How big is your Lap, Anyway?

Laptop magazine's Attack of the 20-inch Notebook is a tongue-in-cheek look at using the Dell XPS M2010 as a portable system in a few different locations.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I maintain, as others do, that one high-res display is an order of magnitude better than two low-res displays

Yes, but but 2x high-res displays will always trump one high-res display. :wink: Why does this have to be a zero-sum either/or?

I know a lot of IT Contractors who prefer the larger “portable desktop” style of computer due to the poor quality equipment they’re often expected to work with on site.

I can understand why it seems odd to lug a 20lb “portable” around, but not everyone is after high portability with compromised specifications.

Personally, I’ve been considering something like this as a quasi-desktop replacement since it’d free up a lot of space and whilst portability wouldn’t be as good as it would be with a lighter model, it’d hapilly cope with everything my present desktop does.

I used to have to lug around the IBM 5155 portable computer back in the 80’s. Talk about a boat anchor! Here are the specs:

Model: model 68
Introduced: February 1984
Price: US $4225.
Weight: 30 pounds
Display: 9-inch amber display
CGA graphics, 80 X 25 text
Storage: Two 360KB 5.25-inch disk drives
Ports: 1 parallel, 1 serial, CGA video

Portable indeed! :wink:

Another issue to bring up, most all of these ultralight laptops are running ULV Intel chips @~1.2GHz. Unfortunately for myself, those are just too underpowered (and don’t they usually cut back power while on battery?). I’m often required to run some intensive Java applications (Clarify, Ugh!), VoIP software, and a few others that tend to put a load on the system. I have a 1.2GHz Dell right now and it struggles.

Don’t take it the wrong way though, I’d take one if given to me! :slight_smile:


I’m with Mat on this one. A lot of home users (my wife and I included), prefer laptops over desktops for the tidiness they offer. No cables trailing everywhere, and they can be tidied off of the desk into a cupboard. No real mobility requirements - just compact tidiness.

Actually, I’ve been thinking of getting one of these beasts. As a musician (and developer) the big screen is enticing. I’m not likely to be coding on the move, so battery life is irrelevant - I don’t mind plugging in, but carrying bundles of separate equipment to gigs is a severe hassle.

I know a lot of people now who prefer buying laptops for use at home. It means they can sit in the lounge in comfort, instead of sitting at a desk in their computer room. In these cases, the size of this laptop wouldn’t matter.

I guess we should think of laptops and “notebook computers” as those that fold up and would fit easily in your backpack or satchel. These things, seems like they should be called “portable desktops.”

But it is tidier, and if all you need is power to hook it up, then by all means, it’s easier than lugging around a tower, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. I wouldn’t want to get this, but I’m sure there are plenty of people who it would be perfect for.

I do almost all my work on a laptop. I work at so many different sites, and the cost of a context switch from one machine to another is so high (mainly because Offline Folders are so hopelessly broken in XP) that being able to bring a machine with me is way better than any of the alternatives.

If I could use a different machine at every site, but have my world follow me round from one site to the next, I would. But that’s not an option.

The big-hefty-desktop-replacement-as-main-machine is the next best option. It’s not how much it weighs as you move it around that matters so much as how well it works when you switch it on.

The screen size puts a minimum limit on the useful size. I don’t want anything less than 1600x1200. The ultra slimline laptops are essentially unusable as an every day developer machine because they have insufficient screen space. I find 1280x1024 oppressively small, and 1024x768 is barely usable.

My 1900x1200 laptop screen on the other hand I’ve come to prefer over twin-head 1280x1024 setups. (Which is what I end up using on the occasions I don’t use my laptop.) People rave about twin-head setups, but as far as I can tell the real issue is that most people have screens that are too small, and two too-small screens are better than one too-small screen. But neither of these is as good as one large-enough screen. (Then again, I’m apparently a freak - I appear to be the only person in the world who doesn’t maximize any of their apps… I guess if you always maximise, twin-head looks better than single, because you can have a whole two windows open at once that way. Oooh! Come one people - it’s like we never moved away from tiled windows!)

And there’s a second scenario in which I use my laptop: on planes and trains. For these, having a decent battery life is a high prority. That’s fundamentlaly incompatible with light weight, given today’s battery tech. I get 9 hours out of my brick-of-a-Dell without having to change batteries. I’ve seen slimline laptops drain half their battery just booting!

Slim, lightweight machines are essentially broken for both scenarios. If there were such a thing as a slim, lightweight machine with a 1900x1200 screen of sufficient size that the text is still readble, with a 9 hour battery life, then I’d like one of those. But as far as I can tell no such thing exists. And with the screen real estate issue, I’m not sure such a thing is physically possible.

My current laptop is a ThinkPad T43p. It’s lighter and slimmer than my Dell. It was the lightest slimmest laptop I could find that offered a 1600x1200 screen, and looked like it was up to doing dev work on.

I regret buying it, and wish I’d bought another Dell bricktop. The ThinkPad has relative lousy battery life (and that’s with the awkard kludge of an extended battery pack that sticks out at the back), has insufficient USB ports, poor ventilation (runs hotter and louder than the equivalent Dell), and is relatively underspecced in the CPU and graphics department compared to contemporary Dells.

