iPod Touch, netbooks, laptops, and desktops
For the last handful of months I've been thinking about accessing the Internet, and otherwise being productive, while on the go.
A number of months back I picked up an HP device with Windows Mobile, unfortunately, after a few months the short battery life and inability to run the applications I wanted/needed to be truly productive forced me to sell it and start looking elsewhere ...
The iPhone had been out for a while when I started looking at what an iPod Touch could offer. I already own an 80GB iPod Classic, so unless it offered enough room to store my music collection (at the time under 40 GB), I wasn't going to be interested.
Of course, while I kept telling myself that, part of me knew that I didn't regularly listen to my entire collection, and I could therefore get away with a smaller size. Nonetheless, price was one of the first things I looked at.
Currently we're looking at third generation models of 8, 32, and 64 GB, at (Amazon pricing, rounded up) $190, $270, and $360. The 8GB made no sense to purchase, which leaves pricing at $3-400. A little pricing when I could just get an 160GB iPod Classic for $230.
I had looked at netbooks in the past. More real-estate, and able to run a real operating system, netbooks are made for portablility and some level of productivity.
However, the screen size is pretty harsh, but comes with the above benefits. Overall, I'd pretty much excluded netbooks as an option.
After Jeff Atwood wrote about netbooks (A Democracy of Netbooks) I started giving them another look. According to him, a $400 netbook (give or take) is about equal, in certain ways, to a $5-600+ laptop.
And that's about what you're looking to pay; $3-400 for a relatively good netbook. Unfortunately, the operating system I wanted - Windows 7 compared to Windows XP - seems to only be the Starter edition. While that's certainly not horrible, I really didn't want to be forced to a sub-par machine, performance-wise, that would limit that productivity applications I'd be able to run.
And have you seen the screen size on netbooks? I'm hardly that old, but my glass-covered eyes shrieked when I saw them.
So it basically seems that a laptop is what I really wanted. Why didn't I just decide on a laptop in the first place? Ambitions.
I last purchased a laptop around the turn of the century. (Not often I get to use that phrase.) At that time laptops were pretty basic, but I still enjoyed mine. I'd owned nothing but desktops before, and with the exception of the last one, they were all hand-me-downs. I spec'd out the machine approximately to what I wanted (I would have gone higher, but cost was an issue) and ended up paying around a grand, if I remember correctly. (Might have been around $900 ... I have the receipt somewhere.)
It lasted me through the rest of college, until right around my last semester when it finally crapped out. I went out a picked up a KOGi monitor (which I still have and use today on my main machine) and hooked up an older desktop to make things work. Later I got it running again, but it crapped out yet again and I gave up.
Two or three years wasn't too bad, but in the coming years I stayed away from purchasing another laptop and stuck with desktops, getting more powerful machines for less money. And of course there's the ease of upgrading a desktop. First simply memory, then media drives, to hard drives.
Now I wasn't completely away from laptops during those years. I was involved in the purchase of two laptops, both of which have served their owners fairly well as they've owned them (the first is nearing the end of it's life). With this last, which got upgraded to Windows 7 shortly after it came out, I was strongly tempted to give laptops another chance. After all, a lot had changed in almost a decade.
But when I started pricing out laptops, as I wanted them, I started seeing numbers on par with what my last desktop cost, with two widescreen monitors. Did I really want to pay around a grand for a laptop?
Which brought me back to desktops. Why pay a grand when I could get a really nice machine for less than that? Isn't that what I really wanted, so that I could replace my 4 year old HP that runs approximately 24/7, but which was still fairly good, thanks to me buying a nice machine and maxing out the RAM over time? Heck, the only thing I don't like about it is that I can't install Windows 7 on it because of the hardware that's in it, and I don't yet feel comfortable completey replacing it.
But with a desktop I lose the portability, which got me on this entire line of research.
A short while ago Apple started talking about the iPad, which they place between an iPhone (iPod Touch in my mind, since I'm happy with U.S. Cellular and don't feel like paying even more a month for Internet access) a laptop or desktop. Not to mention the various other tablet devices that are already out, or coming out. And of course, the iPad is better than a netbook.
The problem is this generally seem single-purpose, as the netbook does. Not only that, but, like the Touch/iPhone, you're forced to go through the Apple app store. That's a heavy price to pay when I can purchase a netbook running Windows and either download (for no cost) or build an application to solve a need. With Apple now going after apps which show a little skin, or T & A, it's difficult to give up control on what applications (as compared to apps) I can run on my machine.
So what I ended up doing was just looking at low-end laptops. I had gone full circle, so the only solution I saw was to purchase a laptop, but one with a relatively low cost. After a good deal of research, I kept coming back to the HP Compaq Presario CQ60-615DX.
At a little under $400, we have some amazing features; 250 GB hard drive, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, a modest 2.2GHz with 2 GB of RAM (and only around $100 to max it out to a full 4 GB).
While I'm still a little 'eh' about the Compaq brand (another lasting opinion from the last century), every machine I've purchased, excluding the one Dell laptop, has been an HP. I like HP machines, and I like that all that I've purchased can still be plugged in and fired up; even the one that's got Windows Me on it.
And on BestBuy.com, I believe I even saw a reviewer suggesting graphic card models that could be swapped in to replace the one it came with, at an extremely low cost.
A co-worker also purchased one of these, if not a similar model, and when I asked him of it, said he was still happy with it. That was the last nudge I needed.
I've been mostly busy with side work, which means I might not even consider this a purchase using part of my tax refund, but which also means that I haven't had much time over the last week to really use the laptop. But having finally gotten the majority of applications that I want on it, and having spent the last 50 minutes writing this article (although a few minutes of that was doing research for this article and leaning over to choose music on my iPod), I'm still happy with my purchase, and am looking forward to continuing to use it. (In fact, I should be watching some Netflix streaming tonight on it.)
In fact, seeing as how my sister is in desperate need of a computer, I've strongly recommended this machine to her, and may be lending the money so that she can purchase one.
Full review coming shortly, but hopefully the above is of some benefit to someone else, trying to make the same decision as I was.
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