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I'm looking to replace my Dell Inspiron N5050 that I bought in 2013 with 6 GB RAM for $400. I'm again not interested in breaking the bank, but I'm willing to step outside the "budget" grouping this time if needed for a laptop that will last for another seven years.

Intended uses:

  • Zoom meetings with virtual backgrounds
  • Audio/Video editing
  • Internet web browsing and e-mail
  • Virtual machines
  • Docker/Docker Compose/Kubernetes/Rancher containers

Required Specifications:

  • Sufficient RAM available today's needs (minimum 8 GB)
  • Minimum 100 GB storage including space for OS
  • Able to install Debian, i.e.
    • Linux compatible hardware (at a minimum wireless NIC and touch pad)
  • Keyboard:
    • Must absolutely not have the ISO/JIS Enter key layout, preferably has the ANSI Enter key layout.
    • Inverted "T" arrow keys
  • Webcam, microphone, speakers for Zoom meetings
  • Adequate battery life (3 hrs between charges without Zoom meetings and A/V editing)
  • Any USB ports (for external keyboard, external mouse, USB drives, external drives, PXE-boot via USB mass storage device)
  • Any display output port (HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, any flavor du jour) for external HDMI monitors with adapter/converter if needed

Strongly-Desired Specifications:

  • 15" screen at 1920x1080 or maybe 1920x1200 resolution
  • Long battery life for basic tasks (8-9 hrs between charges without Zoom meetings and A/V editing)
  • No loud fan noise while on Zoom meetings (i.e. no vacuum cleaner-like sound on the remote side)

Nice-to-haves:

  • Sufficient RAM or the ability to expand installed RAM for tomorrow's needs such that laptop can continue to be used for another seven years
  • No preference on HDD vs. SSD
  • 1 TB storage
  • HDMI port for external monitor/TV without adapter/converter
  • Illuminated/backlit keyboard
  • Bluetooth (possibly for external speakers)
  • USB 3.0 ports
  • CD/DVD drive (at a minimum for gPXE/Etherboot if no RJ-45 port, burning other CDs/DVDs)
  • RJ-45 Ethernet port (for PXE-booting the laptop)

I've been happy with Dell in the past, so I'm looking to continue the trend getting another Dell, but this time I'm looking at Dell Latitude laptops, but I'm not sure which model(s) would be sufficient. I believe I won't need any Dell XPS laptop. Once I get the laptop, I'm expecting to replace the OS with Debian Linux again.

With the recent rise in virtual meetings, my N5050 laptop has been getting significant daily use for at-home virtual grade school with Zoom meetings in conjunction with opening Google documents (forms, slides, documents, etc.) and Office365 documents, and any other related activities. With Zoom, the laptop fan obviously goes to high speed (i.e. loud), but every couple days the load gets so high with everything else running that the laptops gets unusable and needs to be reset hard. Also - not sure if this is a limitation of the current Zoom for Linux, but there doesn't appear to be any way to use virtual backgrounds.

With the exception of the virtual meeting issue, I've still been primarily content with my N5050 as I have been running Debian on it since I got it, so it has been adequate otherwise for moderate Internet web browsing, running a couple VirtualBox VMs at a time (either one Windows 7 VM for Quicken only or a few other low-RAM Debian/Ubuntu VMs).

It still does get sluggish and the load rises if I open several key web sites including certain sites if I go to them without disabling scripts with ScriptSafe.

I would not care to repeat prior experiences in which one laptop's solder joint got loose for the power connector after only two years; another laptop did last for quite a while but eventually the plastic frame around the screen started cracking and eventually did break. So far, I have not had these problems with the N5050.

Update (14 Sep 2020): I have narrowed the list down to two laptops:

Both of these have:

  • 8th Gen Intel Core I5-8365U processor (4-core, 6 MB cache, 1.6 GHz, vPro-capable)
  • 8 GB DDR4 non-ECC RAM
  • M.2 256GB NVMe Class 40 SSD
  • 14" display
  • Intel UHD 620 graphics
  • Keyboard with backlight
  • 1 Thunderbolt 3 with Power Delivery and DisplayPort
  • 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1, one with PowerShare
  • 1 HDMI 1.4
  • 1 Optional external uSIM card tray
  • 1 Optional Touch Fingerprint Reader in power button
  • 1 DC-in 7.4 mm barrel
  • 1 Optional SmartCard Reader
  • 1 uSD 4.0 memory card reader
  • Dimensions: 0.7" (Front) / 0.75" (Back) height x 12.65" width x 8.42" depth
  • Starting Weight: ~3 lbs (Lightweight/Ultrabook)
  • Optional RGB HD, IR, or no Camera with Dell Privacy Shutter Noise-reducing array microphones
  • High Quality Speakers
  • Universal Audio jack
  • Skype for Business Certified
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 9560 (802.11ac) 2x2 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4 cell 60 Whr ExpressCharge capable battery
  • 3-yr hardware warranty with in-home service after remote diagnosis

Number 1 only:

  • 14" HD 1366x768 AG
  • non-touch screen
  • 2.7mm cam/mic
  • Carbon Fiber

Number 2 only:

  • 14" FHD SafeScreen ePrivacy 1920x1080 AR
  • Touchscreen
  • 3mm IR cam/mic
  • Aluminum
  • SafeScreen keyboard
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I decided on this Dell 7400 laptop along with the DA300 mobile adapter.

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