For the past 4.5 years, I have been using a Lenovo X230 laptop. I recall the process I went through in selecting the same after my usual exhaustive evaluation, and placing the order just before I was embarking on a trip to the U.S. way back in November 2012. I received the laptop during a training program I was attending at Reno, Nevada in early December 2012.
I still continue to use the same laptop (which is functioning normally) for most of my work. At office, I use a MacBook Air, so I continue to witness the differences between the two operating environments on an ongoing basis. Of course, since our minds speed up due to the world speeding up, everything one possesses seem to be slowing down, and it was not different with the X230 – it appeared to be slow, more because I had cluttered it with lots of useless applications over the years (which I had been doing to all my previous laptops as well, so nothing new here). Sometimes, due to my excessive attention to enhancing the performance or cleaning up the clutter of huge number of trashed files or optimizing the Windows Registry, the Lenovo X230 did not like me. It used to hang, and I had to do a hard reboot (which I do not suggest). Once, I lost a file on which I had done significant work, and I was furious, but could not blame the laptop. I started backing up using the Seagate backup software (with which I struggled a lot before getting it to work properly), and things seemed to be getting fine, with occasional hiccups.
However, my wife wanted a new laptop for herself without my encroachment all the time. Though she had her own Apple MacBook, that was taken by my son on loan and it became his permanent possession. One day, my wife took a strong position on her computing needs and refused to time slice between Lenovo Windows 10 and Apple MacBook. She demanded I get her a new one and did not provide any specifications for the same. I guess she secretly desired an Apple, but I had been consistently under-selling the new range of MacBooks, pointing out battery problems and lack of new processors, etc., I also felt that Apple is not paying enough attention to the MacBook range, instead focusing only on the iPhone. Slowly, I was able to edge her towards Windows 10, with the promise that I will get her the best that is available in the market.
It took me couple of months of intermittent research, but finally I narrowed it down to three choices: Dell, HP and Lenovo. I would be surprised if most shortlists do not have these three names anyway, especially in the Windows world. The Microsoft SurfacePro was also in the running, but I dropped it considering the fact that it was not sturdy enough to be a home laptop. My wife was specific on one thing – she did not want to have a touch screen, and she did not want the funny pyramid or triangle type standing ones.
Lenovo Yoga range and HP’s latest laptop range were indeed sexy with tons of new features. I really liked the Yoga and almost selected a model that fit my specs, but finally chose the Dell. Within the Dell range, I struggled a lot between XPS 13 with rose gold colour and XPS 15. Had XPS 13 been available with 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, I would have gone for it and saved a few hundred dollars of additional investment, but XPS 13 did not have that combination (at least in the online ordering site of Dell). I was very clear that the new laptop should have the latest Intel Kaby Lake processor, 16GB main memory and 512GB SSD drive. In terms of graphics processors, I preferred the NVidia against Intel’s own. I was fine with 13.3″ screen with no edges (maximum screen real estate) at the minimum and wanted 4K resolution if it was not too expensive. The Dell XPS 15 met all these specs but I downgraded the screen resolution from 4K to 2K as the additional investment was almost USD 400!
I also wanted backlit keyboard and a fingerprint scanner, with all the usual ports. I had to keep raising the budget to meet my expectations, and as always, was surprised that not every “good” feature was available in a laptop that should not cost more than USD 1,200. But, alas, that was not to be. The cheaper laptops (you see these advertised from USD 300 onwards) lack most of these features and surely are not geared to delaying product obsolescence. In electronics, there is no guarantee of not getting obsolete in 12 months time, but I was preparing for something which could stand on its own feet for at least a 2 to 3 year timeframe.
So, I went ahead and specified a 4-year warranty coverage (1 + 3). This substantially increases the cost. As folks who have used Apple would know, the Apple Care protection is not cheap, but it is absolutely a necessary thing – never avoid investing in Apple Care, as repairs are hugely expensive when it comes to maintaining Apple products. Windows laptops from major manufacturers are not far behind from a repair cost perspective, so I decided to invest upfront. I also wanted a laptop which can be purchased in the U.S. (like my own Lenovo) and then transferred over to the country where we live.
