What's your computing sweet spot?

What's your computing sweet spot?

Summary: A discussion on our preferences for personal computing. What's your go-to device?


The System, by Rosscott

The System, by Rosscott

Today I'd like to do something a bit different. Instead of just presenting a topic and then expounding upon it, I would like to open up the topic to discussion. The topic today is the computing technology sweet spot.

The great part about this subject is that everyone has their own personal preferences. Some people prefer a laptop as their primary computing device. Some people prefer a desktop. Others, like me, prefer multiple devices based on need and usage.

By opening the subject for discussion, rather than presenting a static opinion on the subject, I hope to encourage other people to consider devices and technologies that are outside their comfort zone. I'll be providing my own devices and usage as an example.

Let's start with your primary computing device. Here in the Raymond household, my wife and I use our laptops as primary devices. Several years ago I primarily used my desktop system with Windows 7, and I realized that I was sequestering myself in the second bedroom/office instead of spending time with my wife--she was sitting on the couch with her MacBook Pro. I also had a separate server running FreeBSD.

Maintaining a desktop and a laptop as dual primary devices increases the amount of work you need to do in order to maintain them. You have to update the apps on both systems, and if you don't have your documents and data on cloud storage or centralized storage, you need to duplicate that as well.

When I migrated my primary device to my laptop, I converted my desktop workstation into a Ubuntu desktop/server system, migrated the data over to it from the FreeBSD box, and shut down the FreeBSD box. Running fewer machines 24/7 also cut down on our utilities bills.

I should also note that I use my Samsung Galaxy Tab a great deal. Depending on the situation, I will use it even more than my laptop. I do not see it as a permanent replacement for my laptop, simply due to some tasks that really require more robust processing power, a full keyboard, and a desktop OS.

Let's break this down even further. On the desktop side, I prefer to have a beefy system with a powerful CPU, good graphics, and tons of storage--preferably in a high performance RAID confirguation. After I switched over to a laptop as my primary device, I actually downgraded some of the components to reduce my electricity usage further, as detailed in the article I wrote on the subject last year.

If it wasn't for the need to occasionally run other operating systems in a virtualized environment, I might even reduce the footprint server and use a mini server and external storage, such as a Drobo device.

My laptop needs have been pretty static over the years. I prefer small, light laptops with decent power and storage; they should be powerful enough to run games like Word of Warcraft. I've always been enamored by really compact laptops, preferably IBM/Lenovo ThinkPads.

In the past, I have owned the IBM ThinkPad 701c, the ThinkPad 240X, and the Thinkpad X200. Since then, I have been somewhat disappointed with the decline in quality of the Lenovo line, and recently purchased a MacBook Air 11 and installed Windows 7 on it.

I admit that it's an affectation. I know that I can get a more powerful system for less money, although the systems would tend to be larger and heavier. For me, the laptop sweet spot is a laptop with enough power to do what I need, under 3 lbs, an 11" screen and a decent-sized keyboard. Very few laptops meet this criteria, which is why I stuck with the ThinkPad line for so long.

There are, of course, other manufacturers that make laptops meeting these specifications, but quality and design also play a large part--hence my ending up spending more money and buying a MacBook Air.

[What about the mobile platform?]»

Finally, the mobile platform. On the smartphone side, I need a device that can be a good phone, play music, run many apps, handle light internet browsing, and be used a tethered modem or wifi access point for a laptop or tablet.

My first smartphone was a Blackberry Pearl, followed by a BlackBerry Curve and a BlackBerry Bold. Eventually I realized that RIM was letting its BlackBerry line stagnate, and I switched to the Google Android platform, settling on a T-Mobile G2 smartphone.

Also, from my recent articles it has become quite obvious that I am a big fan of the Android platform on tablet devices. The Samsung Galaxy Tab meets my needs for a tablet in terms of size and functionality. Admittedly, it's not quite what it should be; Google has said that the Android 2.2 OS is not meant for tablets.