So having tried going a notch lighter weight, I can say after having lived with a relative lightward for a year that the heavyweight’s definitely a better option for me, and I’ll be going back to that when I next get a new laptop.

Hear, hear, Jeff!

Which is why I won’t be upgrading my 12inch powerbook until Apple comes out with a sub 15 inch MacBook Pro.

I’m with a bunch of other people here. I bought my 17’ MacBook Pro because it’s not nearly as messy as a desktop, has a good sized screen, great performance, and can be carried from place to place without too much hassle when I travel. Portability was not the deciding factor in getting it; cleanliness was.

My company provided me with a 17-inch laptop as a primary development machine - it’s loaded, and plenty fast, but of course it’s not light. On the other hand, it sits on the desk 99% of the time; I only make business trips a few times a year.

Where performance and screen size are factors, portability can be inversely proportional to the amount of porting you plan on doing.

Ha - that’s proportional, without the inverse

I remember that Compaq; it was the first “real” computer we had at home (after a TI-99/4A). My dad brought one home from work, along with a stack of 5 1/4" floppies with games copied from a co-worker. Playing Zork on a tiny green-screen monitor built into what essentially amounted to a suitcase – ah, those were the days.

Personally I haven’t been able to convince myself to purchase a laptop, mainly due to the cost/performance ratio being worse than a self-built rig. However, I can definitely see the benefits of such a huge “semi-portable” machine.

If I travel home from my university apartment for a weekend or school vacation, I often lug my desktops tower along with me, in order to work on some CSE project or just to get a little gaming in over the break. Two of my roomates have laptops and I can safely say that they have much less trouble when it comes to going from home/apartment/school. Although that 20" beast is probably unrealistic for use in class or around campus, it would be good enough to provide a nice desktop feel at both home and at the apartment.

If you’re doing dev work in the field, you need a machine that’s up to the task. Otherwise you spend more time pulling your hair out in frustration that actually getting work done. My current machine is a Dell with a SXGA+ display, although my company just bought me a new one with a WUXGA screen that I’m looking forward to. I asked for the 15" version over the 17" just to save space, and hopefully a little weight in the bag. With a second battery I get around 5 hours without the power brick. It seems as though this 20" semi-portable PC is almost like Dell’s answer to the new iMacs. I certainly don’t see anybody travelling with this beast.

Can you say “we are all different and want different things”? I mean when was the last time you were sitting in the airport using your ultra lightweight 5 ounce laptop and noticed everyone had the same one. It means one of two things; either everyone’s needs are different or the portable pc market isn’t as “what you need, when you need it” friendly. Wouldn’t it be nice if you swap out your 15" display that you use on the plane for a 20" display when you are at home. They try and try to get us to use docking cradles, external peripherals, etc to accomplish this. But who wants to lug all that stuff around with them, just so they can use it if they need it.

If you are on an airplane what are you using your pc to do? Eek out a movie before you battery dies. Finish that power point presentation that you should have finished last night. Wouldn’t it be nice to pay for a business class seat that had a display, keyboard and mouse device that you could connect your HD (via firewire or something) and do your work and not have to use your laptop/battery. When you get to the office just hook up the drive to your equipment there. Why use a proprietary docking scheme? Come up with a standard.

Portability has a price. I have a machine at work and a machine at home. In addition I have a laptop and my girlfriend has a laptop. I cannot play online games very well on a laptop, so that restricts me to my machine at home. And I cannot pull my pc at home in front of the tv, so that restricts me to my laptop. Portability shouldn’t be constrained by your equipment. Just take your computers drive and go!

Just because I have 3 personal machines that are only used by 2 people, I shouldn’t have to pay for 3 OSs, 3 Office Suites, 3 of everything.

Those little pc places in the airport require them to buy the OS and all the software the comes on it. Think about it, the machine guts are far cheaper then the software most of the time. You would have greater access to machine shells if you provided the drive/OS/software yourself.

Someone get on that.


That thing is a beast. The 17" laptops are just too bulky for me and the little 14/12" laptops would be do-able for work time to time but for everyday use I need a good compromise.

I, like other comments here, use a laptop for 100% of my work (outside of servers). I need a good mix of performance and size. I’m currently using Dell’s Inspiron E1505 and is working out quit nice. It ways almost 7lbs. and can get heavy in a busy airport but a solid backpack helps out. Plus, it does a good job when I sit down in a client’s shop and need to work.

It’s all about what you need to get your work done.

You can even buy batteryless laptops that must be plugged in – so-called “Mobile PCs”. Isn’t portability the whole point of a notebook computer?

Depends on your definition of “portability.” Does that mean running when no A/C is found? Or taking it to your mother-in-laws house when your wife wants to visit, with plenty of electricity to bum? That’s what I just did in California for the past 10 days.

I virtually never use my laptop without A/C power around, and even then it wasn’t anything that couldn’t have waited. So I can understand the market they are trying to reach.