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Which Laptop?

Which laptop are you using (if you use one) for NS4, TPD4, and Cafe Duet? I'm not really all that concerned with a serial port any longer as it has been quite a while since I have had to use one (and I think a USB serial adapter would work fine by now). It's getting to be about time to upgrade the laptop I have to something newer and faster. (10 minutes to compile code is getting annoying). I am also thinking that wide-screen is the way to go. I'm not sure if I can justify the cost difference (and weight) to go from a 15" to a 17", but I would like to hear opinions on the screen size and usability on job sites. Any laptops I should avoid? Anything I should definitely consider?

Thanks for any advice,



I was going to resurrect one of the old threads about laptops, but since they are a couple years old, I decided to start a new thread.


  • viningvining Posts: 4,368
    I'm currently using a Fujitsu 17" which I am quite happy with. I also have a new MAC Book Pro 17" which I run XP on that I completely hate because of the mouse pad. No right click, scroll or custom areas. If I used a wireless mouse I might like it but I don't like carrying them around.
  • jjamesjjames Posts: 2,908
    Right now I'm using a Lattitude D620, and I love it. When I broke the screen on this one and I had to use a Vaio, I hated it! The keyboard was so different than a Dell that I could not get used to it. It's got a 14.1" screen with a 1440x900 resolution which is good for me. When I was on the Vaio, it was a slightly larger screen size, but lower resolution and it was horrible for TPD4. I'm not sure if I could work on anything lower than a 1440x900 resolution.

    I'd recommend just upgrading the current laptop you're working with (getting a newer model.) I can say from experience that I don't care for the Sony Vaios, Toshibas, or Gateways. (Gateways because of the positioning of the CTRL key and the FN key.)

    I'd recommend getting a Dell.
  • ericmedleyericmedley Posts: 4,177
    My main work desktop is a Dell 3.2 Ghz duo Pentium. with Windoze XP Pro

    My 2nd desktop is a new Gateway 3.1 ghz with Vista.

    My laptop is an old-skool IBM A21M PIII-800mega-hurts.... :)

    It actually does quite fine and it has the old DB9 serial port.
  • Just out of curiosity, since you mentioned it, what USB to Serial cable are you using? I am using the Gigaware USB-A to serial cable, seen here: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3120513&cp=&sr=1&kw=usb+to+serial&origkw=USB+to+Serial&parentPage=search.

    For my laptop I am currently using a Gateway M680, http://support.gateway.com/s/Mobile/Gateway/M680/3400467nv.shtml. I think it is a discontinued model, but it sports a wide screen display. Prior to the switch, I was using this one: http://support.gateway.com/s/Mobile/Gateway/600YG2/3501373nv.shtml. Now that I have gone wide, I don't think I would ever go back. My current resolution is 1440 x 900, which is as high as it will go. I like it because I can make everything fit on the screen. When I was running around with my old 15 inch screen, I had to get creative with the tool bars so as not to keep having to scroll right and left a lot, more so in TPD4 than NetLinx Studio. It's wider, obviously, but I don't think I gained very much weightwise, both about 8 lbs. I am still using the same backpack I have always had, and everything still feels about the same.
  • yuriyuri Posts: 861
    I'm using a Dell Latitude D830.


    widescreen, 1680x1050 resolution, 1920x1200 was too small, this is nice and readable, and i TPDesign shows the biggest touchpanel completly, no scrolling needed :)

    I like it :)
  • annuelloannuello Posts: 294
    I've just received a MacBook Pro 15" (1440x900). Although I am a huge Mac fan, I have to agree with Vining that the BootCamp drivers leave a lot to be desired. For the uninitiated, BootCamp drivers are the ones provided by Apple which are used when you boot native into WinXP. I believe that the virtual solutions (where WinXP is run as an "application" on the OSX desktop - think Parallels and Virtual PC) provide their own drivers for the peripherals, which are a lot better than the Apple drivers. There are others that use the Mac platform with Parallels for AMX dev - perhaps they could clarify.

    A product that I'm keeping an eye on is http://www.virtualbox.org/. It would probably be okay if you were to set up your WinXP image as a fresh install for VirtualBox usage only. I'm waiting until they can support a WinXP partition (ah lah BootCamp style) which would then give the option of virtual OR native. In the mean time, it save the whole WinXP filesystem to the Mac as a file - not something that you can boot from.

