Tag Archives: laptop

MacBook Air or MacBook Pro?

One or two people recently have been talking to me about buying either a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro.

Both I think are pretty awesome devices, I have an 11″ MacBook Air and think it’s great. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it including using Final Cut and Premiere Pro for video editing. Okay, it’s certainly not my first choice of editing devices, the rendering times are not that fast, but for a quick on-the-move video creation it can do the business (and if it can do that then it can do most things).

The Air is nearly half the weight of the Pro and its power charger is also lighter which makes it a very portable package. The Pro with its extra weight and thickness can pack a far more powerful processor, memory and allows for a larger range of hard drives. Pro options also allow for a proper dedicated graphics processing card which would make it a far more games (or video editing) friendly machine. The Pro is quite a bit more expensive.

So for me it boils down to this. Is this laptop going to be solely used as a laptop in that you do have an alternative desktop machine to use at home (or work), or is this laptop also going to be used as a desktop substitute?

If just as a laptop then I’d go Air and take advantage of its lightness and portability. If it was also going to be used as my main desktop machine too, then I’d go Pro.

What I do find interesting is that when the Air first came out it was seen as a premium product, something a bit different and priced well above the basic MacBook range of laptops. Now its their ‘budget model’. Amazing how things change.

YouTube video about it.

7 Inch Tablets.

I can’t make up my mind about these new 7 inch tablets.

I like the larger screen sized phones – easier to see web pages, maps are nicer to use, more room for a virtual keyboard etc . I also like my iPad – a ‘full size screen’ device which can do much of what a lap-top can do but a lot lighter, more portable and longer battery life.
So what about those that fall between the two, the new 7 inch devices which are becoming more and more common. Too large to fit in my pocket or in a pouch on my belt so they’ve lost that portability factor. A lot smaller than an iPad so they’ve lost a lot of functionality that comes with a physically larger screen. The worst of both worlds.
Or is it a case that thought they’re not pocket size they are small enough to fit into almost any sort of bag or carrier without taking up any significant amount of space, yet big enough to provide a really useful size of screen. Also powerful enough with dual and quad core processors to do whatever’s demanded from them.

There’s one thing that must be in favour for at least for some of these devices and that’s their price. The Nexus 7 or the 7 inch Galaxy Tab2 may be smaller than the iPad but they still have a similar level of functionality, however they come in at around half the cost. This for parents thinking of providing their children with a tablet type device for school must make it much more tempting. Also for those uncertain about the whole tablet thing a price at the £160 to £180 range is far less of a risk than the £400 or £500 for an iPad. We’ve also got the much rumoured iPad mini which should be appearing soon.

If I was to be upgrading my phone now I could be tempted with a Galaxy Note 2 with its 5.5 inch screen, a device still small enough (just) for me to carry around on a belt holder. As for these 7 inch tablets, at the moment I’m not too sure.

A case of wait and see.

Closed Currys, not surprised.

Just walked passed a Currys Digital store here in central Glasgow to find it totally closed.

Saddened in that it is one less high street store open, but not surprised to see it happen. One thing that has characterised my visits to any (what was) Dixons / Currys / PC World was that I would leave feeling more irritated and annoyed than I did when I went in, my ‘customer experience’ in any of these Dixons Retail group stores was always negative.

I remember a while ago going into one store and while looking at one or two laptops was approached by a sales girl who asked what sort of laptop I was after. I said I was after something that had to be dual-core processor and the video output to be digital. She said ‘back in a minute’ and when she returned selected a lap-top saying this one would be suitable for me, pointing to the (analogue) VGA output saying that this was digital. I questioned her about it but the assistant repeated that this was suitable, told me the output really was digital, and was keen to complete the sale. Fail!

Another instance was of looking at printers and being approached by a sales assistant. I said I was looking for one of the cheaper postscript compatible machines. She said she didn’t know if they had any but would go and ask. (I have no problems with staff not knowing – they can’t know everything – so long as they are honest about it.) When she returned she said that they didn’t sell that make. The trouble is that postscript is not a make but a printer language common across most high and mid-range printers with some low-end machines postscript compatible too. I don’t know who she asked, but the end result was incorrect information from the staff and a disappointed customer. (Needless to say, there were postscript compatible printers there.)

