June 28th, 2006, 12:35 PM
Frustrating search for a new laptop
I have been searching the web now for a little while and made numerous trips to local computer stores and this forum seems to be a good place to get some input from knowledgable people. At this point I am not even really sure what kind of advice I am seeking but I felt it's time to let off some steam and point out a few observations.
So, I was recently admitted to an MBA program. One of those great excuses to spent a good amount of money on a new laptop that will hopefully be sufficiant and functioning throughout the three years of school, be more than sufficient for all the necessary productivity tasks while adding some options for the little remaining leasure time. Just like anyone else, I am looking to get a laptop that is light, reliable, runs a stable OS (or two), can do all the necessary things, has good battery life, all the important connections and ports, etc.
So far, so good. If I want to get on site support and good student discounts, I should get either an Apple, a Dell or a ThinkPad. Maybe there are systems out there that are better, but I have not looked really yet. I saw some Sonys that seemed ok, but that's it.
I like my Dell workstations at work and home and they are reliable. I am used to XP pro and though not great, it does work and you sure learn how to fix things over time. Linux is still pretty new to me, but worth looking into. OS X looks fascinating but also scares me a little bit since certain things seem still not available there. That being said, the new MacBooks pros look very tempting since they allow to run XP as well for those tasks. Well, do they? The process of installing XP still seems rather complicated, especially with the student version of XP (upgrade version only). And no, I am not spending 300 bucks on the full version. So, it is possible, but rather complicated. However, I want to be open minded about it and may be just the right kind of person to more or less switch over to OS X. Since I am interested also in music recording applications, a Mac can be a good choice. Then again, I don't like the fact that some of the software does not run by itself yet and only in translated mode. That already starts with MS Office and I don't think there will be a new version before the hideous new Office 2007 will come out next year, which I will definitely not use because of the way the menus are then organized. So I will be stuck with Office 2004 in translated mode. I further believe that some of the hardware problems under XP won't be resolved before Vista, which I am also not interested in for a number of reasons.
But then again: the Macs are beautiful, seem well made and I am sure are nice to use at least under OS X and probably under XP as well. But then there are all these reports about heat issues, swelling batteries and short battery life. And they are really too big. My preference would be a 14" NON-wide screen. The fact that the MacBook pro does not have a standard PCMCIA slot or at least a wide express slot, does not help. The white or black MacBook is out of the question for other reasons.
So how about "normal" PCs than? Well, they are certainly good workhorses for all the productivity tasks, will run Linux as a backup and something to play with and come in all kinds of configurations. Other than the lack of OS X as a possibly "better" system, I am tempted by one of the ThinkPads T60 with a high res 14" screen. The only thing missing is the firewire port that I need for my camcorder when traveling, but I read that can be added via PCMCIA card. But how reliable are those now that they are under full controll of Lenovo? And also: do I really want to buy a $2000 computer from a Chinese company? They certainly seem slightly flimsier than the old IBMs. The Dells don't look sturdier.
It seems again that no matter how much money you are willing to spend, you are looking at a mediocre compromise.
What would I like to have? Well this could be ideal for me:
a laptop in one of the old IBM cases
14" normal high res screen
IBM keyboard w/ backlight
an architecture that runs XP, OS X and Linux equaliy well
big hard drive
min 1G memory
any graphic interface (I don't play games)
very good sound interface (I want to record things)
USB, firewire, WiFi, bluetooth built in
portable and tough
all this under $2000
I am dreaming, am I?
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