So, my wife now has the Dell XPS 15 with a beautiful 15.6″ display and specs which match what I have listed above. It is blazingly fast (of course, since there are hardly any cluttering applications on it – she won’t allow those to be installed anyway), and looks pretty nice, though a bit heavy to carry around. It is an appropriate acquisition for older folks like us with eyesight challenges (wearing glasses, hope she does not read this!!!), with a bigger screen and big font sizes.
I have installed the usual Anti-Virus, Firewall and related software to protect the laptop. I believe this is an excellent choice for the specs I have outlined. I am available for any unpaid consultation for digitally challenged folks who would like to design their home networks and operate a set of devices – not just laptops, but other devices such as Amazon Echo (which I recently installed and will write about soon), and also protect the network from cyber snoopers.
9th July 2017
Well, I could not think of a better title to this blog post !
Our home had a 300 MBPS fibre internet connection for the past couple of years, and recently the contract ended. I was paying a price higher than that for 1 GBPS (1,000 MBPS) fibre connectivity for more than a year, as there was no point in upgrading during the contract or breaking the contract. This is always the case as the lock-in period deters people from much necessary upgrades, unless one is prepared to pay much more or incur a penalty.
So, once I was out of the contract, I decided to upgrade the internet speed to 1 GBPS. I was really salivating at the possibilities afforded by increased speed of access, and was hoping that the sales talk was for real – in the sense, that my access speeds will at least triple from where they were before the upgrade. Not an unrealistic expectation, I would say.
But then, reality is always different.
I got the speed upgraded and the provider installed a D-Link cylindrical router in the place of my much-loved ASUS router (which incidentally would be able to handle the increased speed as I found out later). It was a simple installation lasting less than 10 minutes and the guy from the service provider took my signature and left upon completion of his work.
Within couple of hours after the upgrade, complaints started from my household with regard to the speed and quality of the internet access – the speed was apparently lower than the previous lower speed of 300 MBPS! Further, there was “fading in” and “fading out” of the internet – it comes and goes type of complaint. I embarked on some serious testing and found that the complaints were true. I was upset that the provider could do such a shoddy job.
I contacted the service provider and some gracious technical person guided me through the troubleshooting and we jointly found that the old ethernet cable was the problem. I replaced the same with a new cable from the router box and the direct speed from the modem to the laptop increased by a huge amount from less than 100 MBPS to 700 MBPS ! After this experiment, it looked OK but then I found that the mobile broadband speeds and laptop internet access speeds deteriorated significantly after a distance of some 10 metres. For instance, I was getting less than 20 MBPS on mobile broadband just 10 metres from the router. This meant that my surfing from a slightly remote bedroom was impacted, and this was not the case with the previous 300 MBPS fibre speed. It became very clear to me that the service provider has not tested various scenarios within a normal household.
I again contacted them and insisted that their service person should stay on for atleast 30 minutes and prove to us that there was no problem with the internet. Surprisingly, the provider agreed and sent a technical person (who was much better than the previous person who just installed), and he modified some settings on the cylindrical router. I witnessed a massive jump in mobile broadband speeds on my Apple iPhone in the living room wherein the router was installed. It almost approached 292 MBPS on my cell phone, which I thought was fantastic. Further, the remote bedroom speeds more than doubled from the previous levels.
So, I thought all was good and signed off on this second visit from the service provider (within just 4 days of the original installation). I gave a strongly positive rating given the quality of the work done by this second person.
But then the real measurement of performance lies with the big users – my wife and the children. While the children were generally OK with the new speeds, my wife was not as she generally uses the internet from the remote bedroom.
I scratched my head. I thought this will pass and everyone will eventually be “OK”. That was not to be. My wife again complained and asked me why I have not implemented the WiFi range extender which has been under our consideration for quite some time, since we have 3 walls separating the master bedroom from the living room, and I had previously gone around looking for a suitable solution.
