Since Hamilton called me out, I thought I should comment on my recent tribulations around a new laptop. (For those of you wondering, Twitter is unlike Las Vegas. What you say on Twitter doesn’t stay in Twitter.) I’m in the market for a new laptop as my Dell D820 is giving me problems. The battery life is currently around 2 minutes. (The 9-cell battery, which initially got 8 hours run-time, is quite near death after only 2-1/2 years of use – mostly plugged in.) The replacement battery was going to cost over $300, but wouldn’t solve the lack of hard drive space, the need for more memory, or the slow processor. (The system is 2-1/2 years old, which is ancient for a developer laptop.) Heck, a new D830 with similar specs to my D820 would have cost less than $1000, which isn’t that much more than the battery!
I was seriously considering a MacBook Pro, likely running Vista. (I know. Blasphemy!) The MBP was very tempting, but the price was steep for something I would consider developer-grade. As Hamilton noted, over $3000 for decent, but not stellar components. I was close to buying the Dell E6500, but the poorly-rated NVidia Quadro 160M put me off. (I’ve had Quadro chips before. They are awful for anything other than CAD/CAM. Want to flake out with the occasional game while on the road? Forget it with a Quadro chip.) Another serious contender was an Alienware m15x, but loaded with developer-grade goodies pushed the price well above $3200 CAD. The systems are built in Miami, FL and I didn’t get the warm fuzzies when I talked to their sales department. I got the distinct impression that any serious problem would require return to Miami for service, which isn’t acceptable for a business laptop, IMHO. Still there is a coolness factor to the Alienware systems.
I’ve never considered myself a “ThinkPad” guy, but when I saw the specs of the T500 plus the price, I jumped at it. For $2K CAD (including tax and shipping), I got a 2.8GHz Core 2, 4GB RAM, Radeon 3650, and a bunch of other goodies. The one downside is that the largest 7200rpm hard drive available on this model is 160 GB. I can always replace it later if needed. One great feature is the dual video cards – an integrated Intel X4500 and the ATI Mobility Radeon 3650. You can switch between the cards without rebooting and reviews indicate that going to integrated adds about 1.5 hours to your battery life, which is already around 4.5 hours. The screen is 15.4″ widescreen at 1680×1050 – same as the Dell D820 that I’m replacing. (I’ve had a 15.4″ 1920×1200 and it hurt my eyes. I run my 24″ Acer X243W monitors at 1920×1200, which is awesome.) I considered laptops with 17″ screens, but they’re quite heavy and unusable in airplanes. (My friend, John Bristowe, told me, “Sure, you can use a 17″ in an airplane. You just kind of angle it right and type on your chest.” Uh, yeah…) Hamilton’s description of “a hundred LEDs blinking in your face” worries me, but it’s already ordered. I await the T500 with expectation and trepidation. I’ll let you know my impressions once I receive it.