    Back onto the laptop issue, I find that a high res LCD at your "home base" is worth it, particularly when your drivers can happily dual-screen it (not mirror). Documentation on one, code on the other. The Apple 23" Cinema Display (1920x1200) works fine in BootCamp, though the nVidia drivers are a bit cumbersome.

    Roger McLean
    Swinburne University
  • the8thstthe8thst Posts: 470
    I have always been happiest with Thinkpad laptops. They have, or at least used to have, matte screens and the combination touch pad and track point was pretty cool.

    My current job gave me a Vaio and I am really not happy with it.

    I am pretty tempted by the T400 14.1" laptop.
  • Thomas HayesThomas Hayes Posts: 1,164
    I'm using a Dell Latitude ATG. It is pretty tough laptop that can take a bang or two. It also has a real 9-pin port.
  • AuserAuser Posts: 506
    We use HP commercial models company wide. I'll never go back to Toshibas now, they do the job SO well. Many have 1400x1050 and higher resolution screens and they're well priced for the features they provide. They tend to provide good battery life too. All in all they generally represent a good package.

    I hated my Fujitsu so much that I gave it away. It was big, heavy, ran hot, had bad battery life, silly keyboard layout, dodgy preinstalled Windows image, the list goes on...

    A couple of things to keep in mind:

    -- There are USB - serial adaptors and there are USB - serial adaptors. Sending files to NetLinx control systems via many will not work.

    -- Make sure you're happy with the keyboard layout before you commit to buying a laptop. Many laptops have home, end, page up, page down, etc. keys implemented as a function key combination - aaaarggh! I've remapped the right alt and ctrl keys on my machine to home and end which works well for me.
  • JeffJeff Posts: 374
    I also have the Dell Latitude D830 and am quite happy with it. I use the 1920x1200 screen, and don't find it too small.

    I also bought the docking station for it, which has VGA and DVI ports on it. You can use them both for dual monitors, so my workstation has 17" widescreen dual monitors (both 1440x900). This means I do all of my designs with TP4 on one screen and NS2 on the other, or TP4 on one screen and my graphics program on the other, and when I get out on site I don't find having only one screen frustrating.

    I've been using my laptop since April and have rarely been so happy.

    I will mention one thing though, one of the dell Vostro laptops (which I have not used) has a keypad on the right side of keyboard. I don't know anything about the reliability or quality of it, but having the keypad might be cool.

  • a_riot42a_riot42 Posts: 1,619
    I have to use a new HP/Compaq with a 1920x1200 screen and type is too small for the programming fonts I use. As well, the keyboard sucks and there are many other things that I don't like about it like battery life, etc. I prefer getting a smaller screen and a dock with a bigger monitor if you need two screens, or a bigger monitor. Lugging a large screen around is rather pointless for programming. If I need a higher resolution I will use the dock and a 1600x1200 monitor.

    I use to use a Dell D810(?) and liked it for the most part even though I generally don't like most Dell products.
  • ColzieColzie Posts: 470
    I also have a Dell Latitude D830 (1920x1200), 4GB of RAM and Windows Vista. I am very happy with the computer, not so much with Vista. A docking station with dual monitors is the way to go.

    I've heard the new "E" series lose the serial port on the laptop, but the new docking station has dual DVI (versus DVI and VGA on the "D" series dock).
  • Correct you are Mr. Coles.

    I am running the new Dell Latitude E6500 with a docking station and trusty Windows XP with 4 GB of memory. If you are running AMX, Crestr*n, and Photosop (and a bit torrent) all at the same time, this will definately handle it. The screen runs at 1920x1200 and is SUPER bright as is the backlit keyboard. The LED backlight is nice, but if you are a Photoshop/Graphics guy, it can be a bit of a pain. The color difference between it and my 2nd screen is crazy. The LED gives everything a blue tone. The attached .jpg is a picture I took of a window that is half on one screen and half on another. Nuts.

    It does not have a serial port, but I have found a USB to Serial adapter that is working wonderfully. It's just a smidge smaller than the D series, so there's no benefit there.

