Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wanted: my next laptop

After 4 years my trusted Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo M1425W is slowly but surely reaching the end of its lifespan. It’s been a great companion and there have been few days since December 2004 when I didn’t use it.

However all good memories and emotions aside I can’t help but notice that there’s been a fair bit of progress when it comes to mobile computing, all the while my laptop is showing its signs of aging, most annoyingly in the form of a 40 minute battery-life (if I’m lucky that is).

Thanks to the excellent work that Sascha, Steve and Joanna (of, and respectively) are doing of covering the netbook, UMPC, MID and broader laptop market I consider myself quite well informed when it comes to the latest trends and the greatest products in that area.

So naturally I’ve been drooling over devices such as the OQO 2+, Samsung NC10 and CTL 2go Convertible Classmate PC at one point or another. However after some soul-searching I realized that a netbook or other ultra-mobile computing solution wouldn’t cut it for me and that I definitely want something with more oomph.

First of all I feel that my iPod touch and OLPC XO (which I got via the “Spend 90% of your spare time contributing to One Laptop Per Child, Get 1” program;-) combined with the Nokia 6120 smart-phone are doing a pretty good job of supporting me in my digital-life while I’m away from the desktop. In fact I’d go as far as saying that I’m connected enough as it is and over the past few years I’ve come to enjoy the natural downtimes that do occur every now and then.

Secondly, while I do tend to travel a fair bit each year it’s not like I’m constantly on-the-road where every 200 grams of device weight and 10min of battery life count. Though what I do know is that my current 15.4” laptop with its 40min battery life is simply both too heavy and short-lived to do much good when I’m away from home.

Thirdly, while a lot of people are talking about cloud computing, software-as-a-service and all those buzzwords I’m personally still very much about my local processing power and locally stored data. So neither a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor nor a 160GB hard-drive are going to cut it for me.

Now that I’ve established what I don’t want the issue is to define what I do want:

Reasonable processing power: I don’t need a quad-core system but a dual-core >2.2GHz is definitely something I’m looking for. In terms of RAM 2GB are the minimum but I’d rather have 4GB.

The graphic sub-system is one of the more difficult decisions. Most days I’m happy with anything integrated but looking into the future I definitely want a GPU with decent high-definition encoding support. Plus every now and then I do like to play a game at a LAN session so for those moments a dedicated graphics solution would be useful. One way to solve this would be to go for one of those hybrid solutions which are switchable between low-power integrated and higher-power dedicated GPU.

The next - and maybe most important – decision is the display-size which obviously also impacts the general form-factor. Anything below 12.1” is too small and once you go above 14.1” the devices tend to become too bulky and heavy. Also in terms of resolution I’m torn between 1280x800 and 1440x900. The one thing I do know is that the display should really have a LED backlight, I honestly don’t understand why anyone still uses CCFLs. Plus I still prefer the non-glossy displays even though in this day and age one often doesn’t have that option anymore.

In terms of battery-life anything over 3.5~4 hours of typical use would make me happy. Other interesting would-be-nice features are bluetooth and a 3G option. Oh, and the laptop should also be relatively quiet when not pushed too hard.

With these requirements in mind and after looking around for a bit I’m currently quite interested in Dell’s XPS M1330. Lenovo’s X200 and Lenovo’s T400.

My final decision will also be influenced by what the u:book - an initiative by universities around here to offer high-quality laptops with often impressive student rebates twice a year – options are in late February.

I’ll keep you posted on my decision and please do let me know if you know of any products that might be of interest to me.

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