Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gosh I need a new computer

I'm sweating it out with an old Pentium desktop salvaged from a dot-com layoff in the area about 5 years ago. The problem is I am so surrounded by computers and technology during the day that I fight the idea of bringing it home. My wife wants us to get a laptop and do away with the old hand-crank.

Her thinking is we can move it freely out by the pool or in the kitchen and watch the kids. Seems like a nice idea, though Im not sure anyone needs email that badly. I shut down any resistance to the idea and began to study the laptop landscape. If there is one thing I like to do its to prepare smartly for a technology purchase. The real problem is it wasn't until two years ago that I finally got rid of my 1980 RCA television -- I just fight the purchase to the last moment.

So I set out last year to make sure I can get a laptop that will become our home PC for the next 5 years or so. I narrowed it down to this:

* Must be built well:
This means no 100% plastic cases. The Dell Lattitudes, the IBM Thinkpads, the Apple Macbooks are all built well with lightweight metal alloy frames or skeletons. I believe Alienware is in the hunt as well.

* Don't let cost be an issue:
I will spend upwards of $2.5K for a good machine that can last 5 years. I prefer this approach over frankenstein boxes that you upgrade periodically. This way your machine dies gracefully :) The cost amounts to be about the same anyway.

* Must be functional, but also portable:
Im not interested in a 17" desktop replacement laptop. They are loud, hot, and awkward to move. After using a 15" laptop for work for a while now I've come to the conclusion that a 14" widescreen is the best form factor that gives you a usable screen and keyboard, is light, and is easy to carry or pack.

* Must be fast:
To be a functional machine 5 years from now, you can't skimp out. I have targeted a 2.0 GHz Core Duo as the minimum, with 1 Gb RAM minimum. Also must have a GPU capable of 3D graphics. To be future-proof, Vista (the new Windows) uses a GPU for visual effects. The word on the street now is a GPU with directx 9, pixel shader 2.0 (used to be 3.0), and the new Windows driver model for Vista (ie: can't use XP drivers).

* XP vs MAC:
Not a fan of OS X. If you know XP, it can be both easier and more configurable. However Apple hardware is very good and with the ability to dual-boot (or get rid of OS X all together) I would seriously consider getting one of these. Nonetheless until I hear that Vista boots natively on the box with full support of their hardware I have to stick with a known PC vendor.

So where am I so far? I was disappointed with a Gateway laptop. I bought a high-end one and they canelled the line entirely, deciding to ship to me a different laptop. Jerks. I returned the laptop and will never get another from them.

I am now looking at the Dell Lattitude D620, and also waiting to hear about the rumored new Apple 13.3" MacBook Pro (pending more XP support).

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