Is it time for me to embrace the two laptop minimum?

40 Comments

BeachofficeI have always prided myself on my ability to capitalize on one mobile device that will serve all of my varied mobile computing purposes.  I am in a great position to be able to put my hands on a large assortment of mobile devices and use that experience to pick the one mobile device that will fill all of my needs.  The recent discussion about the "two laptop minimum" first got me thinking about my own mobile computing needs and if it’s time for me to make a change along those lines.  That premise is that mobile devices are getting more capable and cheaper and that for some mobile workers it is actually more productive to have a larger laptop for serious work and a smaller, more mobile device for field work.

The recent evaluations I have conducted of the Celio Redfly, the HP Mini-Note and the Fujitsu P1620 (I bought that one) have really gotten my thinking process going in overdrive about my long-time philosophy of one tool for all the jobs.  While that has served me well there is no question that in some areas any one given device requires compromise(s) to get the job done.  One device might be sufficient to get a given task done but if the compromise is too great it can make the execution of that task more difficult than it could be.  This has been driven home to me the past few weeks.  I have used a single mobile device, most recently the Fujitsu P1620, for a long time.  The P1620 is an outstanding Tablet PC which I need in my consulting work for taking gobs of notes and its small size makes it an extremely mobile workhorse for that task.  The ability to swivel the screen around when confronted with the execution of writing assignments and I needed to type away meant that the Fuji was a good device to be the one device I use routinely.

Then I started evaluating the HP Mini-Note that is almost as mobile as the Fuji but has a much better (and larger) keyboard for those writing assignments.  The ability to write gobs of prose on the Mini demonstrated to me first-hand how much I in fact compromise when I use the Fuji for that heavy writing.  The Fuji is a much more powerful and full-featured device than the Mini but it doesn’t offer nearly as good an experience on writing assignments.  There is no doubt in my mind that I am more productive with the HP Mini on those types of tasks, just as I have no doubt that the Fuji better serves my consulting note-taking needs.  Sure the Fuji can do both types of tasks OK but I am not as good at some of them as I am with the HP.  The fact that the HP is relatively cheap compared to the "all-in-one" devices like the Fuji means that I can have both tools in my kit and use the best tool for a given job in front of me.  That is more productive and is easier on me too.

I have come very close to pushing the button to order an HP Mini-Note for this reason since the evaluation unit I have will go back to HP soon.  I haven’t ordered one yet because until I send that one back there is no driving urgency to do so plus I think I’d prefer to order a Mini with XP installed which should be available next month.  The likelihood is I will order a Mini, or something similar that comes along, so that I can use the right tool for the given job.  These lower cost mobile devices are definitely causing me to change the way I think about how I approach my work.  I’m probably not the only one in that regard.

40 Comments

Gavin Miller

You know James, it’s the curse of ebay. It becomes too easy to buy and try, and then sell on again. Sometimes though you just can’t give a device up!

With the devices I’ve got, the HTC Advantage is kind of redundant but I like it too much, plus it’s my portable Sat Nav and in that respect it excels with that big screen!

Sigh, I blame you guys…… Should have just stuck with my Atari ST and been happy. ;-)

Gavin Miller

John from Norway wrote:

“carry lots of pens and pencils. And a rubber”

While always good advice, he means an eraser! ;-p

There’s never going to be any getting away from ergonomics when it comes to devices. You can have the most powerful OQO style device in the world but you’re never going to be typing up that big report on that sucker!

I’ve gone through a lot of devices the past year, including an HTC Shift which I thought might be a real ‘all in one’ but by trial and error and also the great reviews from JKOTR and also GBM, I now have my Portege M700 for office use and travelling in the car to work, my just purchased P1610 refurb for travelling without the car, and my Ipod Touch/Nokia N95 combo for travelling really light. Depending on what I’m doing I may have my HTC Advantage as well/instead of. All synced using a 16Gb SDHC for my work documents.

James Kendrick

I don’t know that HP will move to Atom on the Mini as I’m not sure what they’d gain. I believe the Atom is no better than the Via for performance although it would bring better battery life. HP would also have to change from the Via graphics chipset to the integrated Intel too which might be too big a change.

Ian Clark

Do you think HP will move over to the Atom in time? Or does the C7 cope well enough?

