My New Laptop

Adam's New Laptop

Last month I finally decided to upgrade my laptop. I’d been running the old Toshiba since 2007. At the time it was a powerhouse. It still served me well right up to the end, when a BSOD finally forced my hand. I probably would have upgraded in the next few months anyway.

I’d been window shopping for a new laptop for quite some time. What stopped me from pulling the trigger was that I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. First and foremost, I wanted a laptop that was light and small and had long battery life. I also wanted it to be as powerful as possible. It’s like saying you want a Hummer with the gas mileage of a Prius. It aint gonna happen. You have to compromise somewhere.

I initially was pretty set on buying a souped up HP Envy 15. Total cost would have been just over $2,000, but I would have gotten a quad core processor with 6GB of RAM and a 1080P LED screen in a relatively sleek laptop. Of course, the battery life wouldn’t have exactly been stellar and I was hoping to be smaller than 15″. My old laptop was a 15.1″ and it just felt a little too big and bulky to cart around with me.

Once I got the BSOD, I researched a ton of laptops. I like a lot of the Sony models, but each one I liked was missing a feature here or a feature there that was a deal breaker. During my search, HP came out with their new line of laptops. Initially this threw me for a loop because I had this massive spreadsheet with models that no longer existed, but after doing some more research I eventually settled on one of their new Ultra Portable HP dm4t laptops.

I added quite a bit to the base price of $729. My eventual cost was just over $1200, but boy was it worth it. I upgraded to an i5 dual core, 6 GB of RAM, and a 7200 RPM hard drive. It’s not exactly equivalent to a top-of-the-line desktop, but it more than suits my needs. The portability really sold me. 14.1″ LED screen, 4.4lbs, and only 1″ thick. The estimated battery life is 6.5hrs, which is way more than the other comparable laptops (even though I take those estimates with a huge grain of salt).

I used the laptop for 2 hours of legit work the other day and still had 71% battery left. This is a HUGE deal for me. I love to work out and about at coffee shops and I absolutely hate hunting for outlets.

The laptop also has HDMI out, which is pretty standard these days. To compliment it, I picked up a Acer P235Hbmid Black 23″ 5ms HDMI Widescreen LCD Monitor. At the time it was on sale for $179.99.

When I’m home, I’ve moved to using a 2 monitor setup. I primarily like using one monitor (you know, because you can only focus on one thing at a time and I hate distractions), however having the laptop monitor available for smaller secondary things like Skype conversations is convenient. My old setup had a 1280 x 800 laptop resolution with a 1680 x 1050 monitor resolution. The new setup has a 1366 x 768 laptop resolution and a 1920 x 1080 monitor resolution. It’s a 12% increase in total screen area, which might not seem like a lot but every little bit helps when you’re programming.

It’s only been a few weeks, but I’m extremely happy with the purchase. This has been my first extensive use of Windows 7. I personally didn’t hate Vista with a passion like the rest of the free world, but I am very impressed by the interface improvements and some of the under-the-hood improvements in networking and device recognition.

The keyboard is amazing. I love typing on it. The one downside is the touch pad, which I think is a major step backwards (I may be in the minority who thinks this, but the red button was the best touch pad ever, used it on my laptop all through college). This new HP one is all one big button for both scrolling and clicking, which seemingly should work, but I have a ton of trouble trying to click and drag. Mike has 2 computers with this same new touch pad and he hates it too. Thankfully I carry a wireless mouse with me so it’s not something I’ll ever use regularly.

Here are a few quick pics as compared to my old laptop. You’ll see just how much thinner and smaller it is. I picked up a new case to reflect that. It’s over 2lbs lighter, almost a 33% difference, which is very noticeable when I’m out and about all day long.

Adam's New Laptop Comparison
Adam's New Laptop Comparison
Adam's New Laptop Comparison

I also picked up some Moleskine notebooks. I always carry my laptop, charger, mouse, and a notebook for doodling ideas or wireframing new projects. Most of the time I program I’m working off of a wireframe or some pseudo code that I hand wrote.

As an aside, getting set up was super easy. When you base almost everything in the cloud, it’s a matter of downloading Firefox, syncing Xmarks, and setting up Thunderbird, Skype and a few other programs, and everything is exactly the way it was on the old computer. Gotta love it.

