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Favorite notebook computer

I need to buy a new notebook computer right away. High end for use in the office and the road, 15" for demos, wifi g.. Got a favorite?

Harvey Motulsky
Friday, April 02, 2004

I'm enjoying my new Thinkpad T41; the 1400 x 1050 screen combined with Thinkpads' reputation for reliability
sold me. Some people will find the print a little small at this resolution; I love it for editing code, but there are also T41's that have lower resolution screens in the same size.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Friday, April 02, 2004

I always use large fonts at that resolution.

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 02, 2004

How do you deal w/ the WinKey not being in the right place?

http://www.trustedreviews.com/images/article/page/615full.jpg

This picture looks like they just put Fn Ctrl Alt along the bottom left.

dmooney
Friday, April 02, 2004

Higher resolution does not have to mean smaller fonts.  Higher resolution just means your can display more detailed information in the same amount of space.  Think about printers - does a 1200DPI printer print fonts four times smaller than a 300DPI printer?  No, it prints them with 4 times more detail.

Higher resolution only results in smaller fonts if your computer is configured to use a DPI setting that doesn't match the physicial number of dots per inch on your monitor.  If your display resolution is set in windows to 75 DPI, but your screen is actually displaying 125 DPI, your fonts are going to look very small.  You can fix this if you're running Windows XP by changing the Windows DPI setting (under Display->Settings->Advanced) to a value that more accurately matches your resolution.  You don't have to use large fonts.

I'm typing this on a laptop with a 14", 1400x1050 screen, and I'm running Windows XP at 135 dpi (which it tells me is 141% of "normal" size).

Keep in mind that with this setup you'll still occasionally run into web sites that use font sizes specified in pixels.  These fonts will still appear small, as they're tied to physical pixels on your screen, no matter how tightly packed they might be.  If you're running Mozilla Firebird you can easily increase the size of these fonts by hitting Control-+.

Abe Fettig
Friday, April 02, 2004

Actually, I've seen several Windows dialogs (for Microsoft software) that do not work if you increase your dpi to something higher than 100% of 'normal' size.  It does not happen all that often but it is really annoying when it does.

Chris Thompson
Friday, April 02, 2004

FWIW, I've owned quite a few laptops and the 15" PowerBook that I bought a few months ago is easily the best designed/built/spec'd one I've ever owned or used. It's also the first time I've ever owned or even used anything from Apple. I find OS X a refreshing change and a quite powerful OS.

For the uses that you mentioned it would work perfectly. Office on the Mac works well, and there is Virtual PC, which is fast enough for limited use, but not fast enough for product demos of Windows programs.

Otherwise ThinkPads are generally considered the best Windows laptops, though I've always hated their old school styling and cheap feeling plastics. I always use HP laptops, though the Sharp Actius I bought last year is probably the best Windows laptop I've had (though it's only a 12" - they also make larger models).

  --Josh

JWA
Friday, April 02, 2004

Josh, how did you find the heat of the Powerbook that you used?  I borrowed both a fairly recent iBook and a fairly recent Powerbook and when I was actually using the laptops (i.e. pinning my CPU at 100% during software compiles) for any length of time, they were far too hot to sit in my lap even though I was wearing jeans.  Not that Apple is the only brand of laptop to suffer this problem, of course, but this is definitely a concern of mine.  I was too worried about burning myself to actually consider purchasing one of them though they were otherwise quite well designed and built.

Chris Thompson
Friday, April 02, 2004

I mentioned this to dmooney (that's my friend/co-worker) ... the few Think Pad's I've been around didn't have the WinKey at all.  In fact, I think the T41 doesn't have it (backing up my hypothesis):

http://www.trustedreviews.com/images/article/page/619full.jpg

Am I the only one that doesn't get bothered by this (and that runs Windows as an OS - so "ni!" to you Linux zealots)?

I love my Win Key!

William Campbell
Friday, April 02, 2004

I've had a Thinkpad A21m for about 4 years now, and the lack of a Windows key was always a pain (I use the Windows "menu" key alot).  The new T41 has another strike against it -- the Enter key is the wrong shape.  At least they got the cursor keys right (inverted "T").

A coworker has a WinBook, and he likes it alot.  I'm considering buying one when the IBM eventually dies or gets auctioned off.

