The Last PC Laptop

I've been chasing the perfect PC laptop for over a decade now.

Though I've tolerated lugging around five to seven pound machines because I had to, laptops were always about portability first and most of all to me. I quickly gravitated to so-called ultraportable laptops as soon as they became available. The first one was the 2003 Dell Inspiron 300M. It was the first laptop I found that delivered a decent 3-ish pound package without too many compromises. How I loved this little thing.

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

I purchased this laptop a while back, and I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendation. Having just convinced a friend to purchase it a mere few hours ago, I was very happy to have my suggestion affirmed. This is honestly the only computer I’ve ever used (including a Macbook Air) where I have positively enjoyed the hardware itself.

As for your comments on the “last PC” part, I have found that the combination of the Zenbook and Win8 has been easy and fast enough to whip out and chat with as I’m walking through the hallways on campus. Call me crazy, but I think that the tablet/laptop hybrids (and perhaps the straight win8 tablets) are more than capable of filling that gap.

I have considered getting a Nexus 7 for entertainment (all my TV and movies are through Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon instant streaming), but I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand the screen after using this one. What’s your thoughts on that particular piece of hardware?

And yes, Win8 is the best OS in general I have ever used. There’s still a few things I like about Linux, but most of those are just pieces of software written by *nix developers that don’t bother to port to Windows (MeteorJS is the big one atm).

This is a great laptop, a friend bought one when it was first released here in Taiwan. We did find the base on the first unit we got was warped which meant it would rock when typing, so we had it replaced. Probably just a first-batch issue, but something to keep an eye out for.

The laptop I bought two years ago is my last too. If laptop manufacturers want my money they need to make a laptop with a decent nVidia GPU that doesn’t clog up with dust and overheat. Oh and it needs a decent vertical resolution too. Honestly, CPU speed and RAM are near as much inconsequential and I often underclock its 2.1gHz dual core Athlon to 400mHz to stop it overheating and making noise with almost zero appreciable drop in performance.

I really agree with you - except that… I have another PC. I bought a Lenovo X230 and I’m very happy with it. But the asus was a clear fantastic candidate, with no compromise on quality… But I needed more power and more solid thing. I needed more power than the Asus could give. And the rest is fantactic, really : keyboard, screen, silence…
I’m in loooove with my computer for the first time since the ZX81 and the PET.
So I assume we share the same feeling but for a different computer.

I do agree with ou too that PC are not “master of the Domain” anymore. But i must admit i like to do things with my computer. Not only read, or check my twitter account, or be connected. But also typing, writing, thinking and applying new things…
So my needs are achangin’ I even play with the idea of dropping my smartphone - to be less connected.

I completely agree with you. I saw this laptop and immediately though It was a very nice laptop. Very close to Apple quality. Finally!

But since Apple launched retina displays… I know it is not the same price but I you have the money the retina screen is so nice :slight_smile: Again very nice laptop. I am just hoping for an updated version with a retina-like screen.

The only thing I feel not perfect about these UltraBooks are the size of the SSD inside, which is too small if I decide to run several virtual machines, or run iTunes to manage my media files. How fast is today’s external hard disks?

I would never gave up my workstation.

That’s why Microsoft might have it right with the ‘Surface’ tablets (tablet + super thin (optional) keyboards).

When those tablets are running Windows (like your laptop would be) you suddenly have the best of both worlds – super thin, easy to use one handed (if wanted) but with the additional productivity of a keyboard.

“A trackpad that works kinda-sorta OK”

A laptop without a good trackpad? Then what’s the point? I’ve even switched to a trackpad for my desktop.

I’ve been a Mac user for a few years now and I’m not turning back. I had to buy my wife a Win laptop some time ago, and finally found one with decent ratings, Toshiba’s Portege R830. It turns it doesn’t have keyboard lighting. What?! The trackpad has some weird scroll areas at the edges. Please…

It’s like you bought a Macbook without actually buying a Macbook. :slight_smile:

My 11" Macbook Air is by far the best laptop I have ever had. I love that little thing. I do wish for better battery or screen angles on occasion (which is where the 13" and Asus come in), but not enough to want to pay to upgrade when I can get a tablet with an IPS display and ten hour run time for less than $400.

These days I do all my development on a server anyway, so even on a tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard and a decent SSH client let me get things done. If you can live in a terminal, the post PC future is already here. Tablets are fantastic thin clients.

Any particular reason(s) why you choose the UX31A over the UX32VD (dedicated graphic card, upgradable parts) ?

