Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Faster, thinner, lighter

It's almost time to retire my trusty old Dell E4300. The warranty just expired, which means that if Dell has optimized their average component MTBF vs warranty span correctly, the laptop will implode shortly. I replaced the original hard drive with a 2nd-gen Sandforce SSD a year ago, and it's made a big difference, but I'm ready for a little more speed. And, with the advent of the "Ultrabook" form factor, for even less weight and size. I've decided I want one.

At CES this year, there were plenty of ultrabooks on display - Engadget's roundup has a few, more on Anandtech). And most of them seemed to get at least some part of the formula right, but I don't think any of them have quite grabbed me yet. Maybe I'm being picky, but I've decided that my top priorities are:

- 1600 x 900 resolution
- Thunderbolt port (for docking)
- decent battery life (5 hrs+)
- light weight

I'm sick of my current 1280 x 800 screen - the drop in my productivity from 2 big 1920 x 1080 screens down to the tiny laptop screen is painfully apparent. 1366 x 768 is arguably worse, since I really need those vertical lines of resolution. And although I move around a lot with a laptop, which is why I want a good battery and light weight, I also use it as my primary workstation, so I need to be able to dock it and use my big monitors. In fact, a laptop that would support 3 screens instead of 2 like my current Dell would be preferable. Few of the ultrabooks seem to have this capability, but at least a Thunderbolt port would make it theoretically possible.

Other requirements are pretty normal. The number of USB ports matters, but not hugely, since most peripherals I use at home while connected to a dock. I do use my SD card reader pretty often, so it would be nice to keep that. A decent keyboard, preferably backlit, would be useful.

Requirements in mind, I took a look at the current crop of ultrabooks just demoed at CES, and... was totally disappointed. Nothing had all the features I wanted. The closest ones were:

Samsung Series 9
- no Thunderbolt but both HDMI and DisplayPort connections
- 1600 x 900 resolution (on what I hear is a great screen)
- light weight (2.5 lbs)

Sony Vaio Z
- Thunderbolt, sorta, via a proprietary connector as usual (thanks a lot, Sony)
- 1600 x 900
- light weight
- ungodly price ($1900+)

Here's my spreadsheet comparing the current crop of ultrabooks and their cousins using my completely biased and proprietary scoring system. It's a definite work in progress and the scoring may change without warning. If something comes along that scores above a 3, I'll probably buy it, but right now, none of these are worth the money.

No comments: