Hunting for a notebook

Love the packaging

What do you look out for when you’re looking for a new notebook computer? Though I’m quite at home with technology and am an avid follower of the scene, this question still caused me to stop and think for a bit.

What exactly was I looking for? Taking a step back, I began with why I was searching for a new one in the first place.

My existing notebooks were a 17-inch gaming notebook which I used for the office and a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air for travelling. One’s powerful but too heavy to lug around while the other is light but runs on a different operating system.

The gaming notebook is great for working on spreadsheets (which I don’t fancy), watching movies and playing games. While it’s a few years old, it still packs enough grunt to get everything done fast. The only negative was it’s weight, making it highly unportable.

On the other hand, the MacBook Air provided the portability, which is especially useful for my travel. I bought it after feeling the strain of carrying another notebook while on trips to the US. The Apple device is not as fast (it was bought in 2011) as the Windows-based notebook (which is designed with power in mind) but it was enough to get things done.

Why change

Toggling between the two computers involved backing up and copying my Outlook file whenever I have to travel, which was about once a month.

This means that I use a Windows computer most of the time. While I have no issue with macOS, it does take a bit of getting reacquainted every few weeks.

Outlook and Word also works differently on both platforms. The functionalities are generally the same but the little differences began to take its toll, particularly the cut-and-paste between documents and Outlook.

Since June, I’ve had to spend more time out of the office so I’m using the Mac a little more but what’s worst is the constant copying and backing up of files.

What I need

Having identified my painpoints, I have an idea of what I need:

  1. Powerful
  2. Portable
  3. Window-based
  4. Affordable
  5. Reliable brand
  6. X-factor

The research took longer than expected as I could not find one that matched all my requirements. How brands named and positioned their product lines also made the search a little challenging. I also turned to a well-known editor for his advice.

This is it

Just when I thought that nothing could match my criteria, I read about an upcoming notebook.

Asus had announced earlier in the year that it was coming up with its 30th anniversary edition. After pouring through the known specs in detail, I was quite certain that this was what I wanted.

The limited-edition Asus ZenBook Edition 30 was supposed to be launched in conjunction with an IT show in September. A quick check with Asus a day before the show revealed that the notebook’s already available in the store.

I drove to the nearest Asus store but could not find it on the display shelf. When queried, the salesperson pointed to an empty space on the shelf and said that was where the new notebook will be placed. He added that he could furnish me with the specs if I was interested to find out more.

Before I could educate the young man, his colleague said that the unit’s in the storeroom and she could get it for me after she’s done with a customer.

Ten minutes later, I became the proud owner of a brand new notebook.

Why I like this

My purchase was no impulse decision. Here are why I picked this over dozens of others:

  1. Powerful enough: It sports an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8565U CPU supported by the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU and 16GB of RAM — that’s enough horsepower for me.
  2. Portable enough: Weighing under 1.3kg, it comes with a 13.3-inch LED-backlit Full HD display with four-sided frameless NanoEdge design.
  3. Window-based: It runs of Windows 10 so I do not have to toggle between two operating sytems.
  4. Affordable enough: Priced at S$2,198, it’s a little ex for an average notebook but this is definitely not an average notebook.
  5. Reliable brand: HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Acer are some leading brands that I’ve used in the past. From my experience with my gaming notebook, Asus stands right up there with the best.
  6. X-factor: Now, this is where the Asus ZenBook Edition 30 is streets ahead of the rest. Imagine a notebook clad in pearl white leather and rose gold anodised diamond-cut edges and trim bar. The rose gold logo is futuristic and not so in-your-face. And it features a second screen on the mouse pad. While many have written this off as a gimick, I found it to be useful for viewing a messaging app or the Spotify playlist. Oh, the package also includes a matching mouse and leather notebook sleeve. Really nice touch.

After nearly three months of using the Asus ZenBook Edition 30, I simply love this. It’s everything I need and a little more.

Pre-matured end of life (for products)

Apple Watch 4: Written off in just a year

Apple will be rolling out a new generation of its smartwatch tomorrow (September 20). It’s an annual introduction for the Cupertino-based company, along with a slew of other computers and devices. This is what keeps technology companies innovating and in business.

But, what shocked me was that the one-year-old Apple Watch 4 is being discontinued. While Apple must have its reasons for doing so, spare a thought for those fans who spent hard-earned cash on the Apple Watch 4.

Is this the company’s tactic to compel them to upgrade to the latest version? If that’s the case, why is it still selling the older Apple Watch 3?

I’ve had my fair share of buying new products that became obsolete in a year of so. The most painful was my first notebook computer which cost more than S$2,000 in the mid-1990s. That’s a lot of money back then.

Shortly after I bought the new notebook, I discovered that the US manufacturer had discontinued that product. Upset is too mild a word to describe my feelings at that time. What’s worse was that half the screen went blank one day and the customer support told me that it would cost $800 to get the screen replaced.

After much angst and deliberation, I decided to buy a new laptop from another vendor. That US-branded notebook turned out to be my first and last from the company.

A more recent experience was my Pebble Time smartwatch in April 2016. In December that year, Pebble announced that it would be shut down, and no longer make or support for any device or honour any warranties.

Two experiences. Twenty years apart. Both times, the feeling was similar — painful!

Tech companies should care more for their customers. Beyond the bells and whistles associated with big fanfare launches, they must show customers that they are committed to supporting the products — at least for a few years after they stop selling it.

Otherwise, customers are the ones to bear the brunt and pay the cost for believing in the wrong product from the wrong vendor.

If vendors are not careful, they risk losing customer trust. Once lost, that’s hard to regain, especially when there are so many other options available.

