Saturday, May 17, 2008

upgrade time! retooling of my setup, system, way of computing

a few posts back i had mentioned that i was contemplating a full system upgrade either by building a totally new desktop or by going the laptop route.  well, this week i finally made my decision.  choosing between mobility/convenience vs raw power and upgradability is a hard choice for me since i'd like to have all four things at once (which you really can't get in a desktop since well its a desktop and stuff). 

yup, a laptop would fit me the best right now.

however, after making my decision i realized that not only was i going to be getting a fast new laptop vs a desktop but i also was in turn going to be changing the way i computed, worked.

so yes, i decided to scratch the idea of rebuilding a completely new desktop due to the time, costs (not as cost effective these days), and the fact that i already had a decent but not great desktop helped too.  my needs for the new system were:

  • ability to playback, record HD content via HDTV tuner or downloaded media

  • decent battery life, ideally 2 batteries (slim and extended, if offered)

  • bluray drive options, dual layered dvd burner at the minimal

  • decent discrete video card, pci-e not integrated; 128mb card at the miminum; i do not plan to game hardcore on it; more casual gaming and multimedia apps

  • penrynn chipset, 45nm = cooler and better battery life (hopefully!); also allows leopard to be loaded if wanted :)

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T9300; 2.5Ghz beast!

  • 250gb hdd, memory can be only 1gb since i'll buy those upgrades seperately (i can get 2x2gb of ddr2 for $70 vs hp/dell/lenovo charging around $200).

  • connectivity options: bt 2.0, wifi a/b/g/n, sd card reader (ideally, sdhc)

  • fingerprint reader is a bonus and a builtin webcam/array mics are added bonuses (i'd prefer to get all of these things builtin; i've learned that having dongles for everything gets older after using them the first time)

  • nice lcd and design; i don't like boring devices (thus why gateway is not here, not my style)

  • 14" to 15.4" Widescreen lcd (nothing bigger though, anything else just seems way too huge!)

  • all with in a $1200-1500 price range.

this basically narrowed my choosings down to these model of laptops (click the links to head to the build-your-own pages for each):

  1. Dell XPS M1530  

  2. Lenovo ThinkPad T61

  3. HP Pavilion dv6700t

  4. Apple Macbook

Pricing for each based on my criteria (again are approx values):

  • XPS M1530 - around $2,273 w/Bluray (i know, HOLY CRAP, bluray option is $500+ alone)

  • Thinkpad T61 - around $1266 w/no Bluray options

  • Pavilion dv6700T - around $1600 w/Bluray (yes, Bluray upgrade is only $200 more; HP has a ton of deals on upgrades too).

  • Macbook- around $1499 w/no Bluray options

The Dell XPS and the HP dv6700T were configured nearly identical but notice the $600 price difference? wow, amazing how the XPS moniker adds so much 'value' to a laptop.  ;)

anywho, after looking over the four a few times it was pretty obvious which one i was going to go with; the HP dv6700T.  It seemed to offer the best bang for the buck.  The design also was much more modern/forward thinking than the lenovo; the XPS M1530 has a very nice design too but the price of what i wanted and what it cost were not jiving.  the macbook also was just too much money for not enough goodies; if the price of a macbook pro was $1500; then i would have definitely considered it.

also, i found an awesome coupon for the HP pavilions; use this code when checking out: NB7995 to get $400 off when you spend over $1399 on a CTO (customized to order).  So i got my dv6700T w/a bluray drive, the top cpu, top video card, all of the webcam, 802.11n, fingerprint reader, for $1200! :)  we'll see if i'm as happy with my choice then as i am now.  i hope to try a little ubuntu and osx on it for fun.

however my decision in going the laptop route really made me rethink how i am going to use my current desktop in my scheme.  i don't want to let all of that storage just sit and not be used and at times its nice to have a desktop to churn on some video rendering or overnight processing of data/audio/video. 

i've so far have thought of a few different schemes:

  • setup my old desktop as a NAS; using either FreeNAS or unRAID or a few other linux based solutions (freeware of course, avg difficulty)

  • setup my old desktop as an actual windows server; perhaps purchase windows home server (most expensive route and difficult)

  • or just leave it as it is; unhook my monitor and just remote desktop into as is (easiest)

hmmm.  looks like i have some more thinking to do on this afterall. :)  anyone setup their own NAS from an older system? i've heard AMD based systems are a b&#^h to get going w/FreeNAS.