Patrick Duncan

Different tools for different jobs is my opinion. My dual screen desktop at home has convinced me that screen real estate cannot be underrated but my requirements for mobile computing are harder to fill. I definitely think laptops and tablets need to be light weight (especially tablets). I think though that maybe a laptop and a slate together might make the perfect combo. Convertables in my opinion are a great option but just compromise too much when it comes to weight! So I wonder if I couldn’t go for a lenovo x series laptop (or Sony tz etc) and then have a pure slate as well. The kicker for me would be if computers linked together better. Can I have a really functional dual screen computer using both together and what happens if I dock either or both to external screens? How do you keep your data in sync between the two? If I’m crunching numbers would one ask the other for some processing time or do I just end up with one really stressed machine while the other sits idle. If computers linked together better, having mutliple computers would be an easier sell and sport benefits for both each machine being better at its specialization while also combining into something more powerful and useful. Sounds a bit like Voltron really :S

John in Norway

You Americans are so behind the times. For the past 20 years I’ve had the 2 notebook mentality. I have an A4 one for the big jobs where I know I’ll be taking lots of notes and then I have a small notebook that fits in my top pocket for quick jottings. The most important thing to remember though is to carry lots of pens and pencils. And a rubber.
These even work great in direct sunlight.

nomo

vm-01: I prefer using a 10″ tablet rather than carrying a 15″ laptop plus a smaller device. An ultra-portable tablet can change the way you think about and perform work. It is extremely powerful to have a tablet interface, sizeable viewing area (9″-10″), and fully-functional PC all combined in one portable, light-weight device.

Macstibs

I have a bunch of devices and I use most of them regularly. My newest prize is a MBA ssd. It’s awesome. I also have a ux180p that I use when I want something thats really small. There’s the N810 that lives in my bag for little jobs. And last but not least, I have a p1610d that lives next to the bed thats dying on me but sufficient for surfing the web.

The only thing I’m really missing is something like a MBP with a lot of mobile horsepower but frankly 1. I rarely need it on the road since I’m not doing mobile video editing or the like, and 2. with an EVDO connection, remote access, and a plethora of desktops to utilize, horsepower is rarely the bottleneck in my workflow.

Bottom line – different tools for different jobs… ie choice is good.

Bob

James–

How long is it taking you to boot the Mini-Note into Vista? I have the stripped-down Mini-Note with the slowest Via processor, 500-mb of Ram, the 4-gigabyte SSD and Linux. It takes 55 or 56 seconds to get to the login screen, then about another 30 seconds to get to the desktop. It takes about 33 seconds to shut down. I’d just be curious to know how that stacks up.

vm-01

As usual this topic depends on the eye of the beholder.

I could argue that by using that macbook pro so much James Kendrick has been in fact using 2 laptops for some time and the only reason he wasn’t actually carrying the 2 laptops is because he wasn’t traveling out of town continuously.

Now let’s do a little exercise.

Imagine now that you had no laptop (horrible I know!). Now imagine you could buy a 10″ screen tablet PC or for the same or maybe even less money buy a 15″ screen laptop along with a little laptop or tablet device.

HPstat

can any of you guys with the HP 2133 give the 6-cell battery specs?

also, how much power does the HP 2133 use during normal operation (battstat or NHC can tell you)?

Xavier

I don’t think everyone needs 2 laptops, but I’ve yet to find a perfect one. There are just too many compromises no matter what form factor/features you buy.

Mike Cane

JK just wants us to help him fall over that cliff so he can order a Mini guilt-free.

GUILT-FREE?!!?

NEVER, you Fiend! This is all a carefully calculated campaign to torment me until I finally BUY something!!

And who are you kidding about this “two device” business?

You know damn well I remember that HTC Advantage! (BTW, when will they lend you the new one?)

Bill

Just buy a fullsize bluetooth keyboard for your fuji and have the best of both worlds in one machine.

Eric Chen

I totally agree with your view on 2 laptop minimum. I have many mobile devices. I have 3 Laptops (MBP and 2 Dell Notebook) and 3 mobile phones (iPhone, Blackjack II and Blackberry Curve). I ordered a HP Mini after see your video review. I am happy with my purchase. I got XP to work on my Mini except the audio device driver. I can’t wait until HP to release the XP drive. Thanks.

lark

Great article and analysis. I decided a few months ago that I did need two devices. Unlike you, however, I have one job that had different requirements. I need to be able to take notes when I am with clients, but also need access to all client documents when away from the office. I need all client material, billing, phone call logs, etc. in one place.
I have an x60T and use it as my primary computer. Over the last 18 months I looked at OQO, U810, Evernote, Asus, Samsung, and every other UMPC I could evaluate. None of them quite did it for me.