So, here I go !!! I went shopping yesterday, and bought a few items. I bought a rather expensive WiFi range extender (TP-Link) since there was a sales person at the Challenger Store who patiently explained that their expensive solution is better for Netflix Video Streaming as compared to their cheaper solution. I asked some questions and got satisfactory answers. I bought the more expensive solution which is basically a powerline internet range extender, came home and proudly installed it. I was worried if it would really work out for us, as I had the immense pressure of satisfying the lady of the house.
I did everything as per the book, “paired” the two devices of the TP-Link solution, and took one of these devices to the bedroom and inserted into the power point. It gave some initial troubles, but then eventually it worked…….we got some very good internet speeds for seeing movies in our bedroom. I am still continuing to test the product, not all done. However, I believe it is a good product. Basically, you connect an ethernet cable from your router to this TP-Link device and then pair it with a similar device. The second device becomes your bedroom range extender as it gives out WiFi signals of good strength via the electrical circuit.
Still testing, but looks good. Hope it is a good investment!
Experiments like these are challenging but good though somewhat expensive!!
02 October 2016
The quick conclusion: Mac is still better than Windows !!!
I use Mac both at office and at home; I also use Windows laptop at home for certain purposes. I reserved the Windows 10 free upgrade a couple of months ago, and was eagerly awaiting the momentous occasion when I could indeed achieve the free upgrade.
The process of effecting the upgrade was fine (though not as easy as it is in the case of Apple Mac). It took a long while (a few hours), but that was also acceptable. I was thrilled when Windows 10 finally started running on my Lenovo X230 laptop (2.5 years old as on date). I browsed around, read some articles on how best to use the Windows 10 settings, used the new Edge browser (quite impressed), and came to the view that Windows 10 indeed is a good release compared to Windows 8.1.
But that impression did not last long.
Even though millions of testers have tested Windows 10 for probably a couple of years, Windows 10 still contains hundreds of bugs (I do not know exactly how many, but going by the system updates happening frequently over the past couple of weeks, looks like much work still remains to be done).
And the bugs came into play today (on a nice Sunday afternoon). The Windows 10 repeatedly crashed, the browsers crashed, and the system became unresponsive four times today. I did not have access to the Mac, so I had no choice except to keep using the Lenovo. It was so bad that I wanted to run away from Lenovo and Windows 10. There was discussion around the house, and the general consensus was Microsoft would never “get it”, though the new CEO has done some great stuff over the past year or so.
The benchmark for Microsoft still remains as Apple Mac user experience, there is still nothing to beat it. Yes, Mac is expensive, not completely trouble-free, has its own set of quirks, etc., However, the overall user experience is very pleasant, the system update process is easy and painless, the software works seamlessly, there is no virus to speak of, the system is stable, and the performance is outstanding.
Can I say the same thing about Windows 10 after today’s experience ?
Surely not. I had to “hard boot” my system four times, and that is simply too much. And in the first two reboots, I noticed that the system update process was controlling the Lenovo. Where is the easy to use, simplistic experience that a family is looking for ? Why is Windows 10 still a complex piece of code which does not understand what the users want ?
I am not going to recommend Windows 10 upgrade, in fact I am thinking of rolling back to the rather stable Windows 8.1. Please ensure that you have studied the pros and cons of upgrading thoroughly before the upgrade. I am still watching my system carefully, and NOW it is on my close scrutiny and watch.
16th August 2015
The upgrade of Windows 8 to 8.1 was released by Microsoft last week.
I have a Lenovo laptop Model X230 which I purchased less than a year ago, running Windows 8. While I am happy with the X230 hardware, I was not that happy with Windows 8. It was confusing, difficult to use, and not context-sensitive like the MAC OS – and, not user friendly at all. I liked the Windows XP Professional the best so far (Windows 7 was a waste of time).
