Ok, it’s that time of the year and I’m at the phase of the cycle when it is computer purchasing time. What do I want, what do I need, who has the best options available? In order of priority here’s my wish list for the ideal machine.
- It must be able to run Windows & Linux. Even better would be the ability to run OS-X, Windows, and Linux. Preferably with Linux or OS-X as the core operating system and Windows either virtualized or dual booted.
- Another high priority is I want elegant, sexy, and strong design. But not just in appearance but in functionality too. I want the device to be strong. I want the material to be fabricated well, I want the quality and durability to be built into the device. This comes down to the device being a single mold, probably of a high quality material like aluminum.
- I want as much oomph as I can get out of the hardware. Demanding elegant and sexy usually dictates it won’t be powerful. Demanding tough is usually another strike against that.
- Another thing which is super important, but I may be flexible on, is the resolution. I simply want as much resolution as possible.
- The last thing, which isn’t as important, is I don’t really want to pay more than about $1500. I’d be all the happier if I can find something for even less.
Narrowing Down the Machines
The first thing I did was check out what information was available on what I would choose as my ideal computing device. I had found, through research and talking to others, that my options where either one of the new Ultrabooks coming out from different manufacturers or an Apple Macbook Air.
With the narrowing of the playing field and knowing a few things about the Macbook Air already, I decided to look into the Ultrabooks more thoroughly. Several, such as the Lenovo option got dropped immediately. The were huge by comparison to the Air and other Ultrabooks. If several options existed around the half an inch thick size, that was what I was going to aim for. After looking through many of the options it looked like the Acer & Asus were the real viable Ultrabook options.
Touch, Feel, and Fabrication Quality
The next step, was I needed to feel and touch these machines. I wanted to be sure that their marketing hype wasn’t going to land me with a laptop that was flimsy or the fabrication was poorly completed. No machine would be in the running unless the fabrication and manufacturer was of equal or greater quality than the Apple Product.
My first trip took me to Fry’s out in Renton, Washington. Fry’s was an embarrassment, they barely had any products whatsoever. So I plotted my next trip, which a few days later took me to the airport Best Buy in Portland, Oregon. They had everything! I was euphoric. I tried out more than what I was just looking at, and must say some of the tablet options are creeping into replacing laptop options real soon! But I then refocused and aimed back at my main goal, finding out the build quality of the Acer and Asus. This ended up being instant. I touched the Acer and it was, as Steve Jobs would say, “shit”.
Honestly I was shocked by Acer. Maybe they’re just aiming for a low price point, but after touching the device and feeling the horrid quality I immediately dropped it from the running, regardless of how much lower the price might be. As with my priorities above, price is the last concern at #5, I’m not going to settle for a crappy build quality because I’d pay dearly for it later. Why?
The reason why I want something strong & sturdy is because of several things.
- I ride a bike on a regular basis and whatever laptop I have needs to survive the bump and grind of the bike commute, the bike runs & errands, and other outings around urban areas. The laptop will be bumped and flung around in my messenger bag, I don’t want to pull out a dead laptop.
- I walk, take transit, and generally will up and climb to a lofty rock overlooking a shoreline to have a better area to work and think. Sometimes, I might stumble, trip, or otherwise impact the device. Thus, see above reason on not removing a dead device from my pack.
- While working in coffee shops, bars, conferences, or other activities the laptop will be pulled from my pack on a regular basis. While in my pack it’ll probably end up getting kicked, nudged, dropped, or otherwise inadvertently abused. Again, I don’t want a dead device in my pack.
Narrowed to Two
Alright now the battle truly begins. The Asus on one hand and the Macbook Air on the other.
The second thing I decided on was that I’d go with only the 13.3″ devices. They have greater options around storage and processor speed, so it seemed like a good path.
I pulled up the spec sheets on both of these machines. After a thorough review the two biggest glaring differences amounted to these features:
Macbook Air: 1440×900 versus Zenbook UX31: 1600×900
Macbook Air: USB 2.0 versus Zenbook UX31: USB 3.0
This is a bit of a weird one. All I can say, is that those that have tested the thing have said the Zenbook doesn’t measure up battery wise.
Macbook Air: 7+ hours versus Zenbook UX31: probably not 7+ hours
This is actually a big problem for me, as the Zenbook actually runs Win7 and Linux support for all devices is a little questionable. I know for a fact that OS-X runs flawlessly on the Air and outperforms Windows 7 in about every aspect of performance. So I really want to be confident that I can run OS-X or Linux as the core operating system and then either virtualize or dual boot into Win7.
Macbook Air: OS-X == Win! versus Zenbook UX31: Win7 == Fail
So with all those factors taken into account I finally chose…
…drum roll please…
…the Macbook Air.
These devices are really close, but in almost every measurement the Air comes out slightly ahead in some way or manner. In addition I have the odd requirement of not wanting Windows 7 as my primary operating system. After researching “Zenbook+Linux” and “Zenbook+Ubuntu” it sounds like getting Windows 7 off of the Zenbook and getting Linux running on it is problematic at this point. I’m sure that in 3-6 months Linux will probably outperform and outlast Windows 7 on the device, however now that isn’t the situation.
In other little ways the Macbook Air still has a slightly higher quality also. The power adapter and magnetic connector are less troublesome than most other laptop style power adapter connections. Basically every single thing, once you use it for a while, seems to have a purpose or intent behind the design.
However I will add, that the Asus is of extremely high quality, the absolute highest for a dedicated Windows 7 Laptop. If all somebody wants is a Windows 7 machine with no concern for OS-X or Linux than the Asus is your only real option. The higher resolution almost sent me to get a Asus and is absolutely a big advantage for Win7 on the device. But if you’re still wanting the absolute top tier quality, features, and capabilities for a device that is this elegant and sexy, the Macbook Air is still the prize.
With that, I’m off to determine my purchase options.
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