Thursday, May 17, 2012

Which laptop/notebook/ultrabook to buy?

I'm in the market for a new laptop. Not for school since I just graduated but I got all this graduation money to blow. I figured I'd replace my 3+ year old ASUS. The ASUS is still working and I'll use it until it dies but it's a big bitch to lug around. I got it as a desktop replacement and that's exactly what it did. I just am done lugging it every where especially if I just want to jog on down to the local Internet cafe. It's not conducive to jogging or even walking for that matter.

So, I've narrowed it down (sort of) to a few models...in no particular order:
  • Alienware M14x—approx. $1,800-$2,000 after my customizations
  • Dell XPS 13—approx. $1,400 after my customizations
  • Dell XPS 14z—approx. $1,200 after my customizations
  • Dell XPS 15z—approx. $1,400 after my customizations
  • Samsung 9 series ultrabook—$1,400 is the starting price without any added upgrades
I like the XPS series. The XPS 13 doesn't have a disk drive which isn't important. I already have an external CD/DVD burner from when I purchased my netbook. I like the form factor. It's very portable and sleek looking. The biggest detractor: 1366 x 768 resolution. I hate this resolution on my ASUS as well as my netbook. It requires too much up/down and side-to-side scrolling when surfing the web or working in just about any type of Office file. Now it's way worse in a smaller screen like my netbook than in my ASUS 15" notebook but it's not a resolution I'm a fan of. The Alienware has a 1600x900 resolution and the XPS 15z has the option to upgrade from 1366x768 to the 1600x900 resolution. I thought I read somewhere that the 14z has this same option but I can't seem to find it so I might have just run the two different reviews/tech specs together while researching the 14z and 15z.

The XPS 13 and 14z are more in the size range that I'm looking for and I think the M14x is too—I'm not sure as I haven't seen and touched the M14x physically like I have the XPS notebooks. My only visual size comparison for the M14x is my M11x which I gave to my wife. I liked it a lot and it was a very nice size but the issue with the 11" screen and resolution was bothersome more often than not as well as the all-level-keys keyboard. If the wife didn't need a better machine from her netbook, I would probably still have the M11x and be very happy with it. The sleep and wake-from-sleep time was phenomenal on this "older" ultrabook-type gaming system.

The XPS 15z with the 1600x900 resolution is a plus for me but the size is a tad bigger than I really want it to be. It's not as big as my ASUS notebook because it doesn't have the ridiculous and mostly useless added number pad on the right-hand side of the keyboard. I don't type enough on the number pad to justify it being on my machine and even if I did use the number pad often, I'd purchase a USB one because the layout on my ASUS is not exactly the same as a full-size keyboard. The 15z feels more like a 15" Mac Book Pro(?). It's looks like a good machine and fairly lightweight but I'm not sure it's as portable as I'd like.

The Samsung 9 Series 13" ultrabook was a very pretty machine. I have a Samsung Netbook and have not had ANY issues with it that I didn't create myself. The netbook was the portability I wanted with more power than the "normal" netbook. I was $100 more than other netbooks with basically the same specs but it was rated better and it turned out to be just great for me...for a while. I ended up needing more speed with opening programs like a browser or any Word/Excel/Access files. The scrolling left/right/up/down in the browser window was tedious. It did it's job for what I needed it for at the time but I've increased my needs so it will no longer cut it for me. It is a Netflix playing machine which is hooked up to a projector and that's all it is used for now...it's does this quite well with only the occasional hiccup. I would be willing to take the chance on the Samsung 9 but not for a $400 difference. I went to Best Buy the other day to fondle the XPS 13, XPS 14z, and Series 9 machines and the Samsung started at $1,399 whereas the other two were $999. The specs were pretty identical give or take a few minor tweaks.

I tried to customize all the machines as close as possible to get the best comparison with power and cost. Looks is a bit secondary for me although these machines all look pretty good on the outside and under the cover. However, the XPS 13 would have to be the most eye-catching from the outside cover to the inside under the lid. The Samsung has a not-so-shiny finish on the outside and a less glossy screen which could be good in bright lights to combat glare and reflections. The Alienware look needs an update but it's flashy lights and all still make it look cool. The glossy screen helps add to the "shine" but it's very pricey for me since I don't really do gaming on my PC much anymore. Besides, I have a desktop for that. I want to use my new notebook more for Photoshop, Pinnacle Studio, Internet, Email, and the like. It's nice to have the power to play games but is it worth the additional $500 or more? Maybe. It was with the M11x but I got that for a very, very good deal. There isn't a very, very good deal right now for the M14x.

So, that's my dilemma. Thanks for listening.

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