Good laptop, is there one?

I have had my fair amount of troubles with the new Lenovo T500 lately, and as the display also creates terrible headaches if I use it for more than couple of hours (yes, I got my eyes examined also — it is the display), I need to find a laptop that would actually work. Here’s a couple of requirements: it should have a good display (no back-light bleeding, bright, decent resolution, good viewing angles), precise keyboard for touch-typing, light-weight (but not necessary an ultra-portable, but the lighter the better, of course), powerful enough to handle at least some of the recent (if not the latest and greatest) games and media, and finally also carry enough battery power to keep on going for at least 4 hours on a row, preferably more. What options do we have? Apparently at least a few. Macbook Air is out (cannot handle the OS, and lack of connectivity & options); Lenovo has X301, which appears to be a great, lighweight machine, but it is also rather expensive. Sony Vaios have good reputation as stylish, powerful and quality PCs, and they have recently introduced a new Z series which appears to make a serious attempt to be all-around decent machines. Then there is the mixed bag of LG, Fujitsu-Siemens, Dell, Asus, HP/Compaq, and others — none really having any of their works in the news lately (which does not mean that they wouldn’t have the thing I am looking for — I just have not heard of them). A recent interesting device was X360 from Samsung, which is clearly a Korean attempt to compete with Lenovo X300/301 and Macbook Air, but has not got quite as stellar reviews. The price is much lower too, of course. So, here is my current top three — do you know of any decent alternatives that I have left out?

Current contestants:

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the University of Tampere, Finland.

8 thoughts on “Good laptop, is there one?”

  1. Considering this, I will probably rule out Lenovo X301 on the basis of its price. And as I try to cut down the travel, I am not quite as dependent on the ultra-portability of my laptop; I primarily need a decent workstation replacement that would also not be pain to carry around. It appears that if one is willing to go to 2-3 kg range in weight, the number of options increases. E.g. there is HP Compaq 8510w, which is not exactly sexy, but might well be worth considering for my purposes: http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=3862

  2. Markus has been loving his Vaio VGN-FZ38M. Great display, handles vista like dream, and awsome for gaming. a bit big but he dosnt relaly move it that much.

    In workitywork he has Lenovo (I think) really small, relaly mobile) he loves it being so small and easy to go with. But no gaming there and the screen cannot take comparisons. 😉

    So he has two – vaio for pc-replacement and lenovo for work& commuting.

  3. Thanks for the tip, Sarrig! 🙂 Unfortunately it looks like VGN-FZ38M is no longer available for sale. Also, as I visited the Sony Center today they told that the first Z series machines (Z21) will arrive to stores no sooner than a few weeks (Verkkokauppa.com claims arrival date as 6.2.2009). But closer to the specs of VGN-FZ38M are probably some from the current three multimedia Vaio series: NS, FW & AW series. The problem with all of those as the only laptop is that those are mostly intended for home use; carrying a fully-fledged multimedia laptop around daily gets easily rather heavy, and the durability/robustness of the frame is probably not at the same level as in a street-oriented business laptop. So, I tend to agree with you and Markus: two laptops for a games researcher is probably much better solution than only one. 🙂 But the challenge is now to find the right compromise… Maybe I should just accept that I need to play the games with a full PC rather than try to use my work laptop for also some of that. And then optimise the specs for mobility, good display, keyboard and decent office performance…

  4. I am still looking into this (and hauling the T500 around…) — The most serious candidate appears to be Vaio Z series, after all; I took a quick test drive of X301 and particularly the display left me a bit lukewarm. Sony Z should have a decent display and also a bit more processing power. Hard to find good reviews, though. Here is one, but this Z model is not shipped to Finland: http://www.mobiletechreview.com/notebooks/Sony-Vaio-Z550.htm – For me, the crucial bit is the opportunity to have portable device that I can also use for my work (which means running Photoshop and various media applications, as well as gaming). Z models seem to be able to run even some modern games, at least at moderate settings. Sounds great. The fan will likely be somewhat noisy in those speeds, though. (See another review here: http://www.siliconpopculture.com/articles/review/sony_vaio_z/ .)

  5. A week ago, we finally got into testing the Vaio Z31 for real. Unfortunately the session was a disappointment: the device we tested in local Verkkokauppa.com store did not respond at all to the Stamina/Speed switch, or it would just blank the screen. It appeared that Z31 was only able to run with the integrated display driver chip, not making use of the accelerated Nvidia driver at all. The sales person promised to ask around for a fix, but no word from them so far. A real pity: otherwise the hardware seems to fulfill my specifications, but there was something seriously wrong with the drivers in this particular unit, at least.

  6. Continuing this saga (I was reading the Playful Experiences seminar papers from the T500 screen, and got again awful headache, I need to get another laptop) — today I got a message from local Sony Center store, that they have ordered one Vaio Z31 that they can demonstrate to me. This time, the experience was the total opposite, this individual Z31 really performed as promised. It was interesting to flip the Speed/Stamina switch and see the Vista Performance Index for 3D graphics to jump from 3,8 (with the integrated Intel chip) to 5,1 (with the nVidia one). The Finnish models have no Blu-Ray (no real use in business meetings, in any case), and no SSD (which is bit of a shame, really — but they have packed a 310 Gb SATA drive there instead: good room for all those files and multimedia clips). So, I really got a positive view of Vaio Z31 this time, and now just need to put this into our Acquisitions to move forward (finally).

  7. A month later, I am still waiting for the delivery of Vaio Z31. The university bureaucracy is soooo slow, everything moves like in syrup. Now they say the importer is out of stock. It might be they get more 2nd of May. That’s Saturday? Oh well, does not sound too likely. My headaches are killing me…

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