New Laptop - Toshiba Satelite L50
As mentioned earlier, I decided to spring for a new laptop so that we could make use of the Mercedes Benz DAS system we have, without having to drive the van up to the front of the house and pass the cable through the bedroom window.
I’d been looking around for a while, trying to find something I could game with at least moderately well without spending a huge amount of money. It seems everything these days are APU-based, which I haven’t had much luck with. Even the “higher end” AMD APUs seem to have difficulty reliably running games in a playable fashion.
There were a few Radeon-based laptops that I’d found, but upon looking up the specs of the card and seeing people complaining about framerate drops, I wasn’t very encouraged. Finally I found this one, with a GeForce 670M, and on sale it was a completely reasonable price. I picked it up, and after setting up a few business things on it I began copying World of Warcraft over (since because of all the new models and such it won’t run terribly well on our old laptops). When it finally came up (repairing the installer/updater is always a pain behind our proxy server for some reason) it ran gloriously smooth, so I’m pretty happy. It’ll take forever to install something like Battlefield 3 or Team Fortress 2, but I expect those will at least be decently playable when I do get them downloaded.
I’m very happy with this thing. It has a full numeric keypad, and the CPU is on the right hand side so the hot part is almost never under where your hand is. This does of course mean that the fan is blowing hot air right at your mouse hand, but I think I’ll work out a way to live with that. The unit itself doesn’t actually seem to get that hot, even when gaming for a few hours straight - I was not expecting that.
I had a few gripes when I got it. It came with Windows 8, which I’m trying very hard not to pre-judge. It’s clear Microsoft threw out many workflows which have been the same since at least Windows 95/NT4 and it doesn’t appear as though they had a good reason beyond unifying it with their tablet experience (which is a terrible thing for me as I don’t own any Windows Phone/Slate devices at all).
Out of the box the L50 had this annoying behaviour of the function buttons doing their alternate function, with you needing to push the “FN” button to actually emit a function key press. So for example, forcing a refresh in a browser is a case of CTRL-FN-F5, which was aggravating. Fortunately, this behaviour can be disabled via the Toshiba settings.
I was also not a huge fan of the “edge swipe” features of the Synaptics touchpad, as I kept inadvertently bringing up the “charms” menu on the rare occasion I’m not using a plugged in mouse. Luckily, disabling it is rather trivial after a quick search.
My last gripe with the touchpad is, unfortunately, not solvable. Rather than having discrete buttons, the entire touchpad is movable, and pressing under the bottom left or right corners results in an equivalent mouse button press. This is not a comfortable behaviour, but mercifully I don’t use the touchpad all that often for it to bug me.
I still don’t know whether I’m a fan of the low profile keys or not - my instinct is to hate it, but typing on it is not as difficult as I thought. I do find myself missing keys a bit, but I suppose I’ll get used to it. It’s pretty hard to find a laptop without low profile keys these days as everything has to be thin.