Only Two Notebooks Worth to Buy

en in reviews • 2 min read

I don’t understand why it’s hard to find a good notebook. Actually, only usable device (at least for me) is Chromebook or Mac. Anything else is just a piece of s… ehm, not a good piece.

After years I have Dell again. Perfect one. But I have problems to use it. The biggest problem is a touchpad. It’s very poor. Very small and supports no gestures. Also, it isn’t positioned in a good position, which is even harder to use. You need to have a mouse to be able to do something. But who would want to carry a mouse all the time? Even with a mouse, it’s not comfy enough. A mouse is too far away from the keyboard, and you need to make big moves to do something.

If you never used for some time touchpad with Chromebook or Mac, you very probably don’t understand me now. Trust me, it’s a totally different level than any other touchpad (or mouse). I really don’t understand why only Google and Apple can do it. Even more interesting is that Google doesn’t do Chromebooks by himself. A lot of companies do it for Google. Why good touchpad is only at Chromebook devices and not elsewhere?

A similar problem is with the keyboard. I was already writing about very poor operating system (Windows is not an option for me as a developer). The notebook is also ugly, big, and heavy. I know that I’m describing mostly one situation, my current work device. But when I look around, I would have a problem to find any other good notebook. There are only two options for me. Mac for work (because I need to be able to run development locally) and Chromebook for personal use. And that’s it. There is no other good notebook.

Please, prove me wrong!

11 responses

Recently I bought a Lenovo E470 as a working machine, mainly for software development (java, elastic, mysql, mongo, docker, intellij idea...).

It's not as thin as any of ultrabooks. But it's quite solid, easy to disassemble, easy to add another RAM module, clean the fan or replace the battery. And what's more important - the keyboard is very good and the touchpad quite big. Plus you have the trackpoint as another option, even closer to the keyboard.

Inside the one I've bought, you will find i5-7200U, full HD IPS display, 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM (+another 8GB added by me).

I've never started the bundled Win10 and immediately replaced it by Xubuntu.

Since then, I am really happy with this configuration. For about 700€ you can get a solid machine which will last for years and even then it can be upgraded and fixed.

You have your way or work, I have mine :-) I'm a ThinkPad guy for 11 years now and mainly for a simple reason - docking station. One at home, one at work and everything possible is external - I keep the laptop closed most of the time.

For this reason I can't wait to dock my phone like this in the future (after Continuum or Samsung DeX will get better) and get rid of the laptop altogether.

Touchpad is quite tragic on my current T430s, but I use mostly trackpoint anyway. T430s in size is somewhere between ultrabook and regular laptop, which is not too bad considering I have additional dedicated GPU and both SSD and HDD inside.

Of course, with docking station and so on almost any notebook will be fine (I have my current working machine in docking station). But do you like to use your laptop on the way? What about weight, size, battery, display, keyboard, touchpad, … I cannot find other notebook than Mac or Chromebook which is nice to use outside of the office or home.

You take a pretty arrogant and naive position if you ask me.

I agree with you, the mac trackpads are the best.

The keyboard, not so much, on the newer macbook pros at least. The butterfly low-profile mechanism just just isn't as good as the previous design, or of any thinkpad.

Additionally, macs are beset with hardware issues (eg the GPU solder fail issues with the 2009-2013 macbook pros) that seem to kick in just before the warranty expires. Don't get me started on the crappy (and expensive to replace) chargers, which fray, burn out, and otherwise disintegrate within 2 years. And fixes usually require wholesale replacement of half the device - eg the entire topcase of macbook pro needs replacing if any of the keyboard keys degrade. They're also more expensive than the competition.

Also, you're pretty much stuck with OS X. Granted, it works, but it always requires that I adapt the way I work to it, rather than it adapting to me.

@jack I'm sorry to hear that. But sure, it's my personal view on my personal blog, hardly I will be objective.

Well, for me is not important just touchpad and keyboard but also weight, size and of course operating system. I'm mentioning that shortly (maybe I should describe it in more details). But in total I don't care about technical details like what CPU is used, if HDD is replaceable and so on. Notebook is for me like a phone–it should just work without obstacles and it should be cheap so I'm able to buy new one when it's broken.

That's why only notebook which meets those requirements is Chromebook. If I don't care about price then it's also Mac but I wouldn't buy it for personal use.

I have to disagree. Chromebooks IMHO are toys for people who don't do any work, who just need a web browser. Fine for those for whom that is enough, but I guess many want to do at least one thing that the machine isn't capable of, or, if it is, only by going through hoops.

