Back in October of 2012, I was stuck without power (and thus, unable to work) for the better part of two weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. During this time, I tried to keep up with my job using my little 10 inch Acer Aspire One netbook, Ryo-Ohki.
Unfortunately, even with a SSD to help speed things up, this little netbook just couldn’t keep up. With only 1 GB of RAM and (perhaps worst of all) just a tiny little 10 inch screen, trying to work all day on this was… difficult, to put it mildly.
So once life returned to normal, I decided it was time to upgrade to a newer, better laptop – one with a decent sized screen that I could actually use to get work done, should I ever need to be away from my desktop computer.
The landscape of portable computers has changed a lot in the intervening years since I bought my little netbook. For one thing, netbooks have basically disappeared – that niche instead being filled by tablets and low-end (but normal-sized) laptops.
My criteria for a new laptop were pretty simple:
- 14 or 15 inch screen – big enough to get work done and for most modern web pages to fit on the screen without having to scroll too much.
- Lightweight – one of the main reasons I have a laptop is so I can use it when I travel, and I don’t want to be lugging around a big heavy laptop.
- Good battery life – as a portable computer, it wouldn’t make much sense if it didn’t last a while when unplugged – especially since I plan to use it while traveling (i.e., on a plane).
- Good keyboard – I can be a bit picky about keyboards – but really all I want is one that is easy to type on and doesn’t mess with the standard placement of important keys like some laptop keyboards do.
- Decent, relatively modern CPU – basically, something that won’t be obsolete in a few months, and can handle playing video with ease.
- Not too expensive – my budget was basically “less than $500.”
After doing some research (and a bit of price-stalking), I settled on another Acer – specifically, an Acer Aspire Timeline X 4830T-6682 (geez Acer, what’s with the ridiculously long model names?).
This laptop hit all the right points for me – the 14 inch screen was just the right size, it’s not too heavy, has a very respectable Core i3 CPU, a good-sized 6-cell battery, and a nice keyboard that reminds me of the keyboards used on Apple’s Macbook Air computers.
To make things even better, I swapped out the SSD I bought for my old netbook and put it in this new laptop, which took this from being a relatively decent laptop to being an absolute speed demon.
I’m not even kidding here – from the GRUB boot loader (I still dual-boot Windows and Linux, of course) it boots up completely in just about 12 seconds.
Oh, and have I talked about the battery life yet? The battery life on this laptop is pretty good on its own – easily reaching 5 or 6 hours with light usage – but when you throw an SSD in (which uses less power than the traditional spinning-disks hard drive), along with Windows 8 (which is really good at conserving power), I easily find myself getting 8 hours of battery life with light to normal usage. Even my old netbook couldn’t approach that kind of life, not even with the extra-big 9-cell battery I bought for it!
Of course it also has all the other standard features you’d expect from a laptop these days, including a very handy USB 3.0 port, HDMI, a DVD/RW drive, a memory card slot, and even an option to let one of the USB ports remain “powered” even while the laptop is turned off, so you can charge something off of it (a handy feature, though one I’ll probably never use).
As usual for me, I dual-boot both Ubuntu Linux and Windows (Windows 8 in this case, but I’ll talk about that in another post), and both operating systems are just great (although for some reason, Ubuntu still can’t use the built-in webcam microphone – a problem I think is particular to Acer computers).
Naturally, as with all my computers, I had to give this one a name as well – and since this one happened to come in a dark-blue color, which happened to match this particular wallpaper picture I had handy very well, I ended up going with the name “Luna.”
All in all I’m quite happy with this new laptop – I’ve had the opportunity to take it with me when I traveled recently, and it was both great for entertainment use on the flight, as well as occasional work-related stuff while I wasn’t at home.
So if you are looking for a nice, inexpensive but well-balanced laptop, something along the lines of the Acer Aspire Timeline X series of laptops (combined with a SSD, if you can swing it) is not a bad way to go!