Re: What notebook did you buy?

Subject: Re: What notebook did you buy?
From: David Neeley <dbneeley -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 2005 13:00:51 -0500


You gave some good advice. Let me amplify a couple of points for those
who may not be aware of them.

Screen resolution on an LCD is fixed by the number of pixels it
displays; when changing resolutions away from its "natural" one, the
picture can be much less sharp--and that can really hurt your eyes in
short order working in text! The trend in recent years has been for
high resolution on small screens--not always the most "user friendly"
for writers.

Wide screens, if the type is large enough, are fairly useful IMHO.
When working in an app like Frame or Photoshop, there are all those
small floating windows to deal with--and with the extra space to the
side of the page, you need not be constantly closing and opening them

Because with my next computer I intend to use the laptop as my primary
system, and because I value useful screen real estate, I am destined
in all probability for a ten-pound machine with a 17" wide screen. Not
my favorite to carry, but not unmanageable if you select the computer
case wisely. It appears I am somewhat destined to work at projects
that will require travel periodically and production at each stop.
Thus, the large display on the laptop will be my primary one.

Another point: on any machine, you may well have a choice in the color
depth to display. Most people cannot tell much difference between
fifteen bit (32 thousand-odd colors), sixteen bit (sixty-four
thousand), and 24 bit (some millions). When your machine is "pushing
pixels" around, the smaller color depth number you are comfortable
with the faster the machine will respond. Memory used by the graphics
processor is used to build the screen image and to refresh the screen
itself through the operation of the RAM-DAC (random access
memory-digital/analog converter). The smaller the color depth, the
less information that must be built and transferred.

I prefer a machine (including a laptop) that avoids "shared memory"
between the graphics processor and the main system. By directly
coupling the video RAM the transfers are generally faster, plus you
have the maximum available memory for applications. With a laptop, the
drives typically spin at 4,500 r.p.m., while desktops are usually a
minimum of 5,400 and are often 7,200 or higher these days. Thus, when
your system RAM is full, the operating system moves the
least-recently-used information from physical RAM to the virtual disk
on the hard drive. Thus, the laptop's slow drive will make a huge
difference in the performance of the machine.

That is also why you want to specify enough system memory. For a
Windows system, I strongly suggest not bothering with less than half a
gig of main memory, and even more if you do much graphics. (Photoshop
keeps the image you are working on, and two other versions in memory
at any one time so you can roll back changes without having to
reconstruct the image; if you're doing relatively high-res images,
this can add substantially to your RAM needs).

The smaller laptops often have keyboards that are smaller than
standard. Some may only be reduced by ten or fifteen percent, but your
fingers will know the difference and your spelling will usually be
affected. This is obviously a problem especially with the smaller

Speaking of keyboards, if you use a laptop much you will have noticed
that many have relatively poor keyboards. I often take a "Happy
Hacking Keyboard Lite" with me. The present model is easier to use
than mine is, but both have a wonderful touch with fullsize keys--but
the total size is small enough that your fingers don't seem to need to
move to reach everything. Check it out at

Among the laptops, the IBM Thinkpads are generally acknowledged to
have the best keyboards. I find nothing to challenge that opinion.


On 4/13/05, Bryan Sherman <bsherm -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:

> Beyond resolution, you may also want to consider aspect ratio. The
> widescreen displays are all the rage now. Great for watching DVDs on
> the laptop, but I don't like them for editing work. Then again, if you
> used them, they might come in handy showing apps side by side, so who
> knows.


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What notebook did you buy?: From: Amanda_Abelove
Re: What notebook did you buy?: From: Bryan Sherman

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