    The dock has 2 DVI outputs, serial port, and 2 of Dell's new video outputs. I don't think I could function without a dual monitor setup...so that is highly recommended.
  • My laptop is an Acer Aspire 7520 - 17" @ 1440x900, Good speed, plenty of ram, large HD, good price.

    I enjoy Acer products, and Vista really isn't so bad once you figure how how to tame it - especially for its crash control, which is especially important as a Designer and Software Developer; to have a program tie itself up is one thing, but to have the whole OS come falling to its knees because of it is infuriating. My only bone with this laptop is all the junk Acer pre-loaded to it for purchase - it doesn't exactly guzzle memory or anything like that, but I have to find one program in particular which is clashing with Microsoft Office 2008, and it's resisting me of course.

    This is just my humble opinion, but I've been helping quite a few people lately in the purchase of laptops and have therefore been scaling out the market again, and I'm realizing that you'd have to really make a major mistake to get a piece of junk; the greater risk is paying too much or buying from a manufacturer with miserable support. As far as 17" screens go, they're nice, but noticeably larger in lugging around certainly a jump in price - for more power at a cheaper price, easier mobility and longer battery life, I'd buy a good $600-$800 15" model; if you do considerable design work and don't often have access to multiple screens, then a 17" might be in order, otherwise it's really just a subtle form of compensation... :D

    Hope this helps.
  • glr-ftiglr-fti Posts: 286
    I've had a ThinkPad since they first came out. So I've gone through lots and lots of them I currently still have 4 laying around. The one I use most often is a dual core 2.4 with a 15" 1920 x 1080 screen with Vista Ultimate. I use Virtual PC for the AMX apps that won't work with Vista. I thought about the 17" but decided I didn't want to lug around the extra weight. I use a docking station with a 22" monitor in my office. I use a Keyspan USB to serial or when of my other laptops with a DB9 when I need it.
  • DHawthorneDHawthorne Posts: 4,584
    I've been unhappy with Dell for the last few years ... it seems to me their quality has taken a nose dive, especially for support. I have been using the commercial grade HP laptops ... my current machine (Presario R3000) is about five years old and still doing very well (though I did have the screen replaced once in that time, and the hard drive). The service can't be beat if you buy the extended plan; turnaround has never been more than 2-3 days (which for me is critical. - I basically have to take a small vacation when my computer is out for repair). This is my main computer; I dock it at work to use with a standard keyboard and external drives.

    The bigger the screen the better. Mine is 17" widescreen, and I still feel like I could use more ... so I have a second monitor at my office with an extended desktop. That arrangement is very nice for having docs open on one screen while working on the other.
  • jjamesjjames Posts: 2,908
    Something I forgot to mention: I noticed a huge difference between the Gateway touchpad and the Dell's. I forget what the Gateway had, but response was instantaneous where as on the Dell, there's a slight delay, about a quarter of a second, maybe less. It is noticeable though. For my D620 it has an Alps touchpad. Can anyone verify that Dell uses Alps for the D series computers?

    Not sure if you planned on using the touchpad or not - just thought I'd bring it up.
  • truetrue Posts: 307
    jjames wrote: »
    Can anyone verify that Dell uses Alps for the D series computers?

    Dell almost exclusively uses Alps now. This is honestly why I haven't upgraded beyond my Inspiron 8200 with C840 parts - even it came with an Alps pad, but the 8100 had a Synaptics pad and point, which are swappable. :)

    My work Dell XPS M170 uses an Alps pad, but it's not the worst I've used. Sadly, I like having the pad and point and this model doesn't have the trackpoint.
  • jjamesjjames Posts: 2,908
    That's it - Synaptics. I liked that one on the Gateway. In fact, I think my Inspiron E1405 at home has a Synaptics, though I may be wrong.
  • I currently use an HP Pavilion that I purchased from Best Buy.

    I usually get about a year of use out of one before I have destroyed it, so I usually get the least expensive one that I can get by with. This one has 2GB of memory, 200GB drive,a Centrino Duo processor, an extended-use battery and a 15" wide-screen.

    I generally look around in the store, then look online. When I bought this one, I purchased it online for in-store pickup. That way I don't have to deal with the nerd-herd screwing it up. Even when I buy one in the store I tell them that it must be in the factory-sealed carton and no, I don't want the free setup service.

