11

And no builtin microphone.

...Or at least with a webcam + mic which can be easily removed by someone with the right screwdriver and a dream.

Other requirements include:

  • price point is < $1,500
  • screen size < 14 inches
  • durable; not covered in thin plastic that rattles when you shake it (currently I'm using an X1 carbon, and that feels pretty solid).
  • at least 2 USB ports, with at least one of them being USB 3. 3 USB ports with at least 2 being USB 3 would be ideal.
  • at least one, and at most two, of the following video ports (in order of highest to lowest preference):
    • HDMI
    • VGA
    • DVI
    • MiniDP
  • no touchscreen; an actual laptop. Not a laptop that wishes it was a tablet.
  • a wifi card with a hardware power switch so I can be sure I've disabled the wireless card in hardware and no software / firmware can send / receive wireless packets
  • Windows 7 support
  • 64-bit x86 processor (probably implied, but still), with support for hardware-accelerated virtualization. An i5 or an i7 would probably do well enough.
  • at least 8 GB of RAM, with support for at least 16 GB
  • an SSD with >192 GB

Preferable, but not required:

  • an actual Ethernet port
  • an SD / MicroSD card reader

This is for a friend of mine who wants to get into development but who hasn't done any yet and doesn't really know much about computers at all. To be honest, aside from knowing what sorts of things a laptop should have (see above specs), I don't really know how to go about finding one, and I don't really keep up to date on what laptops are quichey, or what companies have a good record of producing durable products (or, at least, products with helpful customer service reps and readily-available hardware drivers).

At the moment, I'm liking my X1 Carbon, but I've had it less than a year, and it actually doesn't meet a number of the above specs. I used to have a Dell that matched far more of those specs, but it kept having random kernel panics (didn't matter what operating system I installed. Pretty sure it wasn't malware-related, but I dunno. I do know the memory was fine). And my brother's old laptop, also a Dell but a different model, also had similar issues. So, I'd like to avoid Dell just in case those two examples weren't a fluke. I've heard good things about Asus.

I floundered through some Google searches over the last half hour and have reached the conclusion that I'm woefully unqualified to figure out which make and model would make sense, so I'm deferring to the collective wisdom of the Lazyweb.

  • 1
    It's going to be quite hard to find a laptop without a webcam and internal mic, I think. In general, to disable the webcam, all it takes is a screwdriver + disconnecting an internal cable behind the screen. (I'm mostly familiar with old, pre 2010 stuff though, so newer, thinner laptops will be more difficult to disassemble, but should still be doable.) If you're worried about privacy, even a piece of the thick sticky tape over the webcam would prevent it from working in a meaningful way. I don't know about the microphone, but I'd imagine it would be more difficult to physically disconnect. – JonasCz - Reinstate Monica Mar 13 '16 at 12:09
  • 3
    My expectation is that you can configure most business class laptops (from Lenovo, HP, Dell… Toshiba?) without a camera when ordering online and disable built-in microphones in the firmware/BIOS. That worked well on a 6560b Probook and my T530/T560 have this option in the security menu, so it should be reliable to a certain degree. Wifi kill switches however have probably been all removed somewhere in recent generations. Also recent "actual" laptops are available with touch screen options, I'd rather look at the processors' model number, because there are dual core i7 models (Skylake-U). – LiveWireBT Mar 13 '16 at 15:11
  • 2
    JonasCz and LiveWireBT are right - it'll be very hard to find what your looking and any of the following help: 1. use tape 2. disable in OS 3. disable in BIOS and 4. physically disconnect. If you're willing to go up by ~$300 with the same RAM, SSD and Windows requirements (lower if you compromise), practically the only laptop built with privacy and security from the ground up and has both webcam+mic and Wi-Fi+Bluetooth hardware kill switches, is the Purism Librem 13. They're taking pre-orders for April shipping. – rustynuts Mar 15 '16 at 0:40
  • @JonasCz I've removed camera + microphone setups before. However, I've noticed recently that there's an annoying trend in laptops of gluing a solid sheet of glass / hard plastic to the screen part of the case, which simply has a small hole for the round camera Looking at newer laptops, there don't seem to be any parts to the screen that have simply been clipped or screwed together, so I'd be worried the only way to actually disconnect the camera would be to crack the screen or take a saw / power tool to the back. – Parthian Shot Mar 15 '16 at 15:26
4

How about a Dell Latitude E6420?

Webcam and mic are optional (I do not have them on mine),
It is very cheap, I got mine for <£200 about 3 months ago,
It has a 14" screen,
It is ridiculously tough, all metal in the important places with a scratch resistant powder coat and water resistant keyboard,
You can get an optional USB 3.0 module,
It features HDMI and VGA out,
It has a WiFi switch,
It has native Windows 7 support,
i3, i5 and i7 options available,
I have 8gb RAM installed in mine, Google says 16gb is possible,
I upgraded mine to a 512gb SSD with no problems and considering the price compared to your budget, I think a little out-of-the-box adjustment is reasonable.

It also has an Ethernet port and an EC and SD card reader (no micro SD).

I've owned this Dell for a few months and have had zero problems with it. I think you may have had bad luck with them in the past. Dell have good drivers and some good software but I will admit customer support is lacking..

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2

You can try the Dell Precision 15 5000 Series (5510). It comes with Windows 7 pre-installed with an option to upgrade to Windows 10. RAM upgradable to up to 32GB. Does not have a webcam or an Ethernet port. Only drawback is that it has 15.6" screen.

Dell also has couple of Latitudes that fit the requirements, however they have built-in webcams and Ethernet ports.

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