Monday, April 1, 2013

Chromebooks, Notebooks, and Tablets --- and What To Buy

Chromebook, Notebooks, and Tablets


I have owned a Samsung Chromebook for 2 months now.  I am a fan. What a great little machine for $250.  Highly recommended.  I will buy the next version of the Chromebook if it improves just a little on the current version:
  • the keyboard should be backlit
  • the speakers should move from the underside of the notebook to the top and perhaps improve a little bit.
  • the speed should increase just a little
  • the vertical display angle should be a little better
  • the USB ports need to provide sufficient charge for tablets
these are easy things to fix.

CPU Speed

Dell is in the news because computer sales have slowed down so badly that acquirers are now wondering about the future of the business.  Surprising?  It shouldn't be.  Computer speed innovation has decelerated.  According to Moore's Law, transistor count should double about every 2 years.  So, why is a $500 CPU today only 2 times faster than a $500 CPU from four years ago?   This CPU should be about 4 times as fast.  Or at least have 4 times as many cores.  Instead, the factor is about 2.0:
  • Core i7-940 from November 2008 cost $562 at introduction: 5,471 Passmarks
  • A Core i7-3930K in May 2012 costs $562: 12,079 Passmarks
Incidentally, both CPUs are named "i7", though they have different suffixes.  Most consumers don't even know that the two CPUs have different power.  They read i7, and believe they are the same.  If Intel wanted to confuse the value proposition for consumers, they have succeeded.

Desktop:  For a desktop, I want to buy an 8-core Haswell CPU with 64GB of ECC memory in an SFF (Shuttle XPC) for $1,000.  Not available before the end of the year.  Kaveri could become a good alternative with its unified-memory CPU/GPU architecture.

Portable Checklist

Notebook/Tablet/Alternative:  For an alternative device, I want something that does not exist.
  • tablet and notebook as one device.  the CPU could be in the notebook base, while the tablet is the screen.  but not two OS's (like Asus Transformers).  if need be, the base (with backlit keys) can run a thin hdmi or displayport fiber+power cable from the base to the tablet screen.  wireless would be better.  it could use a few LEDs to signal the HDMI stream to the tablet screen and require line of sight.  face it---many of us computers in their beds or on their couches and can leave the base on the nightstand or coffee table.
  • cool to the touch --- Haswell, 4 core, 16gb.  no audible fan.
  • a 15.4" IPS 1080 tablet screen.  not retina, not 1366x768 lowq.
  • Chromebook instant boot
  • Linux secondary OS
  • media consumption:  Blu-ray player in the base, tablet speakers towards the front ---good quality.  vga webcam.  reasonable good sensor, wide view.  skype-video.
  • 5lbs package incl. power brick, 2lbs screen. 
  • $2,000

this should be easy to produce.  the parts all exist individually.  but right now, out of the 8 bullet points, no more than 3 exist in any one device.

so, I really want to buy a detachable-panel Google Pixel with a 14"-15" 1080p screen, backlit keyboard, good speakers, and Haswell i5 or i7 ULV processor.  Ideally, the main processor would stay in the main keyboard unit, so the tablet screen could remain very cool and slim.  (it would just receive an hdmi bitstream with audio and send back touch and webcam.)  700g for the screen unit including battery (optional usb-3 connector), 1000g for the main CPU unit with keyboard and perhaps bluray.  wouldn't that be cool?!   $2,000?  no problem.

Where are the 15" screen tablets and detachables??

Potential Portable Choices

SSD and Haswell---musts.  webcam?  speaker forward.

Choice Display Wght KBL Spkrs linux Notes
Dell XPS18 ++ o? ++ ? 1 SO-DIMM
Review 18.4 1080p IPS 5.1lbs ? Y ? ?
Asus AIO 18 ++ o ? ++ ?
Review 18.4 1080p IPS 5.4lbs ? Y ? ?
Lenovo Yoga 11 - ++ ? ? see also yoga 13, 3.5lbs, IPS1600, ok spkrs, no bkl, fanny
Review 11.6,1366 2lbs ? ? ?
Dell XPS12
Review ? ? ? ? ?
HP Envy X2
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Smsng Ativ 700T
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Acer Ic W700
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Asus Taichi
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Pixel ? ? ? ? ?
Review ? ? ? ? ?
Macbook Pro ? ? ? ? ? ?
Review ? ? ? ? ? ?
Of course, I need to wait for Haswell, anyway, but I am assuming the rest stays roughly the same. I may buy a Google Pixel, but only after the Pixel ships with Haswell.  I like the idea of running ubuntu or mint alongside chrome---and being able to switch between the two.  this should make for a killer notebook.  Note: Dell now sells a 13" XPS Ultrabook with Ubuntu.

Some more alternatives to purchase:  I could get be a 13-15" Haswell tablet, preferably one on which I can install linux and which I can use with or without a keyboard.

The Dell XPS18 is a bit too large.  5lbs

so is the Asus AIO 18".  5.3lbs

The Asus Transformer Book is a bit too small at 13" (but livable).  Problem: neither runs linux.  I want to run some version of linux.

the Lenovo wireless monitor Lt1423 could have been an option, too, when/if it ships---but it does not seem to have audio and webcam.

lenovo yoga 13, 3.3lbs.  because it can be rotated into portrait mode, 13.3 inches is ok.  modestly unpleasant heat.  not 1080p.

dell xps 12. only 12.5" at 3.3lbs.  keyboard backlit.  reasonable sound.

not hp envy x2---atom.  yikes.  alas, they just brought out a core version...worthwhile looking at.  4 lbs, though---then why not get the 18" XPS18?  cheap at $800.

not samsung ativ 700t or iconia w700 --- only 11.6" screen

samsung series V

asus taichi --- no.  what were they thinking with 2 displays?