I've Got a New Lappy 486!

Note: for those of you who don’t get the title, please see Strongbad!

Well, my new laptop finally arrived. Well, though I say finally, I only ordered it on Wednesday, and the company in New York shipped it that day. I certainly didn’t expect less than 48-hours without paying some kind of exorbitant fee, but here I sit configuring this mythical beast. I suppose I should review it at least a little.

So far as aesthetics are concerned, this thing is beautiful! There are no pictures I could take that would look better than the ones accompanying the review I linked. It’s a shame the carbon fiber is only simulated, but they did a commendable job. It’s so shiny, I almost feel reluctant and guilty smearing my filthy digits across the keyboard and chassis. Here’s the kicker though: I haven’t seen an excess of scratches or fingerprint marks. The gray-ish fiber pattern under the glossy coat seems to provide just enough diffusion to camouflage generic wear-and-tear. It makes my old laptop look like a Tonka toy, which is somewhat sad considering my poor Dell 4150 was fairly becoming for early 2003.

I’m typing right now, on what you’d call a pretty generic keyboard. One thing I loved about my Dell was that the keys had really short travel distance and little resistance to pressure. This made typing very easy, extremely fast, and painless. In comparison, the keyboard on the G1 has a slightly more travel, and much more resistance. I thought this would make for a difficult adjustment period, but in actuality I’m reminded more of a classic standard desktop keyboard, minus the numeric keypad. So far the only thing that has confused my muscle-memory is the placement of the page-up/page-down/home/end keys, which go along the right side of the board near the ’enter’ key. This seems odd, but considering no laptop appears to have a consistent keyboard layout, I’m not exceedingly surprised.

Oh who am I fooling?! I can’t resist making sweet, sweet love to the screen. I had been considering an Asus A8Js initially, and at 14.1", it would have certainly been smaller and more portable. Even lacking a gig of ram, bluetooth, and only sporting a 1440x900 screen, the size made it a good candidate. Unfortunately the forums I frequent at Notebook Review contained a stream of complaints lambasting the bad view-angles and light-leakage, I became reluctant. When the G1 was introduced, I ignored it initially due to the size, but watching the forums slowly changed my mind. Why?

The screen defies description. The resolution and size combine for pixels only slightly smaller than my Dell, yet the supporting technology betrays striking advancements. Glossy screens have been popular recently, but new to this machine is a blindingly bright LCD and staggeringly incomprehensible view-angles. I’ve never seen an LCD perform like this, including expensive desktop models. The image quality exceeds my Sony Trinitron’s best efforts, which introduces frightening implications for future LCD technology. If they could have squeezed something similar into the A8Js, I would have driven a burning bus full of orphans into a nun-convention to obtain one. Yes, it really is that good.

The graphical subsystem is another matter entirely. It’s driven by an nVidia GeForce 7700 GO, which is so new, only ASUS has available drivers. ASUS managed to cram the same card into the A8Js, making these the only two sub-17" laptops currently manufactured carrying a midrange video card boasting such power. I was considering a Dell 1505 until I discovered the most powerful compatible video-card was the ATI x1300, which is still three generations behind the x1600, a card practically every other manufacturer provides. Just how good is this card? If you’re familiar with such things, here are a few statistics courtesy of Futuremark benchmarks:

To give some comparison, my old Dell scores around 2,600 points in 3DMark 2001, which is the latest benchmark it’s capable of handling.

What surprised me most is the relative chill this laptop maintains. My Dell would slowly heat my lap until I started sweating through my pants. Not only does the G1 not exhibit this, but even while running a battery of intensive demos, the fan remained much quieter, indicating cooler temperatures prevailing regardless of system load. This tells me the Core-2-duo is probably much more thermally responsible than the Mobile Pentium 4-M—a processor Intel produced for less than a year—embedded in my Dell. Processor benchmarks litter the web in massive voracious throngs, so I won’t run a series of tests to check my T7200, but I did at least run Super PI to determine the length of time required to generate two million decimal places of PI. This seems to be a standard notebook challenge, and my trusty G1 managed to accomplish this impossible feat in 1:02; pretty standard from what I’ve seen.

The speakers are also much better than the Dell, both louder and deeper than the pitiful tweeters hiding behind a small grill near the Dell’s LCD. One slight annoyance here is that they’ve been placed underneath the laptop, which is great for bass, but makes higher-frequency sound muffled and carry a slight echo. Even with this handicap, there really is no comparison; another solid win for the G1.

So is there anything bad about my new notebook? So far, I’ve noticed a slight tendency for the backspace key to squeak. I’m hoping this is remedied by a few months of typing, if not, I always have the trusty can of silicon-spray I use to lubricate my Rubick’s Cubes. It’s also rather larger than I expected. I measured my Dell and read the measurements of the G1 online, figuring an inch here and there wouldn’t be noticeable, but I was badly mistaken. The G1 is truly a monsterous radioactive mutant of a laptop, capable of threatening smaller and weaker computing peripherals with a stony withering glare. That said, even lugging around such ponderous bulk, it weighs a svelte 6.8 pounds, the same as my smaller and apparently denser Dell. I was hoping for something lighter, but laptop bags aren’t exactly bastions of portability themselves. I can handle an extra pound until all those nifty technologies such as touch-sensitive flexible film substrates and solid-state drives transform notebook computers into true notepads.

All said, I really couldn’t have been luckier. I almost bought a Dell 1505 the day they listed the Core-2-duo T7200 as an option sometime in early 2006. Something stayed my hand, and now I have a machine I’m ultimately more satisfied in owning. Hopefully it lasts as long as my venerable Dell, so the next computer I buy will weigh less than a pound and make the margin between my G1 and 4150 seem tiny in comparison.

Until Tomorrow