Apr 302008
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that an emerging requirement for scientists is that they possess a laptop computer in addition to any desktop. It just seems to be an essential feature for giving talks at conferences and (crossing fingers) for jobs. For whatever reason it seems like you just can’t ever trust that your presentation will ever work on somebody else’s computer. Plus, on the rare occasions that I travel it might just be convenient to have one. So, I’ve decided to purchase a laptop, and would like some advice based on personal experience or whatnot.

The requirements I have are pretty basic. I don’t plan to do any heavy computational lifting or gaming with this machine. I need it to be capable of word processing, running Powerpoint (or equivalent), displaying images, and accessing the web. It also needs to work smoothly with external projectors (this used to be a problem with Macs; is it still?), have good battery life, and be hardy enough to get knocked around in a plane or in my car and still function well. I would strongly prefer that it not put out enough heat to neuter me if I have the misfortune to actually use it in my lap. Obviously, since this will be a secondary computer, I want it to be relatively inexpensive, not much more than my rebate check if I can help it.

So, any recommendations? Are there any Macs that fit the bill, or are they all in the way too expensive zone? Are the Dells (Vostro, Inspiron) a suitable option, or are they also too pricey? Does HP make any laptops that won’t burn your pants right off? Can laptops running Linux deal with LCD projectors?