Features for the Perfect Notebook

With the launch of both Windows 7 and Snow Leopard this holiday season, we may be getting the biggest single refresh of PCs that has ever happened at one time. At the end of September Apple shoots, at the end of October Microsoft shoots, and then for 60 days we have World War III. Because Apple wants to move as many products as it can before Windows 7 ships, and because the Windows OEMs will be fighting tooth and nail not only against Apple but each other for the 60 days of massive sales, the prices, offers, bundles, and deals should be amazing.

I know some of what is coming, but I actually haven’t seen my perfect product yet. So I’m going to provide my wish list.

I am going to leave the OS discussion until later. I should, however, point out that I have a bunch of friends who are running Windows 7 RC on Macs, and others who are running Hackintosh (MacOS on Windows machines, there is a great site dedicated to this) and they all seem to be happy. So if you are willing to do a little work, you can probably get a lot more choice. I want to see someone do Snow Leopard once on a non-Apple box before I write a piece on this, given the timing, but these are increasingly options to consider.

Lenovo X300The Magic Number 13.3

Right now, 13.3-inch displays offer the perfect blend between portability and usefulness. Smaller, and you make a trade screen and keyboard size in exchange for extra portability, and maybe a little extra battery life. Larger, and you really can’t open it on a plane, but you can get more on a page. A 13.3-inch display seems to be the best midpoint between too large for coach, and too small to live off of. For most of the women I know, I think I could drop this down to 12 inches, but guys tend to have larger hands, and 13.3 inches is likely our floor for a machine. It isn’t by accident that the MacBook Air and the Lenovo X300 (which BusinessWeek called the perfect notebook) both have 13.3-inch screens.

Panasonic F8Panasonic Experience

Of all the notebooks I’ve used over the last year, the Panasonic F8 has been my favorite. If all Vista machines ran as flawlessly as this one did, Apple would have nothing to pound on Microsoft about. Panasonic writes many of its own drivers, designs and builds its own optical drives, and this product is even semi-hardened, so you can drop it and it seldom even shows a mark. I only have to reboot it after the occasional patch, and it suspends and resumes flawlessly. But what I love the most is the handle. When going through airport security, I can hook the handle with my finger, juggle a bunch of stuff at once, and flow right through the security line. I can’t do that anywhere near as well with a conventional notebook. In short, I want a handle.

Dell AdamoDell Adamo

There is still something to be said about beauty, and of all of the notebooks I’ve had, the Dell Adamo is the best looking. The glass and brushed metal design of this thing catches my breath every time I see it. You have to baby it like you would a MacBook Air, perhaps more because it collects fingerprints, but man is it ever good looking. I have it sitting so I can admire it. Now, one thing to consider: I carry the Panasonic over the Adamo for two reasons, I worry about scratching it, and I really worry about it getting stolen. So while I love the envy it creates, I think something a little less stunning and a bit more practical would work better for a carry box.

Lenovo ThinkPad T seriesLenovo ThinkPad High-Nit Display

On the Lenovo ThinkPad T series I tested a few weeks ago, I fell in love with the company’s new outdoor viewable display. Right now, Lenovo is somewhat unique in offering an LED display option that doesn’t fry your battery, but is still outdoor viewable. I can work outside and love doing it, but the vast majority of notebooks (particularly the ones with the really pretty, glossy, displays) get so much glare you can’t use them anywhere near the sun. What’s the point of having a notebook if you can’t sit under a tree and see the damned display? For me, an outdoor viewable display is high on my needs list. They are incredibly hard to find at the moment.

NvidiaNvidia or ATI Graphics

I play games. Yes I admit it, I like to play games, particularly when I’m sitting in a hotel room and there is nothing on the TV. Years ago, when I was an auditor, after working my fourth 18-hour day, I took my laptop and started playing a game. The auditor in charge told me to stop. I said no, and he turned me in to the audit director. I said I’d been working 18 hour days through the fricken weekend, and I was taking a fricken (trust me I didn’t really say “fricken”) break. Fortunately he agreed, and that was the last 18 hour day that trip. But I hit a limit, and then I want to play. I want a machine I can play on, and Intel graphics suck, so good graphics are critical. Apple got smart and put Nvidia graphics on every machine it sells. I think others should take the example to heart.

Remember Windows 7 has a big graphics component with DirectX 11 and DirectCompute (Apple has Open CL) so graphics will be important. With Vista, it was the folks that didn’t have good graphics that were the most disappointed (they sued).

