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Old 01-26-2011, 06:35 PM   #61
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So I bought the Dell. I've named it Dude.

Pretty nice, machine, actually. The display isn't quite as awesome as the ones Sony uses (less contrast, poorer color saturation) but I knew that was going to be the case. Sony simply has the best displays in the industry, period. It's perfectly adequate for applications- you only notice the difference when watching movies on it, and even then only in scenes which are very dark (eg: the opening shot from the Battlestar Galactica miniseries, which just so happened to be the very first thing I played on it.)

One upside is that while the screen on the Sony was in physical contact with the keys when closed and the fancy hyperglossy-yet-antireflective surface of the screen tended to pick up and trap finger oils to the point where it had a permanent imprint of the keys etched into it, the Dell doesn't seem to have this problem. The screen surface is the same as all the rest of the Lattitudes (a sort of matte finish with no obvious coating) so it should be very easy to keep clean.

The keyboard and touchpad are surprisingly good. Both different, but I like them. The touchpad is slightly smaller, though that hasn't been a problem thus far as it's nicely recessed so you can easily feel when you hit the edge. The buttons on the touchpad have a bit more travel than the ones on my Vaio which is taking some getting used to, but it's really more a matter of the Sony ones being abnormally low-travel.

Ditto the keyboard- it's a good bit wider (fully edge-to-edge vs. Sony's island design) and has more travel, it actually feels a lot like a desktop keyboard, just a little bit smaller. And hooray! Despite having a full-size right shift key and full-size cursor keys, they still found room for dedicated page-up and page-down keys. That's one thing I never liked about the Sony- having to use th Fn-key to access those. The keys also have a slight convex shape and beveled edges just like a "normal" keyboard, whereas the Vaio's keys were perfectly flat and nearly seamless. I don't really have a strong preference either way (I became perfectly comfortable with the Sony keyboard after a short adjustment period) but I can see folks who have never owned an ultraportable before being more at-ease with the Dell. (I still can't understand how anybody can use the chicklet-style keyboard on the current-gen Macs. Those keyboards remind me of the one that IBM used on the first-gen PC Jr, which historians have cited as a major contributing factor to the commercial failure of that machine. Perhaps Tom Watson should have worn a grey turtleneck.)

It's also shockingly light. Lighter than my Vaio TX, which I didn't think was possible. With the standard battery, the Vaio was 2.78 lbs, whereas the Dell is 2.63 lbs. The power supplies are identical in weight (0.75 lbs) and while the second battery which I used to carry on my Sony (admittedly, a 12-cell) was 1.2 lbs, the Dell's battery is .78 lbs. So assuming I buy a second 6-cell battery for the Dell, my total load is down by a full half lb. (4.95 lbs for the Dell vs 5.41 lbs for the Vaio.)

The size isn't as bad as I'd feared, either. It's bigger, but not terribly. Here is the Sony sitting on top the Dell, aligned at the bottom (front) and left edges:



Wider for sure, but width isn't a major factor. It's also deeper, however the majority of that difference is the rather oddly-shaped battery which protrudes out the back. Since that depth is all behind the hinge, it's not a concern in terms of fitting on an airplane tray table. Actually, my Vaio looks a lot like that, too when the "big" battery is installed.

Here's a better illustration of what I mean:




Now, there is a slight difference in total height when opened, and that does factor into the airline equation (you have to assume that the person in front of you has reclined their seat) but it's nowhere near as bad as a typical 13" class machine would have been. Even the 13" Mac Air has got nearly a full inch extra height over the Dell:





One thing I wasn't expecting is that the Dell is also just a teeny little bit thinner:



Granted, that Sony had a CD-RW drive built in, whereas the Dell came with a tiny little eSATA DVD-RW drive, but I can live with that. Honestly, apart from the initial OS & App load, how often do you use your CD/DVD drive? I can't remember ever putting a disc in mine while I was on the road.


Performance-wise, I'm quite happy thus far. Bootup is quick, app load is quick. With 5GB of physical RAM installed, it's showing me 3.45 GB of available RAM, which is mid-range for an x86 machine. (My C2D desktop, an Optiplex 730, shows only 3.25 GB, while I've seen some machines get as high as 3.7GB or so.) For now, I've turned off paging and we'll see how that works out. If it becomes a problem, well, this machine does have an ExpressCard slot, so I can always stick a cheap, small SSD in there (or an expresscard -> SDHC adapter) and use that as the swap volume. We'll see.


