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Buying a Laptop

I'm getting a laptop for work as a desktop replacement and to bring home to do work there. I do a lot of programming in VS.NET, and some stuff in Photoshop as well as some web work. I also work in VMWare for tech support and testing, so that consumes a fair amount of RAM and processor time. I need a fairly large hard drive, as we work with video files.

Any reccomendations? I'm currently thinking of a ThinkPad A31, one of IBM's heavy models, with a couple of extra batteries and a port replicator.

Alai
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Sorry man, but if you buy a laptop just to take work to home, you're doomed.

Espiridión García
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Here's what I learned through various laptops:

1. Lighter is better than heavier. Anything more than 5 lbs and you'll hate carrying it around (and therefore will do it as little as possible).

2. More RAM and a _faster_ disk is better than higher CPU or bigger disk. Make sure you get at least a gig of RAM, and a 5400 RPM disk (I like the ones from IBM the best). P4 may be tempting, but you'll have terrible battery life compared to a P3M.

3. Display size increases cost, weight, and battery life. A smaller display with a good resolution is better than a monster display, if you ever intend to run on batteries.

4. Touchpads suck because you'll accidentally tap the buttons or the pad. A LOT. The "eraser mouses" rock. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I have the opposite opinion re touchpads. My laptop has both. I physically removed the "nipple" because it was causing calluses on my fingertips! I also found the touchpad faster and more precise.

Smaller and lighter is always better than "more powerful", especially if this is not your main computer.

runtime
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I have to 2nd the eraser mouse.  Once you get used to using it, it is much faster because you don't have to move your hands from their home positions to use it.  That being said, I do have a small indention on my index finger from using it so much.

What ever you decide, be sure to get a premium case for it.  My case has an elastic shoulder strap on it that absorbs all of the shock from lugging the thing around.  Oddly enough, there isn't a label on it anywhere, so I can't tell you the brand.

Chris
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I don't like touchpads either; I find myself typing in a different section of my code then I intended. Gets tiring quickly.

Alai
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Touchpads on laptops seem a bit masochistic to use. I bought a Kensington optical mini-mouse for $30 (probably less now) that has a retractable USB cord. As long as I have about 1/2 sq. foot of area to mouse in (and it just has to be relatively flat - even the surface of a bed or a cushion can work) I basically have the "desktop" mouse experience...

Bored Bystander
Thursday, April 17, 2003

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=18484&ixReplies=29

there was one more thread about Laptops - do a search..

Prakash S
Thursday, April 17, 2003

MS laptop mouse looked nice at the store.  I dislike the touchpad, because I scroll, use wheel, and many other functions.
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouse/nom_info.asp

I second that weight is more important than power -- you can use powerful desktop machines to do compute-intensive tasks, esp with things like VNC.  My notebook feels like I'm lugging it, and that's no fun.

revenge of the anon
Thursday, April 17, 2003

I'm using a Sony Vaio R505. It's light and has a touchpad. I *greatly* prefer the pad to an eraser. I've never liked the "joystick" style motion that you get with the nipple - it just seems to take forever to move the cursor across the screen.

The Sony's touchpad has a wheel in the middle, so I've got my scroll wheel, plus the driver's set up so that moving your finger along the right edge of the pad triggers the vertical scroll bar, and similarly along the bottom for the horizontal scroll. This makes scrolling incredibly easy.

There's a couple other "gestures" built in. Top of the pad gives back/forward in a browser, and the upper left corner of the pad (depending on where you move to) gives you close, minimize, or maximize top window. Once I got used to it, I really, REALLY liked it.

I never accidentally hit the pad. I guess it's YMMV.

Chris Tavares
Thursday, April 17, 2003

Most (if not all) new HP and compaq laptops have a button to turn the touchpad off, with an indicator light. Makes it nice for typing, especially if you're using an external mouse. I prefer a real mouse, can deal with a touchpad, and hate the eraser joysticks.

As to weight vs. performance, it's a toss-up. If it's too heavy you won't feel like bringing it anywhere to work with, but if it's too slow you won't feel like working on it when you get it there.

After going through multiple iterations, I now work from a home office where I have a desktop and lcd, a Tablet PC for email/notes/browsing on the couch/bringing to meetings, and the smallest PocketPC available for tasks, etc. Works well for my needs.

  --Josh

JWA
Friday, April 18, 2003

I got a Dell Inspiron 4100 a while back as a desktop replacement, and it has worked very well.  The Inspiron 41xx Dell's "portable desktop replacement" line (as opposed to the Inspiron 8xxx line that runs as much as 7-8 lbs).  It also has a touchpad and a mouse nipple.

As far as I can tell, the big speed difference between it and a desktop is that the disk access seems slow.  I think this is true for most laptops.

Colin Evans
Friday, April 18, 2003

Heh. I love the "get a lighter one" arguments. I've carried my Inspiron 8100 (9+ lbs) all over the place and never had a problem with it.

Mind you, I'm 6'4" and 290lbs.

Context is everything...

Now one problem I *have* discovered - if you plan to use your laptop on a plane, don't get a 15"+ screen, as it may be almost impossible to use (you can't open it up fully).

Philo

Philo
Friday, April 18, 2003

Agreed with plane issues. I'd really like to see some laptops take after the new PowerBook and offer a 12" screen laptop that still has decent resolution and decent power, instead of being the cast-offs at the bottom of the barrel.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Friday, April 18, 2003

After years of using Intel-based laptops I decided to try out OS X and the new 12" PB (Yao Ming model). I've been very pleased. Great keyboard. Writable DVD (slot loading!). Relatively tiny notebook. Relatively light. Great screen. Good battery life. OS X is nice. Not as stable as XP, but still very good and lots of fun. Also, with MSFT having released Terminal Services Client for OS X I can easily get to all my XP and Win2K boxes.

David Geller
Saturday, April 19, 2003

I really don't care how much the laptop weighs, for two very simple reasons:
1. I use the backpack case from Targus. I carry at least twice that weight in a backpack when I go camping, and I carry it for a much longer at a time.
2. I play tuba in band, and if you can carry a tuba in its case up 3 flights of stairs, then carrying a laptop out to the car is child's play.

As someone already pointed out, it's all relative.

Ron Porter
Sunday, April 20, 2003

It's all about thinkpads. I've owned two (after dells) and I can't imagine ever changing brands. These things are incredibly solid. The "T" series is great, but I find that the "X" series is perhaps the greatest computational instrument ever created. It's so light, the screen is wonderful, a CF slot for the Canon, keyboard light... that's about it.

Also, there's usually a WiFi AP around somewhere, and VPN+Terminal Server into the XP Pro box gives me a (somewhat laggy) dual 2ghz laptop.

J
Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I use Microsoft notebook mouse all the time - works great, wheel has high quality, i.e. middle-button-but-really-a-wheel-click in borwsers like Phoenix is my favorite :)
http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/mouse/nom_info.asp

Also consider Centrino - I use both Dell 600m and D600 (really these are home-use and business-use twins made on same chassis) and I am impressed with this performance with this weight.

Serge Khorun
Tuesday, April 22, 2003

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