New Notebook, New Operating System

My former laptop had a sudden “issue” that ultimately led me to buy a new laptop. I did the usual research and settled on a Gateway NX570X with Vista Home Premium, 2 GB of memory, 80 GB hard drive, the higher resolution (1680 x 1050) and Bluetooth. Delivered to my door it was $1005. The next closest competitor was about $200 more.

My initial impressions of the Gateway NX570X are quite favorable. The 15.4 inch form factor is my preferred size for a laptop. The keyboard is big enough so that I don’t “fat-finger” the keys, the higher resolution allows for more stuff on the screen, and it’s about 2 pounds lighter than my old Dell Inspirion (RIP).

There’s the usual array of ports, most of which are located on the side of the system instead of the back and it even has a firewire connector which works nicely with my old video camera. The laptop vents out the side instead of the bottom like many laptops. You’ll especially appreciate side vents if you use your notebook on your lap (no more cooked thighs).

About the only thing I could really ask for is a faster hard drive (this one is 5400 rpm) but I’ve hardly noticed so far. Likely, it is aggressively caching to make up the difference.

Gateway gets high marks for it’s delivery and packaging, I ordered my laptop on a Wednesday. It was built in Shanghai China on Friday and at my door by 10:00 am Monday morning. Fed-Ex (my favorite shipper) shipped my laptop clear across the world to Ann Arbor, Michigan in just under 3 days. Here’s the tracking report.

The packaging is something I usually don’t take note of but Gateway did a really nice job. Gone are the cow spots and in it’s place is a classy flat black box. When you open the box, you’re greeted with a black lid containing the quick start guide and manual centered in an indentation. Very classy. Like I said, I usually don’t take note of these things but in this case it was simply striking.

I pulled out the laptop, plugged in the battery and then plugged in power supply. It powered up, I answered about three questions and within less than three minutes I was connected to my wireless and on the Internet. Again, Gateway gets good marks for an easy and quick setup.

The first thing I noticed after booting up was the lack of “Crap Ware” as it’s commonly called else where. Sure there was an AOL and few other services but nothing like I’ve experienced with Dell. I had it all cleaned off in less than 10 minutes. With Dell, it’s usually an hour or more to uninstall all the “extras”.

The other thing I noticed was how quiet this laptop is compared to my old Dell. The disk and fan are an noticeably quieter than other systems I’ve used. I didn’t realize how annoying the noise was until it wasn’t there. Nice.

One complaint I do have is the placement of the left control key. It’s not the left-most key but one key to the right of the function key. It’s a little thing but I’m finding is surprisingly hard to retrain myself. I’m a touch typist and the key is just a bit to far right to be easy to hit. To be fair, other laptops have this same configuration. Perhaps someone knows of a utility program to that allows one to remap the function and control keys?

This is the first laptop that has a touch pad I actually like and use. Usually my thumbs hit the pad when I type but on this laptop, it’s just far enough from the keyboard that I don’t hit it.

As for the operating system, I went with the bundled Vista Home Premium. So far, I’m really quite pleased with Vista. I’m puzzled why so many people hate it. I’ve spent less time tweaking Vista than any previous version of Windows. In fact, accept for a bit of hardware optimizing, I’ve left it essentially untouched.

I think the reason Vista fails to inspire is because there is no “killer” feature. Still, there are lots of little things that really make it quite pleasant to use. The one feature that “clinches” it for me is that Vista actually multitasks applications in a responsive manner. Not since OS2 Warp have I experienced responsive multitasking like this. I suspect it has something to with the Desktop Windows Manager(DWM). The new start menu and “search everywhere” are close seconds.

Interestingly, all the programs I’m accustomed to using work just fine on Vista. I’ve heard others of having problems but so far I’ve escaped unscathed. Even some of my old favorites like DoubleDesktop and HashTab work just fine. My color laser printer works better under Vista than Windows XP. And the wireless is stronger and more stable. Perhaps I’m lucky or maybe I’m not given to whining as much. I don’t know but like many things in life, you can’t always go by what others say.

So the bottom line is I’m very happy with my new rig. Not the fastest or lightest system but very serviceable, especially when you consider the price.

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