laptop that is. Long story. Took me too long to make up my mind (more than 96 hours). At the end of the day the issue for me was not price but specific features functionality and performance. Yeah, so I am atypical.
The major contenders were IBM/Lenovo, HP, Dell, Alienware, Sager/Clevo, and one or two others. No, I did not give Apple a serious look. To be frank, I can’t stand OSX. I really want a) Linux, b) Windows XP, the latter preferably in a VM.
What were the deciding factors?
- memory expansion. I want to load this thing with 4 GB ram. My current laptop has 1 GB and it hurts … . IBM/Dell let me do this. So does Alienware, and Sager/Clevo.
- video card. I want/need 3D accelerated graphics. I prefer nVidia, their drivers are, IMO, far superior to ATI’s under Linux. I didn’t want lower end graphics, I wanted higher end graphics. This means Quadro FX or 88xx series. This is Dell and Alienware, Sager and Clevo.
- comfortable unit. Can’t be too hot to use, keyboard has to be reasonable. Nothing too small. I do lots of typing. This excludes Alienware, the complaint being that their units run hot, right under your hands. That isn’t acceptable.
- Display: 15.4" wide screen is fine for me, extended resolution is OK. Don’t want/need a 17" or larger monster. Want to stay away from that. 19" is right out. This precludes Sager/Clevo.
- OS. Would love to have seen Linux preloaded, but we are not there yet. Second choice is Windows XP preloaded. XP 64 is possible, though I am pretty sure it won’t work with all the apps I need. I may try it though, just to see. Vista is not a consideration. It breaks too many things I need, so I won’t get it. Eventually Microsoft will compel everyone to get it, this is the power of monopoly.
Finally settled on a Dell Precision M4300. I got what I wanted, and the memory upgrades from Kingston are inexpensive. I will be upgrading the disk to a 160 GB Seagate Momentus 7200.2 unit as well. Will move my Office 2003 install over there (wipe this one out), as well as my Acrobat 7 license. This unit will be retired after getting the USB 2 ports and now, as of yesterday, the display lid friction unit to hold the display in place. The latter has broken on me 3 times.
Also note that this is the first Intel based laptop I have purchased. AMD’s offerings in this space do not impress me much. I would like to go quad core, but I can wait for the moment, dual core should be fine.
Will be running Ubuntu on it as primary OS, with windows as secondary. May even convert the windows OS to a VMWare disk image. This is how I want to run windows. Allows me to run it safely. I can lock down the Linux system and VM very hard. Recovery from failure could be quite simple.
I see a nice business for someone who wants to build laptops that boot up into a safe Linux environment, and then Xen/Qemu/VMware run a windows session. You get real security, and safety, coupled with desktop apps. Just need lots of ram and a fast disk.