As SSDs become increasingly affordable, making the switch is increasingly tempting. However, there are very few drives with over 512GB of capacity, and those that exist are still far from affordable. One solution that works well for desktops and workstation replacement laptops is putting an SSD in one drive bay and a mechanical HDD in another. This is a bit trickier with smaller laptops though. A couple years ago, I experimented with moving the primary HDD to the optical bay, and installing an SSD to get the best of both worlds: fast performance and extra storage for bulky but less-used files.
“Ultrabook” didn’t even enter our vernacular until mid-2011, and at the time most laptops still came with a DVD drive. Now in 2013, many of the latest laptops don’t even come with DVD drives. What’s a modern laptop user to do if they want SSD performance and HDD storage?
Enter the mSATA SSD: announced in 2009, mSATA SSDs started making their way into ultrabooks as manufacturers sought smaller sized components. In recent years some manufacturers have begun putting mSATA support into mid-sized laptops that still have a normal 2.5″ hard drive bay, too. Lenovo in particular has been leading this trend, with most recent ThinkPad and IdeaPad laptops supporting an mSATA drive in addition to the primary hard drive.
Note: The laptop recommendations below are over a year out of date. The 2014 Best College Laptops list has this year’s up-to-date suggestions.
‘Tis the season: as family and friends head off to college, the requests for laptop recommendations start rolling in. It’s a semi-annual tradition for me to blog about my recommendations, so let’s get started! If you haven’t seen my 3 part series on “choosing a computer for college”, check those posts out for some good background info that’s mostly still relevant:
- Computers and College Part I: How do I choose?
- Computers and College Part II: Saving Money
- Computers and College Part III: Protecting Your Computer
Since I wrote those articles in 2011, the computing landscape has shifted dramatically towards tablets, slates, and a plethora of weird hybrid devices. I’ll be splitting up my recommendations into several categories: primary laptops, for students who plan to have a single laptop for all their needs; primary tablets, for students who plan to have a laptop-grade tablet as their primary device; and companion devices, for students who plan to have a desktop or desktop replacement, but want a small, light, and cheaper device for carrying around campus.
Most of us don’t give our keyboards (or mice, I suppose) a second thought. Most of my keyboards tended to be budget logitechs, which while decent lack a certain something.
I preferred the ThinkPad keyboards on my laptops, but when I need to, and tend to write at a single sitting, essays that are a few thousand words long, I needed something better.
If you want a shorter version of this whole blog post,I’d advice that you look at the layout(ergonomic vs standard, and number of keys), the switch type ( membrane/scissor vs mechanical (switch or buckling spring) and Key style (full sized concave, low profile or flat).
Personally, I’m not a fan of split keyboards, or ergonomic ones. They work for some people, by putting the hands in a more natural position while typing. The split keyboard tends to separate the standard QWERTY keyboard in two (though there’s no reason you cannot use Dvorak or Colemak or your local keyboard layout with them).
Microsoft natural keyboard Pro source
A variant of that theme is the ‘bowl’ keyboard, which splits the keys into two bowl shaped depressions, popularised by the matron and kinesis advantage keyboard. The bowl keyboard design allows for fingers to reach keys with less movement, by fitting around the natural reach of a hand at rest
And finally, the Datahand, which is a pretty extreme case of ergonomic keyboards, with nearly no hand movement. It is very sci-fi looking, and supposedly incredibly comfortable once you get used to it.
If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few months, you probably know all of the following:
- Windows 8 is the name of Microsoft’s new version of the operating system.
- Windows 8 sports Metro, an attempt to introduce touch interactions as a first class citizen in Windows without crippling mouse and keyboard interaction.
- Windows 8 is different. If you’re stuck in 2001 with Windows XP, or GNOME 2 and/or KDE 3, obviously you also aren’t going to like Windows 8. Also I have a few dancing bunnies for you to look at.
This is the most important thing to realize: Windows 8 is different. Different in huge, important ways: It marks the transition to a brave new world in ways similar to what Windows 95 did. To do so, it abandons UI conventions that have been around us since then. The Start button? Gone. The Start menu? Gone. Pressing Start to shut down the computer? No more. Menus (and ribbons)? A thing of the past. Titlebars? Oh, please.
Say you take your laptop to the coffee shop with you. You walk away to get your drink, and when you turn around it’s gone. This happens all the time, opportunistic thieves see an untethered laptop and just grab and run. Other times, they’ll break in to a car and steal the contents, including your computer. According to one study, one in ten laptops will ultimately be stolen. The thief now has not just your laptop, but your data – and increasingly often, they’re using it to get to your identity.
nhinkle included some tips on preventing laptop theft in his series on college computing. In this article I’ll present some tools that can help you get a stolen laptop back.
It’s that time of year: school starts soon for many college students in the US and elsewhere, and many are looking for the perfect laptop to take with them. From typing papers to entertainment, a computer is practically mandatory at most universities these days.
Choosing the right computer – especially one which will hopefully last you through four years – is a difficult process. Take it from personal experience though that it is achievable: I did it myself, and so can you. Here are some tips from a college student, computer nerd, and Super User on how to choose the right college laptop for you. This is the first part in a series of articles about computers and college. Even if you aren’t a Super User yourself, this information will hopefully be helpful in making a decision.
I’ve read it countless times: flashing your router to DD-WRT to get more control over it and unlock more power. Sounds great, but how often do regular users actually end up doing this? Probably not that often. I’ve always held it off, because the risk of bricking my router never seemed worth the trouble. Besides, my networking skills are mediocre at best, so I never felt the urge to unlock even more settings! However, when I tried to open up Calibre and use its internet sharing feature, it turned out that my generic router was virtually unable to be set up properly. So today, I’m biting the bullet and will actually try to flash my brand new Netgear WNDR3700 router to DD-WRT, because surely if I can do it, anyone can!
It’s been a while since I wrote about my optical bay HDD caddy experiment, but the results are finally in. I’ve been running my laptop for over a month now with a Kingston V100 SSDnow in the primary storage bay and the original hard drive in a NewmodeUS optical bay caddy, and have been quite pleased with the results. My computer boots up quickly, applications launch instantly, and there’s plenty of space to store big files for when I need them. There are a few downsides though, which I’ll go into more detail about shortly. Is it worth your while to make this upgrade? Read on to find out!