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Choosing a computer (UK)
Thread poster: Denise Baldry

Victoria Britten  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 16:52
Member (2012)
French to English
+ ...
@Denise and all respondents: thanks! Oct 11, 2017

Just that this is a very timely question - and set of replies - for me. I am laptop-trained by now, and being able to move it around from place to place is undoubtedly convenient, but I am beginning to be (uncomfortably) aware of its inadequacies ergonomically speaking and am glad to hear people speaking so positively of external keyboards. I hadn't however thought of adding an external monitor, too - two screens at once, wow!
(FWIW my 15" Acer laptop, which set me back about 600 euros a y
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Just that this is a very timely question - and set of replies - for me. I am laptop-trained by now, and being able to move it around from place to place is undoubtedly convenient, but I am beginning to be (uncomfortably) aware of its inadequacies ergonomically speaking and am glad to hear people speaking so positively of external keyboards. I hadn't however thought of adding an external monitor, too - two screens at once, wow!
(FWIW my 15" Acer laptop, which set me back about 600 euros a year ago, is in other respects very satisfactory. I back it up to cloud storage, not having any major confidentiality issues to worry about.)
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Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:52
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
External keyboard and mouse Oct 11, 2017

Similar to the comments from Tony and one or two others: I use external keyboards with my laptop computers because
(1) I prefer the relatively long movement of the keys,
(2) I can rest my wrists on a supporting pad between me and the keyboard without having to take care to avoid touching the touch pad or the buttons next to it,
(3) the separate keyboard (probably most of those available) has a separate numeric keypad, which makes it easier and quicker to type accented character
... See more
Similar to the comments from Tony and one or two others: I use external keyboards with my laptop computers because
(1) I prefer the relatively long movement of the keys,
(2) I can rest my wrists on a supporting pad between me and the keyboard without having to take care to avoid touching the touch pad or the buttons next to it,
(3) the separate keyboard (probably most of those available) has a separate numeric keypad, which makes it easier and quicker to type accented characters (needed in French & German etc.) while the keyboard is in English mode; e.g. for "e-acute" (é) I press the Alt key and type 0233 on the numeric keypad, or capital u-umlaut (Ü) is Alt and 0220.
Mouse: I much prefer a separate mouse, connected via a USB cable, so no problems with batteries. Mine is the "Microsoft optical mouse" which, for me, is just the right size and shape (unlike a touchpad).
One of my external keyboards is rather old (it's the one i'm using now) and has a PS/2 connector - round and about 9 mm diameter; it's connected to a computer USB port via an adapter.
BTW: If your computer has too few USB ports, there are adapters available which typically enable you to plug up to 4 USB devices into 1 USB port, e.g. external keyboard, external mouse, printer, flash memory stick, external loudspeakers. I bought mine (brand name Hama) from Rymans a few months ago for about 8 GBP.
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Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Lenovo user Oct 11, 2017

Jean Dimitriadis wrote:

Hello Denise,

I suggest a ThinkPad or a higher-end IdeaPad by Lenovo. This is what I use.

They all boast excellent keyboards and features. Be sure to test the keyboard yourself in a physical store to make sure it fits you, even if you end up ordering online.

Of course, you can always use an external keyboard if you prefer doing so. And a warranty extension is not an unwelcome investment for professionals.

Jean

[Edited at 2017-10-11 07:18 GMT]


Years ago, when IBM sold its Thinkpad unit to Lenovo (China), I was highly skeptical and thought that was the end of the line for IBM as far as computers go. Fortunately, I was wrong in my anxiety.

I bought a new Lenovo IdeaCentre K330 desktop computer (Intel i7 quad processor) in late 2010 or earlier 2011 (I can't recall and the PDF file with the invoice is too far away from my keyboard). As a rule, I replace my desktop every 2-4 years. I haven't had to replace my Lenovo. I have, however, upgraded it as follows:

1) Topped RAM to 16 GB
2) Replaced HDD from 1 TB to 2 TB
3) Added new top-of-the-line sound card
4) Added new top-of-the-line second video card (I use 4 monitors)
5) Replaced PSU (power supply unit) from puny 280 W (OEM) to wonderful 450 W

I did all these upgrades myself.