Chip H.

Chip H
Friday, April 02, 2004

All I have to say is "Ctrl-Esc Baby!!!!"

IBM Laptop Junkie
Friday, April 02, 2004

--"You can fix this if you're running Windows XP by changing the Windows DPI setting (under Display->Settings->Advanced) to a value that more accurately matches your resolution.  You don't have to use large fonts."----

But 'large fonts' refers to changing the dpi setting. Standard fonts are 96dpi, whereas large fonts are 120dpi which is 125% of normal. What you are doing is using custom settings to make things even larger.

Now if you use large fonts on a 1280 x 1024 resolution it is basically the same as using small fonts on a 1024 x 768 resolution. However you do get the chance to fit more icons on to the taskbars  because the icon size doesn't change.

With a laptop you adjust the font settings rather than the resolution because laptop screens look better at native resolution (indeed in the past you couldn't even get full screen mode at extrapolated resolutions).

Stephen Jones
Friday, April 02, 2004

Ctrl-Esc?  Hmmm.  Ok:

Quickly pull open an explorer window.  You with your Ctrl-Esc and me with my Win Key.  Uh-Oh!

Or, quickly pull open the Run Dialog (I'll win - my Win+R to your Ctrl-Esc, R)

Or, quickly minimize all windows.

William Campbell
Friday, April 02, 2004

Another thing, if you look at that image I linked to ... the Esc key is above the F1 key!

Ugh.

I predict that you hit Ctrl-F1, on accident, a lot!

William Campbell
Friday, April 02, 2004

The Windows key problem is moderately annoying, but IBM gives you a "Keyboard Customizer Utility" which I use to re-map the right Alt key as a windows key.

Or, you can dock your laptop and use a real keyboard, which is what I do 98% of the time as I don't want to kill my wrists...

Tim Lara
Friday, April 02, 2004

Just ordered an HP zd7000 last weekend.

17" widescreen. It's not as huge as you'd think, although it is 9.3 lbs if weight is an issue. (I went and checked it out as Best Buy).

Basically I needed a portable desktop, and this is it. Lots of bang for the buck, looks nice, and there's an optional docking station that is fantastic. Also one of the most sane keyboards I've seen on a laptop.

A comparable Dell I was looking at was $100 more, smaller/poorer screen, and had poor docking support. (But far better battery life, I should say.)

Only problem was that I chose to custom configure my HP. So my wait time is about two weeks!!! Ugh. Every day is torture.

Good luck!

Matt Youell
Friday, April 02, 2004

Chris,

Yeah, they do get somewhat hot when working them, but not any hotter than normal. I have the 15", and my wife the 12". I've heard that the 12's get hotter due to size constraints, but I haven't seen much of a difference.

  --Josh

JWA
Friday, April 02, 2004

Any iea when the T50 series will come out?

Harvey Motulsky
Friday, April 02, 2004

I also gagged on the lack of a Win key, but will probably resort to a ThinkPad when it's time to replace my Dell (Dell's latest Inspirons are clunkers).

I'd adopt the solution a co-worker uses on his ThinkPad

CapsLock -> Control
Left Control -> Win Key

An aside: can anybody fathom why we still have CAPS LOCK keys?  Have you ever met anybody that intentionally used it?  I once met a keyboard designer at a Famous Computer Company, and pleaded with him to ditch CAPS LOCK once and for all.  He just shrugged and said "nope, sorry, it's a mumble mumble standard".

What a lame excuse!  In a world with ubiquitous fonts, why do we still have this relic on our keyboards?

J. Peterson
Friday, April 02, 2004

I use the Caps Lock key once in a while if I need to type more than a word or so in caps, but I'd agree there is no reason that it should be a separate key and not some key combo function. However, I've always thought that it makes absolutely no sense to me that programs don't use the Caps Lock key as a case toggle. So if you highlight something that was accidentally typed with the Caps Lock key on, then hit the key, it toggles the case for you. Seems logical and intuitive to me, but I've never seen it done.

I never use the Windows key, but I do use the Ctrl key all of the time and I hate it when some laptops put the special FN key in the lower left and move the Ctrl over one.

  --Josh

JWA
Friday, April 02, 2004

>>Quickly pull open an explorer window.  You with your Ctrl-Esc and me with my Win Key.  Uh-Oh!

