30 Days of Geek #10: My primary computer.

I’ve decided to partake in Jethro Carr’s 30 Days of Geek challenge, so I’ll be writing a post a day on my geekiness for an entire month! You can find all the posts in one spot here.

Today it’s all about my computer. Currently I only have one computer, a laptop. This is unlike quite a few other geeks, and very unlike myself in the past. I’ve had 3 or 4 working computers, plus lots of spare parts. I now have 1 working computer, and a few spare parts.

So, this laptop. It’s an ASUS UL20A ultra-portable laptop. Halfway in between a netbook and a full-sized laptop, it’s just that perfect compromise between portability and usability.

My Laptop (UL20A)

My Laptop

Specifications:

  • Intel CPU, 1.3GHz dual-core. Surprisingly, this actually feels really snappy. It’s amazing how we’ve got used to this natural progression in computing for faster and faster, when we actually don’t need it for a lot of tasks.
  • 2GiB of DDR2 RAM. This, on the other hand, isn’t enough. As this post is being published, there’s another 2GiB in the mail, to make a new total of 4GiB.
  • 250GB SATA HDD. Plenty. My movie collection is stored on an external drive.
  • 12″ screen, 1366 x 768 pixels. It would be nice to have more (isn’t it always true?) however this much allows me to get what I need to do done. It’s also a 16×9 aspect ratio, which is very nice for watching videos.
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit. See yesterday’s post for why.
  • There are some other specifications, but I can’t remember what they are, and don’t really care.

I’ve also been told to share a screenshot of my computer. Well, here it is:

My Windows 7 laptop running PuTTY

My Windows 7 laptop running PuTTY

Review: ASUS F3Sg Laptop

Around the end of the last financial year, I decided it would be a good idea to buy myself a laptop. So I did. I originally wanted a cheap Compaq one, simply because of it’s cheapness. But my local computer shop didn’t have any in stock. So I got an ASUS F3Sg instead. It costs about AUD $1300, and it’s pretty decent. Here’s why.

ASUS F3Sg Laptop

I’m not exactly a fan of the styling of recent ASUS laptops, and this one is no different. It’s very grey… and has holes and shapes that are perfectly designed for nothing, except getting biscuit crumbs in them. Out of the box it also comes covered in useless Intel, Nvidia and Microsoft stickers (some of which I still haven’t been able to remove). As far as bad points go though, that’s pretty much it.

To start off the list of good points, I’ll start with the screen. It’s a 15.4″ widescreen, with a resolution of 1440×900. That’s as good as the 19″ monitor sitting on my desk, and with the decreased viewing distance, it’s just as usable. I certainly wouldn’t like it any larger, as it would then be quite difficult to get into my laptop bag (and to carry around generally).

The internals also match up to my (still pretty new) desktop. 2 GiB of DDR2 memory, a Core 2 Duo processor running at 2.4GHz, and a 250GB hard drive are all very respectable. The NVidia 9300M graphics chip plays Counter Strike: Source well enough to be comparable to the 8800GT in my desktop. That said, CSS isn’t one of the latest games anymore. I fear that Call of Duty 4 would stress it a bit too much.

Multimedia is okay. The onboard speakers are utter rubbish, but then those that come with laptops generally are. The audio chip is decent, as sound quality improves immensely when a pair of Sennheiser headphones are plugged in. The laptop has an onboard microphone, but I haven’t used it. Any attempt to use it for Skype would likely result in the glorious sound of feedback.

The F3Sg also has a webcam built into the screen. Quality is fine, though when I used the driver that Windows Update found for me after a fresh install, the picture was upside down. The other nice feature this laptop has is a built-in digital TV Tuner. Apart from the fact that Sesame Street has gone downhill, I don’t have much to report on that… it’s fairly ordinary, and suffers from the same problems (bad reception, worse content) that all other TV tuners suffer from.

Battery life is around 2.5 hours on the most conservative setting. Compared to the 5 hours an old G4 iBook of mine used to do, this is pitiful. But the iBook had nowhere near as many goodies. The F3Sg also burns a hole in your pants if you actually use it as a laptop, so it’s best to use it on a table. At 2.95kg, it’s just in the region of being carryable without breaking your shoulder. The large screen (and large battery to compensate) would be the cause of this.

As with all out-of-the-box computers, the included software on all ASUS laptops is sub optimal. Offerings include Nero, Norton Internet Security, and other such horrors. One thing I can say is, though, the drivers are rock solid. In two months I’ve never had any bluescreens or crashes, which is a miracle for a Windows-based machine.

To sum up: As far as Windows-based laptops go, this one is really good. I certainly wouldn’t have it over a MacBook Pro, but then, no sane person would. It has enough power to do all the things I want, and still remains light and small enough to carry to and from work. The only real downside as far as usability is concerned is the battery life. 4 Stars.