    Some people have suggested that I get a toughbook or whatever, but I really don't want one that lasts forever and just gets more and more out of date.

    I have an old USB/Serial adapter that I bought back in the days when I had one of the original Palm Pilot PDAs. About the only thing that it chokes on is if I try to transfer a program to a master, it works fine for terminal sessions, setting up masters or even transferring TPD files.

    I've always used either Compaq or HP laptops. One even lasted 18 months before it developed electrical issues.
  • I've just ordered a new laptop; after a drop (oops...) my old one was acting strange. I decided on a HP 8510W.

    1 - it comes with a downgrade to XP; i don't see the need for Vista right now. (actually: i don't want it).
    2 - 15'4", 1680x1050 seems like the optimum. Larger screens (>= 17") make the laptop as a whole to big for my taste. (I carry it around a LOT).
    3 - separate videocard with it's OWN memory. It's faster when you do graphic work (photo editing or CAD)
    4 - processor speed is important, but any modern, >=2GHz C2D will do, in my opinion (this one is a 2,5GHz T9300)
    5 - I would opt for a 7200rpm hd, especially with Vista or you'll have to wait a lot.... (this one has a 200GB, 7200rpm)

    At the office i use a docking station with a 20" monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc.

    I use a Sitecom CN104v2 USB serial device. My old laptop came with a serial port, but this didn't work very reliable after standby or sleep mode. The Sitecom device always worked with AMX.

    Good luck with your choice,

  • davieodavieo Posts: 42
    Latitude D830

    I am running a Dell Latitude D830 with Vista Business on a Core 2 Duo @ 2.2 GHz and 2 GB of RAM, that I got in March. So far I have not had any complaints about the performance except at boot. From a cold boot it takes about 2 minutes for Vista to load all the apps and services. Kind of a pain since the touch pad (which I disable cuz I hate it) stays active until it is done. Even if I do get NS Studio open quickly, I still mess something up by bumping on the pad >:-(

    So, if you go that way, I recommend Hibernate unless you really need to reboot.
  • jjamesjjames Posts: 2,908
    davieo wrote: »
    I am running a Dell Latitude D830 with Vista Business on a Core 2 Duo @ 2.2 GHz and 2 GB of RAM, that I got in March. So far I have not had any complaints about the performance except at boot. From a cold boot it takes about 2 minutes for Vista to load all the apps and services. Kind of a pain since the touch pad (which I disable cuz I hate it) stays active until it is done. Even if I do get NS Studio open quickly, I still mess something up by bumping on the pad >:-(

    So, if you go that way, I recommend Hibernate unless you really need to reboot.

    I can second that going to Sleep or Hibernate is best for any laptop. Why shut it off unless you're not using it for several days or a weeks? I always put mine is sleep mode when I close the lid, and wake it up when I open it. Never had a problem . . . now for my Lattitude E1405 . . . it's just all screwy!
  • ericmedleyericmedley Posts: 4,177
    I don't use sleep or hybernate on my IBM. It always does really creepy, scary things. Sometimes it won't wake up. Sometimes it comes up with mouse working but no keyboard or visa versa.

    I just shut it down.
  • jjamesjjames Posts: 2,908
    ericmedley wrote: »
    I don't use sleep or hybernate on my IBM. It always does really creepy, scary things. Sometimes it won't wake up. Sometimes it comes up with mouse working but no keyboard or visa versa.

    I just shut it down.
    Okay . . . I substitute the word "any" with "most" . . . IBMs are weird. :D
  • DHawthorneDHawthorne Posts: 4,584
    The first thing I do with a laptop is make shutting the lid do nothing. I hate it going to sleep when all I did is shut the lid to move to another room, or to keep it from collecting dust when I need to step away for a few minutes.

    I'll use hibernate when going from the office to a job site, or one site to another, just to save startup time. My machine is getting a bit gray, and startups are real slow (even on XP). Too much junk loading, like SQL server and MS ActiveSync, but I do need that stuff.
  • yuriyuri Posts: 861
    hibernate ftw!

    when i open my lid, i press the on/off button, and it's there! i almost never reboot, only for windows updates :(
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