New challenge for the 'what to buy' folks??

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Brian, Jan 2, 2006.

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  1. Quirky

    Quirky Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Scanning through the 'what to buy' threads here, none of them come anywhere near the things I'm concerned about. I'm very interested in buying a new tablet pc, but am having difficulty finding one that meets my peculiar specs.

    First off, money is an object. I'm coming out of pocket for this ('shame I can't get my company to front it) so the least expensive the better.

    That out of the way, here are the things I'm looking for...
    durability, portability, good battery life, optical drive, excellent wifi (a/b/g) and bluetooth, and a screen that's viewable outside.

    I'm a IT guy, and I work mainly with setting up wireless networks in central and south America. The climate is usually HOT, so I need a computer that won't melt. I have to do a good bit of scrambling about, climbing up on top of buildings and roaming through back streets and such, so durability and portability are key.

    I spend way too much time in planes getting back and forth, or camped out waiting for transportation from one place to another, so I'd really like to be able to watch dvd's comfortably from coach, and not run out of juice on long hauls.

    I'd like the built-in wifi stuff to be decent. I can plug in my assortment of fancy PCMCIA cards if I need to, but I'd rather not have to. Bluetooth for headset connection (skype) & GPS unit.

    I looked first at the toughbooks, but they seem overpriced, overrated, and underpowered. (and heavy)

    The electrovayas (sc3000) are also pricey, but seem more portable than a toughbook. The battery life is to die for (maybe I'll get one of their battery packs anyway) but no optical drive & no powered usb seems less than satisfactory.

    The lenovo x41 is attractive, and might fit the bill with the x4 (3?) thing attached for the optical drive. I like the finger scanners, but am a bit sceptical of their capability - and compatibility if I'm dual booting into linux. [Ubuntu seems to have a good track record for out-of-the-box support for tablets, but I'm not sure about the finger print thingy] It's a bit pricy though.

    Any thoughts?
     
  2. Barry J. Doyle

    Barry J. Doyle Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I gotta say that the Fujitsu T4020 may be a perfect fit for you. The X41 is certainly a sweet machine, but you will have to sacrifice some power and a built-in optical drive. The Toughbook is probably overkill unless you are planning on joining the troops in Iraq. Hope this helps a bit.

    Barry
     
  3. Daring

    Daring Moderator

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    I agree that the 4020 is a great machine and seems to fit most of your specs, however I have few caveats.

    1. You indicated that money is an object and the 4020 isn't necessarily the cheapest box on the block. I'm not sure if you can find used/refurb but that may be an option to pursue. My TC4200 is refurb and saved me ~ $350 and looks and has behaved flawlessly. Whatever box you get, consider an accidental coverage warranty. Sounds like you lug it around quite a bit so this may be a worthwhile investment. When comparing prices make sure you include the warranty for equal periods of time.

    2. Forget playing DVDs. I haven't had a laptop (or for that matter portable DVD player) that can supply more then 2-3 hours while playing a DVD. I've had much more success downloading the DVD to my HD and playing from there. The battery life still isn't stellar, but I can juice another hour going this route.
     
  4. Quirky

    Quirky Pen Pal - Newbie

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    The main concern I had with the 4020 (besides the price) is that one of the "cons" listed in it's CNET review was that it got quite hot. I may be in Panama for a few weeks this summer, and I'm pretty sure that it would put the humidity & temp limits of the Fujitsu to the test. I've also had an offer to trip off to N. Africa (Iraq is not the only hot and sandy place out there) so taking a device that already has heat concerns makes me uneasy.

    As for the price, I can't seem to find the configuration I want for less than $2k. I was hoping for something more in the $1500 range (or less, of course) but my desire for a tablet PC seems to contradict any chance of low prices.

    The point about the DVD's is decent, I guess. It would certainly open up my options a bit more, if I wasn't concerned about an optical drive. I haven't had much luck w/ copying dvd's to harddrives, though, and I tend to find interesting movies on my travels. I'd need someway to get them from DVD to HD on the road. Maybe an external optical drive and an electrovaya battery pack.
     
  5. Daring

    Daring Moderator

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    Not sure what your requirements are in specific, but you may want to consider refurbs. HP's refurb site changes from day to day. Other manufacturers likely have their own sites. Of course eBay is an option, but there is less of a comfort factor. I have seen the TC4200 for $1199 w/ 1.73GHz, 40G HD. I have also seen the 1.83GHz, 60G, w/external DVD for $1499. I hadn't considered the TC1100, but that may not be a bad option for you either. You can remove the keyboard and make it a slate when you need light and connect it for typing.
     
