I need a new notebook (when did they become “notebooks” anyway? I always thought they were “laptops”). The one I share with my better half Angela (a Toshiba Satellite M100-JG2) is too big, too heavy and too old. But as with pretty much everything else I find myself in a self-induced deadlock over which one to throw my money away on. I’m a very indecisive guy I guess.
So what laptop notebook should I get? The annoying thing about computers is that they evolve too quickly and there are way too many options. Regardless of what I get it will be outdated and price-reduced two weeks from now and I’ll feel like a moron for having spent the money. Nevertheless I need to make a decision: I spend a lot of down time during the day in transit and in the control room where I broadcast a live TV show and with a thin and light notebook with enough power I can get a lot more work done – or at least I think I can. And it is with this scenario in mind I have set down some basic parameters for my search:
- It has to be relatively small and light. I am comfortable with a 13.3” screen but nothing smaller. Anything larger gets too heavy and bulky anyway. That pretty much narrows the field to a select few computers.
- Then there is the question of power and future-proofing. I tend to run multiple applications at the same time (usually several different browsers, Photoshop, Expression Web plus a bunch of other stuff) and I’m very impatient. I also occasionally do some video editing work so it really has to be up to snuff. So a high-end and low-power processor is a must, ie a Penryn, preferably the T8100.
- Finally the notebook needs to be tough and portable. I can’t stand those flimsy paper like notebooks that have screens that bend and twist when you breathe on them and I’m sure I’d just break them anyway. I have an ancient ThinkPad and it’s great (and slow) but I can’t really get myself to shell out an extra $1000 on that extravagance.
After lengthy research and a lot of hair pulling I’ve narrowed it down to three choices:
This notebook comes highly praised by both reviewers and friends alike and with customization has everything I’m asking for: 13.3” screen, T8100 (2.1GHz/800Mhz FSB/3MB cache) processor, 4GB of RAM, dedicated nVidia video card, massive and fast hard-drive with free-fall sensor. To boot it even has an optical drive that doesn’t ruin the tiny form factor.
Price: $1,349 with special offer discount (ends September 12)
The pros: The notebook is very small and light, has everything on my list, is considered to be strong and sturdy and since it’s part of the (Product) RED program $50 US of the purchase goes to curb the AIDS pandemic (too little, but it’s a start).
The cons: It’s a Dell. For those of you who don’t know, Dell started out as a company that built computers with the discarded parts from other manufacturers. As a result they had an incredibly high failure rate. Surprisingly even after stepping away from that (incredibly stupid) business philosophy their computers are still questionable when it comes to performance. At the same time I’m reluctant to shell out $300 for a 3 year full service plan in case something should go wrong (which is quite probable). I’m also apprehensive because I have yet to actually see or try any of these notebooks in real life. The Dell booth at the local mall shut down and neither FutureShop nor Staples have the M1330 in stock for me to look at. To get this unit I’ll have to order it online and wait however long Dell deems appropriate to get it. And I don’t like waiting.
The LG P300 series also offers all the features I’m looking for and is even thinner than the M1330. When it came out the reviewers all agreed that it was a true contender to the M1330. On the downside it is hideous and expensive and has an external DVD drive. But it’s available right across the street from my house right now.
Price: $1,599 at several major electronics retailers
The pros: The LG is the thinnest of the bunch yet as powerful as the M1330. In addition it is available right now and I can have it in my hands in less than 30 minutes.
The cons: At $1599 it is much more expensive than the M1330 (with the same specs and the discount, the M1330 would be $1249). Some of this can be explained by the thinner form factor but I think it is also in large part due to the so-called “stylish” looks of the lid. Unfortunately it is anything but stylish – the “wine red” lid looks like streaks of bloody whale barf with Peto Bismal mixed in. If I were to get this notebook I’d have to invest in a skin for the lid to conceal this artistic atrocity. But I digress. The P300 achieves its slim shape by ditching the internal disc drive for an external one. But is that really a con? In some ways I would be getting an external USB drive more than losing one. And I don’t really use the disc drive for anything except installing software so it’s not really a loss at all. One thing that is annoying is that LG has replaced the all-important FireWire port with a “SmartLink” port which is basically a mini USB. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with that port.
Lenovo has released a new line called IdeaPad in the States that looks very promising. Supposedly it retains much of the ThinkPad ruggedness and form without the insane price. The U330 has a slightly slower processor P7350 ( 2GHz 667MHz 1MB ) and less RAM but this is reflected in the price. Unfortunately it is only available in the USA so I’d have to cross the border to get my hands on one.
Price: $1,249 US
The pros: I trust Lenovo 100%. They are rock solid. The price is also good and even though it is not as powerful as the two others it is still up there. And it has an ATI graphics card which unline the nVidia cards in the other two won’t spontaneously self combust two weeks after purchase. Did I mention it’s a Lenovo?
The cons: It’s less powerful than the others and also a bit bigger. But the main problem is that for some reason, known only to the morons who decide where to sell these computers, it is not available in Canada.
What do you think?
Like I said, I can’t make up my mind on this one. So I figured I’d ask you, my trusted readers, what you think. Do you have experience with any of these notebooks? Do you have any preferences or reasons for or against one or another? Do you work for Dell, LG or Lenovo and want to give me one for free or at a massive discount in return for a fair and honest review here on this blog? If you have anything you’d like to share on this topic, please drop me a line in the comments below. I would really appreciate some honest input.