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My old laptop, a Dell Inspiron 9400 I got about 4 or 5 years back, has lasted well. I thought about upgrading a while ago when it was starting to run too slowly. At that time Vista was the operating system that came with all the new machines. Everyone (except one person) I spoke to about Vista had nothing nice to say about it.

So I tried Ubuntu. I’ve noted here before that, on the same laptop, Ubuntu ran seven times faster than Windows XP. So who needed a hardware upgrade after that?

The machine is still fast enough. But one of the hinges on the lid is dodgy. It won’t be long before that comes apart and then I’ll have a problem. But there are no other issues. Everything works as it always did (well, it runs faster than when I first got it because then I ran XP). Still, a broken hinge needs sorting and for an ageing laptop the best answer is to upgrade.

That’s where I hit a problem. The laptop has a truly marvelous display. 17″ and resolution is 1920 x 1200. It is a bit reflective so I need to avoid back light, but it is also really bright. The high resolution means I can fit more stuff on the screen. I usually run a second monitor as well. Lots of screen real estate is important to me.

So I’m looking for a 1920 x 1200 display. I’m not so worried about the processor but it might as well be pretty good since I expect to keep the new machine a long time. There’s my problem, though. Dell don’t do any 1920 x 1200 displays now. I have two choices: Macbook Pro and one of the HP Elitebooks.

I’m surprised I’m considering a Mac, but it seems I can run Ubuntu on it so that makes it just as much a possibility as the Windows machines. Whatever I buy I’ll have to pay for an OS I won’t use. So, okay, I’ll take a look. The main downside of the Mac, according to the reviews, is the price. But the local price for Macbook Pro, the one I’d buy, is $NZ4,111. This is a faster processor than the HP EliteBook 8740w WZ085P which is $NZ7,260.

So the Mac is an obvious choice on price here. It is a nice looking machine. It weighs less than the HP and the block aluminium construction appeals. So does the subversion of running Ubuntu on it. People will peer over my shoulder and say ‘you got a Mac? Gone to the dark side?’ ‘No, I’m running Ubuntu.’ ‘Didn’t know you could’ ‘Yep, take a look…’ This kind of conversation appeals to my vanity.

But I looked a little closer. To run a second monitor it seems I can’t just plug in a VGA cable. I have to get some optional extra to convert the display port on the Mac to VGA or HDMI or DVI (each of my 3 monitors supports at least 2 of those, the Mac supports none). The Mac has a fancy battery which cannot be removed. When I take a long haul flight one of the things I do is pop the battery and plug in to the airline seat power supply. If the battery is in the machine this doesn’t work. Again the problem is solved by adding another adapter to the mix. So that’s two adapters I have to carry now.

Then there’s the hard disk. What I do fairly often is pop the hard disk and slip in another one. I have various reasons for this, but one of them is when setting up Ubuntu I would take out the supplied disk and put in an Ubuntu one. If I have any warranty issues I’d replace the factory hard disk and call support. That way they could use their diagnostics with no surprises. But it seems that popping the hard drive on a Macbook Pro involves taking the machine completely apart and voids the warranty.

So, although there are lots of good things about the Mac, it doesn’t deliver what I need. I’m also not convinced I should have to spend so much to get what I want from HP, so I’ll get this current laptop repaired and keep it a bit longer, until some decent machines come out (ie good display, fast processor, no gotchas). Neither of the machines I’ve looked at hit all those buttons.

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