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d387 Fanless Computing: Intel NUC DC53427HYE and Akasa Newton V

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I’ve been waiting for this for a really long time, at least since I dabbled with my fanless E6400 so many years ago.

About a year and a half ago, I got my T430 with the intent of using it as a desktop replacement. The idea was that the laptop draws less power, makes less noise, and takes up less space than even an SFF conventional desktop. It also has a built-in UPS (the battery), and you can obviously use it as a laptop in a pinch. This is all fine and dandy, and the T430 has been great so far, but it’s still a stopgap between that SFF conventional desktop and a machine that makes no noise and takes up even less space than a 14″ laptop and dock. Such a machine wasn’t really a practical option when I bought the T430… but it is now!

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Published by D, on March 21st, 2014 at 2:52 am. Filled under: d_others Tags: , , , No Comments

d383 Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p

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Last year there were three products that I wanted or wanted to try, and they were all delayed and more expensive than advertised. The first was the Helix. The second, which I have not mentioned, but may write about in the future, is an update to the Corsair K60 with clicky keys and backlighting. The third, which has been delayed by far the longest, is the one I’m talking about today, the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p.

I’ve been complaining for a while now that there are basically no good convertible tablets out there anymore, and as of now I’m going to stick with that. Everything comes in a gimmicky form factor with the wrong digitizer in an overweight or underpowered package (I’m not really one to care about compute power, but I don’t want an Atom in my secondary notebook). As such I’ve been looking to go back to using a “conventional” tablet with an awesome ultraportable, but with a tablet more like a Cintiq than an Intuos. I was very close to shelling out and buying a Cintiq, but then, maybe early last year, I heard about the LT1423p.

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Published by D, on January 8th, 2014 at 12:51 am. Filled under: d_others,d_paints Tags: , No Comments

d379 ThinkPad Helix Review

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First hardware review for a while! I would have wanted to write this post months ago, but Lenovo botched the launch of the Helix like no other. It was initially supposed to come out in February at a rumored price of about $1300, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on one at that price until now, almost five months later.

This is actually round two of “try to replace my x220 tablet with something better”. I briefly tried an x230 tablet at launch last year, but the benefits were far too marginal for me to care, so I returned it. This year there supposedly won’t be an x240 tablet, so I’m trying the Helix, which is very different and very much a compromise. The problem I have and have ranted about is that I just want a better conventional convertible tablet, but nobody wants to make one anymore because they could make some new and gimmicky form factor instead.

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Published by D, on July 23rd, 2013 at 8:05 pm. Filled under: d_others Tags: , No Comments

d359b ThinkPad T430 Thoughts

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Once upon a time when software overhead grew faster than hardware development “upgrade” was synonymous with “performance”. The latter was the reason you did the former and that was that. When the two lines crossed again, I thought that my already slow upgrade cycle would slow even more, as nobody cared about silly things like power consumption or screen quality or form factor. Well, obviously I was wrong. Fleet turnover used to be something more sacred associated with regularity and neediness, but now it’s degenerated into whenever the hell I feel like it.

Turnover last year was two-thirds and turnover this year looks like its going to be two-thirds as well.

In the last days of my last setup it occurred to me that I had two machines that were mainly stationary, my primary workstation (x220) and my still discrete fileserver (e6400). This didn’t seem right anymore. Back when the fleet was bigger and I first decided I wanted a fileserver, I had a plethora of major and minor justifications (everything virus isolation to hardware overhead) for having a discrete machine. As these things tend to go, a lot of the issues surrounding the decision go away over time, but the decision itself is never re-evaluated. When I finally re-evaluated it, I decided to merge the fileserver and the primary workstation.

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Published by D, on November 16th, 2012 at 12:00 am. Filled under: d_others Tags: , No Comments

d358b 2010 11-inch Macbook Air Thoughts II

Last summer I roadtested the first-gen 11-inch MacBook Air, and even though I was ultimately pretty happy with the thing even though I ultimately sold it as well. I did want to keep it but there just wasn’t room for a fourth machine in my lineup at the time (especially considering I had just gotten rid of the fourth). Fast forward a year and I finally picked it up again when changes to the fleet opened up a slot. So now it’s time to do a “proper” writeup.

This is the actually the first-gen 11-inch MBA from 2010, which still costs all of $550. It’s pretty dated spec-wise, but it’s been a long time since that has mattered. The SU9400 with 2GB is more than enough for anything that I’m going to do with the machine, and the stock SSD makes things plenty fast as well. You can even do some basic gaming on the 320M and by that I mean fluid low-res, low-quality SC2 or TF2.

The only thing that I’d really like from the newer models is the backlit keyboard and an active warranty.

I actually looked again for comparable conventional alternatives (conventional meaning Windows), but this space really hasn’t changed much since I last ranted about it. If you are looking for the lightest/thinnest/smallest full-featured (by that I really mean “non-netbook”) ultraportable, the 11-inch MBA is basically still it. There was the comparable SB-based 11-inch Samsung Series 9, which seems to have been close to vaporware and now seems to be official EoL, and there is the comparable Asus UX21A/E, which seems to be very difficult to buy, and ever the more so if you want one with the 1080p screen. And that 1080p screen is the only reason I’d buy it over the MBA. These latter machines (used and if you can find them, of course) are also more expensive than the first-gen 11-inch MBA, and I don’t know anything about the fan profiles, which is important to me.

I also looked at the space between netbooks and conventional ultraportables, and there’s basically nothing there that even compares. For example the entire Lenovo x100/e series is a little cheaper, and has the same nominal screen size, but they’re twice as thick and heavier.

Even with the 3-cell battery, the x220t weighs a hefty 3.8lbs. With the 6-Cell battery, the vanilla x220 is lighter, at 3.3lbs. The 11-inch MBA, as weighed on my own scale hits the exact advertised weight of 2.3lbs. It’s much harder to measure thickness accurately, but I’m pretty sure the MBA is very close to be half as thick as the two ThinkPads. The decrease in footprint size is probably proportional to the decrease in nominal screen size. The following picture shows the MBA on top of the x220 on top of a T430 (which I will talk about later).

Steering away from size, Apple build quality is impeccable as usual (though this has not always been the case; I’m looking at you plastic, non-unibody Core Duo MacBook) and everything fits together nicely without complaint. The metal body also wears really well; even on this relatively old machine you don’t see any shine or residue accumulating on the palmrest. The keys wear a bit worse, but because they don’t have much texture in the first place, I think said wear is less noticeable. I’m a little upset that they don’t have an SD card reader (why would I want that? I’ll get to it later too), but I guess it’s just one of the sacrifices you have to make going to this form factor.

I didn’t kick off this writeup with my usual ranting about power and noise because it’s basically a given that Apple does both very well, and I really appreciate that. Idle power is something in the realm of four watts (in comparison you can get about 5.5 for a typical SB ThinkPad) for a three generation old platform with what is effectively a discrete GPU, and I can get the advertised 4 to 5 hours of practical runtime without even trying. I actually think the fan is running close to all the time, but I have to hold my ear against the underside to hear anything at all at idle, which is really quite acceptable. Under load the fan does get pretty loud, but it’s still not loud enough for me top hear over my YouTube video, and Apple throttles it back very aggressively when the CPU is unloaded.

That’s probably it for now.

Published by D, on September 27th, 2012 at 12:00 am. Filled under: d_others Tags: , No Comments

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