While making the decision to upgrade to 8.1, I was in two minds. Is it going to be worse than what it was in 8 ? Is it going to corrupt all the data ? Is it going to affect the running apps ? Is it going to force my hand back towards Apple ? etc., etc.,
I decided I was not going to back up my hard disk. A risky bet, but a bet it was !
I started Saturday evening to figure out a way to upgrade – I thought it would be better to use the Internet Explorer as it is after all, a Microsoft upgrade which would be intimately tied to the IE browser. I went to update.microsoft.com as anyone would do, and saw the free update button. I clicked it and nothing happened. I checked the browser options, and everything appeared to be fine [I have to disclose that I use the Mozilla Firefox almost exclusively, and the Google Chrome occasionally]. I tried couple of times to update but nothing happened via the IE update button.
I thought “Oh, this is going to be hard, man”.
Then I thought, why not try the Firefox browser – just try it and see.
And you know what – it worked the very first time I clicked the update button at the Microsoft site I mentioned above !
Amazing isn’t it ? There may be something wrong in my IE configuration, but I am not going to behave like a technical expert trying to figure out what is the problem with IE and waste my time on a Saturday evening, right ?
So, the update button worked on the Firefox browser, and the download started off via the Microsoft Store.
The good thing in this update process was that I was able to use the system without surrendering the system to the control of the update process. But, that was the only good thing !!
It took more than an hour to complete the update with two reboots, which interrupted the above usage of the system while updation was going on. The funny thing is that the system kept on stating that it is checking the devices, setting up the system, et al……..and took a long time in each one of these steps.
All this can be forgiven if I could get back my system in exactly the same fashion it was before the update, with new functionality and interface.
But it was not to be. The update is not designed that way. Not like MAC OS.
Microsoft forced me to do a number of things when the system was finally ready to be set up with personalized data. My original Windows Sign-on password and fingerprint identification did not work. I was forced to create an Outlook.com sign-on which I did not wish to – but then, there was no choice for gmail or yahoo email ID – only Outlook.com, Live.com and Hotmail.com – all Microsoft products. Any surprise here ?
In any case, I went through all these steps, but my fingerprint ID still has not worked. I have to separately configure that now. Some other program now has a compatibility issue. All such mis-steps puts users off. I am sure more advanced users will end up dealing with more complext challenges during the update process.
The interface looks slightly better after the update, but I am yet to use the system comprehensively. Everything except one app seem to be working find, but I need to check further.
Microsoft needs to do more user testing, and learn from Apple.
20th October 2013
After quite a bit of research, I finally bought a Lenovo Thinkpad X230. I had earlier written a post about shopping for a laptop, which has never been an easy decision – see “Shopping for a Laptop”
I had to make some compromises, due to couple of reasons: (1) I wanted to buy the laptop online preferably from the original manufacturer directly, which restricted my choices ; and, (2) the configuration that I had earlier decided was not available in the budget I had planned.
Nevertheless, I got a laptop delivered to me which met my major requirements for speed and portability. The configuration that I ordered has the following configuration for X230:
i5 Third-Generation Intel Processor capable of turbo-boost up to 3.30 GHz (instead of i7)
8 MB DDR3 RAM operating at 1600 MHz
500 GB HD spinning at 7200 RPM (instead of 750 GB)
Intel HD 4000 Graphics with 1 GB Memory (instead of nVIDIA Graphics Card with 1 GB Memory)
1600 x 900 14″ HD+ Display (1368 x 720 12.5″ Premium HD Display)
2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 Ports (instead of 2 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.0 Ports)
VGA Port (instead of VGA and HDMI Ports)
4-in-1 Card Reader
Expanded 9-cell Li-Ion Battery (expected time on battery around 8 to 9 hours)
2-Year Global Warranty
The above configuration worked out at a price slightly less than USD 1,000.
So far, I am OK with the laptop, having used it only for a week or so. The key advantage in the X230 laptop is its weight – less than 4 lbs or less than 2 KGs. I will need to measure the exact weight, but it feels really light.
