Window shopping and next year’s $1000 laptop

So, that computer I was looking at that was $1120 Newegg (and JR.com, incidentally) is $979 at Best Buy. That’s the Sony VAIO CW27FX. There is also a CW26FX, which is exactly the same machine, except without Blu-ray – it’s just a DVD burner combo drive instead. Since I don’t expect to use Blu-ray for at least, say, five years, I figure the savings would be worth it. That one is $1049 at Newegg and JR.

It’s $899 at Best Buy. It goes in and out of stock frequently, or so it seems. I’m very, very tempted. Never thought I would be happy to pay almost $1000 for a computer (my first personal desktop, built by me, was about $750; my Dell laptop, $600 used preloaded with software which was worth more by itself than that price tag) … but apparently I care more about having the best computer I can get for a pretty reasonable price. Z Series is out of the question on account of it costs $1800 – 2400 and the GPU is a downgrade from the one on this CW. Sure, it’s a 13.3″ feather, but that’s way less important.

My remaining question (other than “can I really afford this on a part-time income”) is “what do I sacrifice by getting the CW now, rather than waiting for its counterpart in a year’s time?”

That is, would I get a much better computer for the same price if I just wait a year? (After all, I only got my Sammy NC10 a little over a year ago; it’s still pretty new.) Here’s my estimate of the things that will change over the next year in the Sony 14″ / $1000 laptop.

Processor: +0.3GHz (dual core) OR 1.8GHz quad-core
RAM: no change
Hard drive: +140GB (SATA) OR 128GB SSD
Graphics card: +512MB VRAM
Optical drive: +Blu-ray
Weight: -0.4lbs (okay, this may be over-optimistic – maybe -0.2lbs)
Battery life: +1 hour
Screen resolution: no change

The CW26FX is 2.4GHz dual-core cpu, 4GB DDR3 1066 ram, 500GB hdd, 512MB vram, DVD burner, 5.3lbs, and “up to” 4-hour battery life (more like 3, it sounds like). These improvements would lead to, call it a CX series: 2.7GHz dual-core (or 1.8GHz quad-core) cpu, 4GB DDR3 1066 ram, 640GB SATA hdd (or 128GB SSD), 1GB vram, Blu-ray, 4.9-5.1lbs, 4-5 hour battery life.

I suspect I’ve been rather optimistic about the CPU and battery life, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they don’t upgrade the GPU – non-gaming laptops don’t get that much attention to quality video, and their flagship ultraportable with switchable graphics cards and a $2000 price tag only sports a dedicated 256MB vram. But there you have it – my predictions for next year’s thousand-dollar VAIO – and I’m curious to see what it will really look like.

And while these kinds of upgrades would be fantastic, I don’t see waiting a whole year for them – I’d just ask myself the same question then, and with multi-core processors leaking more into the mainstream, the differences in two years may be more pronounced than in one, especially for my would-be pet projects in Apophysis and Terragen (image rendering, one of the tasks where the advantages of multi-core cpus will be most pronounced).

Will I just hurry up and buy this thing? I still can’t decide if it’s affordable for me, at the moment.

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2 thoughts on “Window shopping and next year’s $1000 laptop

  1. Hi Guys, sorry if this is the wrong section 🙂 I am in the UK and I am looking to buy a new laptop I don’t need to do much, just surfing he web and checking emails etc. Any ideas about what spec I need and how much would be a realistic price?

  2. So … first off, I don’t think I believe that this was a genuine comment – it contained two links to some website page for an ASUS AC adapter, which matched the domain of the email. The comment says nothing about any adapters, let alone a specific one. I’ve stripped the links and let the comment through, though, since the comment itself is a question I’ve seen when looking around for a computer myself.

    Basically, any computer on the market today can handle “just surfing the web and checking emails.” If you’re really only using a laptop for basic surfing (like reading the news – reading, mind you, not watching) and checking your emails (which consist mostly of text with some static images), then you don’t need much power at all. Any laptop on the market five years ago can do those things, no sweat.

    The trick is, there can be a lot packed into the innocent-sounding phrase “just surfing the web” — I, for example, use the web as a primary source of television and radio. Streaming media takes a lot more than loading a page of text on screen. My netbook struggled with Hulu videos, even though I used the small video size embedded in the browser window; my new Sony CW breezes through full-screen shows without so much as a hiccup.

    And there can also be a lot packed into “etc.” Does that mean an offline game of solitaire or editing a few dozen images in Adobe Photoshop? The requirements are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

    If it’s really just a glorified, easier to read (and type on) Blackberry, then I’d say try to strike a balance between size/weight and price – don’t go below 768 pixels tall for your resolution (e.g. pick something with 1024×768 or 1366×768 resolution), don’t go above 5.5lbs, and don’t go above $700. (Sorry, I’m not sure of the GBP equivalent. Also, in US pricing, $700 is a high cap – you could get something for $500-600 for sure.) There’s no reason to buy a high-end machine for low-end tasks. I’d still go with a system that has a dual-core processor, just because that’s the standard now, but I wouldn’t worry about specs otherwise. Just make sure it has LAN (that’s an ethernet port – for plugged-in internet) and WLAN (for wifi), and ask yourself whether you will ever want to have a cd or dvd drive in the machine (if so, do not get a netbook – they never have cd/dvd drives).

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