Lately I have been eyeing a new laptop. My newest laptop is an Acer netbook which was bought for travelling convenience, and it serves that purpose well, having performed admirably first in Mexico, and most recently in Minneapolis. My older laptops are more powerful but still lacking. I have a Macbook Pro from late 2008 which performs well enough with a dual-core processor and 4GB RAM, but comes nowhere close to my development desktop which boasts an Intel Core i7 processor and 12GB RAM, not to mention reasonably hot graphics and two large monitors. Then there is the older HP Pavillion with a Core Duo processor and then-whopping 2GB RAM. Veritable dinosaurs compared to what’s available today.
My thoughts turned to a new laptop when I read a review of the HP Envy series. It ranked higher than current high-end Macbook Pros, and claimed very high build quality, awesome specs, and light weight. And with available Core i7 processors and four SODIMM slots for a potential 16GB RAM, this was a virtualization enthusiast’s dream machine. Until I tried to find a 17″ version with 1920×1080 screen, that is. This configuration doesn’t seem to exist in Canada, maxxing out at 1600×900 resolution. Worse, reviews were generally poor, with myriad unresolved issues. Hard to believe considering this is HP’s high-end laptop series.
I looked at many other types of laptops, including Alienware (nice, but $2500?!), Toshiba Qosmio (10 lbs?!), and Dell Studio XPS (also costly, and maxxing out at 8GB RAM). I somehow stumbled upon Asus’ G73 series which seemed a perfect fit. It has the screen resolution I wanted, 4 SODIMM slots, Core i7 processor, dual 7200 RPM drives, was reasonably priced and at 7lbs was of acceptable mass, plus it looked great, with a Stealth Bomber appearance: matte grey finish, angular edges, quite nice actually. I immediately dismissed it due to poor reviews which caused keyboard lockups, video crashing, and other system instability, but as my search hit dead ends with other vendors, I kept coming back to the Asus.
Then during another bout of laptop-obsession, I stumbled upon a thread that described a new BIOS version for the G73 series, that being v209. People seemed to hail this as a breakthrough that made their systems live up to their potential at long last. Indeed, even people who had RMA’d their units were left wishing that they hadn’t. After some reading, my mind was made up.
Best Buy had the G73JH-A1 (Intel Core i7 720 with BluRay reader) for $1500, but alas it was some special BB-only derivative that had “HD+” (900) instead of “Full HD” (1080) like I wanted. The best local price was Memory Express for $1700. I did some price-comparison because they claim to match any online or local reseller’s prices, and in doing so I stumbled across the higher-end model, that being the G73JH-B1, which is like the -A1 except it has a faster Core i7 740 processor. Now there’s probably not a huge difference between the two, but I found a -B1 online for essentially the same price as the -A1, and after Memory Express agreed to match that price and confirmed that they had a -B1 in stock, I went down today and bought one.
Words can’t describe how nice this machine is. The backlit keyboard is beautiful and functional, the display is gorgeous, and its speed is just as quick as my high-powered desktop. The fans run virtually silent and the unit is cool to the touch. While it’s not nearly as thin and compact as the Envy that I was first drawn to, I think it will be a lot more of a fit for me as I look to take my work on the road (or to a different part of my house!) And though I have only had it operational for a few hours, the machine seems stable enough, probably due to its v211 BIOS (the latest and greatest.)
While the machine is replete with crapware, I think I will resist the urge to immediately reinstall fresh. There are some very nice utilities installed, not the least of which is facial recognition automatic authentication. I will give this Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit a fair shake before deciding what to do.
At some point I will also install the two 4GB SODIMMs which will increase my memory from 8GB to 12GB, bringing it on par with my desktop. Except this one I can take anywhere.