I’m in the process of setting up a sweet new home office in my apartment. Once that’s complete I’ll post some pictures of the entire set up.

10 comments on My New Laptop

  1. Tim says:

    Looks like a slick machine! I’ve been SERIOUSLY considering getting a better portable machine as much as I like my little netbook it’s pretty useless for anything other than casual web browsing.

    What I really like about modern software(and computers) is just what you said, they are so quick to get tweaked to your needs. Even 5 years ago getting a new computer was a bitter sweet experience, yes it is nice to get something newer and faster but getting it set-up for your needs is a nightmare. We’ve now reached this great place where processors are great, they are more efficient and have greater computing power AND software is leaner and more efficient which is like a grand slam for computer geeks. The only real time consuming task for me is my music collection, which I store on external drives, just importing the playlist literally takes hours and hours. Thankfully everything else goes quickly!

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Definitely agree with you about netbooks. I actually probably will pick a new one of those up in the near future (my original eeePc is a bit out of date lol). To me, the great advantage of a netbook is that you don’t care about it. It has pretty good functionality for cloud tasks and simple software, it’s light and small and has long battery, but it’s not your primary computer so if it’s lost or stolen or crashes it doesn’t affect your life at all. In my situation I’d use it when biking to a coffee shop or on the train visiting friends in NYC. I’d never take this new laptop with me in those scenarios. Perfect for a netbook tho.

      And because it’s so simple to get set up on a new machine like you mentioned and have everything sync flawlessly, having a sub-$300 netbook to compliment your main machine is an awesome idea.

      That said, to your point, a netbook has it’s limitations and for a day of serious work on the go a real laptop is required in my opinion.

      Btw I hear you on the music. Not like I have any where near as much as you, but it’s always a pain to move around. If it’s meant to be portable and it’s not your primary computer, you might just want to use Pandora and save yourself the time and effort.

      • Joshua Holt says:

        Shouldn’t you be running something like from your netbook? $5/month to stream and play a huge catalog of music on demand is pretty reasonable. I’d recommend Spotify if you can finagle an account, but it’s not officially available in the USA so kind of difficult to get here.

        • Rob says:

          Think spotify accounts dont need invitations any more, dunno how it works if you’re in the US though. Perhaps try vyprvpn or similar?

  2. Leigh says:

    I’m glad I saw this post. I need a new computer as well. I’ve had a Toshiba Satellite for 6 months, and it did the good old BSOD this weekend. I haven’t been happy with this computer – it gets WAY too hot, the battery life is terrible (one hour on a good day) and I hate that the whole thing is black (it shows every smudge and fingerprint).

    I was looking at Dell laptops, but I am going to look at HPs now. Seems like a good alternative.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Definitely Leigh. Our whole company has HPs. Not that I don’t look at other laptops, but the bang for the buck is the best in my opinion and I’ve never really had an issue. Greg got one with some serious hard drive problems a few years back, but they were nice and replaced it.

      Btw, if your Toshiba is only 6 months old it still might be under warranty if you think some of the issues are things that might be due to faulty components.

  3. nethy says:

    Did you consider a mac?

    They don’t do as well in spreadsheets, but 6 hrs actual work is the minimum.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Honestly, I didn’t. I’m not really an Apple fan in any sort of way. I don’t really like their cocky closed-off philosophy, nor do I see a point in overpaying for their products. I can see why some people like their products, especially certain people in certain situations, and I do appreciate their design and how they push the envelope with some of their technologies. To each his own, but it’s not for me.

      Also, from a more practical standpoint, the majority of people browsing the web are on Windows machines, so for testing purposes I can’t see using anything else. If I did, I’d have to have a second Windows machine or use a virtual machine, which is just a pain in the ass and makes the whole thing much more complex (maintaining two machines instead of one). And I like the fact that all software is built for Windows first and everything else second (if at all). Plus I’m not a huge gamer, but at times I play a PC game or two and Macs just suck at that.

      If anything, I’d switch sooner to Ubuntu. I’m a big fan of just about everything Ubuntu and linux in general. However I’d run into that same issue. For me, everything on a Windows machine “just works” and allows me to get my work done fastest with the least amount of hassle.

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