Tools of the trade

So a bit over a week ago, I sold my desktop computer.  Still have the old Linux one, but the Windows one is gone.  I did some research, and like I mentioned in an earlier post, I ended up buying an ASUS laptop.  It's a U30JC-B1, how's that for a mouthful? I've never owned an ASUS pc before.  Never used a laptop with the funny "chiclet" style keyboard, either - the one where the keys are more like an old calculator than they are like a typewriter?

I've been using the laptop for about a week now as my main computer, so I figured it's time to post a review.

The Asus is a classy looking machine.  The brushed aluminum case is attractive.  The four point something pound weight is nice - heavy enough so you know you have it, but light enough to be very portable.

The screen is far smaller than the 23" I used to use.  In fact, I've considered at some point buying a new flatscreen and hooking it up to the laptop on my desk.  Use the laptop as a desktop when I am there, but still have incredible portability when I need it.  Could hook up a full keyboard at that point, too.  The other screen downside is that the viewing angle is pretty narrow.  Works *great* for typing/writing.  But if I kick back in my chair for web surfing/reading blogs, I risk moving out of the viewing angle pretty quickly.  Not too critical, but it's worth mentioning.

The keyboard is not that bad.  The keys each have just enough click to them to give them a good reactive feel.  It's a little smaller than I am used to, so I am still having more typing errors than I did on a 'normal' keyboard.  But it's very functional.  And honestly, far, far better than I would have found using one of the micro-sized 9-10" computers.

In terms of oomph, I didn't actually give up all that much.  The Core i3 is weaker than my old desktop's quad core AMD, but it still quite powerful.  I've got 4GB of RAM, same as the old PC.  And the Nvidea 310 graphics unit is again weaker than my old, INCREDIBLY loud GPU.  I can live with that - it's strong enough to play some games when I want (already tested), and it's just about dead silent.  Plus the PC has the Optima tech from Nvidea, which means it uses the Intel graphics when it can, and only turns on the dedicated graphics when it needs to.  The result - plus the extra large battery - is long battery life.  Not sure how long yet, but I gather I can pull 7-8 hours out of it with the power settings all down low.

Windows 7 is a nice experience, after seeing (and disliking) Vista.  Really feels like a smooth operating system.  I'm fond of being able to plunk my most used programs in the bottom bar as icons.  I'm not so fond of the idea that the "App Data" folder is invisible, but I'll correct that problem when I get around to figuring out how.  Found out because I was uninstalling a 7GB beta for the RIFT MMORPG the other day (it was a good test of the GPU!) which had installed itself there, and I couldn't find the folder to delete, right away.

I added some other software changes as well.  I'm using Chrome now instead of Firefox, and pleased with the change.  I'd used Firefox for years, but Chrome is very friendly, seems to run faster, and just works well for me.  I figure it's a good idea to get used to using Chrome - I am still interested in one of Google's CR-48s, if I can get one, or in whatever the final computers are called once Google gets done with their tests of the operating system.  I offered to write a novel on their little cloud laptop, but Scalzi had already offered, and gotten one.  I can't feel badly somehow that they picked the president of SFWA over me.  ;)

The computer came with the new "starter" edition of MS Office as well.  Despite being a long, long standing user of Open Office, I've been trying out their starter MS Word alongside LibreOffice (the new Open Office).  I'm actually impressed.  Not fond of the distracting flashy ad in the lower right hand corner of the screen, mind you.  But I like the overall look and feel of the new Word.  I'm not sure I like it enough to drop $150 on it, mind you...  Shame they charge so much when there are good free alternatives.  We'll see.

Overall, I have to say I'm really pleased with the computer.  It's been a good week, and I've started getting into some serious writing again, both shorts and long work.  If you're looking for a laptop that combines light weight, long battery life, and desktop-level power, this is a good machine to pick.

And perhaps best of all, it's quiet.  No more having eight loud fans screaming at me while I try to work.  Really loving that aspect!