Laptop trial

Some 18 months ago I decided that I wanted to upgrade from my desktop to a laptop. The machine was really slow, but the most important thing was that I intended to be able to travel with my main machine. So, I bought a really cool looking and pretty fast HP laptop. I didn't want to spent too much on a laptop and this one fitted the bill.
Soon after I found that HP does not equal quality; the machine needed a bios upgrade, which actually came out some months before I bought it. But naturally I only found out after installing Linux on it and there is no way to upgrade then. The power supply has been replaced twice in those 1½ years and now the hinges broke so I use duct tape to keep the screen from separating from the machine. All in roughly 18 months. Hint; don't buy HP guys!

Last week I went shopping for a new laptop; I wanted one with a lot better support for Linux. My HP has an ATI card which already freezes the machine when you relogin X11 a couple of times; a Wifi driver, openGL, card reader would really be good to have support for as well (all present but not supported on my HP). The answer to those questions was pretty simple; go for Intel chipsets. Intel is the main company that actually works with the open source people to get drivers running and fixed.
After searching through lots of specs, I had 3 machines to choose from, unfortunately the shop (mediamarkt) I went to had just one of them for sale. A Fujitsu Siemens laptop. So I took it home last Saturday and installed Linux (feisty AMD64) on it. The first impression was that its really really fast :) The support indeed is outstanding with just one package to install and a reboot later you have full resolution and OpenGL etc. My Wifi also worked out of the box.
During the installation procedure the CDRom was in heavy use, and the sounds it made didn't make me feel very comfortable, though. The design seems to be a bit fragile, which probaby means I'm going to get an even shorter lifespan out of this lappy than my former one.
Other issues included; the design of the key layout doesn't really make sense to me. I find it funny to see the 'backlight less' right of the 'backlight more' button. The connections were also placed quite annoyingly along the sides with almost no connections on the back. Must be useful to someone, I guess.
So this didn't give me a lot of confidence. Then I plugged in the earphones and tried the audio and that was the killer for me. I could actually hear the HD ticking though the headphones! (which was quite hard as the noise levels were doing their best to mask the ticking).
So, yesterday I returned the laptop and got my money back. Hint; don't buy Fujitsu Siemens ever if you require any kind of audio quality.

The ease with which I could return the laptop (even after formatting the HD) at least shows me that the 'paradox of choice' is getting solved nicely. True, you get a lot of choice as a consumer nowadays but you get to try out anything you want, and educate yourself fully if you choose to take the time.

My search for the perfect lappy continues :)



By rikkus at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:22

If you can't afford a new ThinkPad, buy a second hand one.

A couple of months ago I bought an X31 from eBay. I paid for the seller to upgrade the RAM to 2GB. It came with 2x 40G hard drives, a docking station thing and a clean install of Windows from its recovery partition.

The CPU is a Pentium M @ 1.4Ghz, which is as fast as my Athlon XP 1800+. I'm going to get a new 100GB 7200RPM hard drive for it at some point soon, but the total cost including the RAM upgrade and that drive will be £420.

I know this isn't going to be the fastest machine in the world for compiling, but it's tough, light and doesn't run out of RAM.

By rikkus at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:28

I have a Thinkpad Z61t which I'm pretty satisfied with. Core Duo 1.83Ghz and I upgraded it to 1.5GB RAM. It runs great, solid build quality (maybe slightly worse than the T and X series, but still very good) and all the stuff I care about works out of the box with Kubuntu Feisty.

Thinkpads costs more no doubt, but quality costs.

By pointwood at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:28

Many Toshiba Satellites work flawlessly out of the box, so I would suggest looking at those. Also, you could try a vendor like System76 or the like who sell laptops with preinstalled Linux. Even if you don't buy from them, some vendors (Tux computer) will tell you what those laptops are based on, so you can see what's supported.

By lengau at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:20

System76 sells laptops pre-installed with Linux and pretty much everything works out of the box.

By vladc at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 12:09

Most probably your HP is a consumer model, not a business model and that's why you've run into those problems. Business laptops are solid, resilient and have a good support. They lack good graphics cards, though: most of them only have a Intel graphics accelerator (with accelerates nothing, actually) or a low-end ATI.

On the other hand, I have used several Asus laptops (consumer models) along the last two years and I am pretty happy with them. They are cheap (very good value for money) and work fine. I am writing this on a 15.4'' Core 2 Duo T5600, 2 GB RAM, 160GB HD, GeForge 7300 256MB with webcam, card reader, DVD+-R DL, Bluetooth and wifi a/b/g wich cost about 1050 EUR + VAT last December in Spain. I'd say it's very good bang for the buck.

By Pau Garcia i Quiles at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 14:08

My latest minimum requirements from a laptop:
- built-in video camera,
- built-in microphone,
- built-in Bluetooth
- power connector that is either:
a) sits on a miniboard separate from the motherboard, or
b) that has can accommodate rough pull on the power cable without damaging the power socket. (Like Apple's magnetic power connector)

Laptop is NOT A COMPUTER. It is a "consumer device" with which you will never be happy unless it's perfect. THrough many years of dealing with capricious end-customers, here is my "perfect" manufacturers list:
- Sony,
- Apple,
- IBM (Lenovo? I hope)
- (a contender) _business_ line from HP.

By suslikreal at Tue, 04/17/2007 - 16:35