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Week in Geek: The Geek’s New Laptop Edition

Every weekday, tens of thousands of How-To Geek readers check out our daily featured articles. What you might not realize is there’s a lot more going on at HTG – so we’re going to do a weekly roundup of all the great stuff you might have missed.

At long last: A new Laptop!

Many people don’t realize I also have a full-time job. Still fewer realize that I’m starting a new job at the end of the month. As part of this switchover, I’m getting a new laptop… the powerful, slick, and totally awesome Dell Studio 16. I chose this laptop because as a programmer, having a high resolution screen is really important. Plus, just take a look at it:

image

Awesome! I’m just hoping that it doesn’t have too many overheating problems, so I got it with a bit slower processor both to save money and make sure it doesn’t get too hot. When it comes right down to it, there’s no need for a super-fast processor – it’s the memory you want to have a lot of. Unfortunately 4gb is the only affordable amount of memory, since upgrading to 8gb costs a whopping $800!

Here’s the important specs:

  • Intel® Core™ 2 Duo P8700 (3MB cache/2.53GHz/1066Mhz FSB)
  • Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium Edition SP1, 64-bit
  • Edge-to-Edge FullHD Widescreen 16.0 inch RGBLED LCD (1920×1080) W/2.0 MP
  • 4GB Dual Channel DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz (2 Dimms)
  • 500GB 7200 RPM SATA Hard Drive
  • ATI Mobility RADEON® HD 3670 – 512MB

I’m really excited to get my hands on the laptop… sadly I have to wait another couple of weeks for it to get here, but until then you can check out the details for yourself.

Interesting Random Stuff We Found This Week

We spend countless hours finding stuff online and keeping up with what’s going on. These are just a few of the random things that caught our eye.

  • A Conversation
    This short story, found on the internet archive, is one of my favorites. It starts a little slow, but really gets you thinking.
  • The Crisis of Credit Visualized
    Great animated illustration of what went wrong and got us into the crisis …although they forgot to mention that all politicians are evil.
  • Red Square
    Silly but addicting flash game where you have to use the mouse to avoid the squares. I managed 17 seconds.
  • Greasemonkey Multi-Script Compiler Released (Programmers Only)
    If you’ve ever wanted to turn a bunch of Greasemonkey scripts into a Firefox extension, now you can do so.
  • Ubuntu 9.04 boots in 17.5 seconds!
    Google’s Matt Cutts goes through how to get the latest Ubuntu beta booting ridiculously fast… with a little help from HTG.

The How-To Geek on Lifehacker

Many of you may have noticed that I’m also one of the writers over at Lifehacker. Here’s just a couple of my articles from the week:

Software Reviews

Our software reviews section is continuing to grow. You can check out the latest entries by clicking on the Reviews button on the How-To Geek site menu, but we’ll include them in these weekly roundup articles to keep you updated as well.

Nero 9
The Good: Great music organizer and Web Player. Improved sound quality. Lots of Add-ons.

Read the Full Review…
   
Songbird
The Good: A very easy to use complete suite to cover essentially every digital media need. Fun to use to create personal photo albums and movies.

Read the Full Review…

You’ll note that Songbird is a freeware application, but we felt it deserved a full review.

Quick Linux Tips from the Wiki

The majority of How-To Geek readers don’t know that we have our own Wiki, with lots of great tips and tricks, including dozens of great Linux tips like these:

We’ve also added a box to the home page with the latest Quick Linux Tips.

How-To Geek Daily Articles

In case you missed them, here’s the latest articles from the week.

And that’s the end of the first edition of the Week in Geek. If there’s anything else you’d like us to include, let us know in the comments.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/17/09

Comments (22)

  1. GoodBytes

    Don’t worry. When I order my machine from Dell (Dell Latitude E6400 (I hate glossy as I get distracted extremely easily.. like it’s REALLY bad for me), I was told that it would be minimum 30 days. 5 days later, it’s in front of my door!

    I hope when you ordered you call them. For me I got a bunch of free upgrades, free shipping, and 350$ off. Anyway, the most important part is to cash out for the Next Buisness Day On Site service. If you did not, call as soon as you can to get it updated.. I think you get 20 days or something.
    If anything is wrong with your system, Dell will send you a professional technician from a contracted company to come and fix your laptop for free when you want, at the time you want. I tried it, even thus I knew how to do it – especially that Dell provided me with a service manual on how to disassemble completely and reassemble it – and it was superb!

    The best part, is if your machine fails to be fixed by the tech guy, Dell will build you a new one, and you get to keep yours until you receive the new one. And if the HDD is no issue, then you can swap it (I was even offered a tech guy to do that). Once you get your new machine, the shipping back of the old one is paid by Dell.

    I don’t know how Dell Home is, but Dell buisness is superb, and they all treat you smartly, with proper English as they are from the region you are (No I don’t live in India… I actually live in Canada, so I get to talk with Canadians)

    P.S: If the tech guy scratch your laptop, even minor, Dell will replace your part.