As for the number of times I’ve overheard staff tell customers that ‘this camera’ is better than ‘that camera’ because it ‘has more megapixels’ is too many to list here. Or being told this is better ‘because it’s digital’. Then when you ask why does that make it better, the response just to repeat ‘because it’s digital’. Or of course, going into one of their stores and then waiting 20 minutes to be served, only to be eventually approached by a member of staff saying that the store is now closing. This has been a depressingly common experience; it’s apparent that as soon as it gets anywhere near closing time the staff all start heading towards the back of the store, reluctant to serve customers. I assume in case it delays their exit out at the end of the day.

Then there is the integration of (or lack of) the running of their web site compared to that of the store. Senior management has not yet latched onto the fact that consumers now expect seamless integration between the two. To find the web saying there is stock and on going to the store finding none, or price differences between the two is unacceptable. Customers expect to find ‘exclusives’ consistent between the channels. Their stores need to compliment, not compete with their internet presence.

I prefer buying in a shop, to be able to see and handle the actual product at time of purchase. To be able to walk out with the item, not having any postal delays and trying not to miss the delivery van. However finding staff who don’t know their products, who only seem interested in customers if they can get the customer to buy something that will fulfil their daily sales target just sends me off to places like Amazon. It’s not that I want to go to Amazon, but am being driven there because of the quality of service from their high street stores.

iPad thoughts.

Just a few iPad thoughts.

When the original iPad first came out I was not too impressed with it. No flash support, no USB, a screen with a ratio 4:3 rather than 16:9… and so on. Then after a while I thought about it and wondered if I wasn’t expecting too much from the device (it’s only a tablet after all) and swung around in favour of it.

This was to change again after I spent time playing with them in my local Apple Store. I found the square edges made holding it for any length of time uncomfortable, missed having a ‘real’ keyboard, it was over priced. My iPhone did most things I wanted a portable device to do, and I have a small net book if I want portable computing.

Then the iPad 2 came out and that gave me second thoughts. It was lighter and the relatively sharp square edges has been rounded off. An improved graphics processor and dual core main processor were there and they had not bumped up the price for the new model. They had also added rear and front facing cameras. (I am a great believer in that if you want to take a decent picture then use a proper camera, however a basic camera is still better than no camera, and using the iPad version of iMovie you can do okay video editing on the device.)

Now, I tend to be someone who will be happy enough to spend time thinking about things, nothing like a good bit of procrastination when you’re not quite sure of something. Maybe this or maybe that, but on the other hand….why not pour yourself another cup of tea. However once the decision has actually been made then I like to carry out that decision immediately. No hesitation, no delay, but *right now*.

So there I was in a local coffee shop with a friend and it was going to be a busy day so I had not brought my lap top with me. However he got out his (original model) iPad and was immediately being ‘computer productive’. That was it, that was the final action that made me go from ‘I’d like one but…’ to ‘It’s genuinely useful, I want one’. Five minutes later we were heading up towards the local Apple Store, and ten minutes later I was the proud owner of a base model iPad 2.

I like it. Where before I thought it too big compared to a phone, too small compared to a ‘proper’ computer, now I see it as nicely filling that gap. A screen big enough to be genuinely useful size, (great BBC iPlayer device) but not so large as to dent its portability. It can be carried around in almost any sort of case or ruck sack and has a decent battery life (so no need to be constantly carrying its charger). It can do about 80% of what I’d want from a full computer, but then on that odd occasion when I *really need* that bit of extra use I can always take my lap top with me. In numeric terms its screen resolution may now be bettered by other devices, but it is still a very nice screen to use. Its virtual keyboard I found unexpectedly pleasant (either one or two handed) and have made less errors using this virtual one than I usually do when using a physical one.

I do miss not having a USB port for for file and data back-up, and I wish a USB port was there for battery charging. The other thing I find a bit irritating is that the screen is too reflective, so I must look out for a screen protector for it to cut this down a bit.

