Going Pro

Apr 17 2011 6:27 PM

For a while I flopped back and fourth between building a desktop and then getting a new portable, but I’ve finally decided to get myself a nice little laptop.

I was hoping for a 13″ machine with an SSD and mid-level graphics for about $1000, but it turns out those don’t exist. I scrapped the GPU and was willing to put in a SSD myself. Usually cheaper.

I’ve looked at notebooks like these:

  • Dell Vostro 3300
  • Samsung SF310-S01
  • Asus U35F
  • Asus U35Jc
  • Acer Aspire TimelineX AS3820T-7459
  • Sony Series S (old)
  • Toshiba L630
  • 2010 MacBook Air

It’s frustrating, because at this size and price, there seem to be annoying compromises or other problems. Like the awful touchpad on the HP dm3t. A major con on an otherwise good laptop. The TimelineX has dubious build quality. The U35F-X1 has a really poor screen.

So I decided on something else. A 2011 MacBook Pro 13″.

photo of a 13 inch MacBook pro

I’ve been known as an Apple hater, but over the last couple years I’ve gained a lot of respect for the company. Sure, their totalitarian policies still drive me up a wall, but they make solid stuff.

I was looking forward to jumping to Windows 7 since I’ve been lollygagging around in XP for the last four years. But OS X is certainly another modern and well built operating system. I’m pretty happy to have an elegant interface with UNIX underneath.1

Refurb systems should be available in the next couple months and that is when I plan to pick one up. I guess I’ll miss getting Lion free, but hopefully it will remain $29 for an upgrade. Maybe not, though, since it has a lot of new features whereas Snow Leopard was almost all under the hood changes. I definitely will upgrade to Lion because I like the iOS inspired changes and it adds TRIM support for SSDs not provided by Apple.

Because of budget, I’m going to hold off a few months before buying a 128GB SSD. With that and an i5, the thing is going to fly.

The main not so great thing is the new graphics solution. It’s the Intel HD 3000, built onto the processor chip. Performance is around the Nvidia 320M featured in the last MacBook Pro 13. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. It’s not really an upgrade. Also, Intel has a less than stellar reputation for their video drivers. Hopefully they’ll step up their game with these higher end integrated graphics.

I can take this, though. I’m not really a gamer and would be happy playing older and less demanding games for the time being. Portal (looks like Portal 2 as well), Team Fortress 2, Killing Floor, Counter-Strike: Source, Call of Duty 4, that sort of thing. Enough to be entertained. Having the i5 will also be nice versus the Core 2 Duo in the 2010. I’ll definitely be tempted to trade up if the 2012 model has much better graphics, though.

There’s also the screen resolution—1280×800. People are dissapointed that the 13 didn’t get the bump to 1440×900 that the new MacBook Air did. I personally have been using a 15″ laptop at 1280×800, so I think the same resolution at a smaller screen size might actually work out okay. Not to be mistaken, 1280 has gotten a bit cramped for some things. I am planning to purchase an external monitor sometime which should iron things out concerning workspace.

Photo by Marius Brede. Creative Commons.


  1. On that note, the new Ubuntu look is pretty decent.