Friday, June 07, 2013

Enter progress, exit flexibility

I went laptop scouting again after work today.

I'm not really seriously looking at another laptop yet, although if the right deal appears I'll consider it. But I would like to see what's available out there. To be honest, while the current crop of laptops exhibit their own brand of shininess, they've lost something.

10-15 years ago, laptops used to make a big thing out of flexibility. They'd be built around modular bays which could hold cd drives, floppy drives, batteries, hard discs. If you didn't need the cd, you could swap it out for a spare battery. They were based on Windows XP, which is still the best OS Microshaft have come out with.

It used to be fairly easy to get to expansion ports to add memory or functionality like Bluetooth, even if that tended to be frustrated by manufacturers filling up all the slots before you bought the machine. The key thing is that you would be allowed into your device in order to improve it.

That modularity is all gone now.

If I look at the Acer manufacturer site or at Dell, I can't check whether there's a spare slot for something like a PCIe or mSATA card. What I would like to do is to buy the cheapest laptop I can find which meets the minimum spec. It's really not worth spending the extra cash on functionality you don't need and performance is a red herring. Save your cash for things like really matter.

Aside - I would say "like Pick N Mix" there - but that's an indulgence that I've had to ban myself from :-(. Even though the shop is still extremely tempting.

Where was I ? I'd like to buy my cheap laptop and add one of these to it : Little Crucial SSD drive. The idea is that the Little SSD drive sits between the laptop and the big hard disc with everything on it. It stores the most used bits and pieces. So the bits that make Windows go would be on it, Outlook and Skype (bleh) would be on it, the iTunes application and Firefox would be on it but the individual files of the massive music library wouldn't be used enough.

What does that actually achieve ? It speeds up a machine considerably. A curse of Microshaft systems since Vista got inflicted on us is a crippling of the disc interface. Windows became Windoze as we had to wait for the hard disc all the time. The Little SSD drive (on newer systems) cuts out that wait time totally. Some laptops, like my mum's, have one already.

So that's what I'd like to do - take a cheap laptop and turn it into something that flies.

However - I'm frustrated by :
Acer's website not letting you compare models easily and without clicking on each one (Dell's is like that too)
Not having a clue whether the expansion capability is part of the laptop

Not got enough intelligence to answer that question at the moment. It's not a question you could ask in store either, because the most informative answer you'd get is a blank look. Unless it's PC World where you'd get a "sure it can, you wanna have fries with that too ?"

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