I've owned 4 real laptops in my life - the graduation present my father got me in 1998 does not count. It wasn't anything I would seriously consider using for my day-to-day tasks.
I had a Dell Inspiron 8000 for 3-4 months as my primary travel laptop. It was heavy and the battery was shot (I got it third or fourth hand). It was great as a portable desktop replacement for that period. It had a very sharp 15" LCD and once slaved to a wall outlet, it served up a mean PuTTY window. You could hotswap a floppy drive, a CDR/W, and a DVD player into it. I ended up buying the floppy myself. It had a PIII 850Mhz CPU and 512M of RAM. Again, I think I probably bought a RAM upgrade myself.
The drawbacks were the heat if the battery was working (hmm, I also bought a plane adapter to allow me to use it on a flight), the lack of an integrated 10/100 card (which tells you about the lack of the integrated wireless), the weight of it, and the speed at which it opened an Explorer window.
If it weren't for the sluggishness, it would be a viable desktop for me even now. The display is still nice.
Next I had a Sony Vaio PCG-R505GCP, which I loved the first year I had it. I actually had 2 at one point. We had been going to Connectathons and Bakeathons for some time, scrapping together systems at the last minute. We, and other companies, would also bring in these honking huge servers for testing. And the Linux NFSv4 guys, Trond, Bruce, Chuck, Jim, and Andy, well, they would bring in the puniest laptops ever seen. They (the laptops that is) would be covered in irrelevant stickers. They (the developers that is) would build and test strictly from these boxes.
Anyway, Chuck had bought a SS41 shuttle and was having good luck with it. It had a small form factor and at the time we thought we could just take them on planes. We had an end-of-quarter bring in expenses party (i.e., we suspected we were way under budget and were trying to bring in expense dollars from the next quarter). I bought 2 SS51G shuttles for build/sim servers and 4 Sony Vaios.
In retrospect, the Vaios were underpowered for doing builds/sims of OnTap (yet amazingly enough were just great for building Linux) and the display was too clunky. I'd guess these things were a 12.1" screen (but 1024 by 768) and they had no integrated CD/DVD. That kept the weight down, which was nice, but if the docking bay connector got damaged, well, too bad.
Of the four, one got dropped by a colleague, one got its docking bay connector damaged, one got given to a manager, and I got the last one. We got the dropped one fixed and an USB cdrom for the other. These machines seem to get nicked up all of the time when shipped. They also flipped power savings standards with this machine. I remember that I had a hard time configuring Linux on these puppies.
The CPU was 1.2Ghz and they supported a max of 512M of RAM. They also did have an integrated wireless card. I finally had it with the fonts and the display. I much more preferred the display on the Inspiron over the Vaio. I think I also mumbled something to my manager about watching DVDs on the plane.
One of the guys in Boston had a Fujitsu Lifebook P5020D and I drooled over it. It actually had a slower processor - 1Ghz, but the display was really crisp. My manager tried to get me to go with the Sony Vaio 505 EXP, which he had just got, but I didn't let him sway me.
So the P5020D was slower than the Vaio and much lighter than both the Vaio and Inspiron. It had a faster wireless and I eventually maxed it out to 1G of RAM. The fonts and display were just crisp. I hated the keyboard for a week and now I don't even notice it. The DVD/CDRW can be swapped out for another battery.
But that machine set the standard for what I consider a notebook/laptop. It is light and not a desktop replacement. I can use it on a plane, even in coach. I don't need to have an adapter and expect it to run on battery all the way across country.
I remember it was a bit slow when all I had was 512M of RAM - it got more acceptable after the upgrade to 1G.
But I never wanted to trade it in. People would come by, laugh at a 6'5" guy working on a tiny notebook, ask if I could see the fonts, and offer me the use of a 21" CRT. They didn't get that the crisp fonts made it easy and relaxing to work. Those 21" CRTs are monsters and when they start to get old, the readable fonts are about 1/4" tall.
My last manager kept on trying to get me on a IBM Thinkpad - perhaps the T41? It had a larger screen, with better resolution, and a faster CPU. But it wasn't as light and the P5020D met my needs.
I've got some pretty fast opteron boxes sitting next to me - but I'm typing away on a SS51G. I bought one for myself and it meets my needs as a client. I'm actually on a 17" LCD right now, the 20" LCD widescreen is on my work system, but with DVI. I used to be a snob about using flatscreens instead of CRTs - now I want to be using DVI. It is just that much nicer on my eyes - same card/monitor combination and I can tell a difference.
The point is that we've passed some barrier for an acceptable desktop client for normal day-to-day tasks. My limiting factor with multimedia seems to be my broadband connection and not any of my internal hardware.
I just bought a new laptop, a P7010D. It is actually the same speed as the P5020D, but that doesn't bug me. I suspect it will be great for 2-3 years to come.
I guess I realized I had crossed the barrier to seeing a notebook as being productive with the P5020D. The Vaio let me see the barrier, but it wouldn't get me over it. I knew I was addicted when I finally realized I could easily ditch the 17" LCD and just use the 10.6" LCD on the ultra compact P5020D.
As a matter of fact, if I'm going to lug a laptop about, it has to meet the criteria of the resolution and size of the P5020D. I got the P7010D over everything else because I couldn't find anything else which fit the bill. The 12" Mac doesn't have the resolution and neither do other PC laptops. Okay, the Sony Vaio TX series might fit the bill, but I was able to get the P7010D cheaper, which trumps having something exceed the minimum. Also, I'm leery of the Vaios because of my concern about durability.
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