Well, I finally got tired of complaining about my 2002 vintage Dell Inspiron 8200 laptop that I use for teaching, and bought an inexpensive, but decent replacement from Office Depot this past weekend. It is a Toshiba Satellite A135-S4447. Office Depot was running a two day sale, where they were selling the unit for $849 plus a $150 mail in rebate. Mail in rebates are a pain in the ass, they are basically a scam, where the retailer/manufacturer hope that you are too lazy to fill out the paperwork and send it in (which is a decent bet on their part). Despite that, I have had pretty good luck getting them redeemed, by following the directions and writing legibly. They still suck though.
My old Dell weighs 7.9 pounds, while the new Toshiba weighs 6.0 pounds. I bought the Dell as a refurbished unit back in May 2003, for about $1700. It had a 1.8GHz Pentium 4M CPU, 256MB of RAM, a GeForce 440 Go graphics card, a 1600×1200 screen, a combo DVD/CD-RW drive, a 5400rpm 40GB drive, and USB 1.1 support. I later upgraded it with 1GB of RAM and a 7200rpm 60GB drive. When AnandTech tested it in November 2002, it performed very well.
The Toshiba has a 1.73GHz Core Duo T2250, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, an integrated Intel 950 graphics adapter, a 1280 x 800 screen, a dual layer DVD burner, a 5400 rpm 80GB SATA drive, Wireless G support, and USB 2.0 support. It came pre-loaded with Vista Home Premium. It has a Windows Experience Index score of 3.1.
This is a pretty decent system for $699! It runs Vista Aero Glass quite well, even though it only has the Intel 950 graphics chip. It also has the slightly older Core Duo "Yonah", instead of a newer Core2 Duo "Merom". It also only has a 5400rpm drive and 1GB of RAM, but it does have two hard drive bays. Eventually, I will probably upgrade it with either two 7200rpm drives or one 7200rpm drive and either a new flash based or hybrid hard drive. I will probably upgrade it to 2GB of RAM (it can take 4GB total) pretty soon. In the meantime I am taking advantage of Windows ReadyBoost with a small Lexar 512MB JumpDrive FireFly. The first upgrade will be a bigger flash drive to get more out of Windows ReadyBoost. Tom’s Hardware did a pretty good test of ReadyBoost and Super Fetch here.
I am running SQL Server 2005 SP2, Visual Studio 2005 SP1 (with the Vista Update), and Office 2007 just fine on this system as it is.