Over Six Hours of Battery Life

I mean real battery life, not the fantasy score most laptops have. This is another area where I think Apple generally does a better job, because they at least provide a battery life range. Most everyone else posts a number that is twice what you might actually get. I’m not going more than six hours off plug, so I don’t need 11 or 22 hours (and would rather not have the weight of mega batteries), but six hours is my floor. Typically, HP does the best when it comes to battery options to get to the battery life I want. They also offer Boston-Power-based batteries as an option (delivering a 3 to 5 year useful life) which is worth considering as well.

Price and Wrapping Up

Now, this won’t be a $500 laptop. Probably closer to $2,000, and you may want to make tradeoffs to get yours down to the price you want. At the moment, the most important to me is the outdoor viewable display, because I hate missing much of the summer sitting inside and working. Unfortunately that will be one of the hardest things for me to find. After the end of the year, I’ll tell you what my favorite laptop is, and whether it is still the Panasonic. It’s funny, I actually think that the perfect laptop might be a blend of Apple and Panasonic. Apple is form over function, pretty but not very robust, while the Panasonic isn’t much of a looker but is rugged, offers outdoor-viewable screens, and has the handle I’ve fallen in love with. You think Apple and Panasonic could be convinced to merge? Probably not…

In the end, if you have a firm idea what you want, you’ll be able to navigate the feeding frenzy better and end up with the laptop that best fits your needs. After the holidays, we’ll revisit this, and I hope you’ll let me know if you found your perfect laptop.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Acer Predator Triton 500 review

Nvidia’s new RTX 2080 Max-Q is the fastest GPU you’ll find in any laptop, but it usually comes at a steep price. Acer’s Predator Triton 500, starting at $2,500, makes it a little more affordable. But what must you sacrifice in the…

From Chromebooks to MacBooks, here are the best laptop deals for March 2019

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we've got you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.
Product Review

The new iPad Mini certainly isn’t a beauty, but it performs like a beast

Apple’s new iPad Mini has beastly performance, fluid iOS 12 software, and good battery life. It also looks like it came straight out of 2015, because the design hasn’t been changed. Here are our impressions of Apple’s new 7.9-inch…
Product Review

The Lenovo Legion Y740 brings RTX 2080 graphics power for under $2,500

Coming with the Intel Core i7-8750H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q graphics, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, the Legion Y740 one big beast. But priced at under $2,500 how does Lenovo’s Legion stand up against the crowd?

EA is losing out on the true potential of Titanfall studio with ‘Apex Legends’

Apex Legends is a solid battle royale game, but one can’t shake the feeling that its creation was dictated by Respawn’s new owners: Electronic Arts. In the process, the studio’s soul could be lost.

The 'Anthem' demo's crash landing raises more questions than answers

Bioware bravely allowed gamers to see a large chunk of 'Anthem' over two demo weekends, but it backfired. Lackluster missions, performance issues, and muddled messaging over micro-transactions leaves the game with an uphill battle.

In the age of Alexa and Siri, Cortana’s halo has grown dim

In a sea of voice assistants, Cortana has become almost irrelevant. The nearly five-year-old voice assistant is seeing little love from consumers, and here’s why it is dead.

Apex Legends proves battle royale is no fad. In fact, it’s just getting started

Apex Legends came out of nowhere to take the top spot as battle royale in 2019, and it now looks as if it'll be the biggest game of the year. Its sudden success proves the battle royale fad still has plenty of life left in it.
Home Theater

Apple is arming up to redefine TV just like it did the phone

Curious about what Apple's answer to Netflix will be? Us too. So we combed through some patents, and looked at the landscape, to come up with a bold prediction: Apple's streaming service will be way bigger than anyone thinks.
Home Theater

How the headphone jack helps Samsung out-Apple the king

Samsung’s latest flagship phones and wearables unveiled at the Galaxy Unpacked event had plenty of exciting new tech. But one of the most useful features Samsung revealed is also the oldest: The mighty headphone jack.

Age of Empires II thrives 20 years later. Here's what Anthem could learn from it

Age Of Empires II is approaching its 20th birthday. It has a loyal following that has grown over the past five years. New always-online games like Anthem would love to remain relevant for so long, but they have a problem. They're just not…

Devil May Cry is Fantastic, but I still want a DmC: Devil May Cry sequel

Capcom's Devil May Cry 5 is one of the best games of 2019 and a welcome return for the series, but its success should not discount just how wonderful Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry really was.
Smart Home

Alexa may be everywhere, but it’s Google’s Assistant I want in my home. Here’s why

The Amazon Alexa may have the Google Home beat in quantity of skills and compatibility with other products, but does that really matter when Alexa falls flat for day-to-day conversation?

DMC 5’s greatness is a reminder of all the open world games that wasted my time

Devil May Cry 5 modernizes the stylish action combat while retaining its storied PS2 roots. More so, though, it reminded me that we could sure use more linear, single player games to combat the sea of open world games.