The All-Thing

All stick and no carrot, since ought-three.


四時田園雜興 (范成大(1126-1193))


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Wed, 24 Sep 2003


I've been thinking about buying a laptop recently. I'm looking for something very small and light. I envision mainly using it for coding, so I'm not overly concerned with performance, though obviously better is better. I am also willing to forgo having a CD or DVD or floppy drive in it for the sake of reduced physical dimensions, though I realize that may make installing Linux a pain.

After some research, I've narrowed the choices down to four. These have 12.1" screens, are an inch or less thick and weigh around three pounds.

Sharp Actius UM32W
Cheap! At $1100, it's the cheapest of the lot by far. An external CD drive is included in the deal. However, it's also the heaviest (3.1lb) and apparently has a slightly sub-optimal keyboard. (Review). Linux support seems fine.
Toshiba Portege R100
Despite the stupid name, this is the sweetest of the group by far: it's the lightest (tied with the Toughbook), thinnest, and smoothest-looking machine. It's also the most expensive: $2300, aka over twice the price of the Sharp. And Linux support is sub=optimal: in particular, the built-in wireless will never work due to Centrino issues. Not sure I want to support that kind of kak. My heart was set on this for a long time because it's just such a sweet machine, but it's hard to justify the price when compared with the others.
Panasonic Toughbook T1
$1880. Built-in wireless; not sure whether it will work with Linux or not. Thickness varies from an inch (slightly thicker than the R100) to 1.5" where the battery is in the back, which is weird. But it has incredibly low weight of 2.43lb. The cool thing about this one is the Toughbook characteristics—spill-resistant keyboard, shock-mounted HD and screen, hard case. Very damage-resistant, which is pretty appealing, and Panasonic has some neat videos of dropping and banging the thing.
Dell Latitude X300
Despite losing any geek points for buying a computer from a company with such irritating commercials (which, despite never watching TV, I still somehow manage to know about) this looks like a pretty cool machine. About $1650, 2.9lb and slightly less than an inch thick. Pretty-looking, too, except for the Dell logo on the cover. Offers a choice of three internal wireless cards, none of which is supported under Linux (and this is because the chipset manufacturers have been refusing to release specifications on the cards, not because of slacking on the part of the Linux community, let me assure you). Good reviews of the keyboard and screen.

It's a toss-up between the Toughbook and the Dell, I think. The lack of wireless support is completely irritating as I'll have to use a PCMCIA wireless card, but it's not fatal. The Toughbook is pretty appealing but it's not clear that it's worth $250 more than the Dell. Decisions, decisions....

UPDATE: I bought a laptop. It's not any of these.

Posted at 20:46 | /mortal/trappings | (leave a comment) | permalink


The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice. -- Mark Twain