Laptops for me are like desktops, phones and screwdrivers. They are tools, not an expression of who I am as a person or what lifestyle I aspire to.
I got my last proper one four years ago. It's still going strong and still as dog slow as the day I bought it, second-hand, on eBay. It was a Dell D420 which I have been juggling with a 120 quid Acer Netbook for the past few years. Whilst the portability was always great, the lack of welly and memory had become insufferable over the past year. Maxing it to 1.5GB RAM, using an SSD and switching to Ubuntu didn't help that much. Open 20 Chrome Tabs (or 1 Firefox Tab) and it was pretty much out of memory.
So I finally decided to go back down the desktop-replacement route like my ancient and still functional Acer Aspire 2026 which did Le Web 2006 with me.
There is phenomenal value to be had right now around the 400 Euro mark with decent machines sporting 15.6" screens, i3 dual-core CPUs and a few gigs of RAM. But if this machine was to last me another 4 years I had to go higher spec. Strangely that turned out to be quite difficult.
Obviously I'm not going to spend silly money on an MBP, so I looked at the usual suspects of Acer, Asus, Samsung, Dell, HP etc. I've been disappointed with Dell every time I've gone to spec a machine for anyone in the past few years. As soon as you add any desirable feature, the price goes through the roof. So the 15z and its light brother dropped out of the race pretty quickly. With most of the other brands, the selection dropped to almost nothing once I specified an i7 CPU. The one exception was Asus on the Komplett.ie site which had every possible combination of CPU/Memory/Screen you could possibly ask for.
It turns out that my ideal spec is actually a gaming PC spec. The last desktop game I played regularly was Quake so I don't really fit the demographic but what the hell, if the machines meed my needs, I'm happy.
After a bunch of to'ing and fro'ing and spec reading and review reading and YouTube watching I decided that the Asus N53S Series (Asus Site Link) was the one for me. The spec is as follows:
- Asus 15,6" N53SN-SZ139V
- Full HD 1920 x 1080 – LED Backlit
- 2.0 Mega Pixel Webcam
- Sandybridge Intel Core i7 2630QM – 2,0GHz – Can spike to 3.0GHz. Quad core, 8 threads.
- 6 GB DDR3 RAM
- 640 GB 5400rpm HDD
- Dual Layer DVD±ReWriter
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 550 Graphics – 2 GB. Auto-switches to more battery-friendly Intel Graphics when not needed.
- Bang & Olufsen Speakers
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n wireless
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
- 2x USB 2.0, RJ45 LAN, HDMI, Mic-in jack, Headphone jack out, VGA Port/MINI D-sub, 3-in-1 card-reader (SD, MMC, MS)
- 1x USB 3.0
Things I love:
- Jesus it's fast. I think it may be faster than my desktop
- Full HD screen is stunning
- Speakers are very loud and have plenty of bass
- HDMI-out in case I need to plug into TV
- USB 3,.0 gives me some future-proofing
- It feels solid like it's going to last the expected 4 years.
- It just works
Things I don't love:
- US Layout keyboard which causes character mapping grief when I have UK external keyboard plugged in
- Keyboard itself is a little spongy
- I suspect the 2GB of video RAM is taken from the 6GB of main RAM (TBC)
- DVI or Displayport would have been nice
- It's bloody huge. My rucksack isn't big enough to take it. So new bag will have to be bought
- It came with a Dutch version of that stripped down MS Office (sort that, Komplett!)
- It was riddled with pre-installed bloatware, all of which I deleted
- It had a weird partitioning of the HDD (which was easy to change)
So overall I'm happy as a pig in shite and I'd strongly recommend it if you need something able to run VMware or other resource-sucking apps. Actually, as it doesn't need an external screen, for most people it would easily do double duty as a laptop and their main desktop.