So I got some new technology in the past month or so and wanted to write-up my review of what worked well and what didn’t:
Dell Studio desktop:
I wanted to replace my main workstation with something decent. So I got a Studio with a Core2 Quad-core Q6600 (2.4GHz) and 8GB of RAM. I also got a 24” widescreen with this too – and this combo has turned out to be remarkably great! Not only is the computer plenty snappy, under any and all circumstances – the screen is great too. It’s big enough to “fill your eye” – so it makes working on a computer much easier – you don’t have to concentrate on looking at a smaller screen, instead – it’s just right there in front of you!
So all the way around, the combination of the this computer and the monitor – I would rate a 10 out of 10. I have no issues with either, and I have some CPU-intensive stuff installed on this machine.
Dell Studio 15 laptop:
One thing I did realize that I missed, was a (non-work) laptop so I don’t have to be chained to my office. Again, I wanted something that was going to be pretty decent, so I got a Studio 15 laptop with some goodies. I got a Core2 Duo P8400 (2.2GHz) and 4GB of RAM. It’s got some good stuff like: built in fingerprint reader, integrated webcam, built-in bluetooth, built-in wireless AGN, backlit keyboard (this is the BEST!) and a 9-cell battery.
I’ve always thought that ThinkPads where the best laptops. We had those at a former job and they seem to be well built. I’ve never been particularly impressed with Dell, Gateway, HP/Compaq, etc. But this Studio laptop really shocked me. It seems to be extremely well-built and sturdy. This reminds of how ThinkPads used to be!
So not only is this is a very snappy laptop, it looks remarkably good and feels very sturdy and well-built! And the 9-cell battery gives me like 5.5 hours of battery life!! This does have a WLED backlit display – which is supposed to be more energy efficient, I wonder how much that contributes to battery life?
Bottom line, I give this laptop 9 out of 10 – it’s really great! The only thing I mark down for is that there is a known problem with it coming back to life from “deep sleep” – but presumably that would be fixed in a future firmware upgrade. GREAT laptop though – the best I’ve ever had, hands down: very snappy, feels great and looks great!!
Dell Mini 9:
OK – so the plan was to grab one of these Mini 9’s (it costs an extra $99 with the Studio laptop!) and use this as a computer I could have hooked up to the main television. I could switch over to “computer” and use a bluetooth keyboard and use the computer from the living room on the couch. Simple idea, right?
Well first – it took a long time to ship (almost a month). These are apparently in high demand. On the plus side – they are adorable, and certainly have their place. These laptops are a little bigger than your hand, have solid state drives, wireless, bluetooth, etc – and are very lightweight. On the downside – mine came with Ubuntu Linux which… wait, don’t get me started on all the things I don’t like about Ubuntu. For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t support a couple kinds of wireless security – so I couldn’t hook it up to my WLAN here. So, I went to install XP (which I was planning on running on it). During the setup, it blue-screens everytime. I called Dell – they said call Microsoft. I called Microsoft – they said call Dell. The problem is – there is not an XP driver for the solid state drive, so it can’t find the hard drive. So, I tried installing Vista – which did work. Turns out there aren’t Vista drivers for most of the hardware on the mini. Although after spending hours upon hours searching, I did find the network and video drivers – which made it usable at that point. Another downside is the keyboard is smaller than normal and is just small enough so you can’t type normally on it – and you need to look at your fingers to type, which can be frustrating!
Bottom line – for a “regular pc”, it’s pretty slow and you run out of disk space really quick – I’m not going to keep it. I got this with 1GB of RAM and a 16GB drive. After Vista was installed, I had like 4GB of disk space free. Where this would shine is A) for a child/teenager (because of the small keyboard and small form-factor) – or B) an adult that just wants a small, portable, simple PC for checking e-mail and browsing the web – but nothing more!
VGA to Component Video converter:
Next, to hook a laptop up to a home theater, although you can get a VGA to component video cable – it’s a different protocol, and won’t work. So after a bunch of research, I found that everyone recommended the converter linked above. There are two problems with it. 1) it only supports VGA which is 800×600 (although I could only get a picture with 480×640) and 2) even when I did get a picture, the text on any window was unreadable – like it’s trying to up-convert the signal or something. I tried this with the Mini 9 and the regular Studio laptop with the same results. So basically, this thing is useless. I give it a 0 out of 10!
Finally – the last piece of the “living room computer” project, was having a bluetooth/wireless keyboard and mouse. So I got this diNovo Mini. This worked extremely well for what it’s supposed to do. Not only does it effortlessly pair with a computer with a bluetooth radio (without any software) – it actually comes with it’s own USB-bluetooth adapter/dongle, that stows in the back compartment, so if you need to use this on the go, that makes it pretty easy. Although I now don’t really have a use for this – this absolutely does what it’s supposed to and was easy to work with! It’s about the size of your hand – and you type with your thumbs, like a Blackberry, and the “mouse” is a trackpad on the right – so it may not be friendly for southpaws.