No data yet on battery life, as I haven't had a chance yet to just sit it down and let it run. That will be a very interesting test, though unfortunately I'm not sure it'll yield data which is entirely comperable to the published reviews that you see on new machines. This being a refurb, there's no telling what the history on the battery is, other than that it was made in March of 2010, so it's already almost a year old and Li-Ion batteries do age simply from sitting on the shelf even if they're never cycled.



Oh, and I forgot to link to the source: http://www.geeks.com/details.asp?inv...200-5R&cpc=SCH

They've got several other configs available with different SSDs, different processors and different OSes available, too: http://www.geeks.com/search.asp?QUER...=ALL&Submit=Go
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Old 01-26-2011, 06:49 PM   #62
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Nishe.

I have the E6400 (work provided) and I beat that ************ to hell. The case is dented in multiple places. Works great!
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Old 01-26-2011, 11:49 PM   #63
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I thought 32bit operating systems can only have a max of 3.6gigs of RAM. How come it varies? That looks like a very nice laptop, glad you finally found the right one. I like the non-glossy feature, unlike a lot of current laptops that get fingerprints galore. You should consider installing a touchscreen for laughs.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:03 AM   #64
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Originally Posted by Faeflora View Post
Nishe.

I have the E6400 (work provided) and I beat that ************ to hell. The case is dented in multiple places. Works great!
I have an E6410 for work and I hat the POS. My right shift key hardly works and the HD died on it the first week I had it.
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Old 01-27-2011, 12:42 AM   #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KPLAFIN View Post
Just dropped ~$1300 for a fuji t730, 500GB external and an extra modular bay 6 cell battery. Probably could've done better if I looked around more but I'm running out of time before I ship out.
Go ahead and order another external or two. I filled my 1Tb WD external in the first two months of deployment. I grabbed another 750Gb WD during a trip through one of the bigger FOBs and that's halfway full. Go ahead and get a decent anti-virus too, externals are the primary means of media storage in theater and you're going to get your new machine exposed to a lot.

Too bad you're not coming out here.. I have a **** ton of movies and TV shows on my externals, including all of Top Gear, True Blood, Spartacus, etc., that I could share.

If you find air dusters, hoard them. Some locations are dustier than others. Where I am now is pretty bad with the moon dust. I picked my Samsung up and blew through a vent and a cloud of dust came out of the other one.

Sorry for the OT, OP.
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Old 01-27-2011, 02:30 AM   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cococarbine3 View Post
I thought 32bit operating systems can only have a max of 3.6gigs of RAM.
Not exactly.

It's not an OS limitation per se, it's a mathematical limitation. With a 32 bit address space, you have a total of 2^32 addressable locations, or 4,294,967,296, which is exactly 4GB.

However, you have to understand a little bit about the way that modern computers work at a hardware level in order to resolve this apparent conflict. That address space isn't all used for just RAM, it's shared amongst all of the various I/O that the processor is able to address. So even trivial little **** like reading from the keyboard and USB ports, writing to the video controller, accessing the ethernet interface, the sound card, the hard disk (well, hard non-disk in this case), every one of those things takes up address space. From the standpoint of the processor itself, down at the actual silicon level, reading or writing to RAM is no different from communicating with a modem or a printer- they're all just memory addresses.

So at the end of the day, the total amount of usable RAM (assuming that physical RAM > 4GB) is equal to 4GB minus the total amount of address space reserved for other functions. And that's why it varies from machine to machine. Different computers have different configurations of I/O devices and other hardware, so a machine which is very lightly loaded with peripherals (and heavily optimized to minimize wasted address space) will have more address area left over for talking to actual RAM. If you had a 32 bit computer with absolutely no I/O devices whatsoever, it would be able to access exactly 4GB of RAM. Of course, it would be totally useless and unable to actually do anything, but that's how it works.

