The Hunt for a New Laptop

I’ve been on the hunt for a new laptop for a while now. The other night I finally placed the order. I had a couple things that I was looking for that really seemed to narrow my search. In this entry I’ll go over the criteria I had and some of the information I found along the way.

Obviously the first thing to need to ask when buying any computer is to determine how you intend to use it. I wanted a laptop that I would use as a desktop about half of the time and as a portable laptop the other half.

Docking
Because of that reason, I wanted to have an easy docking solution, that criteria alone eliminated a lot of laptops. More specifically, I just wanted a port replicator, not a full docking station. I looked into some of the USB port replicators but none of them transfer video very well. To do that, you need to connect up with the VGA connector, or the laptop needs a docking connector. When docking or undocking, I don’t want to be plugging in and removing cables. It’s too much of a pain.

HP/Compaq Expansion Port

This brings me to HP/Compaq’s “docking” solution. They have moved to a proprietary docking connector on the side of the laptop. This is probably better than the USB solution, but it’s still a cable that needs to be attached and removed every time. I don’t want to be removing any cables, so that eliminated HP/Compaq.

The are only a few major manufacturers I found that still incorporate a real dedicated docking port. Toshiba (Tecra Line), Sony (Vaio) and Dell (Latitude.) There are a couple more, but these are major ones I was considering.

Display
My next criterion was a 13” or 14” widescreen display. That requirement almost eliminated Dell until their recent release of the new Latitude D620. So, I had it narrowed to the Dell Latitude D620, Toshiba Tecra A6 and Sony Vaio SZ & FJ series. Comparing the screen resolutions, the Toshiba comes in at 1280×768, Sony at 1280×800 and the Dell with a WXGA+ 1400×900. This was the convincing factor to go with the Dell. Doing a lot of code development, I really like the higher resolutions.

There were also a few other minor factors that came into consideration that I hadn’t really thought of when I first began my search.

Hard Drive
Both Dell and Toshiba offer a couple different sizes of 7200 RPM hard drives, while most are still 5400 RPM. I went with the 80GB. Both Sony and Toshiba offer true hard drive shock protection with a 3D accelerometer. Dell only has a shock absorption protection, which does not park the hard drive head during a drop. So, as a “replacement” I reluctantly bought the drop and spill warranty protection that Dell offers.

Linux Wireless Support
Since I also intend to install a Linux partition on the system, my friend Rob, reminded me to check for Linux WiFi chipset support. Dell offers a choice between the “Dell” wireless, (based on a Broadcomm chipset) or an Intel based chip. From what I’ve read, there seems to be better support for the Intel. So, tack on another $40 for that.

Multi-Media Card
I was quite disappointed that the Dell does not have a built-in multi-format card reader like the Toshiba. Of course, Sony only offers an integrated Memory Stick reader… need I say more? I’ll probably get a PCMCIA or USB adapter to read my SD card.

CPU Comparison
When it came to the CPU selection, I debated between the 1.66GHz and the 1.83GHz. After reading through this report, it seems that there is a significant performance increase between the 1.66 and the 1.83 vs the 1.83 and the 2.0 GHz. So, the 1.83GHz seemed to be a better buy for the dollar.

That’s it for now, after I get the new laptop, I’ll be sure to do a full review and, of course, update the De-Crapifier script if need be. 🙂

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5 Responses to The Hunt for a New Laptop

  1. Mauriat says:

    I like your reasoning as you pretty much focused on only your critical factors. One thing I didn’t see you mention was weight. In the past I wouldn’t care, but after having a lighter work laptop I’ve found it very frustrating using older heavier laptops when they are literally “on my lap”.

    I recently got my hands on a new Vaio and I’m completely impressed as to how much they’ve improved. Some come with both a sony memory stick slot *and* an SD slot.

    I’ve also played around with this new “hard drive protection” technologies on Dell, Toshiba and Thinkpad and some of them are terribly annoying as they seem to complain on any slight motion of the unit.

    Lastly I was wondering about battery life. I’ve very much taken a liking to the Pentium-M’s that last ~3.5 hours (1.6Ghz). So much so that I’ve ignored AMD’s on the laptops. I haven’t heard much about the Intel Dual cores, I wonder what the cost on battery life will be?

  2. Jason says:

    I’m really surprised to hear about the SD slot on the Sony. Doesn’t seem to fit their vertical business model… just kidding, but really. They must be different models than the ones I was looking at.

    Since my first two criteria severely limited my search, I really didn’t have the luxury to shop around for weight and battery life. It is worth mentioning that the Sony SZ series does really well in both of these categories with 4.1lbs and 5.5hrs. The Toshiba Tecra A6 comes in at 5.2lbs and 5.68hrs. The Dell Latitude D620 starts at 5lbs and 4.5hrs with the 6 cell battery. Since I really wanted a higher resolution screen, I was willing to compromise on this.

  3. Gabrielle says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for your thorough report. I am contemplating the same purchase and I was wondering if you had any new updates or experiences with the Dell 620 now that you’ve had it for almost six months? I am little worried about the screen resolution.

    Gabrielle

  4. Darren says:

    I’m curious why you didn’t include the IBM T series in your search? 14″ screen, high res, full docking station.

  5. Jason says:

    The IBM T series didn’t offer a widescreen form factor at the time. Looks like the offer a widescreen T60 now, which could be a good option.

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