 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
When buying new PC, ditch the OEM keyboard and mouse Oct 11, 2017

Oliver Walter wrote:

Similar to the comments from Tony and one or two others: I use external keyboards with my laptop computers because
(1) I prefer the relatively long movement of the keys,
(2) I can rest my wrists on a supporting pad between me and the keyboard without having to take care to avoid touching the touch pad or the buttons next to it,
(3) the separate keyboard (probably most of those available) has a separate numeric keypad, which makes it easier and quicker to type accented characters (needed in French & German etc.) while the keyboard is in English mode; e.g. for "e-acute" (é) I press the Alt key and type 0233 on the numeric keypad, or capital u-umlaut (Ü) is Alt and 0220.
Mouse: I much prefer a separate mouse, connected via a USB cable, so no problems with batteries. Mine is the "Microsoft optical mouse" which, for me, is just the right size and shape (unlike a touchpad).
One of my external keyboards is rather old (it's the one i'm using now) and has a PS/2 connector - round and about 9 mm diameter; it's connected to a computer USB port via an adapter.
BTW: If your computer has too few USB ports, there are adapters available which typically enable you to plug up to 4 USB devices into 1 USB port, e.g. external keyboard, external mouse, printer, flash memory stick, external loudspeakers. I bought mine (brand name Hama) from Rymans a few months ago for about 8 GBP.


I've bought several brand-new PC (Windows) computers over the last couple decades. I've long learned to get rid of the OEM keyboard and mouse that come with them because of their flimsy construction (they're cheap and branded).

Out of ergonomic concerns and to alleviate tennis elbow on both arms (a sequential event since 2016, now almost resolved), I decided to invest in a $120 mechanical switch keyboard with separate numeric keypad. Like Oliver, I use it a lot to type accented characters in Spanish, French and/or Portuguese (or in other languages when I do multilingual typesetting). The mouse thing was a radical change. After years of using travel mice and medium-sized traditional mice, I opted for a vertical mouse this year. In mid 2017, I bought a Delux ($15 new), which was my tryout model; then I purchased a gently used Evoluent 4 (medium sized, for right hand), which is now my go-to mouse. No wrist or arm pain.


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Building your own computer Oct 11, 2017

Olly Pekelharing wrote:

I am on my second custom-built laptop (the first is still working fine but I skimped too much on the specs) and am really impressed by the quality, including the keyboard, which I use full time (although increasingly less due to speech recognition). You could have a look at https://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/custom-built-laptops/ or similar (I have no experience with this company, I bought mine from a Dutch business).

Regards,

Olly



Some of us translators are adept, from experience or just because we love to tinker with things, at building our own equipment with different degrees of difficulty.

Since 1992, I've done all my upgrades myself (most times I learned to replace hard drives or other components by trial and error, or with guidance from a friend). Depending on a computer guy is risky because a) it can be very expensive and b) the guy may not be immediately available to solve your problem. So it pays to learn to do proper maintenance, repair and upgrades on your own.


 

Denise Baldry
Local time: 15:52
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Separate keyboard... Oct 12, 2017

Thanks, all for some very useful replies. For some reason, buying a separate keyboard has never occurred to me, but it seems obvious now! I'm very happy otherwise with my latest Asus, so I'll give the rather weak keyboard a rest during desk work and follow this advice! Brillianr

 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Lincoln Oct 12, 2017

Lincoln Hui wrote:
15 years ago, an entry-level computer was a desktop with a bottom-pile Celeron or Duron and 128MB RAM, maybe 256MB if you're lucky, in the middle of the golden era of trash Taiwanese capacitors and no-brand power supplies. That computer could barely get into Windows XP or do basic word processing...


15 years ago I was working for a company that thought that translators don't need fast computers, and so my workhorse was a Pentium 133 with 32 MB RAM. It ran Windows 95 and Word 2000 at speeds that were not significantly slower than my home computer at the time (at double the specs).

It's difficult to define "entry-level" computer, but I would consider it a computer that has more or less the "recommended" specifications to run its operating system. This means, for computers running Windows 7, 8 and 10, a 1 GHz processor with 1-2 GB of RAM, and an 800x600 monitor.

