My journey began Wednesday night, at the Fry's Windows 7 Midnight Release Party. I spent hours there, talking to other customers and browsing a wide selection of laptops and netbooks, looking for the one that would be mine. Unfortunately, none of the machines I saw at Fry's that night met my needs. I have very specific requirements for my notebook.
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In a few days, I'll be off to the U.K. After that I have a long jaunt in southeast Asia planned, followed by a leisurely ramble around central Europe. Because I'm fortunate enough to write for the Internet for a living, I'll continue to work my full-time job during my travels. In order to do that though I'm going to need a notebook to work (and live) out of.
I already have an HP Mini netbook that I love dearly. Unfortunately, its 8.9" screen is just too damn small for me to work out of for months at a time. My fingers would cramp up on the keyboard, my eyes would tire from the strain, and my neck would develop a legion of painful cricks. Netbooks have a lot of uses, but none of them are comfortable for 8 hours of writing. Trust me on this; I've tried.
When I started shopping for a notebook, I knew there were a few things I definitely wanted. First off, I'd need a screen that was at least 12", to avoid eye strain and provide a pleasant movie-watching experience on many long plane trips. Second, I'd need a nice, roomy hard drive, at least 250 GB. Third, I wanted a solid dual core processor. I do a lot of image editing for Cracked.com and I need a machine that can multi-task well. Last, but certainly not least, I wanted something that was light and portable. Some airlines only allow 10 lbs of carry on, and a 7lb laptop+my bag will exceed that by quite a bit.
Fry's failed to have any notebooks that met my needs, so I went to Best Buy next. It was Windows 7 launch day, and the store was packed with people. I spent close to a half hour poring over all of Best Buy's notebook options before I saw the machine of my dreams. Once more, HP met my computing needs. This time with a Pavilion dm3.
The dm3 is HP's attempt at making a MacBook. It has an ultra-thin body that's less than an inch thick and it weighs only 4.2 lbs. At 13.1", the screen was large enough to meet my needs and then some. It has a dual core 1.6 GHz AMD CPU which, while not great, is more than enough for browsing, writing, and a little bit of photoshoppery. The selling point for me was the dedicated Nvidia graphics card, which means this sweet little brushed-aluminium beauty can even handle a fair bit of gaming.
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My dm3 came loaded with Windows 7, 64 bit. It cost just $550, which was well within my budget for a laptop. I spent most of last night peeling unwanted programs off of it, and testing it with some HD video. So far, I'm pretty deeply in love. My Windows 7 shopping experience had a happy ending...how about yours? Photo by Angela Gruenenfelder.