So, after a really frustrating several weeks, I’m finally starting to settle back into things a little bit. A big piece of that was the early arrival of my new laptop – the Alienware M11x.
Let me diverge the conversation for a moment into nomenclature. The M11x (officially dubbed “Shockwave”)1 is only slightly bigger than my old netbook. Even the netbook was pretty high-end. There isn’t a clear line between “netbook” and “small laptop,” but as Ravage was based more on battery life and portability over performance, it felt more like a netbook – an extension of my larger laptop. The M11x, though, is actually more powerful than my old laptop. So, I feel that Shockwave is a laptop, rather than a netbook.2
Anyhow, this thing is fucking amazing. I won’t go into a full review of it (you can find plenty of those on your own, if you’re interested), but there are a lot of pros and cons to my original set-up of living off of two laptops.
- Not having two laptops. I was already in the process of moving things off of Blaster and onto Ravage because I was finding it a chore to close down one laptop and open up another one to play a bigger game or open Adobe Acrobat because Ravage would take forever to do it. I found, however, that I was putting up with the slowdown more than swapping machines. Now, I don’t have to compromise between portability and power.
- It’s really cool. Don’t get me wrong – I like curved, elegant, lightweight tech as much as the next guy. It’s an aesthetic I’ve come to appreciate over the past few years, and especially as I’ve become more and more fond of Apple products. But there’s something that appeals to the kid in me to have a jet-black laptop with glowing purple lights that’s excitingly chunky and angular. It has a glowing alien head for a power button, and there’s a personalized nameplate on the bottom. Plus, I can do things like cycle the lights on the laptop (and even turn them off if I need it to go incognito). It’s the computer equivalent of a tricked-out street racer – lots of power and tons of gaudy ground effects – and it’s appeals to the teenage boy in me.
- It’s solid. Since Ravage ended up with a cracked screen even though I never so much as looked at it heavily, I’m glad to have a computer that feels more solid. The plastic is a bit thicker, and the bottom plate is metal. I still plan to keep it in a softer carrying case than the flimsy bag it shipped with, and I’m going to move it to the center of my bag instead of the back pocket to protect it a bit more, just in case, but I like that it doesn’t feel like I could snap it in half.
- It’s a gaming rig. As I’ve worked at CCP more, I’ve become more of a PC gaming enthusiast. Between Steam and GOG.com, I’ve picked up a dozen PC games, and I had been simply content to be able to run them. Now I can run some of the games I couldn’t even run before, and other games I can experience in their full glory (including EVE). Plus, I can dump a staggering amount of RPG files onto it, and they’ll pop up a lot faster, which is great in the middle of a session.
- Screen and keyboard size. The big advantage of Blaster was that it was big – a full-sized screen and keyboard. While it was awkward at times to actually sit on my lap, and made it a bear to take with me while travelling, it meant that I had things like a keypad and a chance to look at two PDF pages side-by-side. Also, while I like that it has separate keys for Page Up and Page Down (it makes reading ebooks a lot easier), the arrow keys are a bit narrow, and sometimes navigation jumps to the end when I miss the up arrow key for the End key. Those luxuries are gone with any 11-inch sized laptop, period. Of course, I can get a larger Bluetooth keyboard and hook up to a monitor to alleviate these problems (Shockwave even has an HDMI hookup if I wanted to make my HD TV into a monitor), but it does mean a change in how I do things.
- It’s heavy. It’s about four and a half pounds. For carrying it from the couch to the table or resting it on my lap, I don’t notice it, but carrying it around in my bag on Friday, I could feel the weight in my shoulder. I’ll have to try it out more to see how it works, but I can envision me leaving it home a little more often than I did Ravage. I don’t know if I’ll just pick it up and take it with me on a lark, which moves it from “likely to take it with me just about anywhere” to merely “easily portable.”
All in all, I think this is going to be a good machine for me. It’s really frustrating that it took such a complete hardware failure for me to have to get this, but in retrospect this looks to be a good choice for where I’m at now professionally and personally.
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- Yes, I name all my computers after Transformers. The netbook was named Ravage, and the bigger laptop I was using for work stuff was called Blaster. Our home network is called Devastator, but was originally Omega Supreme at our old apartment. I’m also pretty sure this is the first time I’ve mentioned this outside of my family. ↩
- Plus, it cost about four or five times what the netbook cost, so there’s that. ↩