But perhaps that is too restrictive... perhaps there is another, better way to define "entry-level" computer. Your take?

Today, ~$500 USD buys you a full-fledged laptop with a quad-core CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD and all the accessories such as optical drive, card reader, webcam, and full HD display.


That may be so, but the computer you describe is not what I would call an "entry-level" computer.


 

Angela Rimmer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:52
German to English
+ ...
PC Specialist Oct 13, 2017

Olly Pekelharing wrote:

I am on my second custom-built laptop (the first is still working fine but I skimped too much on the specs) and am really impressed by the quality, including the keyboard, which I use full time (although increasingly less due to speech recognition). You could have a look at https://www.pcspecialist.co.uk/custom-built-laptops/ or similar (I have no experience with this company, I bought mine from a Dutch business).

Regards,

Olly



I haven't read this entire thread, so apologies if anything I say is redundant. I am using a custom-built desktop PC that I purchased through PC Specialist back in 2012. It was a great experience and their customer service was really perfect. I sent them my chosen specs and a list of all the software and hardware I would need to run at the same time on the machine, plus general specs for that. They made relevant suggestions and my computer was delivered quickly. They also send follow-up messages every year to check that everything is still OK with your machine.

My PC is still running just about as fast as it was when I first got it, although I am thinking about upgrading my equipment this or next year just to stay on top of things, technologically speaking. When I do, I will definitely use PC Specialist again.


 

Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 23:52
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Entry level Oct 13, 2017

That may be so, but the computer you describe is not what I would call an "entry-level" computer.

Samuel Murray wrote:
It's difficult to define "entry-level" computer, but I would consider it a computer that has more or less the "recommended" specifications to run its operating system. This means, for computers running Windows 7, 8 and 10, a 1 GHz processor with 1-2 GB of RAM, and an 800x600 monitor.

I literally won't be able to find such a system on the market, not when you can get a better netbook for $200. Maybe you can call that the entry level.


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:52
English to Spanish
+ ...
Entry level for whom? Oct 15, 2017

Lincoln Hui wrote:


That may be so, but the computer you describe is not what I would call an "entry-level" computer.

Samuel Murray wrote:
It's difficult to define "entry-level" computer, but I would consider it a computer that has more or less the "recommended" specifications to run its operating system. This means, for computers running Windows 7, 8 and 10, a 1 GHz processor with 1-2 GB of RAM, and an 800x600 monitor.

I literally won't be able to find such a system on the market, not when you can get a better netbook for $200. Maybe you can call that the entry level.


There's no entry-level level that is universal in scope. I'm sure law office admins have different needs than, say, project managers at a translation agency. I wouldn't be too quick to generalize.

On the other hand, I sense a confusion between entry-level computer and no-frills or cheap computer. The Chromebook sold at electronics stores around America and elsewhere surely qualifies as too entry level for my taste (i.e. useless).


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
i7-7700HQ/16GB/1TB+256SSD/GTX1050/15" Oct 15, 2017

I use Asus with i7-7700HQ processor (i5 would work fine too), 16GB RAM (8GB would do the job just fine), 1TB HD (nor relevant; it's just there), 256GB SSD (very important; makes all programs run much faster and 256GB is more than enough), GTX1050 graphic card (it's a bonus; we, translators, don't really need it) and 15.6" monitor.

On top of that, I use 24" high resolution external screen, a high precision mouse and an external 10 keyless keyboard with brown switches.

L
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I use Asus with i7-7700HQ processor (i5 would work fine too), 16GB RAM (8GB would do the job just fine), 1TB HD (nor relevant; it's just there), 256GB SSD (very important; makes all programs run much faster and 256GB is more than enough), GTX1050 graphic card (it's a bonus; we, translators, don't really need it) and 15.6" monitor.

On top of that, I use 24" high resolution external screen, a high precision mouse and an external 10 keyless keyboard with brown switches.

Laptop costs around 1,000 euros (with reduced tax rate in Canary Islands, Spain; in the rest of Europe it would cost about 1,150 euros). If you go with i5, 8GB, drop the HD and graph. card, you can probably trim it down to 700 - 750 euros. As many people said in this forum, this is your main source of income, so don't compromise. You don't want your Trados or whatever program you are using make you keep waiting and waiting while it opens a project. Therefore, never drop SSD from the equation.