So overall I’ll give it a definite Thumbs Up. A device I see not competing against, but complimenting one’s other computing devices.

Windows 7 & Vista.

Last year I bought a new lap-top. An H-P, 2 gig of RAM, dual-core processor… nothing special, though a reasonably well specified machine. However it did come with Vista as its operating system.
What a disappointment.
Even though I did various tweaks and adjustments to the system, it was just so nasty to use. O.K., it worked, it was stable, it recognised my other USB hardware devices etc, but it was sluggish and unresponsive and generally not very nice. Not helped by the machine being relatively heavy and having a poor battery run-time. It became a rather expensive door-stop! Much preferred using a baby netbook which I had access to.
However after a while I thought I’d try putting XP onto it. The install went without any problems, however getting all the required drivers gave me grief and became a pain I could not be bothered with, so I re-installed Vista from the manufacturer’s disks. Doing this install did actually improve the Vista performance which surprised me, but just raised it to a slightly different level of crapness! It was used mainly because I’d spent the money so *I will use it* rather than for its performance or functionality.
Then recently I noticed on a Microsoft bulletin that Window 7 (Beta) was available for download, so I thought I’d give that a try. Downloaded it, burnt to DVD, then installed straight over the top of the existing Vista.
Wow. What a transformation. No problems on the install, picked up all the lap-top drivers from Vista, ran smoothly, reliably, and so much faster – even faster than a well looked after XP machine I use. The only things that didn’t work properly was a webcam program I sometimes use for its built-in camera, and I lost the functionality of using the keyboard short-cuts for changing the screen brightness. Well, if that’s all I can complain about for a beta release of an operating system, I’m impressed.
However the beta is time-locked to expire in a few months time, so when I heard that Windows 7 Release Candidate 1 (RC1) was available from Microsoft I quickly got hold of a copy. Thought I’d do a virgin install so went ahead and trashed the hard-drive and installed. No problems, though it gave me limited graphics, wanting the proper lap-top graphics drivers. Downloaded the latest drivers from H-P, but when I tried to install them it failed; they would only install onto Vista. So rather than muck around I just started again by first re-installing the manufacturers Vista (with all the drivers), then RC1 on top. This install failed as RC1 wanted to see Vista + Service Pack 1. Didn’t take long to download and install the service pack, and RC1 then went effortlessly on top.
Again, very impressed. Everything works quickly and smoothly. The two things that did not work before now happily run.
Using Windows 7 on this lap-top has transformed it from being a waste of space (and money!) to being my preferred machine, even to the extent of using in rather than my XP desk-top. (Even the battery life is noticeably longer as I found out when I’d forgotten to plug it in.) I’m sure as time goes by I’ll find bugs and problems, but then that goes for any bit of software.
The Linux community may have been able to sit back and snigger (and yes, I do occasionally play with Linux – though I much prefer FreeBSD), and they may have gained quite a few converts through the Vista embarrassment, but if the final version of Windows 7 turns out to be as good as what I’ve seen so far…. well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

EeePC

Bought myself a new ‘toy’ an EeePC 901. Amazing little device. A 1.6 Gig processor with 1 Gig RAM for under £300. Slightly larger than A5, or similar to that of a hard back book.

Seriously excellent screen.

There’s been a lot of criticism of the keyboard, but if you want a machine to be that small, then you’re just going to have to live with small keys, and I’ve found it perfectly workable. It does take a bit of getting used to, but that’s tough and you quickly adapt. Battery life of around 6 hours, or allowing for a lunch break, a working day. If you want to carry its power supply, it’s very small and light.

O.K., so I’ve not had it for long, but it’s done everything I’ve asked of it. That includes using it to transmit live onto BlogTV (using my mobile phone’s data connection for internet access). However it is NOT a replacement for a desk-top or ‘standard’ lap-top, but if you just want something small and light to take on your travels that will do internet and office type stuff, or as a way of providing kids with relatively cheap (portable) computing power, ask no more.