Tuesday, November 11



My notebook, Sae has been plugging away for more than four years.  She still works just fine for most tasks, but running the heavyweight IDE I use these days (IntelliJ IDEA) is a bit painful on a 1.3GHz Core 2 Duo.

I've been looking for a replacement for the past year, but every notebook either has something seriously wrong with it, or is overpriced.  Or simply isn't available in Australia.  Or all three.  

It's maddening.  Inexpensive models have either Intel's Atom, which has inadequate single-threaded performance, or the slowest of AMD's Bobcat chips.  The higher-end Bobcat descendants aren't too bad (they run both the PS4 and the Xbox One), but the common version seen is a 1GHz dual-core, which is pathetic.

1366x768 TN displays are still the norm, even on systems costing over $1000.  Hard disks where you'd expect an SSD.  No expansion or even build-to-order options.  DVD drives.  Why would I want one?  On a big desktop replacement machine, a Blu-Ray drive, sure.  But DVD on a compact 14" laptop?

Shopping for a new notebook makes me want to scream.  I can see why discerning buyers would end up with Apple, simply out of disgust at the maze of incompetent design and marketing decisions made by their competitors.*

I finally settled on LG's 13Z940.  It's a 13" model, like Sae, but with four years worth of updates.  It has an SSD (Sae has an old-fashioned spinning disk), a 1920x1080 IPS screen (Sae has a 1366x768 TN panel - a fairly good one, but still TN), a 4th-generation Core i5, and...  4GB of RAM, which is exactly what I have in Sae (after adding a 2GB module to the 2GB it came with).

This is what drives me mad: The RAM is not upgradeable.  (Probably; the manual is extremely vague about this.)  I managed to find the 4GB model for $929.  There's an 8GB model, but the cheapest price I could find for that was $1599.  At that price I might as well just go to Apple, who still do build-to-order.  (One of the last remaining companies to do so.)

I chose the silver model, at left.  Also available in white and... Pink?

So I went for the 4GB model, and it's going to have to do.  I think it will do, because one of the things that has changed in the last four years is that I can now spin up a cloud server to handle development and testing in under a minute and for a couple of bucks a month.  Or if I only need it for a few hours, for a couple of cents an hour.  I used to run a Linux virtual server right on the notebook; I no longer need to do that.

On the plus side, the LZ940 is nearly three times as fast as Sae for single-threaded workloads, slightly more than three times as fast for multi-threaded work, and boots from standby in two seconds.

And weighs about half as much.  I thought Sae was remarkably light back in 2010, and it was - 1.77 kg (just under 4 lb) vs. 2.8 kg for my previous HP (about 6 lb).

The LZ940 weighs just 980 grams.  That's only a little more than Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 tablet - and lighter than the Surface with its keyboard attached.  It's lighter than the 11" Macbook Air, never mind the 13" model.  To do that they did trim the battery life, down to a quoted seven hours, and a more realistic five, but that's fine for my use.  When I'm using a computer, 99% of the time I'll be either at home (where I have a plenitude of other computers) or at work, where I keep a universal laptop charger.  For people who need to work on the go a lot, a 13" Macbook Air would be a better choice - but it's more expensive and has only a 1440x900 display.

I also ordered another 128GB microSD card to give it a bit of extra storage, and a 2TB portable fileserver to give it a whole bunch of extra storage.  I remember when that would have required an entire rack full of drives and servers and cost a large part of a million dollars; now its a couple of hundred bucks, weighs half a pound, and has a ten-hour battery life.

Any time you feel depressed about the state of the world nowadays, think about computers for a bit.  Given what we had to work with in the old days, it's amazing we even survived this long.

Update: Chika-chan arrived today!  The 2TB portable fileserver is on back-order (should arrive at the store Monday, so I'll get it Tuesday), but I have the notebook and the SD card to play with this weekend.


* Then again, Apple and the 2014 Mac Mini.  Zero user upgrade options.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 10:33 PM | Comments (3) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 "every notebook either has something seriously wrong with it, or is overpriced. Or simply isn't available in Australia. Or all three."
Shouldn't you be glad that notebooks that are overpriced and have seriously wrong things aren't available? wink

Posted by: Kian at Tuesday, November 11 2014 11:06 PM (9TnY8)

2 Glass half full, huh?

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, November 12 2014 12:40 AM (PiXy!)

3 I'd be happy to buy something heavier if the extra weight went into making a sturdier case. Unfortunately it looks like Toshiba is going to discontinue Kirabooks.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Monday, November 17 2014 09:43 AM (RqRa5)

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