Desperately seeking: New Core Duo notebook with pointing stick

Summary:Well, that time has finally come. Although it seems to get by for casual use and I won't know for sure until I try a 802.

Well, that time has finally come. Although it seems to get by for casual use and I won't know for sure until I try a 802.11a compatible card (to see if 54 mbps can help matters at all), it appears as though a old Thinkpad 600 that I'm trying to ressurect is simply out of gas.  At least in terms of running Windows.  Yes, it runs Windows XP Service Pack 2 and all other updates.  But not quickly.  And now that I've grown accustomed to some snappier performance in the newer notebooks I've been using, I think it's time to retire this system (or load Linux on it.. which is probably what I'll do).  But, I need to replace it because we still need a workhorse notebook that my wife can use for her job.  But we both prefer the pointing stick on the keyboard (in Lenovo/IBM parlance, the "TrackPoint") versus touchpads that (a) give me slight RSI and (b) are the reason I'll never own an Apple notebook since Apple doesn't offer a pointing stick in any of its configurations. Compared to the old days where so many notebooks had pointing sticks, they seem to be a rare breed.

So, I'm turning to you, ZDNet's audience, for some insight here based on your experiences.  The basic requirements are as follows:

  • Fastest possible processor -- I'm a big virtual machine fanatic now that I've been using VMWare's workstation product for a while.  So, in a notebook, in the interests of battery life, about the only choice here is Intel's Core Duo.  Non-mobile processors drink to much battery power.  After being exposed to AMD's Turion in the Acer Ferrari system that I've been using almost every day for the last few months, I won't buy another Turion-based notebook. Perhaps other notebooks do better with the Turion.  But I've got a bad taste in my mouth given how slowly this runs a couple of virtual machines simultaneously and how noisy the fan gets as it attempts to keep the processor from overheating.
  • Pointing stick - already explained
  • Not a desktop replacement, but...  OK, I don't need a big honkin' notebook with a display that rivals the big screen TV that Vito across the street has.  So, please, nothing that qualifies as a desktop replacement based on its size.  But, weight is a concern for me personally.  Having had back surgery once already, my preference is not to go under the knife again because of a notebook computer.
  • Lots of memory with room to grow:  I don't know how much memory it takes to fully accomodate a fast processor running three or four virtual machines simultaenously.  But I do know that I'll need it.
  • Decent hard drive: 80 GB at the low end but probably more to accomodate some dedicated drive space to each of the virtual machines that I'll be running.
  • Multimedia bells and whistles: I do a lot of multimedia stuff.  Everything from viewing all sorts of content to editing it to burning it.  So, it should have a good sound sub-system, decent output options, and the ability to burn DVDs.
  • Built-in Bluetooth support: as much as I hate Bluetooth, I have to have it (in addition to built-in a/b/g WiFi support). 
The gating factor in most cases is the pointing stick.  It's something I'm not willing to do without.   So, that instantly puts any of Lenovo's Thinkpads (but not the 3000's)  that statisfy the other criteria in the running. I also noticed that Fujitsu's E8210 Lifebook appears to fit the bill.  It appears to be the only one of Fujitsu's offerings that has a pointing stick.  But, proving that there's just sumthin' about 'dem notebooks, the high-end 8210 with Intel's Core Duo T2400, 1GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive runs a whopping $2,044.  The Thinkpad T60 which is relatively close to what I want (but not exactly) is $2,099. What is it about notebooks? Are the best always going to cost around $2,000 no matter what happens with Moore's Law?  I don't get that. 

Topics: Laptops

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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