My main machine is now an ASUS Transformer Prime and I couldn’t be happier. I charge it most nights, but even if I forget for two nights in a row the battery is usually good enough. I can’t do any dev work on it, but I don’t like developing on laptops - I need at least two large monitors to be at all productive. For everything else, the TF201 is a really superb device.

I still have a Dell Adamo 13. The specs are low (1.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2Gb RAM) and I get about 3.5-4 hours out of it, but thanks to the SSD it’s still fairly responsive in everyday use. Weighs about 4lbs.

I’ll be very sorry when I finally have to get rid of it, because it’s the only machine I’ve seen yet that’s of the same design and build quality as an Apple without being an obvious clone. The design was ahead of its time too - it had DisplayPort long before most other ultraportables.

Retina-esque? Not quite. A retina display is 2560 by 1600. The display you’re using is 1920 by 1080. You seem to want a Mac, to be looking for something as close to a Mac as you can get but not being able to get the whole way.

Bought the UX31A (but with 256GB SSD) for use while I’m travelling on vacation. Owned it for the best part of 3 months now.

Wake-from-sleep time on this, assuming I don’t have large apps open, is as near to instant matters. It’s awake before I can move my hands to the Keyboard type in my password. This is on the base Windows 7 install it shipped with.

In terms of needing to run VMs - it doesn’t really have enough RAM to be doing this (4GB, not upgradeable), but an external USB3 HDD would probably work. USB3 is stupidly fast.

The track-pad works quite well for me. My biggest annoyances with the laptop is the crummy/non-existant palm-rejection for the trackpad, and it’s multi-touch zoom/pinch detection.
However, these complaints apply equally to a 2011 Macbook Pro 15" too (had one at my previous job).

The second biggest complaint, is the lack of RAM, and it’s inability to be upgraded. If I could’ve put 8 or 16GB in it, I’d have done that. It’d also remove the 5-10 second delays that I get when I’ve got multiple huge photos open.

Asus UX31E owner since April 2012. While it is a thin, sleek, well built laptop I don’t get along with the keyboard, specifically the left Ctrl key. I placed an order for a Lenovo X1 Carbon. I use the ThinkPad UltraNav USB Keyboard on my desktops so I should get along with the X1 Carbon just fine.

So how long have you used it? I had an Asus 1201n, which was kinda something like this but a few years ago. One of the first dual core Atom CPU’s, NVIDIA ION which was hot news at the time, 11h battery life etc. The problem was, after a year or so it got hit with overheating issues. So they changed a motherboard and about a year after, they had to do it again. About over a year after that it was overheating again, but I had no warranty any more. Now it barely boots to Linux in text only mode and soon after overheats anyway. I will be selling it for scrap soon. (did you know some recycling places buy individual computer parts for good prices? The one I use buys CPUs for about 200zl/kg, thats a lot!)

As an unabashed Apple user, I’ve been extremely happy to see the rest of the industry finally getting their act together on this point. Playing catchup they may be, but if Asus and Samsung’s latest offerings in the PC market are an indicator, at least some of them have the potential to do it well. (I’ve missed all the reviews of the Lenovo ultrabooks, but I imagine theirs must be pretty solid as well.)

Only one quibble: that screen is close to Retina density, but it’s definitely not a Retina screen (which is more to say: Windows isn’t there yet, alas, though Windows 8 does a heck of a lot better at it than Windows 7 does). The resolution “independence” (Apple uses a nice trick, but it’s obviously not real independence) is really something else, and when you go beyond just the resolution doubling and add in all the subpixel work that full OSes use, it’s… wow. Just, wow. (Also: if you’re using it at full resolution, you must have amazing eyes.)

Related: I’ve been running the rMBP for the last month and one of the real treats is running Windows 7 or 8 in Parallels 8. It is, without question, far and away the best Windows has ever looked. I can’t wait till they’re actually pushing Retina screens for everyone - you’ll never want to go back once they do. I expect Apple will have them in their 13" machines by the end of the year, and in every machine they sell as the only option within the next 5 years. That, in turn, should push the rest of the industry (including Microsoft), and that’s going to be really delightful for everyone all around.

One thing I can’t figure out? Why it’s so hard (outside of Apple) to get machines that are 16x10 instead of 16x9. The latter drives me batty when doing software development - a lot of folks I’ve known in the last three years have taken to pushing two screens together, but sideways so they have enough vertical space to actually get software work done…

If you get time, I’d love to see an article tracking resolution independence efforts from you in line with some of your other tech spec write-ups.

Why not just get the MacBook Air and run it as a Windows machine? Then you would get the best of hardware with the software you want - a perfect combo.