Oh,

Wait, the T40 doesn't have a windows key.

Sorry you loose, but thanks for playing.


Seriously, lack of a windows key on IBM laptops might be the #1 gripe. Since I was too cheap to buy a “Windows” keyboard back when Win 95 was released, I’ve always used “Ctrl-Esc.” It’s really not much of a problem for me. My complaints are placement of the “\” key, and price.

IBM Laptop Junkie
Friday, April 02, 2004

>> I predict that you hit Ctrl-F1, on accident, a lot!

You know, I thought I would to at first. But I didn't since it's the top most key on the left, just like most keyboards.

People should realy pay attention to stuff like this. William has some very good points. I guess I'm just used to it.

But you can't just buy(I'm not talking about external ones) a different keyboard for your laptop. You're stuck with what you get for the most part.

It would be a crime if you purchased an expensive laptop(like the T40) only to be very uncomfortable using it.

IBM Laptop Junkie
Friday, April 02, 2004

==========
Have you ever met anybody that intentionally used it?
==========

I use it, intentionally, all the time.

For example, let's say you were addressing "IBM Laptop Junkie".

You would type:

Shift+I, Shift+B, Shift+M, space, ....

As opposed to?:

Caps Lock, I, B, M, Caps Lock, spacke, ...

I save one whole keystroke in that example!! :)  And really, it's awkward typing IBM with the shift key compared to easily tapping the Caps Lock with my pinky.

Maybe it's the programmer in me -- I'm always looking to optimize!

====

Speaking of IBM Laptop Junkie, how do you get to Explorer easily?

Without Win+E I know of these choices (I am running Windows 2000):

1) Ctrl+Esc, P (to get to the Programs menu item), arrow to the Accessories (if it's not the first item), followed by arrowing to the Windows Explorer item

2) Ctrl+Esc, R (to get to the Run Dialog), type in "cmd" and hit enter, then, in the command prompt type in "explorer" and hit enter.

I hate having to take my hands off the keyboard and go to the mouse if I don't have to ... so, I don't really like going to the Start menu, right clicking and selecting Explore.

I suppose I could use the old-school method of going to one of my Explorer shortcuts, right-clicking and selecting properties, going to the Shortcut tab, and for the Shortcut Key filling in "E" ... so that I can use Ctrl+Alt+E.  But, Ctrl+Alt+E is so awkward compared to Win+E.

Everything compared to using the Windows key, well, stinks!

Maybe I have thought way too much about this too!

William Campbell
Friday, April 02, 2004

This totally isn't an issue, map the right ALT key to windows. Seriously, guys, get with the program.

J
Friday, April 02, 2004

I just recently got my contraversial Medion notebook from Bestbuy.com.  I ordered last Monday and it came the same week Friday (free shipping - UPS ground)

Cost: $1199.99 + tax (it was on sale. Original price: $1399.99)

Special offers: $100 mail-in rebate + $150 bestbuy store credit (store credit offer valid until 4/3/04 11:59PM), so it is practically under $1000.

Here are the specs:

* Intel® Pentium® 4 processor 2.5GHz with 400MHz system bus (I think it has HT too)
* 512MB DDR memory
* 15.4" WXGA widescreen display
* 40.0GB hard drive  (4200 rpm)
* NVIDIA GeForce FX Go 5600 AGP 8X graphics with 64MB video memory and TV-out; supports 5.1-channel surround sound (dedicated memory)
* Integrated high-speed 54g wireless LAN (802.11g-compliant); 10/100 Fast Ethernet card; V.90 high-speed modem
* 1 FireWire (IEEE 1394) interface and 4 high-speed USB 2.0 ports for fast digital video, audio and data transfer 
* Integrated 7-in-1 media card reader supports SmartMedia, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, MultiMediaCard, Secure Digital, CompactFlash I/II and IBM Microdrive
* Weighs 7.7 lbs./1.6" thin for portable power; high-capacity LiIon battery (6600mAh)
* Windows XP Home Edition operating system preinstalled

I already love this thing. First of all it looks so cool. It is metallic, not cheap plastic. It's got neat blue lights. Screen is very clear and sharp. Keyboard layout is as you'd expect it and feels nice to the touch. It is very quiet unless you are doing something CPU intensive. You can enable/disable wireless LAN card to save power. You can slow down CPU to save power (it has buttons for that actually. Very neat). It has every single type of interface on it (except for a parallel port). The battery time is around ~2.5hours average depending on what you do. It's got NVidia GPU with dedicated memory. The speakers are kinda weak but that's pretty typical I think.

