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Old 01-18-2011, 09:42 PM   #1
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Default Light, fast laptops (money is no object)

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With the cheaper 120 GB drives now in the $200 range, I strongly suspect that my next laptop will have no spinning disk at all. Trouble is, I'm having a hell of time figuring out what the next laptop will be. Now that the market is inundated with cheap netbooks, not even Sony is making a really awesome laptop in the < 3lb 11" class anymore, and they used to be the kings of high-power ultralights. Best they offer these days is the Vaio X, which would be utterly awesome were it not for the Atom processor, 2GB of memory maximum, and... WTF- a PATA SSD? Won't be able to upgrade (or even replace) that a year or two from now...
I’ve split this from Ben’s new PC build thread. In this thread, you will help me to find my next laptop.

My current machine is a Sony Vaio VGN-TXN15. It’s been an utterly awesome computer. Seriously. This machine predated the Netbook flood by about two years, so it really is amazing for what it is. To this day, people still comment on it when they see it.

It’s got a killer 11” screen, which is small enough to open fully even in a coach-class airplane tray table and yet really bright and clear. With the standard battery, it weighs 2.8 lbs, and when it was fresh, that was good for about 4 hours runtime. I’ve also got the extended battery which (again, when fresh) gave me a no-**** 12 hour capacity. I like to be able to fly from SAN to LGA, with one or two connections in between, and never have to stop watching XVID-encoded movies along the way.

But it’s starting to show its age. The batteries are starting to crap out, the case has finally started to crack, and the paint is gone from about half the keys on the keyboard. The processor is an old ULV 1.2 Ghz Core Solo, and it’s now maxxed out at 1.5 GB of RAM. While the majority of what I use the machine for really is typical netbook stuff, there are a couple of applications I need for work which are very database-intensive. Normally, I run these on a quad-core i7 machine, so I need something that isn’t too slow or to limited on RAM. Atoms are out. I’m looking for, at a minimum, ULV Core2Duo, preferably i5 or better. And I want to be able to pop in at least 3 GB of RAM, even if it requires an extra-cost upgrade.

Screen size is also a huge factor. 11” class is about as big as I’m willing to go, as the aforementioned airplane tray table thing really is a valid concern for me.

Battery life- again, I’m spoiled as hell, and not wanting to give anything up.

Oh, and the keyboard. It’s ******* awesome. It even has a full-size right shift key, which is becoming a rarity. I won’t give that up. And that’s just one more thing that Sony fucked up on the new Vaio X.

And, above all, money is no object. Well, that’s not literally true. I’m not going to pay $40,000 for a laptop. But $2,000 would be no problem if that’s what it takes.

Oh, and this last one is going to sound weird, but don’t argue with me: No 64 bit operating systems. I’m serious. There’s one app in particular I need which the developer tells me is just never going to be 64 bit compatible (due to some obscure library that it is inseparable from). Whatever machine I buy I’ll be removing the HD from and replacing with an SSD anyway, so having to manually install XP32 is not a big deal, but it’d be nice if there was nothing about the machine (some obscure driver, for instance) that prevents me from doing so.

Reverant suggested the HP 2710p / 2730p machines. I must admit that I’d not previously looked at tablet convertibles. Not bad, though it’s a bit on the large and heavy side and the reviews seem to indicate merely average battery life.

The Sony Vaio X would have been awesome had they not crippled it. But they did, so **** Sony. **** them right in the ear.

Right now, I’m looking at machines such as the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830 series (i5 / i7, 4GB, nice keyboard, 9-cell battery soon to be available as an option) and the HP Pavilion dm1 which, although it’s an AMD machine, seems to be one of the less-sucky ones (an E-350).


Thoughts?

Last edited by Joe Perez; 01-19-2011 at 02:17 PM.
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Old 01-19-2011, 04:09 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post
Trouble is, I'm having a hell of time figuring out what the next laptop will be. Now that the market is inundated with cheap netbooks, not even Sony is making a really awesome laptop in the < 3lb 11" class anymore, and they used to be the kings of high-power ultralights. Best they offer these days is the Vaio X, which would be utterly awesome were it not for the Atom processor, 2GB of memory maximum, and... WTF- a PATA SSD? Won't be able to upgrade (or even replace) that a year or two from now...
I have an HP 2710p, which is really good for what it is. 12" LED display w/touch screen (awesome), Core 2 Duo ULV 1.33GHz, 4GB RAM, 1.8" 120GB HDD (4200rpm though, you will def want to upgrade to an SSD), Webcam w/adjustable focus, night light for the keyboard, fingerprint reader, SD card reader, firewire, battery indicator on the bottom, RUGGED construction, damn good keyboard with LARGE keys, trackpoing ala IBM. No trackpad.

