I've recently been to a conference in Amsterdam, XTech '06, and while there noticed a lot of notebook choices. Predictably mostly I saw Mac's but there were a few others of note.
Firstly I was made aware of the Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook series. Some of them are pretty nice notebooks, but there are a few issues. Firstly I have a very low opinion of the company, as history has provided me with many many failed Fujitsu Siemens hard disks - they seem to have a high failure rate, and so this puts me off the whole brand. The second problem is the specs.
The Lifebook Q 2010 is probably the closest to what I'm looking for, forgiving the Intel Core Solo CPU, but being an Intel based notebook it has an Intel integrated GFX, which sucks.
The Lifebook S 2110 is another reasonable choice that falls short. Sure its a nice AMD Turion based system with an ATI Radeon Xpress 220 series GFX chipset, much like the Avertec notebook, but it has a larger 13.3" screen, which isn't even widescreen, making it a fair bit bigger. The one key good point about both of these, though, is the good battery life.
Next notable notebook in my travels is the Sony VAIO SZ series, specifically the VAIO SZ1XP. The spec of this notebook is excellent - 1Gb RAM, 1.83Ghz Intel Core Duo CPU, GeForce Go 7400 128Mb GFX, 13.3" Widescreen laptop - with a 5.5 hour battery life and weighing in at a little over 1.5Kg. Not bad at all! Only one problem here, the price. I couldn't find it for less than about £1500.
Lastly, for now, I came across a new item about a new barebones notebook from Microstar (MSI). If you remember from my previous posts on the Avertec notebook, they use the Microstar MS-1013 for their 2100 series. Microstar have a new model to supersede that called the MS-1058. All in all its good - improving on the previous model with a better GFX implementation and supporting dual core Turions. This might be a good value DIY base.
I didn't used to watch much TV, but I used to watch a lot of films, mainly at the cinema. Then I met Emma, my girlfriend. She definitely likes her TV programmes and so I started spending more and more time watching them with her. About the same time the DVD revolution started too, so we took up buying or borrowing various movies and TV shows on DVD. Recently we've cancelled our cinema 'unlimited' cards, partly because the people who go there keep ruining the movies for us by being noisy, making phone calls (!) or vandalising the cinema, but partly also due to not finding convenient times to go - so a good new home theater setup may be in my near future.
I purchased a 32" widescreen TV (CRT - a traditional glass type) a few years ago when my current 25" square one was on its last legs. It was particularly hard to watch sports on that old TV as the picture was badly curved, so on our TV Beckham wasn't just bending his shots, he was defying the laws of physics. The newer 32" TV does the job, but not very well, and its very heavy (I move around a lot). It was cheap, as I expected I'd want to replace it with something more sophisticated when the time came, and that time draws closer.
I have had my eye on the whole HDTV market for a while, and am fortunate enough to work for a company who have a very large interest in HDTV, and a very large R+D department. I almost broke last summer and got one after spending a day at the R+D site looking at "HDTV and beyond", but fortunately I calmed myself down and refrained. Over the last few weeks I've been reading up on them again. To my surprise an Xbox scene site provided me with the best reading. These articles in particular:
The articles were particularly interesting to me as my requirements are a bit more varied than most people. I have a HTPC, a DVD player and a cable box I'd want to plug into an HDTV, plus I want all of these things to share (switch able between sources?) the same sound system. Obviously Xbox users have a similar requirement to be able to use the Xbox on their HDTV along with their content delivery system (Satellite, Cable, TiVo, etc). The only thing I disagree with is the authors preference of DLP (Rear Projection). I personally prefer LCD, but it is very much an individual choice.
The three issues I need to be comfortable with before I make the jump to HDTV are the interoperability of the devices (and of course the connectivity to the HDTV itself), the price of the equipment and the status of British HDTV content. On that last point, this article at Hexus proves that there's an increasing amount, but still not a whole lot.
I was impressed by a review of an unheard-of brand of HDTV over on Hot Hardware. It was called the Sceptre X37SV-Naga and it appeared to be one of those impressive gems that a lesser known company produces as a low cost unit, but actually has very impressive spec's. The reviewer certainly seemed impressed. It's close to what I'd want, but TV's are very regional and of course I'd want a UK specific version to receive our DTV broadcasts, and maybe have a SCART socket or two.
