enjoying the vaio

Last Thursday, I ordered a Sony VAIO Y Series laptop (VPCY118GX, to be exact) to use as my new “work” machine. Basically, I’ve got a few weeks of travel coming up in the next month, and I was not looking forward to the prospect of carrying around my large HP laptop with the potential of the fan (re-)busting up again. After searching high and low (mainly high, since I wanted a high-end PC) for about 2-3 weeks, I finally settled on the offering from Sony. This was a perfect combination of style and performance, in my opinion. It was delivered on Tuesday (just 3 business days–amazing!) and I’ve been setting it up to pace over the last few days.

My initial thoughts are that I love it! Here are the specs:

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 1.30GHz
RAM: 4GB DDR3 800MHz
HDD: 500GB 5400rpm
Screen: 13.3″ Widescreen LED with max. res. of 1366×768
Weight: 3.90lbs

The laptop itself is not shiny, but unassumingly sleek. Complete opposite from the HP, which is a fingerprint magnet. It is extremely lightweight… I can hold it under 1 arm for more than 5 minutes without notable fatigue! And the battery life is ridiculous. It came with 2 batteries–the standard 8-cell and the extended 12-cell. The 8-cell has a max-advertised battery life of… 8 hours. The 12-cell has one of 12 hours. Ridiculous, right? If I took both of these on a full charge, I’d be able to make it all the way to India without needing to take my AC charger (of course, I wouldn’t be able to use the laptop for anything useful, and would be in a bit of a pickle once I reached).

From my personal perspective, battery performance is more than adequate. I have brought the laptop in the last 2 days and it has easily managed to stay alive the whole work day. This, despite me doing resource heavy tasks like synchronizing 11,000+ files from a remote server, being on VPN the whole day and building LabVIEW on it. In fact, I’ve run it for about 7.5 hours already, today, and it still has 29% remaining.

I’m guessing this extra battery life is coming from a lower-clocked CPU and thus expected lower performance, but this is not the case. Running Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, this easily blows my Windows XP on a Core 2 Quad out of the water. All in all, a great purchase, in my opinion!

One problem I do have, thus far, is with the keyboard. Obviously, this is smaller than any keyboard I have used (the smallest laptop I owned before this was a 14-incher) and hence I will have a few gnawing pains as I readjust my wrist-flexing angles. The keyboard is also a bit too loud for my taste, but not enough to take away from the rest of the experience!

narrowing down the contenders (part 2)

I took a look at two more configurations today before my patience, or rather impatience, got the better of me. On a side note, I’ve been doing a lot of personality surveys over the last few days as part of work and I realize that while I’m kind of analytical, etc., I’m still kind of spontaneous when it comes to making decisions. I’m sure my parents can vouch for this–when I was a kid and I wanted something, I usually wanted to get it from the first shop we visited. All the price comparing, looking for the best deal, etc. just came in the way of me getting the toy. Not much has changed–just the toys are more expensive, now (and I’m buying them). 🙂

So the two computers I added to my list were the Dell Latitude E6400 and the Apple MacBook. Here’s a short summary on each one’s spec:

Apple MacBook

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P7550 2.26GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Screen: 13.3″
Weight: 4.7lbs
Battery: “7-hour battery life”
HDD: 250GB SATA 5400RPM
Warranty: 3-years AppleCare
Price: $1,248 + taxes

The things to note here are that this uses an old processor (didn’t look to closely at the benchmark) and a slow hard-disk. I was also surprised that I had to pay about $350 for the 3-year AppleCare warranty; for some reason I was under the assumption that that was included in the premium price (my mistake). Given that this computer is pretty expensive, pretty crippled comparatively and is a Mac, it’s not high in my prioritized list.

Dell Latitude E6400

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo P8800 2.66GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR2
Screen: 14.1″
Weight: 4.3lbs
Battery: 9-cell
HDD: 250 GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3 years
Price: $1,071 + taxes

I looked at a couple of Latitudes since they seem to be the business machine of choice (NI business laptops are usually Latitudes, although interestingly they are not available on the Dell EPP page). Unfortunately, they haven’t refreshed their line yet, as they still have the old-school Core 2 Duo’s and only DDR2 RAM. Isn’t a big deal, but not really future-proof, considering that I am getting a 3-year warranty.

Needless to say, I’m not going to be buying either of these configurations.

In fact, I have pretty much decided on the Sony VAIO CW Series. I’ve spec’ed out a couple of configurations and it seems to have the most power for the best price. The only downside is that the machine is 5.3lbs, which is only about half a pound lighter than my HP dv5z, but then again it is only half a pound heavier than the Apple. I was strongly leaning towards the EliteBook 8440P, which has so far got lots of good reviews. However, it made more sense to go with the VAIO: (1) Double the RAM (4GB vs. 2GB) and using only one slot so upgradable, (2) 70GB more of HDD space, (3) cheaper by $70 and (4) I can engrave something into the bezel (currently I have decided “sohummm”). In fact, I’m so sure about getting the VAIO that I already applied for financing and was approved for $3,500 of credit with 6 months on 0% APR. Given that I’m looking to pay this out over 3 months max, I don’t know how I can let this deal go (not to mention the credit approval makes me lean towards looking at one of the more expensive lines, too).