2730p is the update to the 2710p, has a 1.86-GHz C2D CPU and includes a trackpad for those who can't use a trackpoint. At about 3.5 pounds its not the lightest, but damn its tough.
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Old 01-19-2011, 10:43 PM   #3
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Have you considered a ThinkPad X201? I've had an X40 for years, and recently got an X201, and it's got the typically excellent Lenovo build quality and great keyboard. Prices start at $999 depending on how you option it out. I'm using mine as desktop to VPN into the office, driving dual external displays through an UltraBase.

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Old 01-19-2011, 11:34 PM   #4
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iPad.










Sorry, just kidding. I wanted to see what it felt like to be the guy that ignored 90% of your requirements and made the inevitable fanboy suggestion.
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Old 01-19-2011, 11:52 PM   #5
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I'm barely computer literate, but I remember my buddy back in 04 building a pc from parts off newegg. Can you build laptops yet?

Last edited by jacob300zx; 01-20-2011 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:13 AM   #6
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the 2nd gen core i chips are coming out soon. if that's soon enough, I'd wait.

that said, we have 2 Alienware M11x machines at work that we used to run our head mounted displays. They are small and $1000 and had enough power to run full stereoscopic (ie two 1280x1024) virtual environments at 30FPS (one at 60) on battery power for several hours all while powering a head tracker and the head-mounted display itself and exchanging data over a wireless network.

They're about 1300 with the core i7.

I can't really say how they are as a day to day machine but they seem robust.

OH and they have fancy colored LED lights under the keyboard and front speaker holes that you can change or make cycle through in rainbow fashion!



Regarding 32bit OS: can you do it in a virtual machine on top of 64bit? I ask because you're limiting yourself to 3.2gb of ram right off the bat and that's just shitty. At least dual boot. Windows 7 starts so fast you wont care.



All that said, I'm still a HUGE Fujitsu fan. I've got one of their T4210 tablets with a core duo that's outlasted pretty much every other laptop I've touched in the last 4 years. I freshened it with a new hard drive, memory, and windows 7 and it's as fast as new.

10ish inch core i5 tablet w/multi touch:
http://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Eco...do?series=T580

12.1 inch core i7:
http://store.shopfujitsu.com/fpc/Eco...do?series=P770
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:21 AM   #7
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its shitty that you don't want a 13" one. It's going to be hard to find something powerful in a form factor that small. My current laptop has a 18.4" screen and I wouldn't trade it for a netbook ever.

Have you considered a tablet? I've also got an HP TC1100 tablet (about 5 years old now) and I love the thing. It's old so far from powerful but it runs windows 7 fine. I am sure there are newer versions and they'll be within your size range and come with a lot more power than netbooks.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:31 AM   #8
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I just looked and HP has something that you may like. It's the pavillion d1mz series.

I just priced one out with these specs:


Operating system Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edit
Processor and Graphics AMD Dual-Core Processor E-350 (1.6GHz, 1MB L2 Cache)+AMD Radeon(TM) HD 6310M Discrete-Class Graphics edit
Memory 4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) edit
Hard drive 128GB (Solid State Drive Flash Module) edit
Office software No Additional Office Software edit
Security software No additional security software edit
Primary battery 50% OFF!! Two 6-Cell Lithium-Ion Batteries edit
Display 11.6" diagonal High Definition HP BrightView LED Display (1366 x 768) edit
Personalization Webcam with Integrated Digital Microphone edit
Networking 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R) edit
Keyboard Standard Keyboard edit
Carrying cases HP 11.6" Mini Sleeve edit


All that for $845.92. Significantly cheaper if you substitute a 250gb HDD for the 128gb SSD but you said you wanted fast.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:39 AM   #9
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There's not many laptops that are going to meet your criteria under 12" other than the ones already mentioned. There is the Alienware m11x, but I don't think that's up your alley. It has a bad hinge design. The 1830 probably suits you perfectly.

If it were me I would sacrifice 2" of airplane tray for a more powerful 13". I'm still in love with my eee701 though.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:58 AM   #10
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The first laptop that comes to mind is the M11x.
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Old 01-20-2011, 03:06 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrh View Post
I just looked and HP has something that you may like. It's the pavillion d1mz series.

