What portable computer should I buy? (Chocolate on offer)

It’s time to offer up my credit card to the computer gods and get a portable computer. But which one?

I’m partly writing these notes for my own benefit – but also making them available to all to see in case anyone has suggestions they’d like to share. (Oh, and of course if you work for a firm which sells computers and would like to show your social media savvy by jumping in and offering me your latest offer with extra chocolate on the side, please do…)

What are my requirements?

Portability: it needs to be light and portable, not just for being taken on journeys but also for then being used perched on my knees at events etc. Weight matters more than size. Battery life is useful but I’m not often going to be far from a power point for long.

Power: it needs to be more than a low-end netbook. I’ll mainly use it for internet access, but also for photo editing, video processing and the like. My home desktop is old, so if it can in effect replace that it would be good.

Connectivity: lots and fast.

Multimedia: watching DVDs on a good screen and with excellent sound would be very nice bonus.

Design and quality: I’m usually happy to pay more for products that are well designed and longer lasting. But I’m not made of gold.

Customer support: an important criteria for me. I’m wary of Apple in part for this reason as its response to faults with its products is often less than stellar. Decent warranty and repair times essential.

Operating system: I’m mostly a Windows person, but not Vista. XP is my comfort choice. Home and work computers run XP. I also use Microsoft Office and have some moderately complicated spreadsheets and lots of small customisations. I also need a word processing package that has advanced mailmerge options, which looks to rule out Open Office. Cost comparison should be based on full cost (i.e. including any operating system and Office or other software costs).

I don’t have enough time: I’m not interested in “it’s really easy if you first spend three hours downloading this, then two hours learning that followed by four hours of tweaking the other”.

Time to do some research… but please do throw in any advice. The best advice on the blog, Twitter or Facebook will even win a chocolate prize. As you can tell, I’m serious about getting this right…

UPDATE: A Lenovo it was.

5 responses to “What portable computer should I buy? (Chocolate on offer)”

  1. I’ve just bought an Acer Aspire Timeline 5810 (the 16 inch version of this: and so far I’m very pleased.

    It meets some of your requirements 🙂

    It weighs 2.4kg at 16″ and 1.6kg at 13″. It’s cool enough to sit directly on your knees. It has a long battery life. It’s reasonably powerful, although not the highest spec you could get for the same money right now. Wifi, bluetooth, wired ethernet but you have to buy a USB modem if you need dialup and there’s no built in 3G. You’ll be pleased to know it’s a brushed aluminium finish, not gold. I haven’t needed support yet, so can’t comment on that. You’re out of luck with the OS – XP is *eight years* old – but you do get the option to upgrade to Windows 7 in October. It also runs Ubuntu 9.04 with very few tweaks.

    OTOH I just put in a DVD to test that for you and it blue-screened. Twice. Maybe I will have to call support after all 🙁

  2. I’ve been very happy with my MacBook – but my requirements are totally different to yours. The major issue is that battery life is not great when watching DVDs

    A higher spec would probably cover what you require.

    I’ve been wary of cheap laptops since having one in the late 90s which whilst cheap, was clearly cheap for a reason and had what seemed to be a jerry built power adaptor inside.

  3. I’ve been using one of the new Apple 13″ Macbook Pro laptops for the last week and it’s fab. 4Gb RAM, 2.53Ghz processor, excellent screen, 500Gb hard disk – plenty good enough for all of what you need, and sturdy yet also light and portable. You have the benefit of Mac OS and, if you need to, you can run Windows too.

    The only downside is it’s not cheap, but you’re a consultant now so you can probably afford it… 🙂

  4. One more point on Apple – their support might not be stellar, but via Apple Stores its improving. Also bear in mind that the machines (esp. the aluminum laptops) are very well built and should go wrong less often than some other manufacturers’ machines.

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