Replacing a small laptop computer

A long time ago in a land far far away, my no-brainer choice for new computers was Dell. I recommended Dell systems over the years as the safe option for businesses, friends and neighbors. In the last year, I have made an about face.

A little background before I explain. I have a very nice home office. The office is located upstairs and accessed by climbing up a ladder. This is great for removing distractions and providing a nice stress-free working environment. It is not conducive for carrying laptops up and down. I do good enough with cups of coffee.

During parts of my day I like to sit on my back porch with the breeze, the wildlife and a laptop to do my development work. Since carrying a laptop up and down the ladder is annoying, I use a Dell 14" C640 when I am outside. The computer is three years old. I have bumped it once or twice and all the major parts still work. Kudos for that, Dell. Some other stuff has gone wrong. Three particular 'features' of this laptop have pushed me away from recommending Dell products.

Firstly, battery life. After charging the battery all night, I get a FULL 10 Minutes unplugged worktime. Just enough time for my computer to turn on, get a usable desktop, join the wireless network and show the 'low battery' message.

Caveat: I could replace the battery for 120$

Second, the screen will slam shut if the screen angle deviates 10 degrees from Top Vertical. This doesn't happen all the time. Actually, sometimes the screen will slam backwards. This is my least favorite feature and the one that is the hardest to repair. Essentially, the laptop is marked for deletion.

Caveat: I've tightened the screws to the point of ruining the Phillips Heads. I could deal with the screen if I had a plumb bob and never moved while using it. I could also duct tape some angle iron to keep it stationary, so perhaps this is fixable....

Lastly, this is a Hot computer! Not in a sensual curvy sort of way, more the 130 degree heat radiating from the bottom of the computer.

I placed a human thermometer on the bottom which registered 106.3 degrees Fahrenheit before the thermometer quit. Finding that quite curious, I put a meat thermometer on it. 130F. Wow!

While the utilitarianism of a combination laptop computer/bacon cooker is attractive, it is annoying to work with. I searched google and found this interesting clip:

view plain print about
1Estimated Times/Temperatures Causing a Full Thickness (third degree) Burn in Adults
4If the temperature is 127 degrees, it would take 1 minute;
5If the temperature is 125 degrees, it would take 2 minutes;
6If the temperature is 124 degrees, it would take 3 minutes;
reference to above

So I need to do something about this. Fall is coming and that is my favorite time of the year to be outside working. I need a dependable and safe computer to work on.

I will be purchasing a 13" MacBook in October. The new hardware and software will be out then so it makes better sense to spend 1.5k-2k on the latest technology. I just don't envision my porch laptop to be a 2k$ machine.

I am looking for a 14" notebook with 1GB RAM, 100GB HD (7200rpm preferred) and XP Pro for ~700$. This seems realistic so I'll be researching this over the next week or so. Meanwhile, if you have any advice for me, please let me know.

Editors Note: The laptop screen fell down 4 times during the creation of this post.

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