I will be attempting to install the Android 3.0 operating system on my tablet, and will likely report back on how well it works. Of course, when the new dual core tablets hit the market, I will consider upgrading to one of them. I will, of course, take a wait and see approach before spending hundreds of dollars on a new tablet.

The convenience of a tablet has made it possible for me to do the majority of my personal computing experience without needing to open up my laptop. It's not a complete replacement, but it is capable of handling most tasks I need to accomplish. On my last vacation, I took only my phone and tablet with me and left the laptop at home. That's fodder for a future article on the digital vacation.


  • What's your primary computing device, and why?
  • Do you have more than one primary device? Home server?
  • What is your preference for a desktop platform? Laptop platform? Mobile device?
  • Have your device preferences changed over the years, or remained static?
  • What device(s) do you see yourself using 5 years from now?
  • Real Life, By Greg Dean

    Real Life, By Greg Dean

    Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

    Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


    Log in or register to join the discussion
    • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

      As long as its got 1920x1200 pixels or more on display I'm satisfied.
      • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

        @wkulecz Err, don't you mean displays?
        • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

          @jeremychappell No he meant display. And I agree with him.
      • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

        @wkulecz <a href="http://cupu.web.id/pulauweb-web-hosting-murah-indonesia/">Pulauweb Web Hosting Murah Indonesia</a>
        <a href="http://cupu.web.id/blogger-nusantara-blogpreneur-indonesia/">Blogger Nusantara Blogpreneur Indonesia</a>
    • The right tool for the right job. But if I had to choose just one device

      Because my personal experience has shown that Apple hardware and software retain considerable functionality over time, my "go to" computer platform of choice has changed from year to year.

      Currently, my "go to" device is my top-of-the-line core i7 iMac 27" dual monitor 16 GB ram and SSD equipped system. (always wanted a system like that) Just viewing text, photos and videos on its super sharp 2560 x 1400 resolution monitor is a joy.)

      However, I use my iPad 3G model for most of my general computing needs around the home. The iPad app ecosystem is fantastic and, for example, I was able to use a two dollar app that allows me to control my iMac from my iPad screen. Indeed, this app displays my iMac screen with full multi-touch control and real time audio streaming support (Sort of neat to view my main desktop browsers (Safari and Chrome) on the iPad and to view Flash and Silverlight content. So much for not being able to view Hulu Flash videos on an iPad.

      Of course, with AirPlay and the new Apple TV, my iPad sort of acts like a nice home entertainment remote control .. so to speak .. among other things.

      Prior to the purchase of my iMac system, I used an Apple MacBook as the cornerstone to a desktop/mobile system. It was easy to attach a 24" Samsung monitor and have a dual display setup. (That same Samsung monitor now is used in connection with my iMac system) Therefore, when I need more mobile computing muscle than my iPad can deliver, I simply take the still perfectly functional 2 year old MacBook along for the ride.

      In summery than, I use a tool best suited for its purpose from a personal home computing hardware / software ecosystem built-up over time.<br><br>Finally, if I were to start building a home computing ecosystem from scratch today, I would start with the best smartphone available. My next purchase would be a WiFi 3G or 4G capable tablet. Later, I would wish a acquire a powerful desktop system and finally add a powerful mobile computer platform - either a laptop or netbook. Oh .. I wouldn't forget the home entertainment devices either by purchasing perhaps something like the Apple TV, the Roku box or a super game console like XBox or Playstation.
      • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

        @kenosha7777 tl;dr
        • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?


          Just read the last paragraph then.
    • Too funny Scott.

