HP Notebook 15-ay052nr

My desktop computer died a year ago and I have been getting by with my 8 year old Vostro notebook set up as a desktop with external keyboard, mouse, and extending the desktop to a second monitor. But the Dell is showing its age, still running Windows Vista, which is no longer supported by the Chrome browser. Even using Firefox, a lot of the security certificates don’t work. And it tends to run slowly at times, though I am using it right now and it is working just fine.

Still, I was having some serious issues today with internet speed, which may not have been the fault of the Vostro, but I started looking at new notebooks. I don’t want a desktop because they use too much electricity and laptops seem just as capable, but you can take them with you if you want. I have a Dell Inspiron 15 that I bought a couple of years ago to be my main laptop and it is pretty good, but has a few little things that are disappointing like the wi-fi cutting in and out and a bad trackpad and mouse buttons. It works fine, so I am not replacing it, but after buying 5 Dell computers over the years, I am looking at other brands too.

I needed to find out what the differences are between processors now. Intel has the i3, i5, and i7 chips, for budget, mid-range, and high-end uses. AMD has processors that I’m not as familiar with, but I found the A10 seems to be pretty good and maybe between the i3 and i5. Intel is currently on its 7th generation processor, just released, so you can get the 6th generation ones from last year for a decent price. That seemed to be the way to go. I’d like an i5 or i7, but not if there is a substantial price difference. And I wanted 8 GB of RAM, 5 hours of battery life, and a weight of less than 5 pounds. And I didn’t want to spend much more than $400, but could go a little over. A touchscreen would be nice, but I have a touchscreen on the Dell and I don’t think I use it that much.

I found an HP laptop at Walmart of all places for $399 which had the 6th generation Intel i3, 8 GB RAM, touchscreen, 6.25 hours of battery life, and weighed 4.73 pounds. Sounds pretty good. I looked some more and found a very similar HP for $319 but it only had 4 GB of RAM. I figured for $80 savings, I could pay $20 for 4 more GB of RAM, so I made sure my local Office Depot had one in stock and drove over there this afternoon. They only had one and it was opened. After plugging it in and starting it at the store, it was definitely used. But they said the one near Northlake had plenty in stock, so I went there and got one. As they were getting it from the back, I wondered if it had a touchscreen, and looked at the ad and figured it must not. Not a huge loss, but it explains part of the price difference. The other thing I had checked was to see if the RAM was only using one slot, which it was, so I could add 4 more GB of RAM in the other slot (if it had 2 GB chips in each slot, I would have to buy two new 4 GB chips; sometimes you have to add in pairs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here). I think the maximum is 8 GB, but I’m not positive.

I started it up and initialized it when I got home. I wondered what kind of RAM it needed. There is DDR3 and DDR4 and DDR4 is a little faster. Office Depot and HP’s websites said it uses DDR3 and I found some reviews where similar HP laptops used DDR3. However, I found a video on YouTube explaining how to open it up and it pointed out that the ones with the Gen5 and Gen6 i3 processors use DDR4 (later I noticed that the sticker on the box also said it was DDR4). That’s a key thing, so I proceeded to try and open the computer to make sure before I ordered another chip. I’m not sure how they get that kind of battery life, because the battery is tiny. It is only 3 cells, just a long stick. They don’t have panels that you can unscrew to get to the different components like the memory and hard drive. Instead you have to remove 12 philips head screws, which are all identical at least, but two are hidden under rubber footings. Then you have to use a spudger to pop all the snaps all around the laptop’s base to remove the entire back cover. That wasn’t easy and it was made much more difficult for me by missing two of the screws. Anyway, after a lot of work I was able to remove the cover. The RAM was then easy to access and is in fact DDR4, made by Hynix. I looked on Amazon for 4GB modules and found what looks like an identical module by Hynix (probably removed from an HP) for only $19 shipped. So that’s nice.

Next thing is I want to hook up my external monitor, but laptops don’t have VGA ports anymore. My monitor doesn’t have a HDMI port, but it does have both VGA and DVI inputs and DVI is basically the same thing as HDMI, but with a different port. So I found a cable on eBay for $5 that should let me hook the laptop (or the newer Dell, which also lacks a VGA port) to my monitor. That’s pretty painless. The memory and cable should be here by next weekend. Meanwhile I left the new computer taken apart because I don’t want to go through the hassle of putting it together and taking it apart again.

