Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In search of the perfect laptop for bschool

Update: I finally purchased a Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 13" laptop for $585+tax. It's not exactly what I wanted in the first place but the cost factor kind of took precedence in the last minute. Here are the specs:
250GB HDD, 3GB RAM, AMD Athlon Neo processor. It weighs 3.8lbs.

In the past few weeks I've been spending a lot of time figuring out that perfect laptop for bschool. I should've known better- life's full of compromises.

My criteria for the perfect laptop were,
  • As close to 3lbs as possible
  • 13" screen size
  • full size keyboard and touchpad
  • Affordable
After a lot of search I assembled this list of highly recommended ultra portables
  • 13" MacBook Pro
  • Sony Vaio Z 
  • Sony Vaio Y
  • 13" Thinkpad Edge
  • Thinkpad X201s
  • Thinkpad X301

Out of these, I fell in love with Sony Vaio Z. It has the latest Intel processor, SSD hard drive, very high resolution screen and it looked sexy! I played with one at bhphotovideo showroom and was impressed completely. Unfortunately, it's super expensive too. It starts  around $1900K and if you add some service warranty like the ones CBS recommends, then be ready to shell out 2500$ easily. Now, that's a lot of money for someone with a negative cash flow :-(

Thinkpad X301 is almost same price as Vaio Z but it has the older processor and lacks a SD slot. Not so impressed. In the same store I saw the 13" Thinkpad Edge, it looked okay. It felt a little plastic, the keyboard was of low quality and it made noises like a typewriter while typing on it. That left me wanting to see X201s, I remember seeing a similar model with an old friend from CMU but I was not sure if the screen size is enough for me. I wanted to see one again and I haven't been able to find one in a store. Karan, a friend from CBS has bought one, now I need to wait for him to come to NY.

Saurabh, another friend from CBS managed to convince a bunch of us to go for the MacBook pro. He also offered to give some training so we can all be Mac experts. He is a good salesman, no doubt! The claims on better productivity may be true, but when I tried to use one, I just didn't find it comfortable. May be it's just a matter of time. Also, I was not able to accept the additional weight. I was looking for something close to 3lbs and the 13" Pro was over 4.5lbs.

So it finally came down to Sony Vaio Y series or Thinkpad Edge 13". Though I'm yet to see the X201s I doubt if I will be happy with a 12" screen. Weight-wise both these are almost 4lbs. Not ideal I know. The only discernible difference seems to be the Intel processor. Sony has the latest one. Also, when you work with them it's pretty easy to come to the conclusion that Sony hardware is much more robust than Edge (I know, it's a Thinkpad but there is nothing "Thinkpad" about Edge other than the logo, trust me). Well done, Lenovo! Ugh.

I'm yet to make the purchase, may be it's because I'm still dreaming about the Sony Vaio Z series even after pushing myself to make the sensible decision of buying the Y series. I'll post an update once I seal the deal.


  1. Also check out the toshiba R700 series..same config as sony but 500 dollars cheaper

  2. I fell in love with the Sony Z too, but the price is really just too prohibitive. You might want to consider the dell e4310. We get a discount on it and it's a 13.3 inch laptop.

  3. @anonymous: Thank you.I just saw the Toshiba R700 today at Best Buy. I was not aware of it so far. That's pretty awesome specs for 3.2lbs. I need to go see it again and do a thorough review. Wow, this is serious competition indeed to Sony.

    I'm not sure about Dell, is it really ~4lbs? I know we got the discount, but I really don't want to go any more than 4lbs.

  4. A compromise in terms of price and specs between the Sony and Thinkpad Edge might also be the Thinkpad T410s. And its just barely under your 4lb requirement. Disclosure: I played with my friend's 410s and came away impressed, especially with the weight and build quality, so I ordered one. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

  5. @korc: Oh that's interesting. Do you know if we can find that model in the stores?
    Although, with Toshiba selling theirs for $999 (13", ~3.2lbs), I'm stumped. I'm going to take a look at that one again before going back to Sony.
    I have a feeling Sony keyboard is better, but let's see.

  6. Buy the nicest one you can find for cheap plus a good backup drive. If it breaks or gets lost or stolen, you're not going to be too heartbroken. There are a lot of laptops out there for less than $700.