Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seeking Laptop Recommendations

I've made some bad decisions over the past few years. But the worst consumer decision I have ever made is getting a Dell Inspiron 1525. I upgraded where appropriate, so it does manage to run Windows Vista (I would install 7, but the next computer will have it, and its day has come). Although it's slow occasionally, I wouldn't really blame the computer for that--it's not a well-loved computer, and there's some stuff on it that's just not very good for it. Unlike many 1525 users, my hard drive has never crashed.

The real problem is the hardware, which has the usability of a computer designed by blind Luddites. At any given moment half the poorly-located USB ports are unusable for any reasonably sized USB device. And the touchpad hasn't worked since I bought it. And for those unfamiliar with the 1525, it's a laptop, so the pad is integral to the experience of the computer.

Initially the mouse was just sticky. It would want to pick things up and move them around--so when you were just trying to move around a web page, the mouse is dragging words and links around after it like a dog bringing things home from the park. Eventually I learned to avoid this by using the touchpad only when necessary. The rest of the time I navigated like a WebTV user. The tab key is your friend. Alt + arrows for browsing--hey, it saves you 700 hours of yelling and begging and pleading to get your mouse up to the top of the web page--Yay! And on the plus side, the mouse completely stopped anyone but me from using the computer. After about 20 seconds people would get frustrated and quit. They didn't know the keystrokes--it's a lost art.

Well, this week the touchpad stopped working until I hit the computer really hard. So it would work for 15 minutes and then stop--the arrow totally unmovable. Hit the computer, and maybe you'd get another 15 minutes of mobility--then nothing. Eventually I had to hit the computer harder and harder. And tonight it stopped working completely (there's a dent--I hit it pretty hard).

If anyone has any suggestions on a laptop they've enjoyed, lay 'em on me. I had an HP before this that I actually liked until it mysteriously stopped seeing the internet and had to be plugged in to the wall (ah, Windows updates--don't call us, we'll call you). I might go back to that if replacing the OS works. But I'm totally happy to take any suggestions, if any of our IR's aren't desktop devotees.


roborob said...

I'd strongly recommend looking at a Macbook Pro. (Disclaimer: I am NOT a macevangelist) The reason - they really are designed _well_. Charlie Stross has something to say about it, here: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/01/more-flame-bait.html

I believe Mr. Stross has it right about spot on.

On the cheaper side of things, you should also look into Thinkpads. Yeah, they're made by Lenovo now instead of IBM, but they are a pretty well designed laptop. Specifically, I like the X series, designed to be small and portable.

But yeah - you could do a lot worse than a 13" macbook pro. And you can even have it dual boot into windows via bootcamp.

Katy said...

Thanks! Love the term "macevangelist." I had a mac a long time ago, and it was nice, although it did take some serious retraining to get used to the keystrokes and mouse.

I've had my share of thinkpads at work, and I gotta say, they haven't let me down. Well, my first one did, but that was really because it was a used computer that had no business running big bad German accounting software--that was a girly Thinkpad doing a big strapping WWF hero Thinkpad's job. Fortunately, my home computer doesn't need to think nearly that hard. It just has to help me organize and archive all my notes about the big bad German accounting software (with big, big screen shots).