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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Looking for a new computer

Late night by Selva Morales from flickr (CC-NC)
Because my hatred towards my Macbook reached unprecedented level, and I didn't take my old desktop with me to London, I' looking for a new computer. I probably won't be buying it for another few weeks, but here's a rough spec/wishlist (which reads a lot like "why Macbook sucks" list):

  • The options are - one good laptop for work+home, or shitty laptop at work + good desktop at home. Right now I think a good all-purpose laptop would be a better solution.
  • At least 2GB RAM, 4GB even better. That's really non-negotiable, computers with less than that are good for little more than web browsing.
  • Probably dual boot Ubuntu (for 90% of normal use)/XP (for occasional gaming/compatibility testing). I've seen Vista and I don't like it. Most laptops these days come with Vista by default, but I can always wipe it out.
  • At least 1440x900 or even better 1680x1050. Macbook resolution of 1280x800 is painful.
  • I don't really care about screen size that much, resolution is much more important. 17-inch screen usually means bigger keyboard and that's a nice thing to have, even if 15-inch screen with good resolution is all right.
  • I would like to play something more recent than Quake 3, so integrated GPU is completely out of a question. 8600M GT with 256MB memory would certainly be nice. Something somewhat less powerful is probably going to be fine too.
  • 160/200 GB disk would be nice for dual boot system, 5400 rpm is good enough on Linux as it has really awesome I/O caching unlike OSX. I'm not sure about XP.
  • I don't remember the last time I've seen a CPU-bound program, vast majority being limited by memory or I/O or GPU. So Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz or its moral equivalent by AMD should be just fine.
  • At least 3 USB ports, with 4 or more points scoring extra points.
  • DVD burner and real DVD drive (not annoying slit like in Macbook) would be a big plus.
  • I woudn't care if it was a desktop but for a laptop 3-year guarantee is pretty much necessary.


Eridius said...

Wow, Ubuntu must have terrible memory management if 1GB of RAM isn't good enough for a regular-use laptop. I have a Macbook with 1GB of RAM and I find it perfectly suitable as a secondary work machine for doing coding on (which is significantly more activity than "[just] web browsing").

In any case, it seems to me that what you really want is a MacBook Pro rather than a MacBook. It's more powerful, has a bigger screen, larger HD, 2GB of RAM default (even on the least powerful model), DVD burner (which, BTW, 2 of the 3 MacBook models have as well), 3 USB ports if you spring for the 17" model, and AppleCare gets you the guarantee. It even has the 8600M GT as the stock GPU. The only "feature" you listed it doesn't have is the "real" DVD drive, but I don't understand why you don't like the slit drives. They're just as easy to use as tray drives, but they're thinner.

Honestly, if you want all those things you listed, why did you even buy the consumer-oriented MacBook?

Peter Cooper said...

Like you, I have also been looking. I already have a MacBook Pro which is superb, but the PC notebooks have far better specs.. Apple really does tend to drop the ball on its hardware.

Dell is worth a look ( They let you customize your notebook quite a long way. You can get 1680x1050 res at 15" if you specify it, or 1920x1200 at 17"! They also have the 8600Ms going on, and one of them even had two 8600Ms in SLI.

The only things going for the Apple alternatives are that they're usually a lot thinner, can run OS X (not always an advantage), and the 15" MBP has LED backlighting. But the Dell does offer higher res at lower size (Apple's res at 15" is rubbish), bigger drives, better graphics, and so forth.

taw said...

One reason slits are bad is that when Macbook doesn't like some disk (what doesn't happen very often but it does happen), there's no way of getting it back short of rebooting the machine and holding some key down.

Sammy Larbi said...

I dislike the slit as well, and like eridius mentioned, all the specs you described sounds exactly like my MacBook Pro, with the upgraded resolution.

I'd not pay them what they want for the upgrade in RAM to 4 GB, but it can't be very hard to do it yourself or pay someone to.

Phil said...

eridius: He's just being ornery; I run Ubuntu on a 2GB machine and rarely push half a gig unless I've got a VM going.

taw: You should check out the Thinkpad T61. I just switched from that to an X61, but if you don't mind the weight it has all the things you listed as well as extremely solid construction quality. It really feels like it would take a serious natural disaster to put a dent in it. You also get a whole lot more pixels than with an MPB. Costs less too.