My New Notebook

If there is anyone reading my blog, you probably were wondering if I got my new notebook on Monday like predicted. I did. I just have been so busy playing with it I couldn’t find time to post.

I really like the battery life. It is amazing compared to what I had before. I guess not buying an off the shelf, low end machine helps. I got the 8 cell primary battery and an extra modular 6 cell that fits into the DVD bay. Total estimated time seems to be between 8 and 6 hours depending on what I am doing. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t need to carry around the charger anymore unless I will be using the laptop all day.

The Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can easily be turned on and off using the function key. I kind of wondered about that since some new HPs had such nice wireless on/off buttons and I wanted to be able to turn them off easily to save power. Volume, brightness, and the other usual stuff is also available with the function key. But there is a nice built in popup display that tells you the level or other status information when you use these keys. There is even a battery and wireless status popup. And these are not Windows popups so no drivers or EXEs running to provide them, they are built in to the hardware and appear as a small blue box in the upper left corner.

Speaking of EXEs and stuff running, there was a lot of stuff preinstalled that I didn’t want. There were 14 tray icons worth of things running and I have now cut it down to 7 of those though 2 are only hidden. I could probably even drop the ATI , but I will wait and see if I ever need to use it for a while. There is also a “protected” partition on the computer where they put recovery stuff. I would much prefer that be on CDs and not taking up space.

I am happy with Windows Media Center, it is very much like XP Pro with a few multimedia additions which aren’t really useful to me, but the $100 lower price was really nice. Hopefully they keep that up for a while.

The mouse touchpad is pretty good, it is a bit smaller than my old HP, but not too small. I am not so annoyed by the horizontally undersized right mouse button anymore. It isn’t that bad, but the size and surroundings of the mouse buttons is a problem. The small size of both buttons is less a problem than the sounding. The area around the buttons and under the touchpad is smooth and clearly to the touch separate from the rest of the surface. The size of this separate area is just about the size of my HP’s buttons. Sometimes I repeatedly end up pushing this border area rather than a button wondering why it isn’t working.

I didn’t want to get the glossy LCD screen so I went with the old fashion style which Dell was not offering. The texture on Gateway’s screen though seems to cause some minor lightness distortion. It seems that solid light grey areas are lightly textured when viewed at the slightest from perfect angle (as in the edges of the screen when looking at the middle). It is very minor and most people probably would never know, but I do a lot of photo scanning and editing especially of black and white photos.

What I really hate about this laptop is the keyboard. I thought the mouse was going to be the big annoyance in switching, but the keyboard is certainly as least as important (if not more) if you do anything more than just simple typing. If you frequently use Home, End, Insert, Delete, Page Up, Page Down, Print Screen, or the left Control key and know where they are on a regular keyboard, you will hate this keyboard.

They flipped the laptop Function key with the left Control key. That is horrible. I have been using this machine for over a week now and 90% of the time I want to press Control, I miss and don’t realize it at first. You might think you can get used to it, I have started to. But that turned out to be another problem, lately when using my desktop I can’t hit the Control key without looking first. Not because I ever miss it, I just hesitate unconsciously preparing to miss as I always do with the laptop keyboard. It is driving me nuts.

Print Screen can only be accessed by holding down the Function key and then pressing the Insert key.

Down the right side of the keyboard from the top are: Delete, Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End. Home being next to delete means I have to hit undo frequently. And with End where it is, I have started to avoid using it, the mouse is easier.

Keyboards were basically standardized long ago for a reason. Just because it is a laptop doesn’t mean you can’t try to get close to the standard layout. On this laptop there is a one inch border along both sides of the keyboard they could have used to spread things out and do it properly.

With all these complaints, would I buy it again? Probably. The extra modular battery, non-glossy screen, and lighter base model were all important factors in deciding on Gateway over Dell. I still hate the keyboard and probably will be extremely happy when I replace this machine in a few years, but it is a really good one otherwise.

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