  6. Quirky

    Quirky Pen Pal - Newbie

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    After reading around a bit more, and rechecking my wallet, I may wind up with a Toshiba M4...unless I can be convinced otherwise.

    Requirements in specific? Hmm, in general, I need a good tablet for the long-voyage, weeks away from home, tough environment, IT professional. In specific:

    I need something powerful, since this will be my only computer for weeks, sometimes months at a time.

    I need the optical drive (or at least the ability to power one externally -- strike one for the Electrovaya SC's). DVD's, but also for software I may need to install on location.

    I'm looking for good internal wireless (a/b/g) and Bluetooth. (Electrovaya strikes out here again).

    Durability in difficult environments...esp heat. The M4 seems to vent its heat better than the TC4020. Toughbooks are simply out of my price range (and seem to be underpowered).

    Portability... here's where the M4 is a tough call. I know it's bigger and bulkier than the TC4020 or the Lenovo x41, but I'm hoping that my gym membership will pay off and that I can put up with lugging the extra couple of pounds around all day long.

    Finally price. I'm not comfortable w/ e-bay (bad experiance) and would prefer a warrenty of some sort. Plus I typically want the atypical configurations, meaning that I pretty much need to get it from the company's website and config it there.

    The M4 I'm looking at would have the a/b/g wireless and bluetooth added. I'm not sure if the 8xDVD"super" drive is worth $80 extra. (opinions welcome). I may be interested in the encryption dongle, but I'm worried that it'll make re-partitioning difficult. Sounds like an attractive substitute for lack of finger scanner.

    (regardless of the model I buy) I'm going to get more ram and a bigger hd (maybe an 80g/7200rpm) from Newegg or pick them up at Fry's, along with an external notebook hd case to put the stock 40g in. Hopefully I can dd or image the Toshiba install to the bigger disk.

    Instead of getting an extra battery, I've been debating one of the Electrovaya Powerpads. If I could slip it into whatever case I get, it would be more portable than a spare battery, and more powerful (but also more $$).

    Finally, I'd like to find a good case for it that can be protective, but used in tablet mode (I'm hoping to use tablet mode 75% of the time). In all I think I can come out under $2k for the M4. (except for maybe the Ev Powerpad).

    Does this sound rational?

    Separate question, is there some sort of laptop coverage I could get that's not just the factory warrenty? Like insurance? Something that will cover all bets. The Toshiba coverage, from my reading of it, I have to pay for 3 years to get full coverage & its $300 extra. That's a lot to swallow, but may be worth it, unless I can find it cheaper elsewhere.


    Whew..:)
     
  7. Quirky

    Quirky Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Crap. After all that, I just re-ran the price on the same specs for the Fujitsu T4020D and its pretty close to the same, except the screen is 12" instead of 14" (is that a bad or a good thing for portability) and the Atheros wireless is probably a bit better (no?). The white keys are a little bit of a concern.

    My experiance is that light colored keyboards show their wear faster than dark colored ones, but I may be wrong.

    For durability, and something that's going to last me a few years... the Fujitsu or the Toshiba.

    (another odd question, do the 'anti-shock' protection things for the hd's make it harder to swap them out?)
     
  8. rkuo

    rkuo Pen Pal - Newbie

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    Fujitisu supposedly has excellent build quality. I've read complaints about one half of the tablet getting uncomfortably hot, but that seems to depend on the person. You should be able to look up operating assumptions for each tablet.

    I really only see two reasons to get the M4, the better video card and slightly physically larger screen. The Fujitsu beats the Tecra big time on weight.

    Also, the talk about hot environments raises another issue. Are you planning on using the tablet outdoors or in sunlight a lot? If so, that's a very big plus in favor of the indoor/outdoor screen option on the Fujitsu, although you will have to lose the high resolution screen to do it.
     
  9. Quirky

    Quirky Pen Pal - Newbie

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    If I'm outdoors, I'm almost always in the shade. I'll be also using this as a map - directions to the hotel but also wandering out in the boonies (w/ Bluetooth GPS device), so readability in the frontseat of my rented jeep or landcruiser will be important. Not sure if I'd go for the indoor/outdoor screen, or if I'd rather have the higher res SXGA. I'm picky about visual quality, and do a good bit of GIS work.
     
  10. Brian

    Brian Scribbler - Standard Member Senior Member

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    I think the size is going to end up being an issue for you. Well, that and weight. The M4 is pretty heavy to carry around a ton.
     
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