Medion has 24x7 tech support. Customer service representatives are actually very nice and they don't sound like they are located in India.  :)

When something goes wrong, they send you the shipping box and everything all paid by them although I think repairs might take a while. Then again, if you are not going to buy a special service plan, that's a lot better than what you get from other companies. (You can always get a service plan from BestBuy).

I have been looking into buying a laptop for a while now including Dell, Toshiba, HP and IBM.  I think this notebook is the best for the money.  It is very affordable and performance-wise, it is very very impressive especially for the money you pay for it.

Since Medion is an unknown brand, it is still kinda risky. I lucked out perhaps. Besides I had it for about a week now, so I can't say I have much history with it. I would still highly recommend it though if you are a little adventurous

http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=1067388547609&skuId=6172768&type=product&productCategoryId=cat01174

entell
Friday, April 02, 2004

=========
This totally isn't an issue, map the right ALT key to windows. Seriously, guys, get with the program
=========

It sure is an issue, because that keyboard CAN be better.  I'm not sure why I have to give up one of my Alt keys or have the Esc key where it is.

Take, for example, my Compaq Presario.  This has a great, great keyboard.

Here's the bottom row:

Fn, Ctrl, Win, Alt, \, space bar, Ins, Alt, Win, right-click

Maybe people who use a mouse a lot, don't care.  But I hate using the mouse.  I like having two Alt's and two Win's - because those are used heavily when working with the Windows OS(You don't use Alt when getting to your menu items?).  Would you take away one of your shift keys?  Hey, you got two right!?

A keyboard, to me, can make or break a laptop.  I was using an Acer the other day - and that thing sucked.  To use the Home or End key you had to press a Fn key!  Oh god, that's awful.

IBM has lost one customer because of the keyboard issue (and I'm sure others).  That's pretty big.

William Campbell
Friday, April 02, 2004

Worth noting that both the ThinkPads and the Compaq mentioned above put the Fn key where many pinkies expect to find the Ctrl key, although what slows me down more is having the cursor keys and the Home, End etc keys in different corners, on my T20.

And I'd love to see a laptop keyboard that manages to put a square numeric pad on the keyboard itself. That'd be cool... for FreeCiv at least.

I think I want a Panasonic Toughbook next. I nearly killed the T20 with wine, and I'm always making laptops grubby with my clammy hands. I want something I can wash, drop and use to beat off muggers, and it helps that the Toughbooks are pretty.

Thom Lawrence
Saturday, April 03, 2004

The Presario also has the Del Home PgUp PgDn End keys down the right side of the keyboard which is great. Some lappies (I think at least some Dells, IBMs and Toshibas) put them above the main part of the keyboards on smaller keys, or make you use the Fn key in combination with the arrows (at least some Sonys and Acers). I really have to say that Presario-style keyboard layouts are great and score HUGE points for me. (I currently also have a Sager laptop similar to the Alienware Area-51M and it has virtually the same keyboard as the Presario.)

dmooney
Saturday, April 03, 2004

Disclaimer- I work at Gateway

I love my M675.  Widescreen 17", P4 3 ghz, gig of ram (great for using virtual machines), full size keyboard with num pad and dual hard drives.

Its spendy, but the nicest laptop I've ever had the pleasure of using.

Now, if I didn't work here, well, I would have looked harder at other brands.

Matt Helling
Saturday, April 03, 2004

"And I'd love to see a laptop keyboard that manages to put a square numeric pad on the keyboard itself. That'd be cool... for FreeCiv at least."

HP has a few models like this; check out BestBuy.com.


Saturday, April 03, 2004

<The Presario also has the Del Home PgUp PgDn End keys down the right side of the keyboard which is great. Some lappies (I think at least some Dells, IBMs and Toshibas) put them above the main part of the keyboards on smaller keys, or make you use the Fn key in combination with the arrows (at least some Sonys and Acers>

I think this is personal choice. I can't work with keyboards that have a strange strange arrangement of Del/Home/Pg Up/Pg Dn. My motor memory knows how standard 101 keyboards lay these keys out.

