Which PC?

The fact that my laptop computer (a 4 year old Sony Vaio FE41E) is on its last legs is not making it easy to update this blog on a regular basis. There’s something wrong with the graphics: the display looks like it’s been subjected to Photoshop’s colour replacement tool; everything is coming out as a flickering, psychedelic pink, purple and blue. I can type Word documents, but photo editing is definitely out, as is doing anything meaningful with PowerPoint.

As the problem suddenly comes and goes, I suspect there’s a loose connection somewhere. I would try to get it fixed, but to be honest my laptop has been gradually dying. The webcam stopped working ages ago, then the wifi packed up, necessitating the permanent use of a wifi card in the cardbus slot. I have had to replace the battery and the mains charger. Some of the screws have fallen out of the bottom, so the panels are a bit loose. It’s been dropped a couple of times, which probably doesn’t help, and carried about in a backpack on a daily basis. And it runs Vista, which is… well, Vista.

So it’s time for a new machine. Fortunately the Methodist Church, in its wisdom, has ordained that all ministers must be connected. Not just in the old fashioned Methodist sense of being part of a Connexion, but connected to the internet, so we have no excuses about not receiving the latest pearls of wisdom sent electronically from Methodist HQ. To assist us there is an excellent scheme called ‘Computers for Ministry’, which pays for computer equipment up to the value of £600.

£600 will buy quite a reasonable low-to-midrange laptop. My preferred specs are: 14” or 15.6” screen, Intel i3 or i5 processor, 4 Gigs RAM, 500 Gigs hard drive and – the item that pushes up the price – a midrange graphics processor, so I can play the occasional game. Nothing too heavy or clunky, and if it’s got USB3 connectivity, all the better. I need to set aside some of the budget for Office 2010.

So what’s available for this price? Aesthetically, I don’t particularly like Toshibas, which seem to be all chunky black plastic – and my daughter’s Toshiba has not been very reliable. HPs look nice enough, but I am staying well clear of models with the strange three-in-one touchpad and mouse button. The only Acer that fits my budget is the 5742G, and that’s at the top end. So I’m probably looking at a Dell Inspiron 15R or XPS 15, or a Samsung. The XPS is getting good reviews but the models in my price range are a bit under-specified. Annoying, it lacks a VGA socket for a projector, necessitating the purchase of a DisplayPort-VGA adaptor. Samsung has several different models at this price point – the business-oriented P480 and P580 and the supposedly slim and light Q530. The Samsung P580 is available on Amazon for £500, which I reckon is probably the best deal around. I am, however, really tempted by the 14″ P480, which can be bought for £469. I really like the idea of a slightly lighter machine (2.2 Kg vs. the 2.5 Kg of the P580). The downside is that I would want to upgrade the P480’s measly 2 Gb RAM, thus wiping out the price advantage.

The matt black Samsung P580, then… or a shiny Inspiron… unless I can get a special bargain on an XPS…

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About Holloway Rev

Paul Weary is a Methodist minister living and working in Holloway, North London.
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