I use two laptops. That might sound crazy to some of you, but they each have a purpose. Up until recently I was using a Dell Inspiron 9100 and Averatec AV4265. The Dell is a large heavy beast at approximately 8 pounds, but with an Intel Pentium 4 running at 3.2 GHz and 1920 x 1200 screen it is perfect for doing audio and video work away from home. The Averatec, on the other hand, is small and light – just over 4 pounds and small enough that when an 8.5x11 sheet of paper is placed between the base and screen (with the laptop acting as a file folder) the paper actually sticks out the front. The Averatec also lasts 4 hours on a battery charge – or at least it used to – so it really is a perfect machine when portability is key. But neither machine is dual core, and Vista has some annoying limitations on the Averatec, so I have been recently thinking about getting something new to replace both machines. Especially since most new laptops are dual core and that reduces the resale value of both of my current machines. If I sell now I'll get a lot more for them than I will even in a few months, so it really seems like now is the time to replace both machines.
Big & Powerful
The Dell hasn't been too difficult to find a replacement for. I have always liked Dell's offerings at the high end of the Inspiron line, so I started there looking into the E17005 / 9400 (they are the same machine despite the name difference), and again this seemed like a perfect fit. Not that I didn't look at other options… In fact I looked at a LOT of other options, and in the end, there was one feature on the Dell that I consider essential that I couldn't find on any other machines, and that is screen resolution. Dell offers a screen at 1920x1200, but I haven't found any other computers that match it. Since I use the computer primarily for audio and video production and this requires multiple programs to be open and visible simultaneously, I actually use all of that screen real estate, and it is very high on my list of priorities. I liked a few of the features on some of the other computers I looked at – most other laptops with a 17" screen have a full keyboard complete with numeric keypad (the Dells don't) for example, but in the end it was mostly about screen resolution and price. So the Dell is a done deal; my new machine shipped yesterday and will be on my doorstep in the middle of next week. Does anyone want to buy a Dell Inspiron 9100?
Small & Light
The Averatec is becoming very difficult to replace. Not because I am so attached to it, but because I can't find a suitable replacement for it, especially since I upgraded the RAM to 1280MB. I have, on the other hand, grown really attached to its size and weight. Its 13.3 inch screen and just over 1 inch thickness are perfect for me on a portable machine. For some reason laptops with a 14.1 inch screen get a lot bigger and heavier, and 12.1 feels just a little bit small but it isn't off the table as an option. The problem with staying with a 13.3 inch screen is that they aren't offered by a lot of manufacturers. Averatec is still selling the same 4200 series I'm trying to replace and doesn't offer a newer version with dual core CPU. Their 2300 series uses a smaller screen and runs a much more power hungry AMD Turion processor (and as a result have poor battery life), not to mention that I hate the keyboard layout on the 2300's (I don't want to press two keys for Home/End, or PageUp/PageDown!), so they don't have anything that fits me well for now. Sony has a few models in the 13.3 inch variety, but they are either bulky and heavy or outrageously expensive. I even considered getting an Apple Macbook and installing Windows on it but I can't live without a real right mouse button or its funky keyboard under Windows. (Should Apple fix that and increase the RAM I'd very seriously consider the Macbook.)
If I compromise on the screen and move down to 12.1 (again the 14.1 machines are just too heavy) I have a few more options available, but every one of them has something wrong with it, and it's usually the price. I only paid $900 for my Averatec when I got it, and I'm willing to pay a little more than that for a different brand, but I'm not willing to double it for what would in reality only be a small step up over what I already have. Dell's 12.1 inch XPS is too expensive, as are Lenovo's offerings. HP doesn't have anything in that category, and Fujitsu seems to be stuck with old processors. I don't trust Gateway right now – their machines might be okay, but I don't think I want to take that risk based on the frequency of repairs I've had to make on several Gateways for friends recently and the tech support horror stories I've heard. Toshiba has a couple of interesting machines in their U205 line, and they are a lot closer to where I want to be on price, but I hate their keyboard layout and their laptops can't be configured with Bluetooth, which I use a lot. (Who doesn't offer Bluetooth these days??!??!?) So far, though, the U205 is the closest I've found to a match.
For right now it looks like the Toshiba U205 is the closest thing I've found, but I'm still not excited about it, so for at least a little while longer I'll replace the battery on my Averatec and live with its limitations under Vista until somebody offers what I consider a good option at an affordable price, the price comes down on the U205 to the point where I can't say no, or my Averatec decides to die.