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Laptop?

So I’ve got my choices narrowed down..but it’s still a tough, tough call.

The insurance company is covering me for $1500 worth o’ computer. If I pay more, it’s just out of my pocket.

The two current front runners are a Dell inspiron 9100, 2.8 GHz, 512RAM, Radeon 9700 128Meg video, 60GB HD, with a dual layer DVD RW +R. Pretty hot little system, tricked out for only $1650 or so.

The other option is a 12 inch Mac Powerbook, with Superdrive. Specs are close to the same (adjusted for chip architecture). I’m sorely tempted by the Mac…very pretty, very light, very easy to use. But the Dell is more overall compatible with the software I own, and the other computers in the house are all PC’s.

I was tempted by the Dell 700m and the IBM T40..both tiny cute little systems, with plenty of kick. The problem is that the video cards in them are sub-standard when compared to the Radeon.

Suggestions?

9 replies on “Laptop?”

jason: the dell weighs 9 pounds! why not just get a boat anchor to lug around all day? but seriously. why are you so concerned about a video card with 128MB of memory. what sort of 3D gaming are you going to be doing on that beast? why not just get a souped up desktop?

my recommendations, which you could have guessed, value portability:
IBM X40 (2.7-3.2lbs)
IBM T41/42 (4.5lbs)

obviously the choice must ultimately be made by you. I think the key here may the fact that the Dell is overall more compatible with the software you use. I have a couple of thoughts about that, and one about Dell laptop quality I’ll share with you.

First of all, you didn’t mention what software you want to be compatible with and why. This is important because if the PowerBook is really that much of an option for you, you can certainly ask those of us who own Macs whether there’s similar software that you can use. Depending on how computer savvy you are, you might even be able to download and install many free, open source programs that do almost everything your PC software does. It is not my intent to provide you with this information as a way to sway your choice, because, as I said before, I simply don’t know what your software needs are.

The other way to look at the software issue is the file formats that the software uses to save your files. If you have already made it a habit to save files in relatively open formats, then the choice of software becomes much easier for you to make if you want to go the PowerBook route. If not, then consider re-saving or converting your documents to more open formats so that you have this option available. In that way you’ll never (ever!) have to worry about losing your data (Tim Bray, in a recent post, wanted to use words like memories or history) because you lost your software. I kind of made my point in the middle of this, but here it is again: if your files are saved in non-proprietary formats, then the issue of ‘software compatibility’ becomes less important, because you can easily find good software to work with those formats.

My last point is about the Dell laptop itself. I’m working at a company that has a large number of Dell laptops. I do not know which models they are, but I have heard that those laptops have beeen serviced more often than any other system combined, Macs and PC’s. So even if I were more platform agnostic than I am now, I’d probably wouldn’t buy a laptop from Dell.

Oh! I have a post script. This popped up in my aggregator today: http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20040916.html It contains what may very well be the best reason yet to buy a Mac – no viruses or spyware. Buying a Mac then, and backing up your files to it from the PC’s may well be the best way to preserve your data.

Justin: Yeah, I know. The sad truth is that without classes to lug it around for, I don’t know how often I’ll actually be hauling it around. Thus, my initial quest for portability is suspect. The Radeon is interesting because I would like to be able to play games on the system…I own City of Heroes, and my machine won’t run it! So the Dell is tempting for those reasons…I can’t really justify a new laptop (which I want for computing around the house) AND a new desktop to play games and such. Plus, I can’t really use a desktop while on the couch.

Robert: thanks for the informative post. I agree that there are many, many good reasons to go with the Mac (not the least of which is the Linux base for OS X). I should have been more plain about my software…it isn’t that I need specific programs, only that I already OWN a large number of them, and don’t want to buy them again for the other platform. There are open source options for nearly all of these (GIMP for photoshop, OpenOffice for the MS office suite…the only one I’m not sure of is Pagemaker/InDesign for page layout).

Jason: thanks for your reply. Unfortunately I haven’t heard anything about an InDesign killer written for Linux/Unix. Hopefully some smart geek will see this as an excellent LazyWeb request and build one for ya. And because I know someone is going to point it out for you eventually, OS X has a Unix base, more similar to FreeBSD than Linux. Normally I’d ignore what you’d say, but I’d rather preempt the flamers… πŸ™‚

Seeing that you’re at school, you can obviously get an educational discount on the machines. In light of your portability criteria being suspect, I wonder if that iMac G5 might not be a bad idea for you.

But it’s all moot anyway. I know which one you’re going for now (I can read minds), and if you want proof, flip a coin. Heads = PowerBook, tails = Dell. Whichever one you’re hoping will land face up is the one you’ll be getting. If you want to see if i guessed right, email me with the address of a trusted 3rd party and I’ll tell them. πŸ™‚

9 pounds will definitely crush your legs sitting on the couch. if extreme portability really isn’t your bag, i’d recommend the 5.5lbs T41/42 with a 64MB ATI Mobility RADEON 9600 (definitely not shabby).

actually it looks like IBM’s top o’ the line T-series has a 128MB ATI Mobility FIREGL T2 that powers a 1600×1200 pixel 15″ screen. sheeit. but that starts at $2500. appropriately configured (768MB ram, 60GB hard drive…) will push it up and just over $3000. but then again, we’re talking IBM’s top of the line laptop, period.

I will leave a caveat on IBM’s reliability. Jason, you know how often mine was in the shop at UNC. Hard drive wiped 5 times in 2 years! Only one of which was my fault (Trojan). The rest was the damn computer quitting on me. Dell has much better quality, even if they’re a little faulty with portability.

Jason, your portability needs seem rather like mine: i.e., it’s important that the computer be portable, but not necessarily that it be easily portable. Thus, I wouldn’t worry about the weight of the Dell. As for Dell’s hardware performance, you probably remember the story of the hard drive in my Dell going south about 15 months after I purchased it – but I actually wound up being a satisfied customer after that experience, simply because their service was so excellent throughout. (They overnighted me a replacement drive and detailed instructions for how to replace it that even I could follow).

Nevertheless, I’d still say to go for the 12″ PowerBook, but you knew I’d say that. πŸ™‚

Besides, remember that Michael Dell is reputed to be a major RNC contributor.

oh snap. take that michael dell.

and i think the cci laptops from ibm are substandard compared to laptops directly from ibm, particularly because UNC puts its “CCI-load” on them, a whole bunch of goofy software and windows configuration changes.

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