Thin is in – The Latest Ultra Portable Laptops for Writers

July 7, 2009

 

Laptops seem to have found a diet that works, and it’s a really good fit for writers. "Ultra portable" laptops fall within certain dimensions to be deemed such.  Display size varies between 11" – 13" and the unit weighs as little as  2 lbs but no more than 4 lbs.  Realize there’s a sector of ultra portable, low performance, cheap computers called netbooks and there’s also a sector of ultra portable yet powerful laptop computers.  This article refers to the latter.  Netbooks are a low-cost alternative for mobile writers, but if you can afford the whole enchilada – go for more power.

A powerful laptop weighing around 3 lbs can galvanize your productivity because you won’t think twice about taking it with you.  The easier your access is to your laptop, the more likely you are to write.  The more you write, the better you write.  This is why ultra portable laptops are a FANTASTIC GADGET FOR WRITERS!

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to show several 12" – 14" models to help you jump start your research into finding the model that best fits your needs and budget. But before I go there, I want to answer some questions that come up often regarding SSD (solid state disk) hard drives such as…  Should you opt for the SSD HD ?  Does it matter?  Why is it so expensive?

Very quickly… SSD drives are the latest in commercial hard drive technology.  An SSD drive is less likely to fail because it’s… solid.  It does not have moving mechanisms like traditional hard drives.  The less movement, the less chance something can be damaged during use, or in the case of an accident.  It’s more expensive because it’s simply the latest and greatest.  As size increases prices will drop.  Is it worth the extra $$$?  Sure.  An SSD helps mitigate hard drive failure which makes for a more productive and peaceful writing experience.

 Some overall suggestions when shopping:

    •    No DVD/CD drive is a good thing – You can always buy a cheap external drive and not have to bother with the additional weight when not in use.

    •    1066 MHz FSB (Frontside Bus)  – Faster than the 800 MHz FSB or ultra energy savers.  Relieves bottlenecking between HD, Memory and processor. Makes for VERY fast computing.
   
    •    SSD HD – See above
   
    •    Matte Display - I wish laptops would shift back to matte displays vs the glossy.  Matte displays cut down on the glare you often experience when working in coffee shops and bookstores with large windows or sitting in a window seat on the plane.
   
    •    Minimum 2 GB Memory – especially with Vista OS.
   
    •    Full Keyboard – A very important feature for writers.  While graphic cards may be #1 priority for graphic designers, keyboards are tops on the list for writers.

    •    Battery Life – It amazes me that in 2009 we still don’t have 24 hour battery life for laptops.  Today a decent battery gets 5 hrs and a good battery provides juice for 7 – 9 hrs.   Always opt for the larger battery if offered, and look into external batteries.

Which model?
I don’t want to get into promoting one manufacture over the other.  I’m just going to tell you the models that I WOULD CONSIDER (some just for comparison sake) and you can beg to differ as you please. 

I’m a Mac
MacBook Air MacBook Air is a great ultra portable laptop but Apple offers very little flexibility when it comes to configuring.  You get what you get – and you get two choices – the 1.8 GHz or the 2.13 GHz model.  I would go with the latter because it offers the SSD hard drive.  Starting at $1799

I’m a PC
Lenovo T400sLenovo currently has six models under 3 lbs. I like the  Lenovo ThinkPad series for two reasons.  One, it has one of the best laptop keyboards on the market – fantastic tactile feedback. Two, ThinkPads have matte displays – woot! The X200 model and the T400s model are very thin and light offering a powerful 2.4 GHz processor with 1066 MHz FSB (frontside bus). Customize and opt for the 9 Cell Battery and SSD HD.  FYI… The biggest complaint about Lenovo is the ordering process seems to always be slow and backlogged.

Sony Vaio ZSony Vaio – Sony beat MacBook Air to the thin and light market by about 6 months when they introduced Vaio Z in the summer of ’07.  Today Sony has two ultra portable options for writers. – the TT and Z notebooks. The Z series is 3.4 lbs and boasts a 13" screen and starts at $1789.99.  The TT  ($2049) model has only an 11" display which is fine if this isn’t going to be your main computer or  if you have an extended monitor setup at home.

Dell Adamo - Dell will be manufacturing more ultra portable laptops under the brand "Adamo".  If you are concerned about asthetics, the Adamo really is a beautiful work of art. I’ve never seen so many gorgeous models used to market a laptop!  It is available in pearl (see pic) and onyx both with 13" screens and starting at $1999.  The Lenovo and the MacBook Air are more powerful , practical and less expensive, but won’t look as good on the catwalk (wink).

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