blarg?

I Want A Big Toy

So. We’re moving, very soon, and as part of a possibly-misguided promise to my lovely and very, very patient wife, I am reducing my computer-ownership to one laptop and one desktop. Many of you I think will view even that as an excess and, frankly, screw you guys, I don’t want to hear it.

But as part of that purge, it’s time for me to get rid of my very heavy, much-abused and had-water-poured-on-it-by-Via-Rail laptop, an old ECS. Who, I hear you ask? Exactly.

In any case, I’m shopping for a laptop. And, dearest internet, I solicit your opinions.

Right now, I’m looking at a Lenovo N100 with a 2 gig RAM upgrade. About $1400 all in, where “in” includes a mail-in rebate, but nevertheless. I’ve read that the sound sucks, but sound-on-laptops is historically for the crazy and desperate only, so that’s no surprise. The big thing I’m looking for is: power management has to work. I am assured for that particular model that it does, but I’m a Linux user, so who knows?

Those of you who are going to tell me to get a Mac, know that I have a deep sympathy for your viewpoint. But a MacBook with 2 gigs of RAM and a 100 gig hard drive is between $600 and $900 more expensive, depending on the model. Which gets me a slightly faster processor, OSX, and a much smaller screen. And no chance at a docking station, and and and…

It also gives me a product from a company that will pull the carpet out from under you without telling you, something I would politely call unacceptable. So as pretty as Macs are, and they really are that, it’s a non-starter. For religious reasons, which I would have difficulty explaining to people who don’t already agree with me. Yes, I know what that makes me. Move along.

I’m wondering if anyone:

  • has heard anything about the Lenovos, for or against?
  • knows of some brand I should definitely look at, or definitely avoid?
  • thinks I should wait until the christmas-season sale glut?
  • thinks I should wait for Apple’s christmas-season offerings?
  • thinks I should look at something else completely?
  • thinks I should skip the whole thing?

Many thanks.

22 Comments | Skip to comment form

  1. Alex Rootham

    We use Lenovos at work. They are mostly solid. I’d say you’d have 2-3 blog-postings of angry I-can’t-belive-Lenovo-would-do-this, versus about 5-6 of other brands.

  2. Mike Hoye

    I’ll hate it half as much? Whoa!

  3. Mike Kozlowski

    I have nothing to add to the laptop discussion (I’ve got a Dell and it’s fine, but if you think I’m going to recommend a Dell to Crazy Linux Guy, well, no).

    What I do have to add to is the laptop sound non-discussion, to say: Check out HeadRoom’s products, particularly the Bithead. Plugs into a USB port, looks like a generic USB Audio device (I’m fairly certain that works with Linux), and it’ll make your headphones sound better than any sound card you’ve ever owned.

  4. me

    I hope you blog fully when you finally choose; I’m eager to hear how you like whatever you wind up with.

  5. Michael, StE

    Odd. I can only get close to those prices if I buy the memory/drive upgrades from the manufacturers. Likely I’m using in the wrong currency zone…

    I have a large Dell gaming laptop, for lugging around to friends’ houses on public transport. The backpain has taught me that except in desktop replacement scenarios, the best laptop is a small one.

    I remember the Bithead products being positively reviewed on DansData several times. NIfty wee things.

  6. Quotation

    Lenovos and Thinkpads are both still very different beasts, and I would never spend money on anything less than a real Thinkpad. The build quality is significantly higher on the Thinkpad than on the Lenovo.

    I use a T42 for about 10hrs/day, I’ve dropped a loaded bookshelf on the screen, and — it lives. There are shiny spots on the most popular keys (Space, H, T, U, I, O, N). It’s got both the pad and the nipple, which is critical. Let me know if you’d like to fondle it for feel.

  7. Mike Bruce

    Can’t comment on the Lenovos. I have a genuine pre-Lenovo Thinkpad R40, which I like quite a bit. The power management does work (including the eyebrow-raising software suspend), but it’s a couple years old now.

  8. Jamie Bowden

    I’ve been carrying a Latitude D800 around for coming up on three years now, and it has operated without so much as a single glitch.

    Dell use only intel chipset motherboards currently (though that will not be the case for AMD machines once they start shipping), and since no one but Intel implement ACPI fully AND to spec, I’d pay attention to what chipset is on whatever you end up buying.

    My Latitude runs FreeBSD without a problem, so I’d expect Linux would be just fine as well.