When upgrading is unnecessary

Still good after all these years

Apple has launched a new iPhone. Google is expected to announce Pixel 4 on October 15. With every introduction of a new product, the message is crystal clear — buy, buy, buy! The question is — is it really necessary to get the latest toy? Is your current device good enough?

If vendors were to have their way, we would be upgrading every year or two.

It’s the computer industry, and later the smartphone makers, that seems to be driving the need to upgrade regularly — even if your PC/notebook/smartphone is working perfectly fine.

This is so different from the days of old when a television, electric fan or refrigerator can last for a decade or more. If it breaks down, you get it fixed. Buying a new one is only necessary when it can no longer be repaired.

These days, computer and smartphone are constantly bombarding consumers that the latest is the greatest (if it’s not, something must be very wrong, right?) and you need to upgrade. Even consumer electronic product makers are trying to get into the act.

Putting aside fancy new features and the feel great of owning a new device factors, the most important question to ask is “Do I need to upgrade?”

What difference will the newest chip’s speed bump make? How will the fingerprint sensor make my phone more secured? How much storage do I really need?

I have owned a MacBook Air since 2011 and a third generation iPad since 2012 (see photo above) and am proud to declare that I am still using them.

Here are the reasons why I did not upgrade:

  1. They are still working perfectly. Operating system updates have slowed them down a little but nothing’s changed otherwise.
  2. They do what I need them for. I use my MacBook Air for work and my iPad when giving talks. Both still function as required. They may not be as fast as the latest iterations but they’re good enough.
  3. I save money by not upgrading. There’s no need to spend on newer devices since these are still fine. Money saved can be used for other things in life — like getting other gadgets that I do not already own or travelling.

The point is that if I want to upgrade, the vendors must give me something that I could not do before but need to have. A faster chip, brighter/sharper screen or more connectivity options just doesn’t cut it.

In recent times, the only device that I’ve upgraded constantly was the digital camera. My first was a Sony Mavica given to me in 1999. It introduced me to the world of digital photography, Nokia phones notwithstanding. I was a proud owner bringing a box of 3.5-inch floppy disk drives with me wherever I went. For each 1.44MB drive, I can take about 20 photos. So a box gives me sufficient space for about 200 low quality images.

As digital cameras evolved, so did my expectations. I wanted higher quality images and upgraded whenever I could afford a better camera.

But, my latest digital SLR camera has been untouched for a few years. Why? Because the smartphone has made it redundant. My Google Pixel 3 can take excellent images at high resolutions. In fact, each image size is bigger than a 3.5-inch floppy disk.

Upgrading my digital camera was necessary because the image quality made a difference. But, there are many other products where newer versions do not provide enough justification for parting with the cash.

3 things to consider before buying the Lofree DOT Mechanical Keyboard

For ardent supporters of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, this DOT mechanical keyboard by Lofree should look familiar to you. According to LoFee’s website, the company has won multiple RedDot design and iF awards the past few years, and this keyboard is clearly one of its key products. 

Here is my take on the three things to consider before making the purchase.

1. Charging of keyboard

This device needs to be charged with a micro-USB charger – a single charge can last up to a month. With high utilisation on my device, battery life was about a week.  Considering that newer devices have all moved to USB-C charging, having the additional cable to keep it charged occasionally can be a hassle.

2. Ergonomic design

The mechanical keyboard is supposed to provide that retro feel of typing on a typewriter and as such, it needs the depth to provide the clicking sound as well as the ‘bounce’ for each key. As such, I find myself having to lift my fingers more just to get to the higher keys. This may not seem like much, but if you happen to type a lot and are looking for convenient and further spaced keys, the DOT mechanical keyboard may not suit you. 

In addition, the keyboard is relatively flat although it has two stands supporting at the back. For someone who is so used to having the MOFT stand (see previously written article here), the shift to this keyboard sees me having to type with less of an angle.

3. Mechanical clicking sounds when typing

The mechanical keyboard sound while typing can be pleasing to the ears – if you are not typing on it for long stretches of time. I originally loved the clicking sounds and felt very accomplished with each click. However, the more I heard it (coupled with the fact that my fingers were tired after the constant typing on it), I realised that it wasn’t as pleasing as I thought it would be. 

This keyboard is definitely aesthetically-pleasing, provides the cool retro-feel and connects via Bluetooth easily. However, you may want to consider the above three points before making the purchase. 

You may look at the other products LoFree carries here.

MOFT – the trusty laptop stand

I received the MOFT laptop stand as a gift a couple of months back and have been using it since. What seemed to be a thin, spongy-like rectangle has proven to be a very useful one – and I’ve got to say, I am truly amazed by it.

moft

So what is a MOFT laptop stand? It essentially seems to be an origami-like structure that remains flat when not in use, well-stuck on the back of the laptop. I use a Macbook Pro 13 inch, and it rests nicely just below the hinge. This product is recommended for users of tablets/ laptops between 11.6” and 15.6” and can hold a machine of up to 8kg.

When utilised, this flat piece folds into a stand, resting comfortably on the table/surface. With two angles available, the lower angle provides just a slight tilt when utilising the keyboard while the higher angle provides a more distinct height. Do note, with the tilt comes a higher screen – a feature I appreciate a lot. The higher angle provides a raised screen for me, and allows me to rest my arms comfortably on my desk with a screen that is not too low, ensuring that I am not constantly straining my neck by looking down on to my computer screen.

Also, while this seems to be a really thin stand, it holds the weight of my laptop and even when I rest my wrists on my keyboard while typing, it has always remained firm.

So the verdict – would I recommend this to my friends and co-workers? Yes, I definitely will! It’s sleek, sits nicely on the back of my laptop, and has proven to be very trusty. The MOFT laptop stand comes in four colors, so I’m sure you’ll find one that you’ll like.

If you’d like to purchase one, you may do so here.

*this is not an affiliate link