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Laptop size/weight Rant

I don't know why laptop maker's don't get it.  I'm sure they do studies yet I haven't bought a laptop in 3 years (I don't own one now) as they have yet to come out with something acceptable.

1) Weight: I don't want something that weighs anymore than 5lbs. with drives and batteries in it.  I think it's clear that the ultraportables haven't really found a niche as they don't have enough power, and they have no drives.  The heavy drives were a thing of the late 80's and early 90's.  It seems now things are swinging back to the 4 brick standard.  As soon as I add in all the peripherals, and everything my laptop bag is now 20lbs.  I'm going to a meeting, and I shouldn't have to bring along my internal frame backpack to lug this crap around.

2) Screen Size: 14" is perfect.  15" starts getting big, if I wanted a 17" screen I may as well bring along my 17" hdtv and a dvd player if I wanted a big widescreen display, 12" is a bit small but acceptable.

3) Screen Resolution: I use a 1280x1024 screen on all my 17" LCD and 19" LCD panels for my regular computer.  Why can't I have that on my laptop?  1024x768 is too small.  1400x1050 and 1600x1200 is rediculous.  I know I'm going to sit closer to the screen than a regular monitor, but that's why I'm willing to accept 1280x1024 on a 14" screen.  1400x1050 and higher pushes the envelope too far.

4) Battery Life: should last one direct plane flight coast to coast, so roughly 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours on a charge.  Anything less is unacceptable.  When I get stuck in a coach seat with no power cords, a lot of good it does me when the thing dies midway over Minnesota in route to Seattle.

5) Drives: I want to read a dvd, and ideally be able to write one, although this is just a nice to have.  Even cd burners are optional.  I'll usually find a wi-fi connection or an ethernet connection to offload stuff to a computer with a burner.  Worst comes to worse, I'll buy an external drive and always leave it at home.

6) Hard Disks: should always spin at 7200rpms.  I know there are space, power, and heat considerations, but it shouldn't be a problem that 6 years later they manage to go from 4200 to 5400.  Right now I'd settle for 5400.

7) Heat: Put the heat dissipation in the middle rear of the dang thing.  When I put it on my lap, I don't want either leg to ignite, and definately not my crotch area.  Put it between my legs back by the monitor.

8) Noise: They make ultra quiet drives now and fans with fluid dynamic bearings.  When the Dell fan kicks in, I shouldn't wonder if I just missed my flight only to realize that the airplane taking off is sitting on my leg.

9) Input Device: I don't like touch pads as there is no fine control.  I always feel like I'm a "special" student that has problems controlling their fine motor skills.  I understand that a lot of people like them, so provide me with a pointer as well.  And make it so that I can physically disable either device through BIOS.  I hate using the pointer and accidentally brushing the touch pad with the pad under my thumb only to have the mouse pointer jump 1/2 way across the screen.  Even a better windows driver would suffice, but they only ever seem to let me disable the pointer, and not the touch pad.

10) Video Card: This doesn't have to be top of the line, but something other than the Cyber FX Chipset or whatever it is would be preferable.  Something that I know could provide a bit of 3D support if asked to.  I don't plan on even playing Quake 2 on the thing, but I feel like the video cards on the "business" models are circa 1995 technology with a bit more RAM if you're lucky.

11) Cost: This is flexible.  If I fully loaded everything, I'd expect just shy of $3000, but given modest RAM, the slowest of the processor's (i.e. 1.4Ghz Centrino), I'd like to see it all fall sub $2000.

Why do I want all of this?  I want to be able to do some development on it, and I want to be able to watch a DVD on an airplane if I felt like it.

I know it's a rant, but I had to get my frustration out there.  If anyone knows where I can get all this, let me know.  The closest thing I've found is the Toshiba Tecra, but then they go and botch it up with a 1024x768 display.  Oh well, guess nothing's perfect for everyone.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Please also take a moment to ponder about the number of people going to bed hungry in Africa.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

"Why do I want all of this?  I want to be able to do some development on it, and I want to be able to watch a DVD on an airplane if I felt like it."

Depending on the type/language of your development, the 12" and 15" PowerBooks have basically everything you've just asked for.


Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Those people wouldn't be going hungry if we outsourced low-level programming jobs to them.

Anonymous Coward
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

I second the PowerBook recommendation.  Best laptop I ever owned, and my last one was an outstanding Sony VAIO.

Oren Miller
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Weight: I carried a 9lb Inspiron for four years. It's fine with me. Mind you, I'm 6'4 and 250 lbs... ;-)

Size: I love my 16" screen.

Resolution: I won't buy a laptop with less than 1600x1200. Real estate is real estate, and I find 1280x1024 unusable for development. I wish desktop flat panels would catch up to the laptop market.

Heat: [shrug] it's pretty rare that the laptop is on my legs.

Fan: Agreed.

So I guess it's a good thing there's a variety out there, eh? [grin]


Tuesday, March 2, 2004

I use a 15" 1400x1050 Dell Inspiron and love it.  I just got a new 8600 with a 1600x1050 15.4" display and that is even better because the notebook is thinner and lighter.