Rhys Keepence
Sunday, April 04, 2004

"This totally isn't an issue, map the right ALT key to windows. Seriously, guys, get with the program."

Virtual PC leverages Right ALT heavily. Bad choice.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Fortunately I dont have to use my Dell Latitude keyboard often, since I use it in desktop mode for the most part.
For this I have an ancient, HP keyboard from the days when they had real bounce and a nice clackety-clack sound.

The last time I was forced to use a keyboard with that windows button, I folded some cardboard and stuck it under the key so that I couldn't hit it accidentally.

Recently I had another brainstorm and used the same trick: After decades of typing at computer keyboards I still can't hit Home without getting Insert half the time. And the Overwrite thing in Word just kills me.
So I stuck cardboard under insert! Yay.
I was inspired to do this in fact by a recent update of the Eclipse IDE which has the oh-so-wonderful why-didnt-they-think-of-that feature of "Disable overwrite mode when editing Java source files", so you don't need the carboard with Eclipse.

Buy the thinkpad.

rhubarb
Monday, April 05, 2004

"An aside: can anybody fathom why we still have CAPS LOCK keys?  Have you ever met anybody that intentionally used it?"

As a programmer, I use the Caps Lock key whenever I need to type a LONG_CONST_NAME. Before we get rid of this key, how about we first lose the Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys? I've been using PC's since the late 80's, and I've *never* to my knowledge encountered a program in which the Scroll Lock key had any effect (other than perhaps to show/hide the Scroll Lock indicator in the status bar of Windows programs). And it's been over a decade since I've used Pause/Break.

Karl
Monday, April 05, 2004

"It's been over a decade since I've used Pause/Break."

Never use the command prompt, eh? Ctrl+Break stops execution of a console application. Similarly, Ctrl+Break stops a build-in-progress in Visual Studio .NET.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Monday, April 05, 2004

it's been mentioned before, but ScrollLock is an excellent wake-up key (since it can't do anything harmful). 

Also, hitting it when the system seems frozen can differentiate between "busy" (the LED will toggle, so the system is just thinking hard), or "crashed" (LED won't toggle). 

eaw
Monday, April 05, 2004

I use the caps lock key when I have to type in all capitals (duh!)

Happens sufficiently often for me to be glad I've got the key.

People who just type letters would not be happy to have to use a combination of functions.

Stephen Jones
Monday, April 05, 2004

Excel uses Scroll Lock so that using the arrow keys scrolls rather than moves from cell to cell. Uhhh... yeah.

dmooney
Monday, April 05, 2004

"After decades of typing at computer keyboards I still can't hit Home without getting Insert half the time."

me too!  Oh so annoying.  Happens often enough when I use a proper keyboard, but all the time when I use my tiddly laptop's keyboard.

What we need now is a discussion about which keyboard layout is best for _writing_ _code_..?

i like i
Monday, April 05, 2004

"Speaking of IBM Laptop Junkie, how do you get to Explorer easily?"

Ctrl-Esc, R, C:\, Enter

Andrew Lighten
Monday, April 05, 2004

>>>
Ctrl-Esc, R, C:\, Enter
>>>

And that's faster then Win+E?

I had mentioned that one too, already.  I messed up though...I had the instructions as:

Ctrl-Esc, R, cmd, Enter, explorer, Enter

when they should be just:

Ctrl-Esc, R, explorer, Enter

Ctrl-Esc, R, C:\, Enter - I don't like as much because you don't get the treeview window on the left.

It's pretty amazing, how people are still trying to rationalize not having a Win Key.  Of course, things can be done without it ... but it isn't as easy!  When, I'm behind a computer every single day ... I want things that I do often to be easy, easier, and easiest.

William Campbell
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Can you remap the Fn key on a Thinkpad? That seems like the best solution - move Fn to Scroll Lock, and Win key to Fn.

One reason to keep the Scroll Lock key is that some KVM switches use it as a hotkey. The OmniView KVM's that we have at work let you switch by hitting Scroll Lock twice, and then the number of the computer you want to access - that's much faster than pressing the "next PC" button on the KVM a bunch of times to get to the one you want.

Josh Yeager
Thursday, April 22, 2004

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