I found myself with a sudden need for new laptop last week. Not something I was really looking forward too, as I had a perfectly fine Dell MP4500 in my grasp up until last Friday afternoon.
Initially I thought I might make do with the HP G7 – exactly the same machine I picked up for my mother last month. 17.3″ screen, AMD A6 processor, 4 meg of ram and a nice price tag at $429.00 on special at BestBuy.
I forgot that I’m not like other users. I do development work and I hit my processor rather hard most of the time. This isn’t simply a media delivery machine for me, it’s my livelihood. I have a need for speed, and it’s not just so I can dodge zombies in Call of Duty.
So as I started setting the machine up, I was beginning to notice software like Eclipse was REALLY slow. It became apparent almost immediately that I wasn’t going to be able to live with it. So I started doing research. I knew I didn’t have a boatload of drachmas to sweeten the pot with. I was really going to need 8mb of ram, and the fastest processor I could get.
That processor issue became the central point. I was really interested in the new AMD A10 which the hardware sites were saying was almost as good as the Intel 3rd gen I7 processor. Lenovo had a machine in the wild with the thing in it, but I couldn’t find one, and after a little searching I can back to the operative words in the hardware assessment: almost as good as an Intel 3rd Gen I7.
“Almost as good” is kissing your sister – its a euphemism for not good enough. I started searching for the 3rd Gen I7 and found luckily it had just hit the market and BestBuy had a Toshiba P855 with the beast on sale right in my price range.
I had to give up on the big screen, which comes in handy for members of the bifocal set such as myself. What I got for my money was an etched aluminum case that is seriously rugged, a nice Harmon Kardon audio system (they bill this thing as a media machine, so audio is de rigeur), and the memory/processor combination I needed.
I haven’t run any hardcore tests on it yet, but I can tell you Eclipse loads at least three times faster than it did on the Dell.
A few general observations:
- Added bonus, and frankly the biggest surprise: no bloatware. Not a bit, unless you include the Norton Anti-virus they preloaded, but really, they’ve got to provide some form of anti-virus. The HP would have taken me an hour to uninstall the bloatware – if I hadn’t out of the gate decided on a full clean install of Windows 7.
- Chiclet keys – not as much of a problem as I was expecting. I tend to bank the board hard and this was a huge concern.
- HDMI output to an HD monitor rocks
- The power brick gets hot. REALLY hot…to the point that I will most likely replace it someday soon.
- The machine itself doesn’t seem to throw that much heat. The Dell was hot enough to make popcorn, and it pump the air out on the left side, which is where I keep my external mouse. In the winter, nice and warm on the hand. In the summer, not so much fun.
- They ship it with the battery in – and the reviews I read attribute this to a number of battery failures in new machines. Seems like a rather foolish mistake.
The lowdown: if you need a media delivery machine, to handle some emails and maybe manage your checkbook, go with the HP G7 (and do a fresh install of Win7). If you want kick ass processing power and a laptop case you can bang nails with, go with the Toshiba P855-S5200.