The Pentium M is doing a lot to help the battery problem, but that is chemistry and takes zillions of research dollars.  It's a hard problem. Easy solution? 12oz in an extra battery.

I had a Micron with Pratt & Whitney jet fan once - I sent it back and made them replace it.  It was fine after.  All of the Dell's I've bought recently (about 10 in the last three years) have been quiet.  That's a manufacturing defect that your warranty should fix.  I'm not saying the manufacturers shouldn't be more careful during initial assembly, but it's still an easy fix.

Heat: My 8600 is much cooler than previous models.  Again, the P/M.

Karl Perry
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

What Dell do you have?  I have an Inspiron 4150 (year-and-a-half old) that has much of what you want:

Weight: 5.5 pounds.

Battery:  2.5-3 hours on one battery, double that with a second battery (which displaces the optical drive, but I rarely need it.)

Screen: 14" 1400 x 1050.  I think it's a perfect resolution for Visual Studio .Net.

Hard drive: Slow (4200 RPM), but adequate.  Current models are 5400.

Optical drives:  A CD-RW was optional.  Current models have optional DVD-RW drives.

Heat & noise: Heat's only a problem if I'm doing something with high CPU and video consumption (e.g., playing a game.)  Ditto with noise -- normally the fan is whisper quiet.

Input device: combination trackpad (which I prefer) and pointer stick.  You can disable either through a control panel.

Video card:  Radeon 7500 mobility, which is fine for less-demanding 3D games.  (Quake 2, yes; Half-Life 2, probably not.)  Newer notebooks can have much faster Radeon or Geforce accelerators -- comparable to midrange desktop graphics cards.

The current Inspiron 600m is roughly comparable.  I was able to configure a nicely-equipped 600m for $1847:
-- 1.7 Pentium M processor
-- SXGA+ 14" display with Radeon video accelerator
-- 512 MB memory
-- CD-RW/DVD+RW drive
-- Dual batteries
-- 30 GB 5400 drive.

Robert Jacobson
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Can I chime in here with a wish list as well?

What's the deal with cars today? All I'm looking for is the following:

-I'm sick of finding a parking spot, so the large size of cars is unacceptable. I want something I can fold up and put in a backpack.

-I want something that will withstand the impact of a transport truck. Anything less is unacceptable.

-It should have full manual controls, but also drive itself.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

I replaced a newish employer-issued Dell 8500 with a Apple Powerbook 12" about 9 months ago. It's an amazing machine. 4.6lbs, 4.5-5 hour battery life, built in DVD-RW, extremely quiet, the best laptop keyboard I have ever used (the keys are roughly full size and the feel is excellent), and some type of GeForce 4 video card. Puts off about the same heat as the Dell, which is noticeable, but not extreme. Pulls all the chicks in cafes.

Of course its not going to work if you do Microsoft development, but otherwise it does everything you could ever ask for (UNIX *and* MS Office).

Rhys Keepence
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

You'd be surprised how productive you can be in VS.NET running in Virtual PC on a 15" PowerBook, I know I am.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Thanks for the advice on the Powerbook. I've never even really looked at it, but after the rave reviews you all have given it, I think it will.  Sorry again about the rant, just needed to get some frustrations off my chest.  Next time, I'll sponser a starving boy from the Sudan :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

I'm quite happy with my iBook; a Powerbook would be even better.  VirtualPC runs ridiculously slowly, though, on my 800MHz G3, so if you think you might want to use VS.NET, get the fastest machine Apple will sell you.

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, March 2, 2004

This looks like a good candidate  :),39020360,39147987,00.htm

16lbs ???? damn

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

The Acer looks perfect!  It's what *I* want in a computer.  Which is to say a desktop that I can use on my lap in the easy-chair, and in a pinch stick in a bag and transport from point A to point B.

17-inch screen!  AWESOME!  I've got a 16 1280x1024 and miss the real-estate of 1600x1200

*** My idea for the perfect pointing device: Take one of those tiny thumb-sized optical mice.  Make it wireless, make a dock for it in the body of the notebook where you can put it when not in use, where it recharges.  Build the receiver into the laptop -- NO MORE little things sticking out of my USB port.

Ken Klose
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Why on earth does a 17" laptop weigh 16 lbs? The Apple 17" Powerbook weighs in at a hefty 7 lbs.

Did Acer put a couple bricks into the bloody thing?

Jeff Watkins
Wednesday, March 3, 2004


Uh ... that 17" display is only 1280x1024.  Do you know how grainy that looks at a typical viewing distance?  If you're gonna buy a display that big, it should be AT LEAST 1600x1200.

Why can't anyone but Dell seem to get the hint that we developers want HIGH RES but we don't want a monster big display?  Was it elsewhere in this thread that someone bemoaned the lack of a high-res desktop LCD?  I second that!

Karl Perry
Thursday, March 4, 2004

Check out the IBM T41 laptops -- I'm using one and it has nearly everything you're looking for.  It's built a lot better than the Dell's as well, IMHO.

Regarding the resolution -- I'm running 1400x1050 on a 14" display, but with 120dpi fonts (not "Large Fonts").  You have to fiddle with some of the icon and font sizes in the Display control panel, but once you get it working it looks great -- very sharp, and closer in resolution to paper.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

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