  9. Quotation

    I dropped my stinkpad about 2′ on to cement in a parking garage last night while it was hibernated.

    A useless little piece of plastic (henceforth known as the “crumple zone”) snapped off beside the HD15F connector, but it still runs fine.

  10. Mike Hoye

    Koz, thanks for the sound-widget reference.

    Sadly, the Thinkpads fall into the same category as the MacBooks; Good idea, exorbitant price tag. They’re about seven hundred dollars out of my price range for a less-than-comparable feature set.

    Also: they all seem to come with ATI chips only for anything higher than 1280xWhatever, and ATI’s Linux support is unacceptable.

    And: the nib-mouse thing just doesn’t do it for me, so that’s a non-issue.

  11. John

    I’m not a fan of the ThunkPads, but I wouldn’t avoid them, or Dells, out of hand, if the price was right.

    I heartily recommend Fujitsu Lifebooks. They’re great, and the “I fix laptops for a living” guys I know swear by them as having the fewest problems and the easiest hardware to repair they’ve ever encountered.

    I most strongly recommend that you avoid all Sony products like the plague upon mankind sent by hardware demons that they are.

  12. Mike Hoye

    Oh, I believe my love of Sony products is well-documented.

  13. Mike Hoye

    Update: I’ve sent Lenovo some email, asking if you can upgrade the battery without buying a second one, and if they can ship the computer without Windows installed. There’s just no way they’ll do the latter, but if they can do the former, I’m going with it.

  14. Quotation

    Stinkpads are only expensive when you buy new — most companies lease bleeding-edge stinkpads for a year or two, and then unload them dirt-cheap when they’re no longer sexy enough to impress everyone in meetings.

    A one-yr-old Stinkpad may provide more bang for the buck than a new Lenovo — with much higher quality, and a fair balance of warranty left.

    Whatever you get, though, I’ve got faith that you can break it.

  15. Mike Hoye

    We’re currently on the cusp of a fairly significant processor switchover, and all the refurbs I can find are Celerons, Centrinos and Pentium Ms, so I think I’m going to pass on the refubared laptops.

  16. Quotation

    http://www-132.ibm.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?storeId=124&catalogId=-124&langId=124&categoryId=2576396
    http://www.laptopcloseout.ca/canada/home.html?target=dept_5.html&lang=en-us
    http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/refurb/refurb_slc.asp?CatId=17&category=Laptops

    The first two links definitely have refurb 2GHz P4s

  17. Quotation

    http://www-132.ibm.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?storeId=124&catalogId=-124&langId=124&categoryId=2576396
    http://www.laptopcloseout.ca/canada/home.html?target=dept_5.html&lang=en-us
    http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/refurb/refurb_slc.asp?CatId=17&category=Laptops

    The first two links definitely have refurb 2GHz P4s

  18. Anonymous

    ECS isn’t so much of a ‘who?’ moment as it is a ‘how the hell is it still working and not been defenestrated 20 times over already’ moment. ECS and particularly their sub-brand PC Chips have burned me badly with some hardware.

  19. Anonymous

    ECS isn’t so much of a ‘who?’ moment as it is a ‘how the hell is it still working and not been defenestrated 20 times over already’ moment. ECS and particularly their sub-brand PC Chips have burned me badly with some hardware.

    Also, Pentium-M is not that different from Core Duo is not that different from Core 2 Duo. Both power consumption per performance and effective speed per clock are not equal, but they’re withi reasonable margins. If you can get a high-clock Core Duo with a new battery as a refurb, I wouldn’t *necessarily* pass it over for a more expensive Core 2 Duo. Also also, Merom was just released this week so it’ll be a while yet before the core 2 duo laptops start showing up in quantity. You definitely want to avoid Core Solo and Celeron-M, let alone P4-M and the p4-based celeron mobile.

  20. Mike Richters

    I have operated mainly Dell laptops, and found them to run Linux (Debian and RedHat) with only minor setup difficulty. I had a Thinkpad for a while, but I used it as little as possible on account of the left control key being in the wrong place (the main reason I only use Dell laptops).

    In case you haven’t seen it, I have found the Linux on Laptops web site to be a valuable resource, replete with examples.

  21. sir front all the time

    http://desrt.mcmaster.ca/macbook.xhtml

    word.

  22. Mike Hoye

    Nice. But I’ve already put the order on the Lenovo in.

    Also: A key phrase in that article is “The Macbook was paid for by my supervisors at McMaster Unversity.”