I just priced one out with these specs:


Operating system Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit edit
Processor and Graphics AMD Dual-Core Processor E-350 (1.6GHz, 1MB L2 Cache)+AMD Radeon(TM) HD 6310M Discrete-Class Graphics edit
Memory 4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm) edit
Hard drive 128GB (Solid State Drive Flash Module) edit
Office software No Additional Office Software edit
Security software No additional security software edit
Primary battery 50% OFF!! Two 6-Cell Lithium-Ion Batteries edit
Display 11.6" diagonal High Definition HP BrightView LED Display (1366 x 768) edit
Personalization Webcam with Integrated Digital Microphone edit
Networking 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R) edit
Keyboard Standard Keyboard edit
Carrying cases HP 11.6" Mini Sleeve edit


All that for $845.92. Significantly cheaper if you substitute a 250gb HDD for the 128gb SSD but you said you wanted fast.
I'm getting nothing searching for D1MZ.... typo?

EDIT: Figured it out, DM1Z

Last edited by KPLAFIN; 01-20-2011 at 06:35 AM.
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Old 01-20-2011, 03:21 AM   #12
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Look at the HP EliteBook series. They come as small as 12" (for lightness) and are pretty configurable. Core i5 or i7 up near the 3Ghz range. Up to 8GB of ram. They usually clock in between 2000 and 2500, but they can get pretty crazy.
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Old 01-20-2011, 04:16 AM   #13
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I was personally scoping out the Vaio Z. I liked the look of the X like you said, but the moment I saw the word Atom on it I sighed...

The Z can have up to a 1920x1080 13" screen which is pretty awesome. It has a 330M which is also good from a laptop as small as it is. Can come with a Core I7 2.8GHz which turbo boosts to 3.5Ghz. Has spots for 2 small SSDs to run in raid 0. Sounds like it can be a pretty wicked little ultaportable.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:43 AM   #14
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Welp, HP just lost a sale. I was really glad to see this thread started because I'm looking for a decent small laptop for my upcoming deployment since I don't want to take my desktop I just built a few months ago. Was going to order an HP dv5t series I customized but they won't ship to my APO address. Oh well, back to the drawing board.
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Old 01-20-2011, 06:59 AM   #15
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Ya, I'm on the market myself. I just got to Baghdad and all I have at the moment is my Acer netbook and thanks to its Intel GMA 500 I can't even play ******* Minecraft.... I want something I can play some occasional games on and is potent, yet I still want something portable that I can easily bring between my trailer and my worksite.

VAIO's are generally expensive, but the high end ones like the Z-series basically have no competition and the build quality is always stellar. There is just no other ultraportable that packs all that hardware into a package that small.

I googled reviews of the Z series with the core i7 cpu in it. It performs within a couple hundred points of the M11x in 3DMark Vantage on the GPU test and just absolutely TROUNCES is on the CPU test. In PCMark tests it just knocks it out of the ballpark compared to any other ultraportable available. The i7 and the raid 0 ssds are really what make the difference on the Z. One site tested read speeds of around 450MB/s.

I owned a Z1 series back in college and it was an amazing machine. I've also used the TX series that Joe owns now and they were awesome as well as his experience reflects.

Now I really sound like I'm selling this thing lol, and I don't even own one. Probably going to be picking one up in the next couple weeks though. I'm just not 100% yet, so I'm not pulling the trigger.
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Old 01-20-2011, 11:21 AM   #16
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Dells haven't even been discussed and while that's probably with good reason, I'll share my experiences. My Dell XPS M1530 is a huge, steaming pile of crap. It gets very hot and the battery has developed memory or something and won't last longer than a minute. Both speakers are blown, half the USB ports don't work and drivers seem to disappear from the hd every couple weeks.

I'm going to pick one of these up soon:

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Old 01-20-2011, 11:51 AM   #17
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Quote:
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Dells haven't even been discussed and while that's probably with good reason,
Alienware is Dell...
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:01 PM   #18
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Possible contenders: HP Elitebook 2540p, Acer TimelineX 1830 / 1872, Lenovo X201s...



Quote:
Originally Posted by chriscar View Post
Have you considered a ThinkPad X201?
I hadn't even considered Lenovo, to be honest. I had no idea they were playing in the small-and-light space.

The X201s definitely looks like a contender- what's killing me is that the X100e would be absolutely perfect were it not for the lack of a touchpad and the less-than-stellar CPU. Why couldn't they have put the i5 and the X201s' touchpad into that chassis?

Quote:
Originally Posted by mgeoffriau View Post
Sorry, just kidding. I wanted to see what it felt like to be the guy that ignored 90% of your requirements and made the inevitable fanboy suggestion.
I don't know. What does being banned feel like?



Quote:
Originally Posted by y8s View Post
the 2nd gen core i chips are coming out soon. if that's soon enough, I'd wait.
My old machine still has some life left in it, but I'll probably be needing to replace it within 6 months or so. The batteries are what's driving the timeline right now. The little one is down to less than an hour of runtime, the big one is currently giving me about 5 hours but fading fast. I don't want to spend $225 for a new battery for a machine I'm planning to replace anyway.



