When I needed to "cashout", I closed the circle on the following subset of laptops:
- The Alienware series.
- The Apple MacBook Pro 15 & 17.
- The Asus G73.
- The Dell Latitude E6520.
- The Dell XPS 17.
- The Dell Precision M4600/M6600.
- The HP 8760w.
- The Lenovo w520 and the x220.
- A really expensive Sony Vaio Z.
- Some barebones like Eurocom/Sager, etc.
Some of those are, like...WOW!
BUT I simply kept in mind "what I needed" with "what those laptops offered".
Here's some personal considerations which brought me to my personal choice:
- Virtualization, Certification studies, experimenting with labs, some development, browsing, emailing, etc. (all at the same time...), asked for a "many-cores" CPU with virtualization extensions, plenty of RAM and medium/fast SSD.
- DSLR photography requested for an high-res and 100% rgb color space display, so I had to look for a high quality IPS LCD display (no more dithering please!), and since my eyes are thankful for my previous 24” Dell 2405FPW LCD, I wanted no compromises. This feature alone disqualified almost all of the contestants, but the HP 8760w, the Dell Precision M4600 and the tiny Lenovo x220. Too bad the IPS LCD was still in the making when I got my M6600, so I had to compromise on it (suffice it to say that now you can have a fantastic IPS LCD for your laptop AND I will highly envy you!).
- Since I had an Avermedia 54mm nano Hybrid Express TV Card lying around, my Home entertainment needs requested for an Express Card 54mm port (which is also nice to have for other things...). For music and movies, I am fine with a standard cable headset and I felt I didn’t need high-power JBL sound systems like what a Dell XPS 17 could have offered (even if I am quite into Rock, Metal, Alternative, industrial, some electronica, etc.).
- Casual gaming for me represents some FPS/RTS/RPG/4X games I played in the past and I still can't find time to play in the present. In the past I played FEAR, Oblivion, the C&C series and some very beautiful variations, I enjoyed the RPGs (the Baldur's Gate series, Planescape Torment, the Neverwinter Nights series, SWTOR-series, the first Mass Effect (WOW!) - but no time for 2nd and 3rd chapter...sigh!), and I really liked Space Sims and 4X games like MOO, Galciv, Sins of A Solar Empire and the Sci-Fi Fans apotheosis: the X-Universe series. Anyway, I thought I needed efficient graphics, which could (some-day-don't-know-when) satisfy my "leisure time requirements". In the end, I simply compromised on it and I choose an Optimus 3000m.
- The Majority of the listed notebooks are easily upgradeable. Some require you to go under the keyboard (and the M6600 is no exception). Essentially all of them are more or less scalable/upgradeable, as they allow for plenty of intervention by their owners. Well, not every of those allows you to crank it up seriously as the M6600 allows you to, but nonetheless, your requirements might be different. Dell publishes detailed manuals with clear explanations and pictures on how to service and upgrade the M6600 on your own (check this out: http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/wsm6600/en/SM/index.html). The HP 8560w seems well documented too, the others I don’t know, but I suppose today all laptops offer you some way to "dive-in".
- The M6600 is made of a sturdy composite alloy made of zinc and plastic elegantly blended together, the HP design is fantastic and the Lenovo seems excellent too, the unibody designs are also winners. The Latitude design looks solid. Less so for the ASUS, the XPS and the barebones (but I think they are still superior than the average commercial plastic notebooks).
- Since I were putting 2 months of my life on this expensive baby, I wanted to dedicate a small part of my budget to "security" features, so I decided to pay the "lojack" tax w/the intel anti-theft technologies and a kensington cable to keep me partially covered (but I forgot to get the fingerprint reader...whoops!).
Before the M6600, I started to think that the laptop I needed was either non-existant or out-of-my league (ie. the HP 8760W), but as time passed by and new models popped up, I kept looking and looking until I found "the right one".
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