My Christmas present: Dell Vostro V130

My current laptops are all very old and weak:
– My Atom 1.6 Ghz HP netbook can run Ubuntu only, so Flash is unbearable in it. It’s my mom’s fallback laptop if her own Acer Ubuntu laptop dies (doesn’t seem very healthy atm).
– My Z-series MID Atom laptop at 1.2 Ghz is even slower. Otherwise, a nice laptop, but it hardware-crashes sometimes for some crazy reason. Laptop is promised to my brother.
– My Powerbook is from 2003, and it can’t render fast any site that has heavy javascript in it. Video is out of the question. Laptop is promised to a cousin of mine, to teach her kids.

My original idea was to go for a fully accessorized+adapters Macbook Air, something that would cost me about ~$2000+tax. The idea was that if I was to get such an expensive machine, I’d have to forgo any prospects for a new smartphone, new PC, or a tablet. Macbook Air would be a replacement for my laptop, desktop PC, and tablet, and I’d have to go by with whatever smartphone I could scrap from here and there.

And that was the idea until this week. With all the Wikileaks drama around though, I started thinking more about how I should spend my money. I’m a bit depressed about the whole state of affairs (about all things really, not just political), so I now find it to be pure vanity to go for an expensive laptop while I could go by with a cheaper one. If could find a laptop that could do what I need it to do for the most part (in my case, accelerated video playback), then I should be happy with that.

So today I bought the DELL Vostro V130. For $735+tax (price includes a “plant a tree for me” option 😉 ).

Sure it doesn’t run Mac OS X, sure it doesn’t have an nVidia GPU for even faster video acceleration, and sure it doesn’t have as much battery life. The CPU on my Vostro V130 is a 1.33 Ghz i3, which results in the same speed as the 1.86 Ghz Core2Duo found on one of the Macbook Air configurations, according to CPU benchmarks. But for a difference of over $1000, I prefer to stay with the Vostro. I’m simply not willing to pay that difference. Sure, I could have gone for the 11.6″ 1.86Ghz cheaper Macbook Air, but the price difference is still $600. I could buy a second laptop for that money! And if the Vostro dies within 2 years, I can still buy a faster one by then, and still have money left!

The main limitation of this model is its seriously weak battery life (not user replaceable), clocking at no more than 2:30 hours. But since I rarely leave home, and when I do I have either a car transformer, or hotel/airport plugs, I don’t really need much battery life.

There’s a good chance that my brother will lose his job this January in Greece, since his contract as an electrician runs out. There are simply better ways to use money than getting the coolest gadget that’s around. This is not meant as disrespect to the people who already bought the Macbook Air (two of my friends did), but rather as food for thought for everyone, including myself. That’s the reason I keep insisting non-professionals on buying cheap HD digicams from Canon instead of dSLRs or camcorders. Buy the model that does the minimum of what you need, and save money. Use your imagination and your skill to go around obstacles that other products do easier for a bigger sum of money. Difficult times are ahead.


Andreas wrote on December 11th, 2010 at 8:22 AM PST:

I ‘ll wait for the first Zacate notebooks/netbooks because of their (probably) great battery and their OpenCL/DirectX 11 support. With a descent 720p 12 inches screen I expect them to cost around $500 or less.
For christmas I’ll get a Motorola Defy cell phone which I desperately need after my iPhone 3G went (almost) dead.

Andreas wrote on December 11th, 2010 at 8:24 AM PST:

Correction: I mean “great battery *life*”.

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Eugenia wrote on December 11th, 2010 at 1:00 PM PST:

DELL had a cheaper AMD laptop too, but I prefer Intel because media decoders (and editors) are more optimized for Intel. Other than that, I liked that DELL AMD laptop.

jeff wrote on December 12th, 2010 at 10:29 AM PST:

I’ve been looking (and drooling) at the V13 for a while as an eventual replacement to my Dell Mini 9, but didn’t have an excuse to get it.

And then I found a used Thinkpad T43p for 160$ on kijiji. Quite happy to have a rugged and more powerful laptop for working. Sometimes, buying new is not necessarily the answer 🙂 I guess I get bonus points for the environment (not requiring a new laptop to be manufactured, etc.).

jeff wrote on December 12th, 2010 at 10:47 AM PST:

And no, indeed, mine can’t do accelerated HD video editing or anything like that… but we have different use cases 😉

MCZ wrote on December 13th, 2010 at 5:10 PM PST:

Exactly. Mac makes beautiful stuff, but the MASSIVE price premiums makes the decision to use Windows machines fairly easy for the average buyer.

Henry wrote on December 15th, 2010 at 4:51 PM PST:

Hey Eugenia, could you list a primer of what I should be looking for in a new computer that fits the criteria of basic to optimal for video editing and playback? Thank you in advance.

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Eugenia wrote on December 15th, 2010 at 5:15 PM PST:

Any fast-ish i5 or i7, or Quad Core2Duo, with 8 GBs of RAM, and any Win7 64bit operating system. An nVidia graphics card with HDMI-out with 1 GB of VRAM — since Premiere requires 1+ GB in order to enable hardware acceleration. Vegas doesn’t care, any nVidia gfx card with HDMI-out that has CUDA support will do (encoding only). Any hard drive with enough space to hold many large files will do. I’d suggest you put your money in two 1920×1080 or 1920×1200 monitors though: one for editing, and one for 1:1 playback while editing (secondary monitor, HDMI). You don’t need anything else.

Such a machine will be able to edit h.264 without a problem on Vegas 10, or CS5. I just configured such a machine at DELL for $1400.

You can always go cheap too, and get something for $700:. For example, a 2.8 Ghz Core2Duo, 4 GB of RAM, 64bit OS, Intel gfx card, 500 GB HDD, DVD burner, single 1440×900 monitor. Which is more than enough, especially if you’re using Vegas 10.

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