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July 30, 2007

Filed under: tech»lenovo

Black Mesa

I've resisted getting a new computer for as long as possible. There are three machines in this apartment just for me, after all. But one of them is a laptop dating back to 1999--it's amazing that it still works. Another is Belle's old laptop, an Inspiron 1100 that works fine for plugged-in music production but isn't much of a portable. Then there's the tower, which I built myself from cheap components. It's a stable rig for e-mail and web browsing, but it's starting to show its age for anything else, and with all the low-end parts, upgrading would be a cascading pile of work and expense: fixing any given bottleneck would just reveal three or four more. It's not very energy-efficient, either, and it's got no direct Vista upgrade path.

Thanks to a windfall from the Bank's termination benefits, I've got some money to set aside, to use for my college loans, to put toward my taxes... and a bit left over for a computer upgrade, with the eventual goal of reducing my usage to two machines or less. If nothing else, it'll free up some space in the apartment.

I knew I wanted a reasonably-sized laptop, for writing on the go. I wanted a keyboard that would be comfortable and long-lived. I wanted the laptop as a whole to be business-class in terms of durability. I wanted full accident protection coverage. And finally, I wanted it to run Half-Life: Episode 2 better than the desktop I've got now (it's the only modern game I see myself running on a PC in the foreseeable future).

Although the Panasonic Toughbook was tempting just for the sheer, macho indestructibility of it, it's also blindingly expensive. The Dell D630 is supposed to also be a good machine with great battery life, but I worry about using a Dell for audio (they're not really known for grounding their power supplies) and I don't always like the way that they design the keyboard or the cooling system. Besides, I've had a yen for a Thinkpad for years. Hence:

Lenovo T61
14.1" screen (1440x900 resolution)
nVidia Quadro NVS140M graphics with 128MB VRAM
2.2GHz Core Duo (Santa Rosa)
160GB hard drive with 1GB Intel Turbo Memory
8x DVD burner (swappable with an mediabay battery)
7-cell battery
Built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and camera

Not to mention what they say is the best laptop keyboard money can buy, a complete magnesium roll cage, spill-proof drainage system, and three years of coverage against practically anything that could happen to it. And I'm not going to lie, I thought this was really cool:

Just in case I get a motorcycle, it's good to know that I could park on top of my laptop in an emergency.

It's not a particularly stylish laptop, although I happen to like the basic black look. Getting a decent video card means it can't be super thin, and the battery life could be better. But it's a solid machine with a great pedigree and a reputation for bulletproof construction. It should last me a long time, and that's really what I value most.

Unfortunately, a lot of other people seem to be thinking the same thing right now, and it looks like it won't ship until mid-September. So if anyone's got any better suggestions, now's the time to speak up.

Future - Present - Past