Apr 242012

Laptops are like shoes. If they’re good it’s easy to get used to them, but the bad ones can make your life miserable. Best ones are way too expensive, while the rest of them, except for really bad ones, require some serious time before you can tell whether they are good for you. By the time you recognize the hidden flaws of the ones that only looked good, you can’t return them. By the time you know they’re really good, they’re outdated and there are no comparable new models, or if you play the field, by the time you realize which ones were the best, they are sold out and out of production, or the prices went up, or some genius “improved” the new model by “fixing” something that wasn’t broken.

Because of all this I’m still undecided about my next laptop. My current Toshiba Portege is getting outdated and it is too fragile, its chiclet keyboard (reminds me of the antique Sinclair ZX Spectrum without the protective rubber) is often having problems with space bar, and my ‘m’ key strokes often get doubled. I’m getting typing-related repetitive strain injury as I write a lot and delete more because of errors, so we were definitely not made for each other. Too often a piece of dust will block a key, so I’ve spent a lot of air duster cans on it (and I hardly ever needed these with other laptops). Although it had a decent webcam resolution, it had a questionable picture quality and the webcam got so flaky after a year that I had to disable it (I’m not the only one with this problem), so although I was very happy with this laptop when I bought it, I won’t buy a Portege model next time.

MacBook Air models look fancy and very attractive, functional and compact, but they are too expensive, lack ports, and just like my Toshiba, they have chiclet keyboards and are similarly ruined with glossy screens so you can’t use them in bright areas. Moreover, I refuse to buy any more Apple products before they stop legally bullying their competitors and choking progress, and before they get less controlling, more security savvy and less greedy (and begin donating much more to charity).

Lenovo laptops have amazing keyboards but all the latest consumer models I’ve seen in shops have glossy screens. If there are some anti-glare models, they’re probably too expensive, so they’re out till I learn of the opposite.

Samsung has a number of serious candidates worth considering, with awesome anti-glare screens, but most of their models have chiclet keyboards, so I’m reluctant to enter into another ambivalent relationship. High-end models are too expensive.

I stay away from Dell due to some bad consumer reports from the past, but mostly because they were caught selling their defective series to the public sector. I wasn’t affected but I took it personally both as a US citizen and as a public servant, so buying from them is “against my religion”.

Asus, Acer, Gateway, and most other consumer models I’ve seen have glossy screens, so they’re out for now.

The laptop I remember and long for most was my 12″ HP Elitebook 2540p work laptop with SSD, but I wonder whether the newer 2560p is still as great. It had an amazing webcam (according to people that I video chatted with before they complained about the Toshiba’s webcam), it was booting rapidly, it had a keyboard light and excellent military spec sturdiness. I accidentally dropped it twice to no noticeable effect or scratches.

So now I’m kind of lost and afraid to get into my next “laptopship” because who knows what kind of problems await for me there. I’d like to get a laptop that has Lenovo’s keyboard, MacBook Air’s compact design, light weight and battery life, HP Elitebook’s military spec shock and dust resistance, docking station capabilities and webcam, and Samsung’s anti-glare screen, a laptop that’s powerful and fast but runs cool AND quiet, and doesn’t cost too much. Dream on, Z. Still, I needed to write this to get my thoughts to crystallize. The more I think about it, the better I like the two possible best bet series, HP Elitebook or Samsung series 9. I’d also like to go above the widescreen 720 resolution (1366×768) because it is too shallow and it doesn’t display enough of a document/website/picture on the screen without scrolling down, unless you’re viewing snakes and funerals (look up snakes and funerals to see where my bad opinion about widescreen format stems from), but with higher resolution the price gets too high, so the combination of the 12.5″ 1366×768 with a docking station and a nice monitor on Elitebooks looks increasingly attractive to me. Hopefully the retina screen on the new iPad introduces new levels of competition among laptop screen manufacturers. Let’s see what the upcoming Intel’s Ivy Bridge CPU generation of laptops brings (first ones to appear in June 2012), but that’s why I’m both excited and scared. Who knows which genius will this time ruin otherwise great laptop with a cheap, low quality peripheral. In hope I won’t run into that model I will research, research, research…

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