8GB ram (4x2) and this laptop will out run most on the market. Lastly, I can easily upgrade the processor to the AMD A10 APU and get the better Radeon on board graphics to run most of my games at a medium or better framerate. I'll be in for $800 total once the upgrades are done, but I can do this slowly and my e545 with outgun most 15 inchers two years from now. If space is an issue, the dvd drive can be swapped out for a HDD with a kit. DO NOT upgrade to the Broadcom Wifi/Bluetooth card if you can find it, it is terrible to the point of uselessness. I got Win 7 Ultimate with a university license but without an onboard hardware security solution, i cannot really take advantage of Bitlocker easily. Next Thinkpad I buy will have a fingerprint reader. HDD lights are being phased out as SSDs are honestly too fast. Additionally, the lights burn battery. The e545 has onscreen pop up icons that show you the wifi, num lock, scroll lock and caps lock statuses if you toggle them, so this is not really the end of the world, its just different. For people sticking with the slow 5400 rpm HDD, the lack of a status light will be sorely missed because start up times are painfully slow for those of us with powerful modern desktops. Win7 is being phased out at the end of October 2014, so I narrowly avoided Win8 on a non-touch screen laptop. I will not upgrade the OS until I'm forced to. With a SSD added, the e545 will still be under $500 but have a standby life of 7 hours-plus and be more or less bomb proof. Though Windows has most of the useful tech tools built in to the OS, Lenovo's central suite of tools are rather useful and has a few hardware testers that Windows does not. Final word: Great budget laptop for mom or dad, even better comp for those techheads on a budget who need a portable comp to complement their epic desktop arrangements.

10/29/2014
Most Critical Review

Awesome Keyboard, Horrid Quality Control

RAZER Black USB Wired BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
RAZER Black USB Wired BlackWidow Ultimate Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Pros: Tactile key response, high visibility keys, awesome glossy finish. Easy to set up, though keyboard software must be downloaded from Razer's website (no installation disk, but that is the way these days).

Cons: Keyboard has two "9" keys at the main register (no "8" ) key. After disappointing service from Razer telephone Tech Support, No choice but to RMA via Newegg, which will cost me $14.09 shipping, see below.

Overall Review: I contacted Razer's support line 3/7/11 at 1120 EST and though the operator, Tiffany, tried her best, I was told that it could take weeks for Razer to determine if they could send me the "8" key, if they had the key at all. After I requested a supervisor, I was told they were "in a meeting." It will cost me $14 to ship this heavy board to CA for a 1 gram piece of plastic (I would have happily paid for the key as it has to be cheaper and more convenient that shipping this thing). For a company that is supposed to make precision gaming equipment and charges a premium for their technology, Razer and their quality control should be very ashamed. I still want to replace this keyboard, but I doubt that I would risk more money for their products.

Great board, if not a bit quirky. Prepare time to invest in getting it set up right. Read pros and cons closley to avoide surprises

ASUS 970 PRO GAMING/AURA AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX AMD Motherboard
ASUS 970 PRO GAMING/AURA AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.1 ATX AMD Motherboard

Pros: -Circuitry is gorgeous, if you're into that sort of thing -PCI/E/X ports are positioned rather well in that the PCI-Express is useful even if you have a monster graphics card in place -RED Led lighting for the rear of the board, multicolor LED lighting for the front -Five 4-pin headers for fans, one 4-pin header for water pump or a fan. Headers support 1W each. -BIOS is mouse capable. Can backup UEFI keys to flash drive in the BIOS -Every possible option imaginable in the advanced BIOS. OCers should be able to squeeze every last inch of performance out of the 8 series processors--good value for 8150 and 8350 owners. -Lots and lots of USB ports including 4 of USB 2.0 internal headers--great for smart PSUs and whatever else -Well-placed M.2 port that is ready for an equipped SSD drive -Lots of wires and such included with the board -Primary channel for 2 sticks of RAM is set to be away from the socket, giving you a few microns of distance from massive air coolers. You should still plan on low profile RAM if you want to run a Noctura NH-D15 -Ability to set temp curves for fans in the BIOS. See the cons as to why you will want to do this...

Cons: -Though it supports 9 series processors, it only supports 120W chips. This board DOES NOT support 140-220W. But for this price point, what do you expect? -Asus board prefer 1.5 volt RAM and say so in the manual. I had a miserable 3 days with a highly unstable system using 1.6 volt GSkill TridentX. -For included software, Asus-branded CPUID is neat. AI suite left me wanting, especially Fan Xpert3. I'm using curves created in the BIOS to control my fans. -In regard to the above, the RAM voltage swings are aggressive. When the GSkill XMP profile set the voltage to 1.6, the actual voltage being delivered was fluctuating between 1.61-1.68. I was able to use the MANUAL setting in the voltage control to bring down the voltage to 1.55 and now the voltage fluxs between that and 1.64. System is now stable, but that is annoying! -The board has 6 SATA ports, yay. But they are horizontally aligned at the edge of the board in line with the main PCI-E port. As such, extra long graphics cards will cover all of the ports. To adjust SATA cables, you will need to have child-size hands or to pull the card out. -Oh yeah, that purty multicolor LED Aura logo will be covered by this primary graphics card if extra big -Only 1 internal USB 3.0 header. Would have been happy to give up a few 2.0 ports for another 3.0 header -USB 3.0 cables are stiff as heck; would have liked to have this port horizontally aligned at the edge of the board so that routing the cable would be easier. -LED lights will stay on after shutdown unless EuP power saving is enabled in the BIOS--why, I don't know -North and Southbridge heatsinks may be undersized for aggressive OCs, but I don't have a problem with them. -The 3 Chassis fan headers, though 4-pin, actually are controlled by voltage as a set. If you do not have fans already, then save yourself some money and buy three pin fans for case work. This is true across the Asus mobo range, not just here. What this means is that Fan Xpert is not so great as PWM fans on the chassis header will sometimes stop before starting/restarting. It's not the end of the world but it is frustrating if you want as much control as possible