Quote:
Originally Posted by y8s View Post
Regarding 32bit OS: can you do it in a virtual machine on top of 64bit? I ask because you're limiting yourself to 3.2gb of ram right off the bat and that's just shitty.
Well, with the exception of my "big" home PC, all of my machines run 32 bit, including the ones I use for work. The memory limitation hasn't been a problem yet. I'll have to see whether I can get CommunityMonitor (the app suite in question) to run under VMWare on a 64 bit host- I've never tried it.





Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrh View Post
its shitty that you don't want a 13" one. It's going to be hard to find something powerful in a form factor that small. My current laptop has a 18.4" screen and I wouldn't trade it for a netbook ever.
I used "big" laptops for about 8 years when I worked for Harris. For a while, in fact, I used nothing but a laptop with a docking station when in the office. But I really do travel a lot, and when you're constantly going through airports, working on airplanes, carrying everything you need to work around with you from one job site to the next in a backpack and then working in cramped spaces once you're there, you really learn to appreciate the value of small and light.

And I'm completely serious about the airplane seat thing. Several years ago, I was in coach with a Dell notebook (14", if I recall) and had the screen in just the wrong position, because when the person in front of me reclined suddenly, it caught the upper lip of the screen and proceeded to shatter it. Fortunately that was a corporate machine, so they FedExed me a new one the same day, but I don't want it happening again.

And honestly, I really don't mind the small screen and keyboard. Maybe it's just what you're accustomed to, but I find the 11" screen perfectly adequate. If I could find a 10" class machine which met my other demands, I'd buy it immediately.



Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrh View Post
Have you considered a tablet?
Nope.

I actually own two tablets already. Fujitsu Stylistics. I use them for Megasquirt tuning. They're great for simple **** like that, but the work I do requires a lot of keyboard input. I realize that most of the machines sold as "tablets" today are actually convertibles (with a fold-out keyboard) however in my experience, they offer no size/weight advantages over a conventional laptop design, have slightly poorer display quality (owing to the touchscreen overlay) and I would gain virtually no benefit from having the tablet-only mode of operation available to me.







Quote:
Originally Posted by Cococarbine3 View Post
There's not many laptops that are going to meet your criteria under 12" other than the ones already mentioned. There is the Alienware m11x, but I don't think that's up your alley. It has a bad hinge design.
I'm finding that there are some. It just kills me that both Dell and Sony either discontinued or dumbed-down their old 11" class machines into what are essentially netbooks.

And I did look at the Alienware machine. IThe reviews all criticize the battery life, and I have no need for a hardcore graphics card. No polygon-based object will ever be displayed on this screen.




Quote:
Originally Posted by neogenesis2004 View Post
VAIO's are generally expensive, but the high end ones like the Z-series basically have no competition and the build quality is always stellar. There is just no other ultraportable that packs all that hardware into a package that small.
Yeah, Sony is sort of the Mac of the Windows world. Expensive as hell, closed-architecture, sexy design, and very, VERY well made.

I just looked at the Z series, and while I like the specs, it's too big. I put a tape measure over my TXN, and by comparison, the Z looks like a mainframe.


Damn you, Sony. You practically invented the ultraportable category, and now you have forsaken it.
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Old 01-20-2011, 12:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pusha View Post
Dells haven't even been discussed...
My company gave me a Dell 11z (or was it the m101z ?) to test drive for a couple of days and it was pretty good. It had a full size keyboard or one close enough I couldn't tell it wasn't. They had also just started using the faster Core Duo in them recently. I watched Hulu and tried a few other things to sample it's capabilities and was pleasantly surprised. I didn't try any really heavy lifting like gaming, but I don't do any of that on a work computer anyway. The big downside for me was it included no onboard DVD/CD drive. I play product videos for customers on occasion. Upsides- I got really great life out of the 6 cell battery, and the optional 9-cell is supposed to be ridiculously long lived. Upside- very light and portable.

M101z:
http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-1121/fs
Refurbed 11z:
http://outlet.us.dell.com/ARBOnlineS...=22&l=en&s=dfh

You guys are probably looking for something in a whole different class, but I'm trying to be helpful anyway...
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Old 01-20-2011, 01:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
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Well, with the exception of my "big" home PC, all of my machines run 32 bit, including the ones I use for work. The memory limitation hasn't been a problem yet. I'll have to see whether I can get CommunityMonitor (the app suite in question) to run under VMWare on a 64 bit host- I've never tried it.
XP Mode
http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/w...indows-xp-mode

you can basically run xp 32bit on top of win7 64 bit.
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