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Laptops Part 1

I've been using a Dell Latitude for a looong time, probably going back to 2000 or 2001. Decent machine - though I imagine that there's not a lot of difference across brands, was just that the company I worked for at the time was a Dell customer. Recently my partner Brian Knight asked me how often I upgrade laptops - didn't have a ready answer for that because prior to starting End to End Training in mid 2006 I had a new laptop about 6 months. Any time someone new came into sales and wanted a laptop they always got approval (you know how sales is!), so the network team would order it, come by my office and switch the hard drives, take sales my old one. Let me keep up to date and was a reasonably harmless way to tweak the sales team a little.

It's a little different when it's your own money (or when you own the company). We bought a Dell Latitude 620 when I started and it's been fine, finally had to replace the battery this year ($200 damned dollars!). It's been getting progressively slower though to due the accumulated debris that comes with installing and uninstalling the bits that come along. Sometimes it fails to hibernate, saying 'insufficient resources'. The fix of course is format and reinstall, one of the few computer tasks I really don't enjoy as much as I do appreciate the results. So given that I'll probably spend the better part of a day getting software installed, files copied, etc (granted I can multi task during some of that), should I format this one or buy a new one?

I've been leaning towards a new one, though it's not easy to justify! Having the latest and greatest tends to make you look successful, and cynically that's of some value as a business guy if hard to quantify. It's also nice to explore new features like solid state drives; one thing to read about them, something else to give them a real try. As I've looked at prices I've been struck between the substantial difference in price between consumer machines and business class machines. You can buy a perfectly usable consumer edition laptop for $600-$700. No, it won't be as damage resistant, probably won't have the hardware security features, but it does the work just fine. At $600 that's $50 a month if it lasts a year, $25/month if it lasts two years. Contrast that with my current laptop, I think it was about $1500 and is just over 2 years old, definitely more expensive.

As I think about features I'd like, it's not a long list:

  • XP (Sorry MS, I'll wait for the post Vista OS, though I've considered loading Server 2008 for my desktop OS)
  • Web cam because I travel more and its useful for talking to the kids
  • Longer battery life, my current machine is good for about 2 hours
  • Solid state drive. Not sure I need it, but want to try it to see
  • Real video card, not shared memory - it does make a difference

So should I buy a consumer machine or a business one? Dell or someone else? Or just be thrifty and reformat my existing one?


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


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