Techstuff: Laura’s New Laptop

I have to admit to being a little out of touch with current CPU technology. Once upon a time, it was easy to get a rough gauge of CPU performance based on the processor’s speed. My desktop has a 1.7 GHz Intel Pentium IV, while Laura’s desktop is running a 1.1 GHz Pentium III. I watched as available processor speeds passed the 2 GHz, then the 3 GHz mark.

Last year, Intel and AMD both introduced dual-core processors, gave their products names like “Core Duo T2050” and “Turion 64 X2 TL-50”, and tucked the processor speeds away in small print. I really didn’t pay attention, because I had no need to. Apart not being able to run a growing number of new games (probably a good thing), my computer was just fine; ditto for Laura’s.

That changed a couple of weeks ago when Laura announced that she would like to purchase a laptop. I’ve been wanting to get her one for a couple of years, but until Kyle came along she wasn’t feeling a need for mobile computing. With a curious, active one-year-old boy not content to sit quietly in his mother’s office while she checked her e-mail, designed a birthday party invitation, or scoured eBay for … stuff, Laura realized that it would be nice to have a laptop she could take into the living room while Kyle busied himself with toys and chasing cats.

So last Saturday we went laptop shopping at Micro Center in Mayfield Heights. A lifetime ago (or so it seems), I worked at this very store, and several of the good folks I worked with are still there. I tend to shop around a bit when I want stuff like software and recordable media, but when I want hardware I always head to Micro Center. The fact that they sent me an e-mail coupon for $150 off all notebooks in the store Friday night didn’t hurt, either.

I’d done a little poking around in the store throughout the month (purchasing a new wireless mouse, a Linksys wireless router, and a copy of Norton Internet Security 2007), so I was pretty familiar with the laptops in our price range. I had narrowed it down to three models, and the extra $150 off pretty much cemented the deal. Laura is now the owner of an Acer Aspire 5102WLMi, and I would be remiss if I didn’t provide system specs:

  • AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-50 CPU (1.6 GHz)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 120 GB, 4200 RPM hard drive.
  • 15.4″ WXGA TFT display
  • ATI Mobility Xpress 1100 graphics adapter
  • DVD+/-R drive.
  • Integrated 802.11b/g wireless network adapter
  • Windows XP Media Center (with a free upgrade to Windows Vista, if memory serves)

I know the Turion 64 X2 processor running at 1.6 GHz is faster than my 1.7 GHz Pentium IV, but I have no idea how much faster. Apart from initial system setup, installing OpenOffice.org, Firefox, Thunderbird, iTunes and Quicktime and watching the HD Ghost Rider trailer, I really haven’t played with it much. From what I can tell, it’s a very nice machine and will serve Laura’s needs quite well.

I can’t help but wonder how Star Wars: Empire at War would run on it, though.

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