failing like never before


The Laptop Search

Its about time that I finally got a laptop. I'll be starting my second year of college this fall, and it'll be nice to be able to have a laptop to take to class and the library. For the past few years, I've had the same desktop, a Pentium 4 3Ghz, with 1gig of RAM and an ATI Radeon x800 xl, and it has been quite good to me. I'll be sorry to part with it.

I think its best, when shopping for a computer (or indeed, shopping for most things) to specify what one wants, or does not want out of it.

  • So firstly, I want it to able to run Linux well. I've no qualms against diving into configuration files and getting dirty, but I still want a Linux friendly machine.
  • Pretty much every laptop these days comes with Vista installed. I hate Vista, but fortunately I have an official ISO image of Windows XP Pro 64-bit, so I want a laptop that will play nicely with Windows XP. (Were it up to me, I would never use Windows, but I need certain programs for school, like Visual Studio, DreamWeaver (Yuck! I can write my own code, thank you very much.), and CAD stuff.)
  • I'm not a gamer, so an integrated graphics card would be fine. I would actually prefer to have an Intel integrated graphics because I know Intel tends to be pretty open with their graphics cards. Nvidia would be fine, but not as preferable as Intel, and ATI/AMD is definitely out of the question.
  • I would like to have an Intel Core 2 Duo, preferably a Santa Rosa chipset, but I wouldn't say no to an AMD CPU. It doesn't need to be top of the line, but should be decently fast.
  • RAM is pretty much up in the air, as long as its upgradable. I can always buy my own DIMMs and stick 'em in myself,
  • Hard drive size isn't a major deal breaker, but I refuse to get anything smaller then 120 gigs.
  • I would also prefer a built-in DVD burner since this is to be my one and only machine, and I don't really feel like having to lug a USB CD drive around with me.
  • Decent battery life. Some of my lectures are two hours long, and I can't depend on being near a plug all the time, so two hours would be the minimal battery life.
  • Fairly sturdy. I take pretty good care of my electronics, but its still going to get bumped around a bit with me lugging it around campus.
  • Screen size of either 13.3 or 14.1 inches. Anything smaller and I'll go blind faster, and anything larger is too heavy.
  • Gotta be fairly light, 5.5 lbs is about as heavy as I'll go, and I wouldn't say no to an even lighter system.
  • Cheap. The absolute maximum I might be willing to shell out is $1000 (US) and for that price, it better be freakin' amazing. $800 would be a more preferable price, and the lower the better.
  • And just a quick note, I've nothing against refurb units.

So I've looked around a bit and come across a few systems that have piqued my interest.

The first, is the Lenovo x61. I really, really, really like Thinkpads because of their extremely durable and solid builds, and they tend to pretty Linux friendly. I found a nice refurb unit for under $800, but I've read tons of horror stories about Lenovo's refurb outlet store, so I'm rather reluctant to entrust my money to them. Also, the x61, doesn't have a DVD drive, and the screen is a wee bit on the small size (12 inches). Thus, we can eliminate the Lenovo Thinkpad x61 from my list.

This is a fairly popular system: the Dell XPS m1330. It appears to be a fairly popular system, and relatively Linux friendly (I believe Dell allows people to configure it with Ubuntu). However, it also tends to be on the pricey side. I'm waiting for some more m1330s to show up on Dell's online refurb outlet store, but they haven't added anything in quite a long time. However, I really do like this unit as it fits all of my requirements, except for the price one.

The HP dv2910us was recently brought to my attention because of the fact that Circuit City is currently selling it for $700. I've tested the unit out at Costco and found it to be quite nice. However, I am unsure of how well it accepts Linux, and I have heard that getting Windows XP on the HP Pavillions is quite a chore. Aside from these two points, the dv2910us fits my requirements nicely.

So there you have it people. If anyone would like to recommend me a system, please feel free to drop me a comment.

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  1. Hey Chi,

    Good to see you settled on a laptop, I still get shocked when I realise I’m purchased one also from the evil empire. Who would have thought HP could redeem themselves with the latest Pavillion series!

    I answered your question about the media control buttons, what I’d like is the ability to reprogram some of the keys. Hopefully when HP get their act together they can re-release their QuickLaunch boot environment.

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