Sunday, August 21, 2005


Dr. Joe's New Toy: A Lightweight Notebook with Heavyweight Features and an Incredible Price

At a recent committee meeting of PRIMIR, Eric Frank of KBA made fun of my notebook computer, my Toshiba. This "notebook" computer is 11+ pounds, and it is the best computer I have ever owned. It has a 16 inch screen, which I need when traveling and working on some of my huge spreadsheets. It never lets me down (knock on wood). We've run sophisticated video creation programs on it as well.,aid,109488,00.asp

I purchased the Toshiba two years ago to replace the worst computer I have ever owned, the Compaq Presario1600T, which was a sterling example of why there is no longer a Compaq computer business. It was just a horrible machine. This was the one that would turn on again after it was closed. About 15 years ago, I went through 8 Dell notebooks in 10 months, but even that experience could not rival the Compaq's random and often ghoulish misbehavior.

Eric was right, though, the Toshiba is tough to lug around, and is often inconvenient to manage, even though I do have a nice pull-along case for it. I have always wanted a PDA to just to dump text into. I thought it would be my Handspring Visor Prism which would fill the task. I bought it in December 2000. It's still reliable, but since Handspring is gone (absorbed into Palm) the interest in expanding the Prism with nifty accessories is nil. I have a Targus folding keyboard for it. I should have bought two of them at the time, since it is no longer available, and the one I have is on its last legs. It can't run some of the new Palm-based software because the Prism's OS cannot be upgraded. But for its time, the Prism was just great.

I thought I had found my replacement for that and for light computing when Palm released the LifeDrive. As I investigated it, I realized it was not what I was hoping it would be, but the next version might be.,aid,120867,00.asp

As I shopped over the past few months I saw quite a few Averatec notebooks. They were light, the keyboards had a nice feel, and they looked like they had all the right features. The pricing struck me as too low and that I should be cautious. So I passed them by. Then I started to see reviews in the PC magazines that were quite impressive.

After Eric's comment, I thought that having something light to keep in the car when doing errands or to use in the house as I worked (I tend to move from room to room just to get a change in scenery), the Toshiba no longer had its place. So I decided to search in earnest.

For a mere $670 I bought a refurbished Averatec. This is the model -- it's an AMD 2200+ processor with 512 DDR RAM, a 12" screen, with 802.11g wireless, a 60 GB hard drive and a DVD/CD-RW! It took me a day to get the software I didn't want off of it and to load it with my perferred programs and utilities (really my son Dan [15] had the task, for which he was handsomely rewarded). As soon as I had it set, I ran SystemSuite's cleanup and then I made a Norton Ghost disk image for safekeeping. It can't be beat, at least so far. Do I still love my Toshiba. I certainly do. But when I'm on the go, the Averatec will be with me, at least until Palm or someone else gets the LifeDrive right.

One computer I looked at, but did not get, because of the price, was the Sony T350 . After I used the keyboard at a BestBuy, I knew it was not for me. If I had long, thin fingers, maybe, but even then my nearly 50-year old eyes would not have been able to deal with the screen. (Yeah, I know, here I am wanting to buy a tiny-screen LifeDrive and I'm complaining about a notebook screen as being too small).

As far as buying refurbished computers, I have done so at various points for twenty years. It's kind of like that scene in The World According to Garp where a plane flies into the side of a house he's planning to buy. He buys it because it's been "disaster proofed" as the odds of that ever happening again are almost zero. This is known as "gambler's fallacy" and I admit that in the case of buying refurbished computers, I am guilty of that behavior. The Compaq was the only refurbished computer I purchased that did not work out. As I later found out, even new it was a dog. May it rest in pieces, because that's the way I left it at the computer recycling center. It just plain fell apart. So if you buy refurbished, just like a car, make sure it was a generally reliable model as a new unit.

Eagle is always running specials on refurbished computers. My online order was processed quickly and was problem free. If you're in the market for a stopgap or interim technology investment, they may have a good deal.

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