Portable Computer Conundrum

So my laptop died this week. Ok, it didn’t really die, it has a short in the power cord, which is super cheap to replace, I know. But it is aging, hasn’t been acting quite right for a while, and the battery stopped holding a charge a while back and then magically started again (still not sure what happened there), so the power cord is just one more thing that’s got me wondering if I should just break down and get a new one. I bought my laptop when I was in college, so, at the time, I was more interested in something light that I could carry around in a backpack full of bulky textbooks. I knew I was taking a hit in power, but that’s what I had my gaming desktop for. I am kind of sad that I can’t really run Guild Wars 2 on my laptop (a 2.3 GHz i3 with integrated graphics). Well, it runs… at 5-10 FPS at minimum settings, with occasional shutdowns from overheat protection. But it’s light, weighing in at just under 4 pounds, and gets great battery life–over 8 hours when it was new, though, of course, time and heat have brought it down to about 5 or 6–and fast enough to do normal non-gaming tasks without having to wait.

I’m kind of picky when it comes to computers; I want a specific set of hardware, not too weak in one area, but no more than I need, lest the price be too high. That’s the main reason why I built my own desktop. Unfortunately, you can’t really build your own laptop. So, as I see it, here are my options.

Option 1: 2-in-1 Tablet
I’m not a huge fan of Android and iOS tablets in general–I already have a smartphone, I don’t need one I can’t carry with me–but the idea of a real computer in a tablet form factor intrigues me. I deeply hate touchscreen typing, and, of course, you can’t game with a virtual keyboard, so the keyboard docks many Windows tablets are coming with these days would be a must for any real usage. I’m especially intrigued by this one from Asus that includes a 500GB traditional hard disk in the keyboard.
I would probably be just barely getting an upgrade in power over my current ultraportable, but it might be worth it for the extra portability and convenience. I’m also kind of wary of the tiny SSDs that come in most of them. Most come with an SD card slot and at least one USB port, so I guess I could always throw most of my files on large flash drives and SD cards, but that’s a pain, and more likely to fail than an internal drive. Personally, I would rather just have a slightly slower traditional hard drive, but that’s just me.

Option 2: Low-End Gaming Laptop
I do use my desktop computer primarily for gaming, so it would seem to follow that I would get the most use out of a gaming laptop. I say a low-end one because I can’t imagine getting enough use out of it to justify spending a lot of money on it, even if I did have a couple thousand dollars lying around to throw at a laptop. It would be nice to have some graphical horsepower when I’m on the go.
I don’t know many people with gaming laptops, but the ones I do know say they overheat a lot, especially after a year or so of dust, wear, and tear. And don’t even think about using it on battery for more than the time it takes to find your power cord and plug it in. Also, they’re about the size and weight of a small car. I might as well bolt my keyboard and monitor to the front of my desktop and carry that around with me.

Option 3: Standard Laptop
I could always just buy a run-of-the-mill consumer laptop. This is likely the cheapest option (and, by extension, most realistic), and offers more of a balance between my current ultraportable and a gaming laptop. But where’s the fun in being average?
One thing I’m sure I wouldn’t be getting is a touchscreen laptop. Yes, Win8 is clearly designed to be used with a touchscreen, but I just can’t see it being useful enough to justify the cost. If the keyboard and mouse are affixed to the screen, why would I want to reach over them and touch things? Isn’t that what I have a mouse for? It takes more effort to move my finger across a screen with less accuracy than a mouse.

Option 4: Nothing
Turns out life is expensive, especially when you just bought a house. I don’t really have the money for a new laptop right now, so realistically this is probably the option I’ll be going with. If I do come by some random money (tax refund, woo!) I’ll most likely be upgrading my 32″ TV with tolerable-but-still-irritating ghosting. But hey, I can dream can’t I? A lot of the decision depends on what I’m going to use it for and, honestly, I’m having some trouble defining what I’ll use it for. And if I’m not sure what I’d use it for, do I really need it?

So basically I want a Windows tablet with a performance graphics card and CPU for around $600-$700. Somebody makes that, right?


One thought on “Portable Computer Conundrum

  1. Haha, I’m going through the same thing with my laptop at the moment. What do I want? Do I need it?

    It’s already had it’s innards replaced once, and now is getting a little too warm again. It’s a ‘performance’ laptop/ low end gaming, but as you say the battery life is poor and it doesn’t like to be moved. That said, your’s sounds fairly healthy to me.

    GW2 used to run fine on my i5, 2.5ghz with dedicated graphics, but recently the quality has nose dived- I’m now doing any open world in best performance. Hell it used to run fine on integrated graphics, medium settings with the precursor to i3!

    What I will say is that I brought a tablet for my work, with the idea of leaving the laptop behind. Three days later and I’m carrying my laptop with me, because tablets, whilst pretty, are really quite stupid at times. That said, it’s probably cheaper to buy a tablet and a standard laptop, than a 2 in 1. Google drive is free after all and it’s got higher storage than the solid states.

    Get yourself a cheap cooling station (the worse the looks, the better the cooling)- it’ll help with performance more than you’d think.

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