Laptop Build Quality

I’ve been looking around at various laptops, in preparation for getting a new one. I wrote about considering the Surface Book, which is still on the list, but has dropped a bit. The hardware quality is great, but when I was in the UK last week, a few people had them and complained about some driver bugs. In particular, I was messing with one person’s touch keyboard, and they warned me not to pull if off.  If I did, the machine might crash.

Ugh. At $2k and lots of hype, I wouldn’t expect any issues like that.

In any case, this post is about build quality, not software.

I was laying in bed this week, working on some editorials when my daughter came in. She wanted me to look over a piece she was writing for school and handed me her laptop. She has a Macbook Air, and as soon as I put my Toshiba z30 down, I was impressed with the Air’s build. It’s solid, it’s light, but it feels strong. I remember loving my Macbook Air, and holding it as I reviewed her work, I was reminded of that.

My z30 flexes, to the point that across a year, my touch point is unusable with the twisting of the frame. The trackpad was also far, far superior on the Air. I thought the Macbook Pro was like that, so I swung by a Best Buy to check. I walked in and went to the Apple section, picking up a Macbook and it feel solid. It’s just a better device than my Toshiba.

However I was curious about others. I did walk over and look at a Surface Book. It’s a solid machine, about the size and weight of the MBP. However it has the touch screen, which is interesting. The trackpad works differently, but it’s a nice machine. Detaching the screen, it’s a tablet, which is nice. I still don’t know how much I’d use the tablet factor, but it’s tempting. However the weight distribution is strange. The screen is heavier than the keyboard, the opposite of most laptops.

I also walked over to look at a Yoga 900, which I was curious about after reading Tim Mitchell’s review. I’m actually anxious to see how Tim’s machine looks next month in NM, but for now I contened myself with the display model. The hinge is neat, but this is a light laptop. At first glance, it also was solid. The flex I have on my Toshiba was not there. Despite a few reviewers noting this felt plastic and cheap, I didn’t get that feeling. It’s no Macbook, but it’s better than my Toshiba.

This will be an interesting decision for me, but since I’m going to wait for Apple’s announcement in March and see what they might do. I doubt they’ll go touch screen, but you never know. I have gotten used to touching my screen for some reading, and I think I might miss that with a MBP.

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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4 Responses to Laptop Build Quality

  1. Wayne says:

    I had a 2011 MacBook Air for, I guess 4+ years, traded it in on a 2011 MacBook Pro for more memory and disk space just before Xmas. The Air is fantastic if weight is the primary consideration, the newer ones support more RAM and disk, I didn’t have the money for a new one at this time.

    For my personal needs, when we went to Germany for two weeks last summer, I bought an Asus Chromebook C201P. It can run Linux, but I haven’t had much a need for that. It can edit the standard Word, Excel, Powerpoint docs even when offline, something I expect to be using when I fly to DC this weekend. It does not run Windows apps, so SQL Server is out, but it can run an RDP client and you could connect to a hosted server that way. I’ve tried that app and it works fine.

    My needs in Europe were simple: transfer images from my camera’s SD cards to flash drives, email, browse the web. Some word processing. I had to buy a USB card converter as the C201 has only a micro SD slot. I have a 64gig card in that slot with a ton of books from Project Gutenberg and other sources.

    Compromises are the name of the game: you choose the features that are the most important to you. The Air, and any MacBook, are fantastic builds because they’re using machined aluminum bodies. They do not flex. I’ve lost laptops to flex, so I really appreciate this. The Asus is surprisingly solid, only $200, and weighs only 2 lbs, so it’s lighter than an Air. The amazing thing is the battery: you can get 8-10 hours out of one charge! I’m not planning on taking the charger to DC.

    My only complaint about the Asus is that the keyboard is not lit. It’s a very good keyboard, but the lack of lighting is a little vexing. I’m a pretty good typist, but not a perfect one. It’s also small enough to use on an airplane without too much hassle. Minor quibble: the touch pad doesn’t always support a tap for clicking, sometimes you have to push down on it.

    Unless you absolutely must run native Windows apps like SQL Server, I’d suggest checking it out. Plus, at $200, I wouldn’t weep too much if it were lost or stolen.


    • way0utwest says:

      If I were just looking for a second machine, the ASUS sounds fine. Actually, if I wanted a second machine, I really think I’d consider a lower end Surface. The 3Pro would work for me in most cases, except the VMs I need to demo. I can’t count on connectivity, and have had friends have issues with it in various venues.

      I’ve been hoping for more 16GB ultrabooks. The Yoga is slightly less of a well built machine, which worries me a bit. I’ll see how Tim’s works since he travels a lot. However I am really leaning towards the MacBook since it gives me more options for development, and it’s very solid. A 16GB/512SSD is about what I need right now.


  2. Wayne says:

    I expect Apple is a couple of years out before they release a touch screen laptop. In some ways they lead the pack, in others they lag.


    • way0utwest says:

      You may be right. I think they’re already a couple years late, given all the iOS success, the integrations, the success of the Surface series and various ultrabooks. I am hoping they’ll move to something like a Yoga 900 model at some point.


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