Anyways, that’s it. Looks like VAIO is going to re-enter our family after my Dad had one of the ultra-portable models back in the day.

narrowing down the contenders (part 1)

As I have mentioned recently on this blog, I’m in the market for a new laptop computer. I’m tired of big, bloaty, excessively hot, heavy computers so I’m looking for something that is small and lightweight, yet powerful enough to do some development on. With my home entertainment center all set up and performing at peak, I have no need to invest in a decent graphics card or a ton of RAM, although these things would be useful while doing some development work.

Over the last few days I’ve looked at several different contenders and have come up with the following shortlist. This list can still change and it even includes an HP (even though I had sworn off them). This research has demonstrated to me that buying a business laptop (which all of these unilaterally qualify as) is a much more expensive affair than buying a consumer laptop. The HP that is quickly going to waste and was my previous laptop was purchased for under $700 before warranty. These business notebooks are minimum of about $850 before I spec them up.

Anyways, enough dilly-dallying. Here are my contenders. I’ve chosen them based on price, size, weight, sexiness and heat dissipation (one of my major factors!).

Dell Studio 15

Processor: Intel Core i5-430M 2.26GHz
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Screen: 15.6″
Weight: 5.54lbs
Battery: 9-cell
HDD: 320GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3-years premium + LoJack
Price: $1,011 + taxes

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This is a consumer-level laptop that suffers from all the issues that the HP did. It is about half a pound lighter. Could be lighter if I went with the standard 6-cell battery. I know, putting this laptop up makes me seem very hypocritical or perhaps even appear like one of those people who do not learn from their mistakes. Well, this laptop isn’t my top choice. I’ve included it more to show the price disparity than anything else!

Dell Onyx Adamo

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo Su9400 1.40GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Screen: 13.4″
Weight: 4.00lbs
Battery: 6-cell
HDD: 128GB Solid State Drive
Warranty: 3-years
Price: $1,395 + taxes

This is a laptop that was recommended to me by Jesús. It is sleek and at least the stock graphics make it look immensely sexy. It has a small form factor and is designed to rival the Macbook Air, although it weighs in at a pound heavier. One drawback is that it is the only laptop in my list that does not have an internal optical drive. I’d have to purchase a USB CD-ROM drive to be able to install Windows, etc. If I chose to get the Onyx Combo Drive, that’s another $120 (I think it is actually included in my price above).

HP EliteBook 8440P (WH256UT)

Processor: Intel Core i5-520M 2.40GHz
RAM: 2GB DDR3
Screen: 14.0″
Weight: 5.20lbs
Battery: 6-cell
HDD: 250GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3-years
Price: $1,199 + taxes

And the HP option returns. I was very vehement about not investing in HP in my earlier post, but having read a few reviews, it seems HP’s busines line (EliteBook) is a world apart from the consumer line Pavilion series. I read several reviews for this unit, and did searches specifically for heat issues, fan problems and other issues. It seems that this EliteBook is a hell of a lot better at handling heat than previous EliteBooks, which were way better at handling them than the Pavilions, to begin with. The downside here is that the machine comes only packed with 2GB of RAM and it’s still quite heavy (5.20 lbs) compared to the Adamo. If I recall (and I will verify this) my HP dv5z-1000 weighed in at around 5.8lbs.

Sony VAIO CW (VGN-CW290)

Processor: Intel Core i5-520M 2.40GHz
RAM: 4GB DDR3
Screen: 14.0″
Weight: 5.30lbs
Battery: 6-Cell
HDD: 320GB SATA II 7200RPM
Warranty: 3 years
Price: $1,129 + taxes

This is the first time I’ve looked at Sony for a laptop. Again, this is slightly heavier than what I’m interested in, but it’s got a good spec sheet. It’s coming in at $70 less than the HP EliteBook, although the finish looks a lot more plasticky compared to the aluminum finish that the EliteBook supposedly has.  Otherwise it seems like a good deal–in fact it is the only deal on the Sony VAIO line that seemed anywhere near affordable. Given that Sony is a luxury laptop line to begin with, I’m hosting that their general consumer offerings are better than their counterparts from Dell and HP.

So that’s part 1. Part 2 will probably contain a few Mac offerings as well as a few of the less powerful, more portable offerings. I’m hung between getting a computer that is really light because I don’t want to end up with a Tablet PC-like Visual Studio experience.

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