Macs... well, I liked 10.4 when it came out, and I guess it's still alright, but Windows has done massive steps forward while OS X seems to have remained rather stationary. I find it much easier to work with, let alone more robust, stable... my MBP crashes all the time, and it's a new device with not much software on it. My desktop has had the same OS for 7 years, and was previously updated, it's not a fresh install. I've swapped most components since, including motherboard (switch from AMD to Intel). And it's pretty much rock solid, even after catastrophic hard drive failure which corrupted the system drive. In comparison a fresh Mac installation can't work for a week without completely crashing at least once or twice? Usability-wise I needed to install a couple of programs to fix OS X.

Yes, the Apple touchpad is magic. Besides being a cool tech demo, it just works very well (I find the latest iteration is too big). However there are plenty of Windows touchpads that do work well too. Not quite as good (they are all hinged, thus the amount of pressure required changes depending on where you press), but certainly serviceable.

As for keyboards... Apple used to have great ones. However they aren't anymore. I have a Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, a tablet with keyboard case and Windows 10, and the keyboard is better than what Apple offers these days. Let alone, say, the keyboard of the Surface Laptop, which is amazing. As good as it gets.

@kadajawi I use Chromebooks as main computer since 2014 and I'm computer programmer. If you don't mind to use cloud services then you can do a lot. Chromebook has console in developer mode and with that I can connect to my server where I develop. The rest like mail, calendar, photos, etc etc is in the cloud including IDE. I use Cloud9 which is amazingly fast, faster than most of those I used, and I can continue at work at any computer without need to setup anything.

I think this is very good split. I have own server for my work as computer programmer where all the heavy work is done and never interrupted (and if it does once per year or so, it's automatically returned to state as before outage) and my laptop is free. Then my laptop can be anything, even Chromebook if it suits my needs (which is size, weight, touchpad, keyboard, clean and always working operating system).

In those years I never had problem with internet connection. Of course I cannot do work in the plane or somewhere on my travels with no connection. But… I was little bit of workaholic and now at least I don't work when I'm traveling. :-) But sure, you need to get used to it.

BTW my parents always had problems with computers which I had to solve. By end of 2015 I gave as experiment to my mom one of the cheapest Chromebook and I never have to solve anything since. She could finally also use keyboard provided by notebook and sometimes even touchpad. She is also happy how light it is. I think this is how to recognize good notebook. If it just works and anybody can do the work he or she needs.

Ah right, if you're mainly working with texts, I guess a Chromebook will do fine. But I need the computer for graphics, videos etc. and there these things are just too limited. Also, I find myself often enough offline for weeks (or with limited traffic), so it's not an option.

Yes, for parents etc. devices like the Chromebook make more sense, however my mother for example doesn't have proper internet several months a year. So even though what she does with her computer would be served by a Chromebook, it still isn't an option.

Basically to me these things just fit certain use cases, and are a bit better in these (unless you know nothing about tech, then the learning curve will be smaller). But as soon as you want to do a bit more, a proper Windows PC will run circles around it. Even if you can do them on the Chromebook too, it will probably be harder to do.

Back to keyboard and touchpad quality... have you tried newer devices? Generally speaking Chromebooks should be similar in hardware to Windows notebooks, so I don't see why they should be better. I find most notebook keyboards better than the latest MacBooks/MacBook Pros, and the Surface Laptop is excellent. As good as it gets.

Sure, Chromebook is not for everybody. But I cannot find anything else which just works. I want to open notebook and don't care about anything. I just want something which is light, long life on battery, is intuitive, simple and has very good touchpad and keyboard. I'm lucky that Chromebook is enough for me, even for programming.

I have new Dell with Ubuntu and I hate when I need to leave docking station. I haven't tried every notebook around so surely there will be something. My point is mostly that it's hard to find and with Chromebook or Macbook Air I can be sure.

And my point is that there are plenty of MacBook Air-alikes out there that have a good battery and have a good touchpad and keyboard. :) Easy to use... I guess you want to use Ubuntu because it's easy for you? For me Windows is easy to use... easier than OSX, and especially faster (OSX makes me go through unnecessary hoops, what takes two steps in Windows may take 5 in OSX, and I need to be much more careful to make sure I didn't make a mistake). Plus my Windows computers don't crash nearly as often as the Mac does.

I understand your needs. There is one big difference: I'm used to use cloud services. I just need OS which is easy to use, can have browser and for work I have to be able tu run also some IDE and all server-side things. For personal things I can use Chromebook, for work Mac is all I need and it never crashed because I needed just browser and IDE, that's it. That's why I don't care what Windows can offer to me or not and just I'm looking only into how simple and stable it is to use. :-) BTW I have to use Linux at work right now, Ubuntu is not best for me. Ubuntu is just making it worse.

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