Pop Quiz: New Laptops

Pop quiz time!

Hypothetically, given that someone was considering buying this laptop:

1. Would you recommend another laptop with similar specifications instead? Consider as constraints that a screen resolution of 1680×1050 is considered a minimum requirement, the physical dimensions should be similar and certainly not much larger, Blu-ray support is desired, and, while not a requirement, AMD is favored. A lower price is always a plus.

2. Bonus essay – justify your answer to #1.

3. Extra credit – try to convince this person to consider a Mac. ;-)

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
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  • Barnabas

    Refurbished MacBook Pro 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo

    This is a machine that certainly deserves some consideration. First of all the refurbished issue. I purchase all of my Macs refurbished. They carry the same one year warranty as a new Mac. Its never been an issue for me.

    The screen is the same size but with lower resolution. My personal opinion is that too fine of dot pitch just makes the text too difficult to read. There is clearly no Blu-ray support. This is an aspect of Apple’s strategy that I don’t understand. Other than that, spec for spec, its a pretty close fit. Its a little faster and a bit more expensive.

    Hardware wise, I love Macintosh machines. The MagSafe power adapter has saved my machine so many times. (The power cable attaches to the machine with a magnet and will break away instead of breaking then laptop as it flys away.) If there are any PC apps that you need to run Parallels is a great program. I use Visual Studio. I actually do all my development in a virtual machine, so the host operating system doesn’t matter too much.

    The features of the touchpad are so addictive once you get used to them. Drag two fingers to scroll. I am always doing that on my work ThinkPad and nothing ever happens. Its a small thing that makes a huge difference.

    One would clearly need to know far more about what was being done with the machine to make a more specific recommendation. But like I said, this is a machine that deserves serious consideration.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    As is probably obvious, the machine would be for me. My current personal laptop is a 4.5 year old HP zv5000z. An Athlon64 3200+, 1GB RAM, GeForce4 440 Go 64M video, 15.4″ 1680×1050 display, DVD-ROM/CD-R/RW, 60GB HDD, 802.11b/g, BlueTooth, multi-card reader, 3x USB 2.0, running WinXP SP3 Home. Unfortunately, trying to resolve a performance issue with the CPU (it was stuck under-clocked) I flashed the BIOS last night – and it bricked. So while I am paying HP ~$300 just to swap out the motherboard, it really got me thinking about finally getting a replacement.

    Fortunately I have a Dell D620 that Sling gave me for work, which I hadn’t touched until last night because I preferred my own laptop. The Dell has a 1440×900 display, which is just a bit too narrow for my preferred desktop layout. The two things I use most are a browser and SSH. So I normally setup an 80-column SSH window on the left, full height, and filling the remaining area on the right is a browser. Other windows I need, like Outlook, I call forward as required. This works well for me. And I’ve been spoiled by having 1600×1200 for a long time on desktops. I really switched to the laptop full time when I got the 1680×1050 display – my previous 1280×1024 laptop wouldn’t let me do that. An I’ve been kind of spoiled by having 1600×1200 or 1680×1050 displays at work and at home for years now. 1440×900 has forced me to use a smaller font for SSH (8pt vt100 instead of 10pt) to be able to have a browser that is reasonably wide – but even then I find I have to maximize it or scroll a lot more than I used to.

    An aside – actually for the last few years at work I had two 1600×1200 and then two 1680×1050 displays side by side. But I was first doing software development, and having two screens to be able to edit and debug in, plus keeping the usual office stuff up, was very useful. And then I switched to IT and one screen was often a remote desktop for some server while the other was my local machine. Two screens in that environment is invaluable, IMHO. Anyway, back to the matter at hand…

    While the keyboard on the Dell doesn’t seem to be that much smaller something about it makes it less comfortable to use. And the edge is kind of pointy and keeps digging into my wrists.

    Honestly I’m not doing anything radical most of the time – SSH, Firefox/Chrome, Outlook, OpenOffice.org, iTunes, etc. But I use the computer pretty much all-day, every-day between work, blogging, and personal use. So even minor performance issues can add up and become annoying. Also the laptop is my primary, and really only, machine these days, so it also handles TiVo Desktop, including TiVo Web Video transcodes. This is an area where my old laptop was starting to bog down. Something a bit more modern could handle that better, especially dual cores.

    And from time to time being able to play a game is nice.

    I don’t travel a lot, but I do so several times a year. So I don’t want a *huge* desk note. The 15.4″ seems to be a sweet spot. Not too heavy to carry around now and then (keep in mind I’m 6’6″ and around 400# so I’m not exactly frail) when I need to, but large enough to be a daily user. And when I’m traveling being able to watch movies, etc, is good.

    I’m also strongly considering installing VMWare and running Linux since I miss having a readily accessible Linux environment to hack around in.

  • http://www.gizmolovers.com/ MegaZone

    I bought this laptop. HP dv5z, AMD Turion X2 Ultra ZM-82 (2.2GHz), 2GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 15.4″ 1680×1050 display, Radeon HD 3450 256MB, 802.11a/b/g/n, BlueTooth, Blu-ray/DVD+/-R/RW Double Layer, Hi-Cap Battery, Windows Vista Ultimate – with a $500 coupon came to about $1085, which I think is pretty good for the specs.

    I know for pure raw performance an Intel Core 2 Duo would be a bit better, but the equivalent machine (dv5t) was a bit more expensive, and I’m kind of partial to AMD for some reason. I’ve been using AMD since the K6-2 and I’ve only owned one Intel machine since then. And that was a used laptop I picked up cheap when my employer went bankrupt back in 2001 and sold off tons of gear. Too good to pass up. The price/performance tradeoff on the Turion X2 Ultra is pretty good.