This was a hell of a lot easier to conceptualize 30 years ago, when the address space was small enough that you could actually see the whole thing on a single sheet of paper, and there was no virtualization or any other fancy crap going on, but the fundamental concept remains the same for all harvard-architecture computers. Modern operating systems and high-level languages obscure most of this even from "experienced" programmers, but if you are fluent in machine or assembly language and accustomed dealing with microprocessors at the register level, it all makes perfect sense.


Quote:
I like the non-glossy feature, unlike a lot of current laptops that get fingerprints galore.
It's a give-and-take. I gotta say, the display on that Vaio really is ******* gorgeous, especially in low-light. But with any degree of ambient light present, while it was in fact almost totally glare-free, you could see a reversed image of the whole damn keyboard permanently etched into the surface of the screen. If I had a choice, I'd still take the Vaio display over the Dell's, but such is life. Maybe by the time the i19 processor is released and I decide to upgrade again, Sony will have gotten back in the game.


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Originally Posted by shuiend View Post
I have an E6410 for work and I hat the POS. My right shift key hardly works and the HD died on it the first week I had it.
Funny, that.

From 1999 through 2008, I had nothing but Dells. They were supplied by the company, so I didn't complain. Good machines, I'll admit. Not very fancy, but they worked and were almost totally indestructible.

Except the keyboards.

I do a hell of a lot of work in plaintext editors even today. Notepad, the old DOS "edit", and shat have you. Lots of ctrl-c / ctrl-v, lots of alt, lots of shift. On the last Dell laptop I had before I went freelance, I think I went through 3 or 4 keyboards, and every single one failed on the left-side modifiers. (If I were left-handed, I'm sure the right-side modifiers would have gone out.)

On the Sony, I was really amazed by the keyboard. It feels flimsy as hell, but it's a durable little thing. The paint is literally worn completely off of several of the keys, and yet every single one still works (and feels) absolutely perfect. I really can't say enough good things about that keyboard.

With this machine, I have no doubt that I'll kill the keyboard within a year. It always happens on these. Fortunately they're still in production, so replacements are cheap. I'll be stocking up on spares.


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Sorry for the OT, OP.
No worries. I can't even imagine the **** you guys have to deal with over there. Moon dust. Hell.
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Old 02-05-2011, 04:01 PM   #67
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I've been looking for a replacement laptop, and came across another option. Only $4,300!

http://www.sonystyle.com/webapp/wcs/...11248#features
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Old 02-06-2011, 12:06 PM   #68
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Wow. I had completely forgotten about the Vaio TT.

And thanks, I now have just a tiny bit of buyer's remorse.

The TT had a fairly short sales life- less than a year, as you can imagine from the cost. There aren't many of them on eBay, though they are a bit more reasonably priced now.

I do remember playing with one at Fry's when they first came out, and being quite impressed. Same awesome display, same ultra-small size. You'd expect no less, as it was the direct successor to the TX. I do seem to recall that the keyboard felt a bit wonky to me. I probably could have gotten used to it, but it just reminded me a lot of the oddball keyboard on the Mac Airs.

Dammit, why didn't I remember this machine before I bought this Dell...
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Old 02-06-2011, 01:24 PM   #69
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$4400 for a slightly better netbook? Sorry, but just no.
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Old 02-06-2011, 01:27 PM   #70
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Not for $4400, but there are a couple of them on eBay in the low $1xxx range. Add a couple hundred for a larger SSD and a new battery, and I'd still have been below $2000. That would have been acceptable.

Dammit all...
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Old 02-08-2011, 02:28 PM   #71
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Well, finally some comparative battery-life data on the Dell.

Playing divx-encoded video (standard-def) full screen at medium brightness with WMP, it ran for 4:31 until the 10% battery alarm came on, and then another 5 minutes until the critical battery alarm. Not particularly awesome compared to the Vaio running on the 12-cell battery, but reasonably good for a 6-cell unit. I will definitely need a second battery, however on the plus side, name-brand Dell batteries for this machine are only about $100, less than half of what Sony charged for theirs.

I just wish the display looked more awesome. Honestly, the image quality on this machine on video playback (contrast, color saturation) is really quite poor. Even the Taiwanese monitor I have sitting on my desk looks better. It probably wouldn't bother me were it not for the fact that I'm so accustomed to the Vaio, which has about the best looking display on the planet. Why Dell can never seem to get this right is just beyond me...
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