The 2017 Laptop Search

It seems that I’m often searching for laptops. I used to get more time out of them, but as technology changes, and my job changes, I find myself refreshing hardware more often. This usually comes about because of some issue. I’ve had numerous issues, though usually around 2 years of use:

  • a machine that would not boot up, going into BIOS and requiring 2-10 hard resets to get going.
  • a machine that stopped charging, with a $600 motherboard repair bill
  • a machine that dropped and the hinges became flaky
  • the current machine that crashed and bluescreened a couple days before  a presentation.

Fortunately my company is good about supporting this when it makes sense. In this case, I’m looking at a second travel machine. Between my losing some confidence in the reliability of my current machine, and needing to be sure I can demo software, and even a potential travel ban on planes, I think I need another laptop.

Since this will be a second machine I carry, I want it small. I don’t need more weight or size, and I’m also hoping to stay around the cost of a loaded Surface Book. A colleague, who shall rename nameless in his house in the NE US, boasting a new jeep and puppy, spent quite a bit on that machine. I got a cheap Z Canvas early last year, and I’m hoping my two come out less than his one.

The Choices

I’ve been considering and looking around. I really narrowed the choice down to these (in no order):

  • Lenovo Yoga 910
  • Dell XPS 13
  • Surface Pro 4
  • HP Spectre 360

There may be other choices, but I like all of these and they’ve gotten good reviews. I want something mainstream, with a good chance of borrowing a power adapter if I need one. The Surface line is tempting for that reason since I see so many people with them.


This is my view, which might vary across regions

Dell XPS 13 HP Spectre x360 Surface Pro Lenovo Yoga 910
US$1999 US $1500 US$2199 US$1300
16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB
512SSD 512SSD 512SSD 512 PCIe SSD
UHD3200x1800 UHD 3840×2160 2736×1824 UHD 3840×2160
USB3 charge
USB 3.1
micro SDXC reader
USB C – Video
USB C – Charge
Active Pen Active Pen Active Pen Passive Pen
2.93lbs 2.89lbs 1.73lbs (no keyboard) 3.09lbs

If I glance at this, I can see that the Dell and Surface are more expensive, and I’m not sure I’m getting more. For sure, I’d then be above the cost I want to pay. I could drop to a 256SSD, which would save $$. I could use external drives for storage, which would work fine. However, for some of those, I need to drop the RAM, and while I can probably get by with 8GB, I don’t want to get in a situation where that doesn’t work. I do know that the one VM I run at times really needs 8-9GB on its own.

That means I’m looking at HP or Lenovo, both of which are nice looking machines. I’ve got a few days to think about it with Memorial Day sales in the US. Fortunately both models are at local stores, so I can compare them, and look at them with my current machine as well.

I was hoping, but not expecting, the new Surface refresh to be more competitive with other devices, but it’s not, IMHO. The value isn’t there when compared to the HP and Lenovo, though to be fair, they are different devices.

In Person

After writing the above post, I went to a local Best Buy, which carries some of these models. I spent about 10 minutes each with the Spectre, the Yoga, and the XPS. Unfortunately the XPS and Yoga weren’t the UHD ones, so I couldn’t compare screens. However, the UHD screen on the Yoga looked nice in Windows. Unfortunately I couldn’t see SMSS and VS, which are what I’m more concerned about.

However, I did spend some time typing on each of these machines and that was interesting. The Dell is more expensive, and probably out for me, but both the Spectre and Yoga have nice keyboards. The layout is slightly different, and for the most part I adapted well.

Except for the right shift key.

On the Yoga, the right shift key is half the size of the left one, and to the left of the shift key is the Page Up key. You can see it in this image. That was a problem for me as I often use the right key and I kept not getting capitals because I’d hit page up and not Shift. I’m a self-taught typist, not a traditional one, and I use a lot of muscle memory.

I tried to adpat, and consciously I could reach my right pinky further, but it defaults to the left side of all shift keys, and I think that might be a deciding factor for me. Perhaps it’s the Spectre after all.

We’ll see. A few more days of thinking.


About way0utwest

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3 Responses to The 2017 Laptop Search

  1. spaghettidba says:

    I have the previous model of the xps13 and it’s a nice, light, fast, reliable machine. Don’t go with 8 GB, you would regret it every single day.
    Another point for the xps13 is USB-C charging. I lost my charger in Cambridge last year and could replace it with a USB-C charger from Amazon instead of the expensive proprietary charger. It’s also nice to go to any electronics shop and get one in case of need (I had to do that earlier this year. Yes, I’m terrible with chargers…)


    • way0utwest says:

      That’s good to hear. The XPS is a bit pricier, without much more other than the name. The HP has good reviews, as does the Yoga.

      I’m bad with chargers. I have 3 for my current z Canvas. Forgot one when I went to SFO last year, and needed to get a charger. Forgot another last year in the UK, so bought a UK charger and use that when I travel. At least I get to leave one at home at the desk full time.


  2. sgtmango333 says:

    I wouldn’t use a Lenovo if you gave it to me (maybe if you paid me). I just haven’t had good experiences supporting them nor have I been impressed with the quality of the builds or drivers. They are neat in the catalogs and on paper, but don’t seem to stack up to real world use/abuse.


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