External monitor is a must. Choice is wide.

As for external keyboard, it has to be mechanical. Blue switches are too noisy. If your partner doesn't care, this is the best option for typing. Brown switches are a compromise; still noisy but not too much and they still let you feel the key "travel" (so you know you punched that key and thereby avoid typos). In other words, very much recommended. Red switches are more "silent", but not so good for typing. Shorter keyboards (called 10 keyless) are better that huge chunk of metal or plastic pieces, because shorter keyboards let you keep your arms in a natural posture when manipulating the mouse.

Last advice; go with gaming machines with the above mentioned specifications, because those laptops are built with abuse in mind (by the way, I don't even know how to "game"; never did, probably will never do). If you take care of them, they will last for 5 - 7 years (longer than that and SSD, wich isn't a physical drive, wears out "electronically").

Good luck!

[Edited at 2017-10-15 21:27 GMT]
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Josephine Cassar  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:52
Member (2012)
Italian to English
+ ...
I really do not understand Oct 16, 2017

Merab Dekano wrote:

As for external keyboard, it has to be mechanical. Blue switches are too noisy. If your partner doesn't care, this is the best option for typing. Brown switches are a compromise; still noisy but not too much and they still let you feel the key "travel" (so you know you punched that key and thereby avoid typos). In other words, very much recommended. Red switches are more "silent", but not so good for typing. Shorter keyboards (called 10 keyless) are better that huge chunk of metal or plastic pieces, because shorter keyboards let you keep your arms in a natural posture when manipulating the mouse.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2017-10-15 21:27 GMT]

I really don't understand the 'red, blue or brown' switches, excuse but I am very 'un-tech savvy'. Care to explain? And how they help me prevent typos? Thank you.


 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:52
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Switches Oct 16, 2017

Josephine Cassar wrote:
I really don't understand the 'red, blue or brown' switches, excuse but I am very 'un-tech savvy'. Care to explain? And how they help me prevent typos? Thank you.

Different key switches (with Cherry being the classic example) have a different typing "feel". Read this for details.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 16:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Mechanical vs external keyboard Oct 17, 2017

Josephine Cassar wrote:
Merab Dekano wrote:
As for external keyboard, it has to be mechanical. Blue switches... Brown switches ... Red switches...

I really don't understand the 'red, blue or brown' switches...


An "external keyboard" is a keyboard that is separate from the computer or laptop. Of the various types of external keyboards that have separate keys, some are "membrane" keyboards and some are "mechanical" keyboards.

The words "membrane" and "mechanical" refer to what is underneath the keys and does not refer to what the keys look like from the outside (many "membrane" keyboards look very similar to "mechanical" keyboards). Some people believe that membrane keyboards are bad and that mechanical keyboards are good.

Mechanical keyboards are classified by the colour that is tradisionally used for the component under the key (you often can't see this colour if you look at the keyboard from the outside, and not all manufacturers use the colours or use the same colours).

Here's a good overview of the types of keys:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WYWePNJTo4

It takes quite a bit of practice to successfully switch from membrane to mechanical, because you have to learn not to press so hard (but you do have to press hard enough). The main thing about mechanical keyboards is that you don't have to press the key in all the way before it registers, and on some keyboards you may have to allow the key to raise a fair bit before you can press it again, otherwise the key won't register the second press.

[Edited at 2017-10-17 07:29 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:52
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Typoz Oct 17, 2017

Josephine Cassar wrote:
.....help me prevent typos? Thank you.


The best way to prevent typos is....don't type, use dictation. If you buy a Mac, you get Dictation free, in almost all the language pairs you can think of.

I used to be very slow at typing, and made mistakes all the time. I tried various auto-typing add-ons to try and cut down on the typos, but to little avail. Then as dictation technology improved, I started trying it. Now I use it all the time, and type as little as possible. It's wonderful to speak a word like "archaeology" and watch the computer writing it, correctly, every time!

[Edited at 2017-10-17 07:31 GMT]


 
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