Let’s make it three posts in a row about new tech – I think I’ve about hit my quota for the year already. I’d been searching for a while for a new portable computer (intentionally not using the word “laptop”). My requirements are a little different than most peoples’, which causes some grief when trying to actually shop for one. I was looking for:

  • Light: small enough to put in my duffel bag and not feel heavy carting it around an airport. Also small enough that I can bring it to meetings and not have it be a sacrifice. My old 2005-era laptop was 5.5 pounds.
  • Rugged: I am paranoid about how long my gadgets will last, and about laptop build and hinge quality. I wanted something that could take a beating and lots of use for at least a few years. This meant buying a business-class machine, which precluded trying it out at a nearby store.
  • Upgradeable: this is only a requirement because I need a solid state drive, and I’m not willing to pay any of the laptop manufacturers’ exorbitant prices for one. I needed to be able to open it up to put in an OCZ drive from Amazon/Newegg.

I settled on the Dell Latitude 2110, which has some really nice features for a netbook. It’s got a rubberized exterior to theoretically absorb some impact if I drop it. Keyboard/touchpad quality is above average for a netbook, and the hinge is quite good – it’s actually inside the body of the laptop.

My favorite feature, though, turned out to be the screen – 1366×768 resolution on a 10.1″ screen is really sharp. It’s about 155dpi, which as far as I can tell is the sharpest screen you can get outside of something truly exorbitant like the $2,000+ Sony Z-series. It even beats the new 1440×900 13.1″ MacBook Airs.

New netbook taken apart for solid state drive and RAM upgrade

After a little bit of upgrading to maximum RAM capacity and a new drive, I installed Ubuntu and haven’t looked back. It’s surprisingly fast – even the flashy window animations and effects turned all the way up are perfectly smooth despite the single-core processor and utterly anemic graphics chip. The sharpness of the screen more than makes up for any lack in the graphics hardware – it is a lot nicer to look at than typical TN panels. The only thing it’s struggled with so far is transcoding video; I think I can live with doing that on the desktop.

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