What I bought was the HTC Advantage and added SoftMaker Office suite, Mob Sync, Log Me In (free). I then added a SIM card for data only. So far, after 2 months, this solution seems to meet my requirements. I can access all documents, enter my time through LMI. I can edit Word and Excel files (SoftMaker). I can sync changed files back to my x60 (Mobsync).

The only thing really missing is a decent note taking app. I have OneNote installed and am hoping they make inking available soon. Then it would be perfect.

I bought the HTC after reading your reviews and positive comments. However, I purchased the HTC at CompUSA for a 40% discount. I do not think I would have paid $900 for it.

PJ

I agree with JK. My 15 inch screen laptop serves its purpose most of the times except when I’m working at a starbucks because the tables are usually very small. If I’m working just using the laptop it’s perfectly fine but when I’m studying or reading, I find myself frantically searching for a big table that can fit both my book and my laptop. This is probably why I just ordered UMPC to use it when I’m studying and use the full-size laptop when I’m just doing work.

sitecharts

I am quite happy with my Lenovo x60 tablet. It is thin, light, small but still incredibly powerful and fast.

Despite it having the multi-touch, multi-view screen, I do wish the screen was better for outdoor use (in sunny SoCal it is unreadable in direct sunlight and barely readable in the shadows). And I am concerned how hot the device gets when it is warm outside.

I might consider a really cheap sub-notebook as an alternative outdoor device if it had a screen that can be seen well in sunlight or at least semi-sunlight and it doesn’t get too hot.
Would probably only use it for writing and surfing.

Ideal specs:
– 2 lbs or less weight
– 8-11 widescreen LCD (needs to be readable in sunlight)
– good battery … 3 hours?

I know … unrealistic. But I can still dream. ;-)

James Kendrick

I should add that carrying weight is far different in impact from the weight of a Tablet used in the hands. The smaller and lighter the tablet the easier to use for hours on end in the hands.

James Kendrick

I do use the 2710p a lot. I don’t like to compromise the mobility that the smaller Fuji adds to the equation and my plan would not be to carry both devices with me all the time. I have gotten pretty good at separating my two jobs and can usually just take one device that fits the task at hand.

jhall

I like your articles and read them daily. I was wondering if you carry two devices that both have a wieght of 2.5, won’t that be very close to a 5 pound full featured tablet with a larger screen and keyboard? Two small devices that serve a single purpose or one larger device that can do both equally well? The hp 2710p looks like a good machine to take notes on and has a larger screen with a resolution that is equal to the smaller machines. It wieghts less than the two machines combined. Maybe you already have the perfect machine.

AL

why don’t you just use the HP 2710p? it’s got a similar full sized keyboard and the ability to ink! No touch though!

nomo

jc: I agree that a 10″ tablet provides the optimal balance between mobility and performance.

nomo

In January I posted a comment stating, “I’m also eyeing the P1620 but have a few concerns regarding price-to-performance. $2474 seems expensive for a 1.2GHz/2GB/100GB-4200rpm configuration.” Your experience with the Mini-Note may be demonstrating that point.

If you buy the HP, wouldn’t it be better to wait a few months for a better CPU?

James Kendrick

Goig, I don’t need excuses to buy gadgets, I just get what I want. Sometimes though I like to actually buy what I need. :)

jc, it would depend on the device. I’ve discovered that I really need to see how a device handles the major task I intend to use it for. A larger Tablet might work. The truth of the matter is I don’t need tablet functionality for all the writing work I do so it depends.

jc

I have been using the 1620 as my exclusive work PC for a couple of months now and really love it. I travel a lot and sit in a lot of meetings taking notes and this is by far the best machine I’ve had for that purpose. That being said, my perfect machine would a tablet with a 10″ screen I think. That would give room for a keyboard more like the mini, a little more readability on the screen, and of course it would have a active digitizer. I’m pretty used to the passive now and dont miss the active that much but a touch/active would be optimal. JK if that was on the market would you still be thinking 2 machines?

Comments are closed.