Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stupid Laptops

Looking for some adivce...

I've been peripherally "in the market" for a laptop for awhile. I keep putting it off because I really don't need one. I have my Archos for travelling (movies, web access), although it's a pain in the ass for typing. My place isn't exactly big enough that it necessitates a laptop in another room. I don't work from home, or have any need for a laptop in that capacity.

But there are occasionally times when I wish I had one.

I'd like something in the kitchen for checking recipes, substitutions, and the like. I'd like to have an actual keyboard when travelling to write e-mails and blog posts. Hell, something that could do some photo editing would be nice too. And there's of course, times when I'd rather play poker in my living room than in the office. I wonder if anybody would be upset about me running 80ft of cable up the side of my building so I could surf from the roof...

The netbook craze got me thinking that was the way to go. Small, light, ultra-portable and with just enough power to cover the basics. But then I played around with a couple yesterday... bit of a fail in my book.

I tried out a Vaio P (Sony's don't-call-it-a-netbook offering). It's a pretty thing, with LOADS of features, but the nipple-control-thingee is slow and awkward, and the wide but short 10" screen means a lot of scrolling. I'm also not a fan the vertical viewing angle. Also, $999 for something about the size of a coat wallet. Accessories haven't arrived in-store yet either. All that said, if they'd made it a portable tablet with orientation detection, instead of a regular clamshell, it would be a winner I think.

Then I played with the Dell Mini 9, and the Acer Inspire. A more useable form factor for each for sure, but lacking some of the features I liked in the Vaio.

But overall - the keyboards! Ugh. After 22 years using full-sized keyboards, the drop to the 82-key mini versions is ugly. I was mistyping all over the place, and with the tiny screens and tinier fonts at a bad viewing angle, I couldn't figure this out until after a web page loaded or if I zoomed in, crouched low, and squinted. So that kills the mini experiment I think.

Which means a look to the slightly larger small laptops. the 12-14" screens with a fuller keyboard and better resolution.

What am I looking for? Portable, lightweight, good resolution, wireless N, Bluetooth, enough power to do some multitasking without bringing everything to a crawl, and a useable default interface (ie.- trackpad vs nipple).

Anybody have something they like? Dell's the obvious choice, especially since they've started making decent laptops again. What about Toshiba? Is HP actually making anything that isn't just pretty garbage? If I could find a cheap Vaio, would it be worthwhile?

Oh, and don't bother suggesting a Mac. Chances are good I'll just install Linux on whatever I get.


on_thg said...

If you're thinking netbook, the HP Mini keyboard was by far the best of the ones I've tried.

Unknown said...

"Is HP actually making anything that isn't just pretty garbage?"

HP's are very quality, actually. Same with Toshiba...if you are letting price dictate.

HP is even loading their notebooks with Linux, i.e., Ubuntu 9.2 or wheatever for really affordable prices! (Dell too) Don't knock it until you try it. There's a reason why Google, E-bay, Amazon among others use Linux ONLY.

Or honestly, if you wait a little longer for Windows 7 to be will be well worth the wait. The Beta is getting rave reviews by the uber-nerds. (the same ones that absolutely murdered Vista) It's the real deal.

As far as hardware...the gap has closed significantly. And remember: avoid buying the warranties from retailers, biggest profit generating ripoff in the realm.

VinNay said...

get a mac

Wolfshead said...

Take a look at ASUS. They might be a bit larger than you are looking for but they are pretty light. I actually regretting getting them for our salesmen because I went for the lightness for traveling and should have gotten something studier for the abuse they heap upon them. Not saying they are fragile, still using one that's about 4 years old or so, but they ain't titanium cased either. Another advantage is that you can get one clean, without all that proprietary garbage t6hat HP, Sony, etc put on theirs to automate all that crap most peopple are too stupid to do for themselves. Downside is that they are usually a bit pricier than other brands but ASUS was, and probably still is, the name in mainboards.

As for your rooftop surfing why run 80ft of cable? Wireless router will reach farther than that even with apts in between. Or you can invest in an aircard from Verizon wireless, about $50 a month, coverage almost everywhere and most of that at broadband speeds. Many new portables have the aircard already built in, just have to activate it. Go sor it

Astin said...

Champ - Yah, I've heard HP has improved in the past couple years, but so many years of crap is hard to live down. Like I said though, I'll likely install Linux on whatever I use. It's been awhile since I was compiling my own Debian kernels.

Wolf - I actually have a draft-n router set up, but it has a hard time through one wall and 25ft, let alone 8 floors of units. My building is pretty much solid concrete.

No Verizon up here in Canuckistan, and since none of the carriers offer anything resembling a reasonably-priced unlimited usage service, it's a non-starter.

KenP said...

Take a look at the Dell site. They have an outlet section with some nice savings along with discontinued items.

The savings can be quite spectacular and the product is usually as new as new.

Wolfshead said...


what wireless are you using G or N. If G you might want to check out an SRX router. I had a similar problem with my original router but switched to a Linksys WRT54GX SRX Router and had to secure the network as the neighbors started picking it up. Don't have the concrete but the guy across the street is about 100 yards away If you are using an SRX router and have these problems I can only say I'm sorry to hear that

Unknown said...

You could try replacing the Router firmware with DD-WRT or Tomato. (both are open source and free--Tomato being the much simpler of the two)

It improves the performance dramatically...although I don't know about 8 floors of concrete. If you are a savvy Debian are way ahead of me! Props.

BamBam said...

As you would assume, I have no clue of which you speak. For also as you know, I-am-not-a-geek.

But I do know "the" geek. (we can discuss this further, at another time) When he decided it was time to re-outfit the home office, wife's office, kid's after school special area and the E-Mail outlet mall that can be created by five over the age of 10 in one household...

He custom built a Dell for each application.

If I recall he said something like, "why not get what you want? Rather than what they want you to have!"

I know crap about this crap. But that at least sounds good, in theory.

Glad I could help!


Wolfshead said...

Problem with Dell is that there vaunted service, with which they built their name, reputation and business, went down the tubes years ago. It's not a bad computer, it's just not the computer everyone thinks it is, or what it once was. They have just become the 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace.

I do agree with getting your system built to order and I also prefer to install my own software including the OS tho most companies install that so they can do the burn in. First thing I used to do is refornat and reinstall (Hint: never buy a computer that gives you a restore disk. Always get the actual software and licenses.) Since I found a guy who will not only build to my spec but will also install what I want in the manner I tell him I do a lot less work with new computers.

Chef said...

Check out Lenovo, used to be IBM. GREAT support.

smokkee said...

i just ordered a Dell Studio 15 this weekend during their President's Day sale. I chose the upgraded hi-res screen (1920x1200) which is the same res as the 24" on my Dell XPS desktop. with 4gig ram and 250 7200rpm HD it was $830+tx/shp. This will be the 3rd Dell purchased for smokkee's household.