New Toys

Chelsea and I both got new (read: expensive) toys this past month.  We decided to treat ourselves to new laptops, because our Mac’s were definitely on their way out.  Unfortunately, if you read the previous post, mine took an early exit.  I’m not completely sure that story is dead, but I’ll have to keep you posted on the likely very expensive solution if there is one.

Anyway, I’ll post a bit about my new laptop, and hope to talk Chels into writing a few words about hers as well.

To begin:  Anyone who was fortunate so see my past computer setup, knows it was in all kinds of shambles.  The keyboard died, and was ~$100 to replace, so I bypassed that with USB keyboards.  Yes plural – you have no idea how annoying it is transporting a keyboard back and forth until you do it everyday.  Oh and my internal battery was dead, so that meant if I left it unplugged from the AC adapter for more than 4 minutes it automatically shut down and reset everything to the Unix epoch.  And a sob story later, I decided with my thesis and paper writing on the way that it was time for an actual portable laptop.

Decision #1: Which operating system?

Here is a Venn diagram of what went through my mind as I debated which OS I wanted.


All kidding aside, I really wasn’t sure what to do.  I’m not comfortable enough with Linux to give that a shot at this important crossroad of my graduate career.  I also have been such a Mac enthusiast, it almost seemed blasphemy to think of any Microsoft operating system.  I love Mac OSX but their computers really are too expensive.  More on that later.

Decision #2: What size computer do I want?

When I purchased my powerbook I was used to hauling around a monster Dell laptop, so a 1 inch thin 15 inch aluminum laptop didn’t seem all that big.  I was sick of lugging around my 7 pound laptop, and decided I didn’t really need a larger one.  I convinced myself that I was committed to a small laptop.  For portability sake.  Now if only I could get used the drop in performance.

Decision #3:  How powerful of a computer did I need?

The key word in that sentence being need.  Of course when considering all technology-related purchases, I almost always want more than I need.  At this point I think its on the Y chromosome.  This decision is actually tied in very closely with decision number 2, as the smaller computers get, generally the less powerful they are.  My last computer had all the bells and whistles, but it also cost me a pretty penny and is now the most expensive paper weight I have.  So did I need a computer capable of 1.35 teraflops per second?  Always.  But could I really just get away with a bare bones one that runs MS Office, searches the web and if I’m lucky runs Photoshop?  Absolutely.  I decided to swallow my pride and not get a full feature laptop for the first time in my life (well actually, its pretty loaded for a netbook, more later).  I actually talked myself into this with the justification that if I really needed more CPU horsepower, I could always buy a desktop at a later date and install a 10 inch heat sink in the shape of a motor engine.

Decision #4: How much do I want to spend?

At this point, the decisions aren’t necessarily chronological, as this was probably the deciding factor is all of my previously described thoughts.  After about a month of research, I had decided that I could get a computer with an operating system I could handle, that was small enough to be very portable, but yet powerful enough to do some of the few major tasks I hoped for, for less than $500.  That is half the price of the cheapest Mac I could find.  I love Apple as much as Dave Hertz, but I really couldn’t justify paying the “Apple Tax” on this one. (ps  I even waited until their most recent keynote hoping for a price drop or new product line.)

So what did I end up with?



Acer Aspire 1410.  This little workhorse has been out in Europe for a little while under the identity of the 1810, but only came to the States two days before I decided I wanted to buy it.  Here are some of the specs:

OS: Windows 7 (64-bit)

Processor: Intel CULV SU3500 (3X faster than the Atom in almost all netbooks)

Memory: 4GB Ram plus a 250GB hard drive

Dimensions: 11.6 inch diagonal screen and full size keyboard (!)

Battery: 6-cell battery that gives me about 5 hours.  Much better than fthe 4 min I had before.

Other features: multi-touch trackpad with dedicated buttons, HDMI output, built in SD card reader,  and its only 3lbs.

Overall I am super happy with my purchase.  I’m planning to do another post on what its like switching operating systems shortly, and what the performance is like on this little netbook/ultraportable.  Flame away in the comments section.

4 thoughts on “New Toys”

  1. My guess is that the referenced 10 inch heat sink motor engine weighs more than the whole netbook. Ah, the price of heat dissipation.

    The Venn diagram is quite clever – I don’t have enough knowledge of linux or Mac OS to attest its accuracy, but you do, and I’m happy to see that you ended with PC OS anyhow.

    My Y chromosome pulls the techno card often, and equally often I find myself buying second best of anything with an on switch (n.b., as a rule I never buy top of the line for price:benefit reasons). For a laptop, unless its your primary computer there is no reason to go nuts since most of your hardcore processing will be on a larger machine anyhow…so again, I think you made the right choice.

    I’m interested to hear about your input on Windows 7. That’d be a good post topic for the future. That, and how it ends up that sheck-it-bava-ka-sha Dave likes Macs so much.

  2. I have to give credit to the guys over at Gizmodo for that Venn diagram. And I really didn’t choose based on OS, Mac just didn’t have a computer that matched everything I wanted. I even considered buying a netbook and porting OSX onto it, but in the end time is money, and I don’t have a lot of time.

  3. I’d say you made the best choice. Do you really need 1TB of RAM? Do you really need a googleplex graphics card? It’s amazing what they can cram into those little netbooks. At this point, portability and reliability trump almost all others.

  4. reliability zane? really? you must still have you sunglasses on. reliability is clearly not one of windows’ finer traits. however, for reasons described in the post it does appear that the correct decision was made. i want a netbook as well, and since i have PLENTY of time i’ll probably port OS X onto it.

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