Where are the good new laptops?

The laptop market is a disaster at the moment. It seems to be heading in the right direction, but it’s taking it’s time. First, off, the right way of picking a laptop is by weight. Dell had a phenomenal laptop in 2001: the Latitude L400 – 12.1″ screen, 3.4 lb, 1″ thin.  It was a perfect take anywhere laptop.  Now it’s 2009, what is a good replacement?

A netbook seems possible.  But for extended work, netbooks are not ideal.  Some now have 12″ screens that would work: however, these are pushing 3 lbs and ~$600-700.  That’s the same weight as a Macbook Air for one-third the price.  The Air is faster and sometimes even lighter!

So why not the Air?  RAM.  It has a pathetic 2GB of memory.  Firefox, running a few tabs with Flash, easily consumes over 1GB.  Add songbird for music, and a separate instance of Firefox via Prism for gmail, and that 2GB is barely sufficient.  For a modern system, 4GB is required, and 6GB or 8GB isn’t unreasonable.  This laptop ought to suffice for 2-3 years, and memory requirements have never shrunk.

Other possibilities: Dell Adamo — lackluster processor, integrated graphics; Sony Vaio T400 — cheap construction; Lenovo T400s — only integrated graphics, a titch heavy.

Where is the competition to the Air?  The perfect laptop should just copy the Air and up the memory.  And seriously, why just 2GB of memory the Air?  Isn’t it about time for a refresh with 4GB?

One possibility is that adding more memory harms the battery life too much.  Moving from 2-4GB could consume an extra 3-5W of battery power/hour.  Conservatively, this extra draw would move the Air’s 5 hour battery (40 W hr/5 hr = 8 W) down to 3.5 (40 W hr/11W).  It’d probably be right around 3 hours (40 W hr/11 W) though.   This analysis is ridiculously in its simplicity, but it provides a rationale (however naive that might be).

A processor can shut down a core on demand now.  Is it time for processors to control DIMM power too?

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