I will write about Windows 8 and my views on its ease of use (or otherwise) in an upcoming post.
You might ask me why I selected Lenovo over my previous favourite, ASUS, or even HP.
The answer lies in the fact that ASUS was not easily configurable online, even their U.S. website was not user friendly. Their many models available via the AMAZON site were not modifiable to meet my requirements – one has to just order the configurations available as offered at AMAZON.
I thought HP has made some quantum leap in the way they designed their laptops and sell it – yes, I found that they sell online now. However, I again they have to go a long way before they can compete with the likes of DELL.
Lenovo offered an online ordering system not unlike that of DELL and moreover, offered a configuration and model choice more suited to my needs. I did not wish to buy DELL this time around.
So, there we go……..a new laptop finally !
15th December 2012
Since when shopping for a laptop became a simple affair ?
It never did.
Just think about it. A typical replacement time for a laptop is not more than 3 years, as you tend to notice a significant degradation in performance or develop a sense of jealousy over the other folks carrying more advanced laptops – “ultrabooks” for instance !
Or, your laptop may be weighing around 5.5 lbs and you see guys with laptops weighing less than 4 lbs – sleeker, thinner, easier on the shoulder, and what not…….and I can add, with better screens !
When such a time arrived for me, I started looking up as usual on the web for suitable options and checked with a couple of friends on their choices. I distilled the final choices to Lenovo, HP and Asus (yes, Asus makes probably the best laptops in the industry today).
So, why not decide on the configuration first ?
I did some technical study and decided that the configuration which would be most suitable as at this time – end of 2012 – is as follows:
i7 Third-Generation Intel Processor capable of turbo-boost up to 3.60 GHz
8 MB DDR3 RAM operating at 1600 MHz
750 GB HD spinning at 7200 RPM
nVIDIA Graphics Card with 1 GB Memory
1600 x 900 14″ HD+ Display
2 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.0 Ports
VGA and HDMI Ports
Having decided upon the above configuration, I went about shortlisting the model numbers of the laptops, and to my chagrin, discovered it is not that easy to get the above kind of laptops even in the U.S. market today. I searched Amazon, Lenovo, Asus, HP and BestBuy sites extensively. Once you apply even some of the above conditions, you will notice that the number of choices available to you drastically drops down to single digit options.
And, none of the available options would be less than USD 1,200 in price !
In India, such laptops are not available – I spoke to Lenovo and Asus Indian operations and they confirmed that they don’t have such laptops in India – they have to order from the U.S. ! And, their cost ? On an average, the difference between the U.S. configured laptop and the pricing in India for a similar laptop was in excess of USD 400 ! Even though, the customs duty is only 5%. Further, one has to wait for a long time to get the laptop.
So, I decided to wait for some more time, or buy when I travel. It is ridiculous, but it is a fact that one cannot get the above configuration easily in India, and not that easily in the U.S. as well. May be I got to do more research, but the fact remains that most laptops in Amazon have just 4 GB RAM even for Windows 8 configurations, and most of these have HDs with 5400 RPM which are noisy and slow.
I will report back when I have purchased my laptop with the attendant experience of buying the same. Hope that would be soon !
24th November 2012
Courtesy: Anu, my IIM-B Classmate
Not a new one, but makes sense to all everytime we read something like this on computers !
For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on.
At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, ‘If Ford had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.’
In response to Bill’s comments, Ford issued a Press Release stating:
If Ford had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just love this part):
1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash………Twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive – but would run on only five percent of the roads.
6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single ‘This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation’ warning light.
I love the next one!!!
7. The airbag system would ask ‘Are you sure?’ before deploying.
8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
10. You’d have to press the ‘Start’ button to turn the engine off.
PS – I’d like to add that when all else fails, you could call ‘customer service’ in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language how to fix your car yourself!!!!
Courtesy: Anu, my IIM-B Classmate
18th November 2012