As I got into the DVD scene big time when it happened I have a LOT of DVD's, so I'd want a nice new DVD player capable of getting the most out of them. BlueRay and HD-DVD are of course just around the corner. BlueRay appears better on paper, but never mentions DVD compatibility - and there's no way I'd selling my DVD collection. HD-DVD, while also clearly improving on DVD, does have backwards compatibility and is now even on sale. It is of course too early to tell which will win, so I was looking for a good DVD player, that's not too expensive, in the mean time. By the looks of it, if found what I'm looking for in this NeoDigits/Helios HVD2085. It appears to be very impressive on paper, but I've yet to read a proper review of it. From what I can see it does everything I want, lacking only DivX/XviD support (but I have a HTPC for that) and also lacking UK availability.
So, along with the all the other expensive gadgets and such I keep eyeing up, all I need it a large sum of cash and I'll be sorted.
Myself, Graeme and James went to see Fear Factory at the London Astoria last night. Its the first time I've seen them outside of a festival. Not a bad gig at all. Wasn't overly impressed with the support act I saw (Breed 77), and unfortunately due to being a little late we missed the other 2 supporting acts. Fear Factory themselves got off to a bit of a rocky start - Burton C Bell's vocals were a little off - but after a few songs the vocal chords had clearly warmed up enough.
They played a good 4 or so tracks off of my favorite album, Demanufacture, which was excellent. I'm not overly fond of the first album as it lacks musical diversity in my opinion, and each subsequent album after Demanufacture was, in my opinion, another small step away from the potential they showed with that album. Still, I do like a lot of tracks off of the subsequent albums. The crowd seemed to be pretty impressed. All in all I'd rate the gig as an 8/10.
The first thing I decided to do was tidy up my music collection. I deleted a lot of stuff I'm certain I will never listen to again, and put a chunk of it to one side that I need to have a good think about before deciding if I'm keeping it or not. I took my ~45Gb collection down to a little under 25Gb. I figure there's a few gigabytes that'll creep back in, but either way a 30Gb player is a good possibility, or a 40Gb one if I can afford it or the player comes in that size.
So next is the question of which player. I've been a keen follower of the DAP scene for years and over the last year or so it has exploded. However, not many of them have been exceptional. I don't just want an OK player, I want a good player. Plus there's a few features that I'm looking for. Namely I want it to be as small and light as possible, have good battery life, good sound (including a good equalizer) and have USB host functionality (to allow me to offload my camera's contents to the DAP). A colour screen is a plus, as is movie playback, but neither of them are requirements.
Undeniably the Apple iPod is the most famous player of the DAP revolution. However, it doesn't excel in any particular area - it wasn't anywhere near the first, its more expensive than most, the sound quality isn't fantastic, its veuy limited in terms of software and data formats, it has so-so battery life and I don't care for the Apple brand at all. Negativity aside, the advantages it has over other players are the sheer amount of accessories and good availability, plus its pretty much the smallest of its class. The iPod sets the baseline overall - and there's no getting away from the fact the often touted "iPod killer" crown has never been given to a DAP.
So, my next step is to gather up the intel on the devices that look like contenders for my cash. An inital sweep of sites like DAPReview.net shows up Creative's Zen:Vision, Toshiba's Gigabeat F and S series, Samsung's YH-J70 and iAuxio's X series. I can see already that each of these already has some pro's and con's over an iPod, so I'd be interested to see the spec's side by side. Stay tuned...
Another thing I have been toying with getting for quite a while is a decent large storage DAP (Digital Audio Player). This is something I feel I can justify a lot more than a notebook, as it costs a good deal less and is something I will get a hell of a lot of use out of. As usual, my problem is I can't find the ideal DAP for me. Here's a quick history so far...
I've been very into DAP's since the start. My first DAP was actually called the DAP Pro, made by a company called Eisen in Korea. Back in the early days of MP3 player it was heralded as one of the best, as it was cheap, upgradeable, had good battery life and excellent sound. Plus it was fairly small as they go.
When Windows XP SP2 came out, the USB code changed and Eisen weren't too quick at fixing the drivers so they worked again. Plus it was starting to show its age and 64Mb really wasn't enough, so I got myself a Creative MuVo NX 128Mb. I still have it and use it for the gym where its perfect.
The only reason that the MuVo NX isn't my main player now is that I opted for an MP3 phone, the Sony Ericsson W800i. The advantage here is that the music is interrupted if I receive a call or SMS message, plus I only have to carry one device and its got 512Mb of memory to boot.
The downside of this phone is that the software isn't very good, the audio quality is average, the equaliser is poor and it just doesn't hold enough music. So thus starts my quest for a large storage MP3 player.