Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Dell Named Tatiana

After much family encouragement and a fair bit of penny-pinching, I recently ordered up a new personal laptop system from Dell.

This was to be a replacement for the well-loved Gateway MT6451 notebook I’ve been using.  I had already had the DC plug repaired once and it was failing again.  I wasn’t ready to reinvest in another repair, so it had been sitting static on my desk to avoid having to re-jiggle to cord/plug to keep power flowing.  Not very practical for a laptop.

As noted in a recent GSD post, I did a lot of research and consideration for this system choice.  I wanted something “small” so it would be a bit more portable than the 17” + notebooks now commonly available. I wanted power, so that meant an  Intel i7 core system, and I still needed something that was at a decent price point.

In the end, fueled by some good discounts, I settled on a Del Studio 15 (1558) notebook.  It’s got the i7 core, a 500GB drive (SATA…no SSD for me yet…),and a wireless 802.11a/g/n card that now finally allows me to take full advantage of the D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router wireless router I picked up some time ago.image

I did spring for the full 1080p high-def display option (gorgeous!) though a Blu-Ray drive wasn’t an available option at the time.  However, standard DVD playback is really, really good.  It also has dedicated 1 GB video video card. And I got the Ruby Red lid.  A wise purchase as it really conceals fingerprints, and as my brother says, “…red makes it go faster.”

Alas, the Gateway just couldn’t successfully run many higher-end graphic applications under Win7; including Celestia, Photoshop C4 x64, Google Earth, and a few others.  It was getting to be an annoyance.  No more.  Google Earth renders beautifully fluid.

It takes about a minute to go from a power-off state to desktop.  I’ve yet to really challenge the i7 core.  I’ve done some x64 bit Photoshop work already as well as video editing and it barely causes a bump on the utilization graphs. (I run Process Explorer at boot as a scheduled task, sending to the system tray with the “-t” switch.)

I’ve not had time to finish setting up my virtual machines yet, so I’m very hopeful the i7 core will really add virtualization performance.

Sure, an i5 core would have probably been sufficient, but this is the very first time I’ve actually allowed myself to get a system I really wanted (from a feature standpoint)…and then a splurge of a bit more in power.

I’ve christened it “Tatiana” due to the red lid and power in honor of the Last Exile character Tatiana Wisla and the complex relationship between Tatiana and Claus in the Last Exile anime series.  She masterfully pilots a red “vanship” fighter and is Claus’ match.  Seemed fitting.  Hence when it was on order and I was anxiously awaiting delivery, Alvis would tease me with a wicked tone, “Dad’s been busy getting to know his new mail-order-bride. Tatiana.”


The biggest concern after reading reviews that really gave me pause to consider were findings that the cooling fan was obscenely loud in early Dell 1557 Studio 15 models with the i7 core: Review Dell Studio 1557 Notebook - Notebookcheck Reviews and this Dell Studio 15 (1558) Review - Laptop Magazine. And they got really hot on the bottom/top.  I am pleased to say that isn’t the case with my experience with the 1558 model.  While the power brick is thinner than I would expected (my work Latitude E6400 brick is almost twice as thick to only support a dual-core) it is the only thing that seems quite warm.  The 9-cell battery pack lifts the notebook up creating a large air zone underneath.  I find using a hard-board placemat to rest it on while on my lap is perfect.  The fan rarely spins up unless the core is really working, and the keypad/wristpad does get warm, it is not hot to me.

Software is loaded up. Things are tweaked.

Thanks to Tiny Apps blog for the Tiny HDD activity monitors post.  This notebook has no HDD activity LED indicators at all (what up with that Dell?) so I settled on the HDDMon utility. Sweet!

I’ve also tweaked it for some network usage requirements.  I miss the old XP style network activity indicator icon in the system tray so I added in a free Network Activity Indicator for Windows 7 - IT Samples.  More here Get the Classic Style Network Activity Indicator Back in Windows 7 - How-To Geek.  I’m going to return to network tweaking for Win 7 systems shortly.

All in all it seems to be a rock-solid, wicked-powerful notebook that I hope to get a lot of use out of.

Hopefully this will expand my computing abilities and enhance the GSD posting activity and adventures to come.

So, the Valca home welcomes it’s newest member, Tatiana!


--Claus V.


laptopclub said...

You really made a good choice and seems that you search enough for purchasing this laptop. Don't worry i7 core will add visualization performance. I already done this.

Bozo said...

A mail-order bride, indeed!