Laptop hunting


I went down to MicroCenter today mostly to get out of the apartment because it was so hot, and it just so happens they're having a sale on laptops! I've been trying to find a good deal on a lappy for a few weeks now. I thought I found one at Office Depot, where they were selling a nice Toshiba Satellite for $499, but it turned out that 1) It was way too big and 2) the internal WiFi chipset isn't supported well by Ubuntu, so I returned it the next day (and no restocking fee!).

The sweet spot for laptops right now seems to be the 15" widescreen notebooks. You can find a bunch of decent ones at Best Buy, Fry's or MicroCenter in the $450-$750 range. The problem is that to me, they're just *way* too freaking huge. When I got that Toshiba home, I was astounded by how big it was... in the store it looked "normal" sitting next to all the other gargantuan notebooks, but in reality it was pretty massive. I think the optimal notebook size is just about what the MacBook is, and I can't figure out for the life of me why all the PC manufacturers are selling such massive laptops. And here's the funny bit, the *smaller* laptops - which presumably would be a bit cheaper because the screen isn't so big - are actually much, much more expensive. (And no, I'm not spending $1100+ on a MacBook just to be cool... you can get a ton more for your money than buying Apple computers).

There was a nice Sony Vaio I saw (15" still, ugh) for $650 after rebate which I was considering, but didn't buy yet. Sony laptops feel really nice and look good, so I'm tempted - and a Core 2 Duo would actually be faster than my current Desktop PC. I want to check online first and see if there are any major issues with Ubuntu drivers before I pony up. I loved my last Toshiba, and was really thinking about getting another one, but again, I want to find a deal.

I've been resisting just going to and buying their low range 14" Inspirons for two reasons. First, as silly as this may sound, it takes weeks for them to ship it. Secondly, I feel like I *should* be able to find a closeout deal on a decent laptop at one of the big-box stores, which will give me a better overall lappy with maybe a slightly older CPU, for a much better price. Thirdly, I've had horrible luck with Dell products and swore I'd never buy another computer from them again, and I'm trying to stick with it. Finally, I tried going through the Linux mini-site on and customize my own laptop, and ended up with one that cost more, and was substantially less powerful than the ones on Dell's main page because for some reason those ones get - literally - a $380 discount just for being a Windows PC, which is annoying on principal alone.

One coolest bits about my trip to MicroCenter is they have the Asus EeePC on display! Two of them, a black one and a white one. Neither BestBuy nor Fry's has them, so this is the first time I've been able to play with it at all. It's *so* cute, and it runs Linux - but with a cool desktop shell which actually worked really well and was integrated with a dedicated "home" button (where the Windows key usually is). It has a built in webcam which I never noticed before and it sports an Intel processor (Atom?), which I also hadn't noticed until I saw the sticker on the actual device. For $399, it's actually very tempting... but it's really just a toy. The keyboard is *ridiculously* small, and the screen on the 4G model is too tiny as well. Even if they just kept the resolution and made fatter pixels to increase the size of the screen, that'd be fine with me, otherwise I might as well just use my Nokia N800, or wait to get one of the later models. That said, I thought it was cool as hell and if I had a kid who was just a little older than mine, I'd buy one for him in a heartbeat to use for online stuff.

Anyways, if you happen to be reading this, and happen to have a Sony Vaio VGN-NR285E that's running Ubuntu drop me a note and tell me what you think. :-)


Oh, I almost forgot - Central Computers has the EeePCs as well. I love that store - I used to buy all my misc. hardware from them when I was in SF. I had no idea until right now they had *big* stores in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara...

Another update - by chance, I ran across this Eee PC 900 impressions post via Planet Python. Interesting reading...

Update 6/22: I went down to Central Computers and tried the Eee PC 900 - The screen is definitely a lot nicer, but the whole thing was *hot*. Plus it costs a lot more than the 2G model ($299) or 4G ($399).

Happily, I discovered that Best Buy had *exactly* the sort of sale I was looking for! The same Sony Vaio VGN-NR385E that MicroCenter was selling for $699 *after rebate*, Best Buy had for $599 - no rebates required. I went and got it this morning.

More updates in a later post as to how Ubuntu works!

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