Tuesday, 26 April, 2005

A New Laptop

I've been busy the last week--much too busy to spend time posting here. I can't really say why yet. Wait a couple more days.

One of the things that's kept me busy since I returned from my bicycling trip was getting a new computer. I've been using the same 750 MHz Pentium that I bought from Dell five years ago as my primary machine. I've purchased two other computers since then to use as lab machines, but I don't like to change my production system very often because it takes too long to install and configure the darned thing the way I want it. Debra's computer, a Pentium 550, also was getting quite long in the tooth, even though I upgraded it in November.

Deciding what to get these days is tough. Initially I thought I'd get a new desktop machine with a quiet case and a new plasma monitor, but after much consideration I decided that I'd rather have a laptop if I could find one that I liked and that could replace the desktop as an everyday production machine. That turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be.

I looked at a lot of different notebook computers before I finally settled on the Dell Latitude.  When I first decided to replace my production machine with a notebook, my initial inclination was to go with the Dell because I liked the Latitude 830 that I've been carting around for work.  It's big and heavy, true, but it has one absolutely fantastic feature:  a clear and crisp display that offers 1600x1200 resolution.  The thing is a wonder.  The display also sucks power like you wouldn't believe, and as a result battery life is only about two hours.  Still, I probably would have bought one if Dell still sold them.

Figuring I'd take a look at the market, I spent several days in the laptop aisles of the big box retail outlets looking at HP, Gateway, Toshiba, Fugitsu, Averatec, Compaq, and other brands before I finally realized that I wasn't going to find what I wanted there.  They're beautiful machines, most of them, and almost every one had some features that I really liked.  The 17" Fujitsu screen, for example, is beautiful but too big.  HP's AMD-64 laptop is powerful and functional, but it sucks juice worse than my Latitude 830.  Sony's Vaio is a rugged little machine but it's expensive and the screen is too small.  I really like Toshiba's Satellite, but again the screen is too small.  And every one has a touch pad but no mouse stick.  I hate those damned touch pads.

To my knowledge, the Dell Latitude and IBM Thinkpad are the only notebook computers that still have a mouse stick.  That's not the only reason I went with Dell, but it certainly was a selling point.  I guess I could learn to work with the touch pad, although I've found that they get overly sensitive with age and begin to interpret even the slightest touch as a command.

The Dell Latitude D610 that I finally bought is an impressive little machine: 2 GHz Pentium M processor, 1 GB of RAM, 60 GB hard drive, CDRW/DVD ROM, four USB 2.0 ports, S-Video out, analog video out, serial and parallel ports, built-in 10/100/1000 Ethernet controller, built-in Intel PRO/Wireless, and 56 KB modem.  All in a quiet little box that weighs under 5 lbs.  The 15.4 inch screen shows a very nice picture at 1400x1050 resolution, a bit smaller than the 1600x1200 that I'd prefer, but probably good enough for my purposes.  All that, plus Windows XP Professional installed came to just over $1,500 at Dell's outlet store.  The machine has a "refurbished" sticker on it, but it looks brand new to me.  It's a heck of a deal as far as I'm concerned.

I expect it'll be a week before I decommission the desktop and reclaim the space occupied by that big 19" Viewsonic CRT.  Considering how well the Latitude 830 has worked out for me in my job with Catapult Systems, I'm reasonably confident that this new notebook can replace the desktop as my primary production machine.  I'll let you know after I've used it for a couple of weeks.