    Enjoy your new system.
    Also you can take better advantage of it, with 64-bit codecs. Personally i use Shark007, which also has a tool that switch all file association linked to WMP11 32-bit to the 64-bit. Both 32 and 64-bit versions of this codec pack can be installed together. So far, I did not touch any other codec pack that are properly packed as much as the one I mentioned. This is a GoodBytes approved.

  2. Marc

    Aaah, c’mon, why tell us this? Now I want one myself too…. ;-) it looks breathtaking! :-)

  3. LH

    Nice machine. But why the heck didn’t they make the hinges the same colour as the machine (very distracting) ? That spoils it for me. Out with the spray paint :)

  4. Ryan

    Good luck with the new machine. I have the 13” with Vista Ultimate 64 bit and an nVidia video card. It’s been a nightmare. It appears that most of the problems are related to the video card. I’ve noticed on forums that many other people are having similar issues. Maybe you won’t have issues with the ATI card.

    With that said it is a very stylish machine. It’s also very quick!

  5. Matt

    I am waiting for my XPS Studio 16 to be delivered myself. I agree the upgrade in memory is costly so i stuck with 4 gigs! I really think they did well with the appearance and setup on this model. I hope you enjoy yours!

  6. GoodBytes

    @Ryan, Uhuh. Hard to believe.
    If you have any issue with your drivers, specially that THIS moment in time with your drivers, that means that either you damaged your HDD by hitting it or putting it on teh table too hard (format and re-install will fix everything at 100%). Or you have a driver conflict because you don’t know how to update a driver. (You must first uninstall the drivers, retstart the computer, and install the latest version, then restart once more the computer). At your stage it might be too late. Look for a driver cleaner or you might still be stuck where the only fix is a format and re-install. It is IMPORTANT to read on how you do things properly, like Read-me files, Recommended procedures, etc…

    I have 4 computers with different Nvidia graphic card, all with Vista 64-bit, and it never caused issue, even me overclocking my Quadro on my laptop.

  7. Artursm

    Looks beautiful, and I bet it runs beautifully too. =)
    But you got me curious. Forgive my ignorance, but why are memory and resolution more important than the processor?

  8. GoodBytes

    @Aturs, it depends on your needs.
    But usually on laptops, what is lacking is memory speed/size and GPU power. So that is why when you look at reviews, this is usually the a focus point about the system.

  9. Sachin Doshi

    4GB of DDR3 RAM? At 1066 MHz? Are you sure it’s not DDR2? Usually if it was DDR3 they’d have put 3GB or 6GB of RAM, and it’d probably be at 1333 MHz or faster.

  10. Matt

    @Sachin

    This is laptop memory not desktop

  11. GoodBytes

    @Sachin Doshi,
    No. The only desktop (meaning non-server) CPU that takes triple-channel memory is the Intel Core i7 (so the minimum amount of RAM slot is 3 and increase by sets of 3 to allow you to do triple channel).
    For, the Intel Core 2 Duo/Quad, it is dual channel, therefore has minimum 2 RAM slot (to allow you to do the dual-channel setup, and like wise, it increases in sets of 2 slot to do several time dual-channel)

    Dual and triple channel is not decided by the RAM, this is a CPU feature.

    DDR3 with an Intel Core 2 duo, is a waist of money, it’s just there or marketing reasons. The CPU limits to take advantage of DDR3, at best you get 5% increase in performance, and that in certain situation. Most of the time there is no differences at all. However, DDR3 with the Core i7, which utilizes it, does show to be more powerful.

    Technically speaking, you can put DDR5 memory. But that would be ridiculous expensive, and again will have slim to no performance increase over DDR2 as the Inter Core 2 Duo/Quad limits it.

  12. Ganesh

    Hi Geek,
    I am interested in a file explorer for Vista which works like one on Mac – multi-pane explorer which shows whole folder tree in multiple panes…is there any option?

  13. Logik

    hey boyo,
    i guess u haven’t mentioned the exact price for that toy :), do u?

  14. Tom

    The BIG question is: Where the heck can I get that wallpaper???

  15. Barry Cronin

    This is a HELP question:
    Whenever I use my laptop, I plug in a mouse because I hate the touch screen. BUT as I move my hands around the keyboard, I must touch the screen with my palm or something and the curor jumps around…causing me to type the ends of sentences somewhere in the middle of the page.

    So, the question: Is there anyway to disable the touch screen on a laptop?
    Thanks

  16. Tom

    @Barry: At least on my Fujitsu-Siemens you can disable the touch screen via the BIOS – and I guess this setting exist on all laptops?!

  17. GoodBytes

    Touch screen, or touchPAD?
    Look at your mouse configuration. On my machine I have that option (Dell Latitude E6400).
    Mine says “Disable Touchpad/Pointing stick when external USB mouse is present.”

