Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Death of a Laptop

My laptop has been dying several months; I didn't want for it to happen, because I love that laptop, but, as a writer, it's something that happens all to often. I type over one thousand pages a year; that means in less then a year the letters on the keyboard begin to quickly wear off. This is soon followed by keys that stick. Those things you can live with, but when the computer begins frequently locking up or crashing, then you know it's time to start looking for a laptop.

For the past two years, I have been using a Toshiba Portege R200; it's less then three pounds, and can go for about 4 to 5 hours if the wi-fi is on, and 6 to 7 hours if the wi-fi is off. The new Toshiba R600's are awesome, and equally light with great battery life; the problem for me this time around is I don't have $1,500 to $2,000 to spare on a laptop. I also knew that I could not go without a laptop.

I could have gone with the cheap 400 dollar laptops that are usually on sale at Best Buy and Circuit City; but I write on the go, and I needed something ultra-portable.

My next option was a netbook. In the past, I've been against them because their hard drives were too small (and most ran Linux, which I like for secondary computers, but not primary ones). This year a swarm of XP netbooks came out with 60+ gigabyte hard drives. The first one to catch my eye was the Acer One; it has 1 gig of RAM, a 120 gb hard drive, and has been on sale at CostCo for $350. I had two problems with that one. One, it had a 3 cell battery, which meant only two hours of battery life; and two, a small keyboard. Further investigation also revealed that it has a known problem with overheating and is quitee loud. There are reports that a new Acer is coming out with a six cell baterry next year.

Next I considered the more costly Lenovo Ideapad ($399); this was a little bit more, but had a larger screen, thus bigger keyboard; it also had a smaller hard drive. The biggest problem I had the Lenovo was the battery—again, a three cell. It was tempting, because it was a name I could trust, but in the end I decided against it.

I did not even look at the HP netbook, which is probably the most commonly purchased business netbook; FYI, I think HP is the worse computer on the market. I have have never had one or known someone that had one that didn't have a series of hardware and/or software issues; part of the problem is they often use Compaq parts, which is basically the lemon of computer parts.

The last computer I looked at was the MSI Wind; Amazon had it on sale for $430, and it was everything I wanted (6 cell battery, 160 hard drive, 10 inch screen, 2.8 pounds); it had a SCSI hard drive, so it would be slower to transfer larger files, but I could deal with that.

I now have the laptop, and couldn't be more please. It's a little bit heavier than my Toshiba, but the flaws stop there. It's quiet, does not get even a little hot on the bottom (unlike just about every other laptop out there), and surprisingly fast. The keyboard feels just like a full size one; although the comma and question mark keys are just a tad to small and awkwardly placed, and the mouse pad is less than ideal.

Normally cheap laptops have tons of software preloaded on the desktop, and your first hour with the new computer is spent getting them off; not so with the MSI. It has a trial version of Office, which I promptly took off because I cannot stand the new version of Office. Once I dig up my old external CD drive, I'm going to install an older version of word, but for now I'm contempt running Open Office, which is basically the same as Word and free.

I've heard all the reviews say that netbooks are great as a second laptop, but not as a main one; I disagree. If you are doing graphics, video production, or something that requires a quick processor then stick with a desktop; but if all you do is type, use the Internet, video conference (web cam is built in!), and take digital photos, then the MSI is the perfect computer. The only thing it doesn't do is burn CD/DVDs, but with most people using USB drives, then why do you need to? I still have a desktop for that, but I could live without it.

Unfortunately, Amazon sold out of the MSI Wind the day after I made my purchase (you can buy them elsewhere, but I haven't found them as cheap); they have a black model for just a little more, but it's on backorder, and won't ship for six to seven weeks. I suspect it will magically come back in stock for Black Friday or Cyber Monday.


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Roland Saint-Laurent said...

SEE? That November 19th comment is exactly what happens when you start posting product reviews!