Eventually I could get a really big monitor with twice as much room as the laptop screen and run that as my only screen, but for now, this should work and the cable was a lot cheaper than a big monitor, even though you can get a 27-inch HD monitor now for less than $200. Maybe a future upgrade. Eric got a 27-inch monitor while he was staying at my house but it has a higher resolution than HD’s 1080p. Instead it is called quad-HD or QHD, or 2k, and is 1440p (1,440 horizontal lines). They also make 4k monitors that are 2160p. However, my worry on that is that 4k would shrink the pixels down so much that everything would be too small on the screen. I did some calculations and figured that a comfortable pixel size is 0.25 to 0.32 millimeters. My 10″ windows tablet was too small to be comfortable at 0.16 mm pixels. A 27-inch QHD monitor is 0.23mm, so a little small. A 29-inch monitor would give the same pixel size. The 4k monitor would be only 0.16mm, way too small for me. I would need a 42-inch 4k monitor to keep the pixels a reasonable size. At work I have two 22-inch HD monitors and the width isn’t quite enough to have two windows open on the same screen. An internet window needs to be about 1100 pixels wide and a HD monitor is only 1920 pixels wide. You could rotate the monitor to portrait and have a width of 1080 pixels and stack the windows vertically, but I’m not so sure about having such a tall monitor. Anyway, the 29 inch QHD monitor is probably the way to go.

6 thoughts on “HP Notebook 15-ay052nr

  1. Got the memory today, popped it into the empty slot and reassembled the computer. As I was screwing in the 10th of 12 screws I thought maybe I should see if it works correctly before I put it back together completely. But it’s just memory, what could go wrong? I put in all the screws, put the battery back in, and hooked it up to power, turned it on and it went through some kind of hard drive scan. That’s weird. Anyway, once it finally booted up, it showed 8 GB of RAM, so I guess it worked.

    Then I tried using the new HDMI to DVI cable I also got today and had a lot of trouble. The computer seemed to recognize the monitor as a Dell, so that was working, but I wouldn’t get a picture. It doesn’t seem to make a good connection unless I’m actually pushing the HDMI plug in firmly, so I may have to get something better than the $4 cable I bought. The cable works fine with the HP, just not the Dell, which is probably the one I’d rather use as a desktop.

    The newer laptops have fewer USB ports than the old (still way more than Apple’s one) but my keyboard has two USB ports on it, so I hooked up the mouse and printer to the keyboard’s ports and now have more available ports.

    Also installed my copy of Office 2016 I had been saving for a new computer. The computer came with a trial version of Office 365, but when I entered the security code numbers for Office 2016, it asked if I wanted to install Office 2016 instead. So, hey, Microsoft actually made something easy!

  2. A couple of months ago, the notebook stopped getting much of a wifi signal. If I took the computer in the same room as the wifi router, it would connect, but the signal dropped off quickly. I wondered if the wifi antenna wasn’t connected or was damaged, but couldn’t find anything. I hoped maybe a Windows update would resolve it and started using the laptop as my desktop instead of my older Dell laptop, using an ethernet connection and external 2nd monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Then in the last week or so I noticed that the backspace button wasn’t working (usually I am using the external keyboard, so no telling when the button stopped working). I looked up the warranty and it is for a year, so I had time, but went ahead and chatted with support today. They were able to take over my computer remotely and install some drivers for the keyboard issue, but eventually decided I needed to return the computer. They don’t do free shipping to them, so I had to pay $16 to get a shipping label. I also told them about the wifi problem, so maybe I will get a new computer. I went ahead and took the RAM out that I had installed. Not sure if they will void the warranty because I opened the computer to put the RAM in. Not even sure which slot was used originally, plus some screws have blue stuff on them making me think they will know I opened it.

  3. I got the empty box, put the laptop in the enclosed air cushion envelope, put the new label on, and dropped it off at FedEx last week. It got to Indiana yesterday and the support ticket says it should be delivered back to me by the 28th. Not super fast, but hopefully they will fix it. Meanwhile I set up my Dell notebook as my desktop, which is how I had it before the wifi on the HP went bad.

  4. Got a text this evening saying it has been shipped back to me. The FedEx tracking number says it will be delivered on Friday. They do not say if they fixed the problem. Then a couple of hours later I got an email saying my computer is repaired and is on the way back. So hopefully they fixed both issues.

  5. The notebook arrived on Saturday just before I had to leave town, so I haven’t had much of a chance to do anything with it. But I did test the wifi range, which is fine now, and the backspace key, which works now as well. It looks like it is the same computer based on the serial number on the back. A sheet of paper said that the repair performed was to replace a faulty memory module. I don’t think that is right, but at least I got my computer repaired for $16 so that’s not too bad.

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