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Laptops Past & Present

This is gonna come off as self-indulgent. Since this non-commercial blog, I’m gonna go with it anyway. It’s a collection of thoughts brought about by the purchase of a new laptop, a process that was not simple. It could have been, but it wasn’t.

You see, it’s been along time since I last bought a laptop. All the way back in January 2013. I had forgotten a lot of things in the intervening six-and-a-half years.

The last laptop I carried when I worked for Pixel Power was an HP 8510W. This was not standard company issue. In the UK, they had a standard issue laptop (I think.) In the US, lacking central admin, we were given a spending allocation to go procure something for ourselves.

We were an HP user, so it had been my habit to buy from the HP SMB Outlet. This allowed me to buy recertified or overstock at a discount. Shopping carefully, I bought better systems for myself, and occasionally for US-based co-workers.

When our product line evolved to include software that required support for OpenGL, many of the team at HQ required new laptops with a dedicated GPU. That stings, from a budgetary perspective.

It just happened that my HP8510W was a workstation class machine with a dedicated nVidia GPU. So, it was decided that I didn’t need a new laptop, even though mine was four years old. At the time, I decided to replace the keyboard, add some RAM and a hybrid hard drive. The upgraded machine would be adequate for another year or two.

That HP weighed in at 6.3 pounds. It made for heavy shoulder bag. Most especially for someone who travelled a lot. So in January 2013 I bought myself a Lenovo X1 Carbon (Gen2.) At $1800 it was the second most expensive computer I’d bought for myself. It was also my first experience with a pure SSD.

That old X1C ticks along to this day. Even as I write this it’s being reset, to be passed to the Mrs. who has never had a laptop to call her own.

In considering its replacement I was woo’d by the X1 Extreme. The appeal of the dedicated GPU was strong. So much so that I ordered one to take to Cluecon with me.

It was a fine machine, but there were problems from the outset. I had forgotten that the 15.6” form factor was THAT big. It’s markedly bigger than the 14” X1C. I found it unwieldy for the casual use that’s most commonplace around here.

It got hot. The i7-*88xx series CPU and dedicated GPU made for an uncomfortably warm lap, even under modest load. And the battery life was just not very good. I know, others had tried to warn me.

It was very capable, but a little over-the-top. To be blunt, it wasn’t the fit for my life that I had been accustomed to in the X1C. So, after just three weeks I returned it. Thankfully, Lenovo has a good return policy.

Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen 7 600px

When they issued the credit to my card I did the sensible thing and ordered an X1 Carbon Gen 7, custom spec’d to my requirements. That’s a 1080p low-power display, i7-85xx CPU, 512 GB NVMe SSD, LTE radio and 3 year on-site warranty. All in, it was about $100 less than the X1 Extreme Gen 1 that I had returned.

Of course, just days after I ordered it Lenovo announced the X1C Gen 8, which will be released in October. Ce la vie.

The new X1C is a real treat. Battery life is great. The display is vastly better than the older model. The fingertip reader actually works to log me in. The privacy shield on the webcam is a nice touch.

In ordering the computer it appeared that the optional LTE radio was very cheap, so I ordered it. With a new T-Mobile SIM I now have one more path to the internet, without resorting to tethering to my mobile phone. It’s a little thing, but it’s a nice thing.

I’m not especially impressed by the switch to a USB-C based power supply. I liked the chunky, rectangular Lenovo power connectors. They’re solid enough to inspire confidence. I can easily imagine the USB-C jack becoming flaky over time.

I shouldn’t quibble. After a false start, I have my first new laptop in over six years. I should have known to stay with the X1 Carbon series, since my first was such a great machine.

This little tale is just so much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This laptop it too big, that laptop it too small, Lenovo’s X1 Carbon is just right.

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