Overall Review: Despite my nitpicks in the CONS, I like this board. I bought this board because I wanted a port layout that would allow me to use my PCI express cards and a PCI card to connect additional HDDs to my build over time. Since board makers won't add additional SATA ports, I use an add on card. I paired this board with a 8150 processor, TridentX RAM and a Noctura NH-D15 heatsink, all mounted in a Corsair C70 Vengeance case. Once I got all of the setting in order and a stable system, I became happy I bought this board. The price point below a Benjamin-20 is a fair price for it. Why does this board exist? Factories do not like to spool down equipment and furlow workers. It is much more efficient to keep them working and make some profit as opposed to zero profit. This board will likely include many features of future Asus boards in this range as they prepare for the long-awaited Zen platform. So yeah, the USB 3.1 and the M.2. port on AMD 970 architecture may seem a bit senseless.But if you are like me and were waiting to upgrade from a more limited board, this is a great opportunity! In the meantime, those of us with an FX 8150 or 8350 chip can see a true and pure maximization of value of this chip when pushed with the settings available on this motherboard. This is the sweet spot of where the value is going to be--so i would strongly recommend you not bother with a 9-series chip if you are going to buy this board. Faster is not necessarily better in the AMD range because of the unlocked FX series. So snagging this board and an FX 8 series chip on sale can get you a lot of computer for not much outlay, especially if you want performance but not necessarily the bench marking numbers to brag about. Also, the pretty, pretty lights!

POWERRRRRRRR!

AMD FX-8150 - FX-Series Zambezi 8-Core 3.6 GHz Socket AM3+ 125W Desktop Processor - FD8150FRGUBOX
AMD FX-8150 - FX-Series Zambezi 8-Core 3.6 GHz Socket AM3+ 125W Desktop Processor - FD8150FRGUBOX

Pros: - Fastest build ever for me - Using either BIOS or AMD software, you can push this chip up to 4.1 GHz right out of the box. Guys online got much more out of this chip with experimentation and great cooling

Cons: - Thought this was the box which included the AMD water cooler, but it wasn't. Other than that, no cons here.

Overall Review: Bought this chip as I was well due for an upgrade from a 2.2 GHz dual core Opteron I had been running since 2007. I run this chip in my grad school machine, so I run a very minor OC at 3.7 GHz for my day-to-day. My Sapphire R9 270X Toxic handles the games I usually play very well. Along with a Samsung 940 SSD, 16 GB of Ballistix RAM, I have no slow down or choke points on my system. My computer does what I want it to do, when I want to do it and at speed. I couldn't be happier. This is one of AMD's best CPUs hands down. I know the AM3+ chipsets are old news, but I'm happy with where my computing needs are at the moment. Great value for money if you can still find this CPU!

Rosewill keeps the cheap and good stuff rolling

Rosewill RCR-IC001 - 3.5" Internal 40-in-1 Card Reader with USB 2.0 Port & Extra Silver Face Plate
Rosewill RCR-IC001 - 3.5" Internal 40-in-1 Card Reader with USB 2.0 Port & Extra Silver Face Plate

Pros: - As stated, reads 40 types of media format across 4 input spaces - USB 2.0 Speeds - When included CD is ran, icons for loaded cards will appear in My Computer

Cons: - Card insertion has to be done carefully, lest you bend one of the pins (especially for the CF reader)

Overall Review: I still use these things to read old DSLR CF cards from time to time. I like having it around. Rosewill makes it cheap and functional, so no complaints.

Useful and inexpensive--great for leftover mechanical notebook HDDs after SSD upgrades

Vantec NexStar TX 2.5" SATA to USB 2.0 External Hard Drive / SSD Enclosure - Model NST-210S2-BK
Vantec NexStar TX 2.5" SATA to USB 2.0 External Hard Drive / SSD Enclosure - Model NST-210S2-BK

Pros: - Inexpensive--but not cheap! (There is a difference!) - Connecting wire comes with two USB heads for extra power (though should not be necessary for modern computers - Comes with screw driver and carrying slip - Aluminum casing helps dissipate heat

Cons: - Square edges of plastic may leave some to be desired - Not necessarily the nicest looking of these types of things (the Rosewill competing product--if available--has much more beauty appeal)

Overall Review: Bought 3 of these things for family after upgrading their laptops to SSD drives. I used the woefully slow 5400 RPM mech HDDs I pulled as Windows 7 and Lenovo backup and repair drives. This way, they can have the tools and images needed to fix their own computers if they jack them up. These enclosures need not cost more than $10 US if needed and this is by far their best use as slow HHDs are great for non-critical and non-time sensitive needs. These little Vantecs are great for overnight backups.