Sunday, March 15, 2009


I'm currently sitting in the strange wicker chair thing at the end of my garden. This is remarkable for two reasons: The first is that it's a lovely warm sunny day - the first of the year. The second is that I'm typing this on my new laptop. To be specific it's a Samsung NC10, which sits at the fairly large and shiny end of the netbook market. I have only had it for about a week, so this isn't going to be a detailed review of the thing. With the exception of the slightly annoyingly small trackpad though, it's the best new invention ever.

Laptops are hardly a new invention, I know, but this new breed of laptops that are actually portable are something of a revelation. I know that they've always existed, but in the past they've been so stupidly expensive that nobody who wasn't a wealthy professional ubernerd ever bought them.

When I was at university lots of people had laptops, but those laptops rarely ever left the desks they usually sat on, in fact, most of them probably moved around less than my tower PC. I think most laptops are essentially the ideal computer for someone who moves house a lot, but their usefulness for those who want to take them out of the house is rather limited. I found that when taken off the desk they sat on (and actually used on the lap they are nominally intended for) they were uncomfortable, hot, and heavy. I don't know whether this fear was justified, but their thinness coupled with their tea-tray size, convinced me that they would be extremely easy to bend or break.The last nail in the coffin of the idea of a laptop as a portable computer was always the battery life, which never seemed to exceed an hour or two, rendering them fairly useless if more than 4 metres from a plug socket.

I think that the reason for this is that it wasn't until a few years ago that intel showed any interest whatsoever in reducing the power comsumption of their processors. Up until that point processor design was like 1950s american car design, the efficiency of their engines just wasn't seen as relevant. For example, the power supply in my tower PC (which is no mighty behemoth) draws around 450 watts when it's switched on. This laptop consumes about 15. There's very little difference in processing power between the two, just a couple of years of research into power efficiency. The upshot of this is that my new laptop can go for between 4 and 7 hours (depending on what I'm doing) on one charge -- making it actually practical to take my work outside. Not that I have any work with me this weekend, although i do have plenty to do.