2016 computer review
I use three laptops, each weighing about three pounds, which makes them convenient to carry about. I’d been trying to keep the ThinkPad T430s active, but it’s now firmly retired.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Purchased January 2015. Two years later, love it as much as ever. I liked the T430s before it, but that was always a little too heavy to carry around. The X1 is an easy bag and go machine. Despite quite a few cycles, the battery is still about 96% as original, and generally lasts me longer than I need.
Zenbook UX305. Purchased October 2015. This is the portable Windows 10 machine. I don’t have much use for Windows, and so the Zenbook doesn’t see much use either, but it’s nice to have. It’s always a bit of a disappointment switching from the X1 to this machine, but it’s still a fine machine.
HP Chromebook 13. Purchased July 2016. For the first few months, this machine was kind of a curiosity. I’d play with it, but didn’t really use it. Recently though I’ve been using it a lot more. It does make an excellent web browsing machine, to the extent that I browse with it almost exclusively. If I want to get something done, I use the X1 and don’t browse the web, which is marvelously productive. When it’s web time, I switch to the chromebook. Hardware wise, this is actually a slightly better feeling machine than the Zenbook. Notably, the touchpad is very impressive. Most of gripes about ChromeOS UI being just different enough to be annoying are resolved by spending more time with it.
I also use three other computers which are substantially less mobile.
EdgeRouter Lite. Purchased August 2015. About one year in, I decided to upgrade OpenBSD and ran into a fairly common problem: disk failure. The original flash drive isn’t great. Replaced that, and it’s been working fine ever since. OpenBSD octeon support is still not quite first class, but it’s certainly good enough for routing. Even with the hassle of replacing the flash, it’s easier and cheaper to put together an ERL than an APU system.
Braswell NUC. Purchased August 2015. My old home router was basically a full (though mini sized) PC, and replacing it with the ERL meant a big reduction in CPU and storage. This is the replacement for that, separating home server from home router. I have pretty light needs, but it’s a very convenient machine to stage OpenBSD sets so that upgrades fly by. Was also using it as an ad blocking proxy for a while. It’s small and quiet, but still powerful enough to handle background tasks. It’s one more thing to worry about, but at the same time splitting tasks means I can upgrade it more frequently without dropping internet connection.
Hand assembled desktop PC. Purchased May 2013. Gaming machine. The i5-3570k CPU is still adequate. Upgraded to a GTX 980 one year ago. Using a 27 inch 1440p monitor; I keep debating whether it’s time to upgrade to a 5K, but I think that will wait for the next generation of graphics cards.
In addition, there are three not quite computers that are extremely portable.
iPad mini 4. Purchased October 2015. Had an iPad Air previous to this, downgraded in size to reduce weight even more. The mini used to be my reading device, but has become a lot less interesting with the Chromebook. I practically never use it around the house any more. Instead, it only sometimes gets slipped into a pocket if I decide to run out for breakfast and want to read a comic book at the same time.
iPhone 6s Plus. Purchased October 2015. Like a lot of changes, the huge increase in screen size quickly became the new normal. If I pick up an iPhone 5 now, it feels miniaturized. Nevertheless, I may scale back again with the next phone (not for another year at least). At first I was excited that it was easier to read web sites on my phone, but since so many sites are complete shit on mobile, I’ve been doing less browsing overall.
Kindle Paperwhite. Purchased September 2012. Still using this old thing. Good for reading novels. Subsequent generations don’t offer quite enough to make an upgrade compelling. The main problem I have is that it’s really slow and clunky switching between books or trying to scan a book for a particular passage. I may read a nonfiction book on the Kindle, but will immediately reach for the chromebook or iPad. I have since gone back to using it without a case because it’s lighter to hold and easier to pocket.
Future wants: my default resting state is one of computer envy, but there’s not much I feel I’m missing. New machines aren’t much faster. There’s only so thin and light before a computer stops being useful. That said, there’s no way I’m ever using a laptop that weighs more than three pounds again. Also a minimum resolution of 1440p (the Zenbook is only 1080p, which would have been incredible a few years ago, but now it’s visibly subpar).