Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ready for a new notebook computer?

Lately I have been considering purchasing a new notebook computer. My old HP Omnibook 4150 is now a lowly Pentium II, and although I've upgraded memory, hard drive and added a wireless card, it's a bit slow compared to newer notebooks. Plus at about 6lbs and a 14" screen, I've wished for lighter and smaller for traveling (especially when flying). Not that I really want a smaller screen, but I'm willing to consider one to save weight and space.

I've watched the notebook market and I'm very curious about the new tablet notebooks (aka convertibles) since I'm not ready to take the leap to a true tablet (no keyboard - not that you can't get a docking station with a keyboard). I've played with the tablets at a few stores and they are generally priced just a bit more than a regular notebook of the same caliber. I think it would be really cool to surf the web at home, at the office or on the road with the smaller form factor when you rotate the keyboard out of the way and just use the screen. Plus I'm willing to give a try to writing directly on the screen when taking notes or brainstorming at meetings.

But there are compromises with all. The best notebook (PC Magazine Editor's Choice - at least for now) is the Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tables (formerly the IBM ThinkPad). At about 4lbs and with a 12" screen, it's small, light and sturdy. Although not extremely fast (a trade off - longer battery life, lighter and cooler), it excels in the little things - excellent paper feel when writing on the screen, a latch to keep the keyboard folded, etc. One thing that you are giving up is an internal CD/DVD drive (and no diskette either, but that's getting to be the norm). Cost is approximately $2,000. Go to for more. Numerous other companies are offer convertibles too, including HP, Toshiba, etc.

Another notebook I'm considering (this one is not a tablet) is one of the Sony VAIO series - they have several different models. One has a 13.3" screen, built-in CD/DVD and weighs only 4.2lbs. So bigger screen, about the same weight as the X41, built in CD/DVD but not a tablet. It's also about $2,000. Now if this was a tablet, it would be great, but Sony does not currently offer a tablet. More at

If you are looking for a true tablet (aka slates), I've read great reviews about the Sahara. More info at

I know some of you will say that you can buy a notebook for less than $1,000 - and you are right. But, you do get what you pay for. The lighter and smaller, the higher the price. And considering my Omnibook has lasted a good five years, paying a bit more to get what fits you best is worth considering.

Another factor that simply confuses the issue is the Microsoft plans to release a new version of Windows towards the end of this year. Named Vista, it will replace Windows XP. But as I've advised many people, you buy what you need when you need it and not worry that it's obsolete tomorrow. Face it, anything you buy will be obsolete tomorrow. That really does not matter, unless you need something special and are willing to wait until the product or feature is offered. Most of us simply get to a point where we need a new computer - again, my point is you buy what you need when you need it (and can afford it, of course).

My HP Omnibook is still functional, and although very slow to boot up, once it's running it's fast enough when surfing the web and doing email, word processing, etc. It does drag butt when it comes to graphics - i.e. Using Dreamweaver, Fireworks or the Adobe Creative Suite. But I can usually avoid these when I'm traveling.

So I'm still undecided about when to buy. And I keep looking for hints about who might come out with something even better. Some days I'm ready to order the X41, but I haven't yet. Still thinking about it!