  18. Barry Cronin

    Tom and GoodBytes–Thanks for your response. My laptop did have a disable button in the mouse configuration. Who Knew? Again thanks for the help!

  19. whiplash55

    Cool Geek!
    I’ve been eying these hotties for a while. $800 for 8gbs of ram, sure sounds like Dell really is trying to copy Apple. Does this thing have an eSata port? I really need that on my next laptop its the only way to fly.

  20. GoodBytes

    @whiplan55
    The 13 and 16inch version of the Dell XPS Studio (the on the article) have a USB/eSATA combo port (2 ports in one, it can be either used for a USB design or eSATA.)
    Another laptop that has this, is the Dell Latitude E series (available in 12, 13, 14, and 15 inch).

    In comparison of both:
    Dell XPS Studio has the same performance as the Latitude E6400 (14inch) and E6500(15 inch) on the CPU, the other dimensions are slightly lower as they are low-power CPU’s
    The Latitude series GPU can be a Quadro NVS 160M (equivalent to a Geforce 9300M) or an Intel intergrated graphics X4500M (equivalent to a Geforce 7300, but can handle Aero better), for the 14 and 15inch version. The 13 and 12 inch has the Intel one only. The Quadro NVS 160M can have similar performance then a Geforce 9500/9600M if overclocked (result may vary, as not all GPU’s are the same, that is why manufacture uses lower than max speed of the chip). It can be done, because the Latitude series uses a metal base, and is also used as heatsink.

    Despite it’s lower GPU power, the Latitude does have a greater battery life, and with the 9-cell + 12-cell battery (yes, you can attach 2 batteries on it) you can have ~19hours of battery life, even on the 14inch version. The 13 and 12inch one has Latitude ON, which is an instant boot up system to Linux, it runs from it’s own CPU, memory, etc… to reduce power consumption, down to day(s) (that is what Dell said on it’s keynote). The Latitude E series lid and base is not made in plastic but in magnesium alloy. The system comes with a minimum of 3 year warranty with the premium Buisness level support (yes, Dell buisness support is significantly better over the Home service), and has in Canada (in some region it’s extra, but the price comes to the same level) 3 year next buisness day on site service, meaning if something goes wrong, your laptop never leave your hands, a technician form a contract company of your region will come to your place at the next buisness day, at the time you want to fix your machine (he/she will bring replacement parts that Dell sent to them to be replaced on your machine) or you can do it yourself with the provided system service manual. The laptop also has 1 screw to fully access it’s system, and the CPU is not soldered in. Moreover, the CPU, northbridge processor, GPU are put on reverse for easy access and reduce palm-rest and keyboard form beeing hot. (GPU is soldered in). Finally, the Latitude E series has no glossy components to reduce finger prints visibility and the screen is matte instead of glossy for outdoor viewing. Additional, teh Latitude E series have a backlite keyboard.

    So, 2 interesting laptop with it’s up and downs, that you should consider. Remember that when you order your system, pick with specs a little lower than you need (like no DVD burner, smaller HDD, basic wireless), make sure you write theses things down to not forget. And call to order your laptop, as you can negotiate a price and free upgrades (the ones you reduced) and even more. If it does not work, well at least you tried, just say you ended up wanting this updates. Finally, Next buisness Day on Site service is worth the extra cash, I strongly suggest to get it, as you won’t need to ship your system to them, and not have it for a week or two.

  21. unixus

    I have my XPS 16 for over a week now and I can assure you that the most amazing feature is it’s LCD. I never knew such color intensity was even possible. The backlit keyboard is pretty nifty as well.

    Although I was hoping not have any issues with heating… but alas.. it wasn’t to be. After playing a game on it for an hour or two, the Intel WiFi 5100 card seems to shut itself off. It seems to happen every time my CPU temperature gets to 75-80C (167-176F).
    I have the T9550 processor, but I’m not really convinced the CPU is the only heating culprit. I think the Intel 5100 wifi card is partly to blame as well (http://www.s10lenovo.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=1113&start=0).

    I hope you will have better luck… but maybe it would be a good idea to do a “HowTo make an XPS 16 run cooler” article :)

  22. Brian Miller

    Sharing my recent experience with buying a Studio 17:
    1. I had to get an updated driver for the touchpad from Toshiba’s web site, of all things. The keyboard would flip out after 5 minutes of typing with the Dell-provided driver. This required some registry tweaking, since the utility for configuring the touchpad stopped being useful. (It writes to a different area of the registry than the more recent driver reads from.)
    2. I had to get an updated video card driver from the manufacturer (in this case, ATI). Again, the driver on Dell’s image was old, and had bugs.
    3. The screen’s colors weren’t right – the reds were way too hot, and the blues were also intense. Manual correction didn’t help. I needed to buy and use a Spyder2Pro to rebalance the colors.

    After all that, it finally worked to my satisfaction. Turns out it was a great machine, it just needed a lot of work after coming out of the box to be usable. Hopefully, you don’t have so many issues with yours.

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