Laptop Hunt

I have been looking into buying a new laptop. My current one, an HP Pavillion ze4530us isn’t bad, but I need something more powerful. I originally got it on sale site unseen. I was looking for any relatively cheep laptop to replace old Dell (bought used) I had that was physically falling apart. The one I wanted sold out but they said they had this one and I said ok. I had never bought an HP before, but it has been a really good laptop. I know nothing about their support though, I have been lucky enough not to have needed it.

While I bought that one without much research, this one I planed on getting exactly what I want. As I found out, that isn’t at all possible. In my search for a new laptop I have used a lot of gas. I have been to about six electronics/office supply store (some more than once) to see what is out there. Most everything about laptops is going in directions I don’t like. Lots of extra buttons, wide screen, glossy screens, and tiny touchpads are on most every notebook on shelves.

I can live with extra buttons or a widescreen monitor, but glossy I think I would get sick of quickly (pretty, but too much glare). But the worst is the mouse. What part of the computer do we most interact with? Lets see how small we can get it then. And to make things even harder to use, why not recess it. Thankfully at least Sony, Gateway, and maybe Dell (but they don’t sell retail so I can’t actually look at them in person) still make reasonable sized touchpads. The MacBook wasn’t bad either, but not good enough to overcome my fear of OSX and/or WinXP under BootCamp with a one button mouse.

Well, the real reason I decided to post this was when I got finished configuring what was likely to be my next laptop, it was a bit expensive. So looking to shave a few dollars here and there, I looked at what I upgraded. First being Windows XP Pro for $100. XP Home and Media Center Edition add nothing to the base cost. I know Home sucks, but I couldn’t find any information on exactly what the difference between Media Center and the others were. I tried Google and had little luck.

Then falling for all the TV ads I have seen lately, I tried the new I asked “what is the difference between Windows Media Center Edition and Home Edition.” The first result was a pretty helpful forum post pointing someone to the Wikipedia page on Media Center. Maybe I just got lucky with that result though, since others on the page weren’t as factually accurate or not direclty on topic, but Google just wasn’t getting it done. The best I could do with Google was this thread.

For anyone else wondering what the difference between XP Pro and Media Center, it seems to be that Media Center is based on Pro and has most of its features. I am not 100% sure about all the differences, but it seems that it will do what I want. According to Wikipedia, other than not being able to join an Active Directory domain (which there are hacks availble for), it “retains most other Windows XP Pro-specific features, such as Remote Desktop and the Encrypting File System.” Some place even said the setup screens call it Windows XP Pro.

Anyway, I am going to give Media Center a shot. I hope it isn’t a mistake. If it is I will update this post.

I had two very similar setups from Gateway and Dell and was having a hard time choosing. One of the final deciding factors came when I used each site’s online chat to ask questions about the systems, most important being touch pad dimensions. Gateway didn’t have them. Dell did, but was not sure if those dimensions included the buttons as well. From the size I doubt it did, the measurements seemed close to what I was estimating for Gateway. That didn’t help me decide, but the sales people and chat programs did. Dell’s chat window sucked (I was using a Firefox 2 Alpha/Bon Echo nightly so that could be partially to blame), it kept refreshing and scrolling back up to the beginning of the conversation.

Plus, after I pointed them to the system I had configured, they were pushing upgrades on everything. Bigger hard drive, faster hard drive, surge protector, etc. When I asked if the faster hard drive would use more power and create more heat, she said no. At the time I thought that was clearly wrong, a bit of Google research shows that might not be/isn’t always true anymore.

What really got me though, I did not type back fast enough to Dell’s (probably automated) are you still there question and the chat session was ended. I was in the middle of chatting to Gateway and researching things on the net at the same time. Isn’t that an important feature of chatting over the internet, you can do more than one thing at a time. Cutting a prospective customer off is certainly not the way to make a sale, so they didn’t. I ordered the Gateway NX560XL shortly after that.

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