      Dietrich T. Schmitz, ~ Your Linux Advocate
      • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

        @Dietrich T. Schmitz, Your Linux Advocate What the hell is NT?
        • NT is an acronym for &quot;No Text&quot;


          Tim Cook
    • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

      Ahh, I love these topics :). I am an avid gamer, so barring any console talk, My OS of choice is obviously Windows 7, as it is hands down the only OS to use if you want every game in the market to work correctly. This being said, for general, unteathered use, I own a laptop with tablet functionality that has both Win7 and mint on it. This is used for times where I am not able to sit down in front of my desktop. At present, my desktop is my primary, sitting in my living room connected to an HD monitor and HDTV. If the res aint 1080p, it's not worth it. I bought the PC for $400, bought a $200+ monitor and a $200 vid card and can play most 2009 games and some 2010 games. I am at present building a custom rig, AMD Phenom2 x6, with an AMD Saphire HD560 (to start) and at least 4GB ram to start. The other reason I like desktops is the ability to upgrade them. Eventually I will be adding a second vid card and tripling the RAM. This machine, like the one I have now, will be used for home entertainment. It will be for music, videos, and gaming primarily as well as surfing the net. When I get the rig built, the computer I have now AMD Athalon 2 with 4GM ram, will be switched to ubuntu 10.10 and placed in my office. This will be my work computer and will ber linked to an external HDD where all of my data will be stored. I tend to use external storage as I like to change things up a lot.
      • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

        I will most likely run Windows 7 virtualized in the ubuntu box so I can program using visual studio 10, but I've wanted an ubuntu desktop for a while but didn't want to dual boot.
      • This adequately describes how I feel about 1080p


    • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

      iPod Touch for casual Internet usage and light gaming. When I want to get work done, my Dell E6500 running Ubuntu 10.10 64-bit. For content consumption (not on TV), my Toshiba Satellite running Windows 7 64-bit.
      Real World
    • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

      After ten years of building my own systems with Windows and Linux I got sick of all the tweaking and messing around so bought a Macbook 13" 18 months ago which I haven't had to do anything with apart from using it and carrying it almost everywhere I go.

      An iPhone 4 suits my more portable needs.
    • LOL

      the empty martini glasses in the depressed pic, too funny
    • Ditto

      Like alsobannedfromzdnet said...
      Better things to do than tweak hardware\software (and fight security issues). I'm 100% Mac for seven years now. My go to system is 15" MacBook Pro running Pro Tools 9 !
    • RE: What's your computing sweet spot?

      After many years of using a desktop, I finally bought a notebook (laptop) and I like the freedom of not being tethered to one room. I bought a MacBook Pro, and have been happy with it since day one. I was asked why I would spend the extra on a MacBook Pro (over a dell or other make), my reasoning is quite simple. The cost to replace the software is more than the price I paid for the notebook. By being a smart shopper, and using a student discount I was able to pick up a MacBook pro for less than $2,000. The cost to replace it with a Dell (lower specs) would have worked out to be in the $2,600 range (including software). So I bought the MacBook Pro and pocketed the $600+.
    • I use an HP 17&quot; laptop circa 2007

      It's been dropped twice, and had the battery replaced once. It weighs a ton, but does everything I ask it to. It still runs XP great, no reason to change. When it dies for good will cost me days worth of effort to locate, reinstall and rebuild everything, so I will be in mourning and seclusion for real.

      I also carry a current-generation iPod Touch with me when I'm traveling. I don't even try to work on the laptop on the plane, but the touch has enough ebooks, podcasts, videos and games to keep my mind occupied while my body is imitating a sardine.
      terry flores
    • My Trifecta

      I guess I'm hardcore all the way around...

      -My laptop is an Origin EON17. It's 11 pounds and has a five pound power brick, but scores more than double the 7zip benchmark as the fastest server in the rack at work. Also, it plays CoD:Black Ops with everything maxed out without batting an eyelash, and has three physical HDDs so storage isn't an issue =).

      -My home server is all but exclusively storage of some 2TBytes of data. It runs Windows XP and has an AMD single-core processor, but it's managed to put a dent into Folding@Home just the same.

      -My primary phone runs Windows Mobile 6.5...and yes, I LIKE IT. It does everything I need, it does SMS sync with Exchange 2010, plays back videos courtesy of TCPMP, the modded ROMs make it useful, and T-Mobile doesn't charge me for tethering. Work provides me with an Android handset which has a few nifty features (I love the GPS alarm with all the LIRR stops built in, along with wireless music sync via Winamp), but I'm still a bit more weary of Google right now.