Remember the other day when I was talking about buying a laptop? Well, I went ahead and did it. Dell had a sale going on, and I decided to bite the bullet and order.

For just under a grand, I got a refurbished Inspiron 9300 with a 1.73Ghz Pentium M, 1GB of RAM, an 80GB hard disk, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive, built-in wi-fi, a 17″ 1440×900 screen, and a low-end ATI X300 video card with 64MB of video memory. It’s not top-of-the-line, but I think it was a pretty good deal for the price.

First impressions:

  • It’s big. But that was expected.
  • It’s light. Noticeably lighter than the comparably sized Toshiba I use at work.
  • The screen has light bleed toward the bottom, but apparently this is a common problem with this model. It’s not bad enough to send it back.
  • The construction feels a little cheap. Particularly the CD-tray: it’s kinda floppy when it’s extended, and quite noisy when it’s spinning at full speed.
  • The styling is nice, if a little cheesy.
  • The keyboard is quite nice. Solid, tight key response. And the keys are in the right places! Much better than the Toshiba, which puts the Windows key way up next to Page Up/Page Down, the Home/End keys on the right-hand edge, and omits the right-hand Ctrl key.
  • The battery life is amazing. I’ve been using it for 3+ hours now and I still have 19% battery life left. I don’t know; maybe this is normal for laptops these days, but it seems pretty darn good for a desktop-replacement class notebook. I’m pretty sure the Pentium 4-powered Toshibas at work don’t get nearly as good battery life. That’s the advantage of a having a CPU, chipset, and video card which are all tuned for energy efficiency.
  • Heat doesn’t seem to be a problem. It’s quite comfortable on my lap.
  • Man, Windows PCs have a shitty out-of-box experience. Every ten seconds another program is asking you to agree to a EULA, register, and download urgent updates.
  • The mouse keys are kind of stiff and loud, and there’s no third button. On the other hand, with the right customization, it’s possible to do everything from the touchpad, including right- and middle-button clicks. I hope I can get that working under Linux too.
  • The audio on this machine is nice. Loud, and surprisingly rich for a laptop. That’s probably partly thanks to the built-in “subwoofer”.
  • So far no complaints in the speed department, but I haven’t really given it a workout yet.
  • This thing has every port known to man. Six(!) USB ports, IEEE-1394 (Firewire), VGA, S-Video, DVI(!), SD card, Ethernet, modem. No parallel or serial, of course – and good riddance.

As soon as I get Kubuntu 5.10 downloaded and burned I’ll be installing GNU/Linux, and then I’ll report ono how that went. I’m hoping for a fairly straightforward install; all the reports I read about Linux on the 9300 were positive.

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  1. wheee laptop! best debt i ever made:)

  2. Hell yeah, good laptop 🙂 I hope it works out well!

  3. Out of curiosity, what is your objection to Toshiba’s exile of the windows keys to the top of the keyboard? I’ve never been able to think of a use for them, and they steal space from the space bar.

    1. 1. My first jobs were windows tech support, where I got very used to using all the various little-known Win-key shortcuts to get around quickly in Windows. While I intend this to be primarily a GNU/Linux machine, I will be keeping Windows on it for certain uses. And when I’m running Windows, I get irked when I can’t use my habitual shortcuts one-handed.

      2. I actually like the Win key. I’m one of those wierdos who thinks the keyboard needed an extra modifier key. In X-Windows I find it convenient to bind the Win key to various window manager chores. It conflicts less with application keybindings. Especially ’cause I use EMACS, aka Escape-Meta-Alt-Control-Shift 😉

      1. a) i like the inspirons. i’ve got a 1000, which is a less impressive machine than yours but i’m pretty satisfied with it. do have fun! 😀

        b) what should i man to figure out keybindings? i’ve been meaning to bind the windows key to alt, because i used to have a habit of accidently pressing that…

        take care

  4. sweet!

    I’m hoping that I’ll have $$ left over to buy a new computer myself. Desktops are soooooo cheap, but in our house, a laptop makes more sense, with 4 or 5 of us all at the kitchen table surfing “together”.

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