Recently I bought a Dell Precision M6600, and it is enormous. This is the first time I’ve bought a machine like this for personal use.
The M6600 is what they call a “mobile workstation”, which is basically a premium high-spec business laptop. What differentiates “business” from “normal” machines? I would say the lines are pretty fuzzy, especially since all the OEMs tend to have different grades of business laptop, but generally it’s stuff like additional durability, serviceable parts, extended warranties, professional graphics, restrained aesthetics, etc.
In many ways “mobile workstation” and “gaming laptop” are a very similar breed: they’re niche market machines with ultimately “soft” features separating them from their more pedestrian counterparts. What sets “gaming” laptops apart other high-end consumer machines? Apart from specs at the very high-end, it’s often just branding and bling. Much the same could be said comparing “mobile workstations” to other high-end enterprise laptops.
When I switched to the Yoga in early 2014, NW was winding down, and I didn’t get the chance to post about it. Now that I’m finally switching away from it, I wanted to put down my thoughts.
Really, all I wanted in 2013 was a thinner and lighter convertible tablet: the ThinkPad tablet line had evolved from the lovely X200 Tablet to the horrendous X220 Tablet and X230 Tablet, and it looked like that was the end of it!
The last time I wrote about switching laptops, I was still trying to replace my ThinkPad X220 Tablet. Round one had been the X230 Tablet, which hadn’t provided any sort of benefit for the additional cost. Round two had been the Helix, which had been just too much of a gimmick. In early 2014, around the time Nonsense Wars stopped, I had finally been able to replace the X220 Tablet with the ThinkPad Yoga, which, despite the novel “fold-over” form-factor, was thinner, lighter, faster, and most importantly had a 1080p screen.
The problem I’ve had with convertible tablets is that the digitizer experience has only been getting worse, and in my opinion this has been a trend since the TC4200. These days, even if you get a “real” digitizer (as opposed to some touchscreen crap) it seems like it’s just an afterthought. With the Yoga the pen was tiny, it wasn’t that accurate, the surface had poor feedback, and there were the infamous “black holes“. Mine didn’t black hole too badly, and I was only using the tablet to color so it wasn’t that bad, but still…
Eventually I bought a Cintiq! And these days I really don’t do enough digital drawing to justify either my Cintiq or a convertible tablet, so I decided that my next laptop could be of the traditional form factor. I hadn’t really been looking though: I’m really big on passive cooling and light laptops, and I knew that there were still very few, if any machines on the market that checked both boxes without excessive compromise (I’m talking about you, new MacBook (Air), with your one crappy port).
First hardware review for a while! I would have wanted to write this post months ago, but Lenovo botched the launch of the Helix like no other. It was initially supposed to come out in February at a rumored price of about $1300, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on one at that price until now, almost five months later.
Once upon a time when software overhead grew faster than hardware development “upgrade” was synonymous with “performance”. The latter was the reason you did the former and that was that. When performance requirements for basic computing plateaued in the days of Windows XP, I thought that my already slow upgrade cycle would slow even more, as nobody cared about silly things like power consumption or screen quality or form factor. Well, obviously I was wrong. Now I just upgrade whenever the hell I feel like it.