Saturday, July 22, 2006

Choosing A Laptop

After giving up on Apple, I'm looking for a WinXP laptop.

The Mac Mini has been demoted to backup file server, and I've reverted to my 6-year-old Toshiba Tecra. Even with just 256 MB of memory, its MS Office beats the version on the Mac Mini - on an empty system it loads Word, Excel and Outlook in half the time of the 1.6 GHz Core Duo/1 GB Mac Mini. Presumably because the Evil Empire wants you to buy Win XP.

Choosing the new laptop will take a while, and in the interim I've added a Mac-like dashboard to the Tosh, using Yahoo widgets. Got the tip from Lifehacker, a splendid source of advice - I'll add them to the DU blogroll at the next rev.

Here are the parameters that matter for the next laptop.

Weight

Six pounds is the most I can comfortably handle with my other carry-on stuff (checking luggage is a bad idea in the Southern Med). That has to include a 15" screen, 2 GB memory, a fast 100 GB HDD, and a good DVD R/W.

Heat

As Mac Book Pro owners have found, Core Duo processors generate lots of heat. So if you want something to use on your lap, and don't want its fans running all the time, you need excellent thermal design.

Portability

If you mouse a lot, trackpads are useless, and an attached mouse won't work easily on your lap. So you need one of those trackpoint devices that sits between G, H and B in the keyboard. That limits you to IBM/Lenovo, and high end Toshiba, Dell & Fujitsu/Siemens. You need to try these trackpoints before you buy - if they're too stiff or shiny, they're useless.

Durability

I plan to stay with Windows XP for the life of the laptop. On past performance Microsoft will de-support XP 5 years after Vista ships, which I'm guessing is Q1 next year - that's an expected lifetime of almost 6 years.

I doubt Dell laptops can achieve that - we used lots in a previous company and they usually blew up after 6 months. But their desktops are good, and their laptops may have gotten better - any comments welcome (on this and the other options).

Toshiba is a possible, but the thermal design of my current Tecra is poor - its memory bank loss was probably caused by overheating.

Mrs. G is happy with her 3-year-old Fujitsu Siemens so they're worth a try.

But the favorite is the ThinkPad. I've owned two of them, and they have excellent trackpoints, plus good keyboards, low weight, and sharp, bright screens.

But Lenovo now owns IBM's PC business, and they're Chinese. It would be hard to buy from a Fear State outfit.