Mobile Computing, Part 2: Laptops

I’ve hardly looked back since I upgraded from a 15″ PowerBook to a 17″ PowerBook, but there are a few times (often when travelling) when smaller would be more convenient.

At Mashup Camp, I took an informal survey of the laptops I saw there. PowerBooks (and a few iBooks) were the laptop of choice, followed by ThinkPads and VAIOs (this surprised me) with a few Dells and Toshibas scattered about. Most folks had 15″ kits, then 12″ and sub-notebooks and only a few 17″ers like mine.

Of course, I do have a smaller laptop as well (chosen largely based on size in fact), so my decision to take the PowerBook with me to camp rather than the Dell was one I had to think about.

PowerBook Pros/Dell 700m Cons

  • I prefer my toolset1 on the PowerBook.
  • I prefer the large screen (and get eye strain after time on the smaller screen) while working.
  • Built-in Bluetooth is much more convenient and less flaky for connecting through my phone.

PowerBook Cons/Dell 700m Pros

  • I basically can’t use the Powerbook on the airplane unless I get an exit row seat.
  • It can be a little unweildy to bring out at times, the Dell is more discrete.
  • The battery life on the Dell (with extended battery) is about 30 minutes better than the PowerBook’s.

In the end, the toolset preference was the deciding factor. I can use UltraEdit and Thunderbird, but I prefer BBEdit and TextMate and easy auto-replies with Mail Templates.

It basically boils down to this: For correspondance and information intake, the smaller machine is much more convenient. For actual development work the larger machine wins.

It was interesting for me to take an inventory of all the sub-notebooks. The ThinkPad X series is thinner and lighter than the 12″ PowerBook. Dell’s Latitude X1 is nice and compact as well. Back in 2001-2002 I had a Sony Picturebook – size isn’t everything, but it sure was a handy little machine.

In another year or so, I’ll probably want to upgrade my PowerBook. An iBook/MacBook like the one described here could be enticing, assuming the screen resultion is good. I’d also consider the high-res 15″ PowerBook, trading a little bulk for a smaller pixels.

Most likely though, I’ll want the powerhouse 17″ model. When I need to really work, I love having the biggest screen I can get.

  1. Particularly my text editors, Mail Templates, Photoshop (no Windows license) and iTerm (tabbed terminal windows). [back]