2nd November 2016
I’ve loved small factor computers for some time now. I have a large desktop at home, an old 2nd generation i7 with 32 gigabytes of ram, and a more modern laptop with a 4th generation i7. We’re talking power here; a 4-core, 8 thread processor, all in a heavy 17″ chassis with about 50 minutes of battery life. The battery life doesn’t bother me, if I take it anywhere, it is to use it as a second desk, plugged into the wall.
A long time ago, I used to work for a company that made SaaS products for auditing. Since the software was designed to be used anywhere, they had subscription plans that included a netbook. They then hired me to create a lightweight Linux distribution to go on them. The best way to get to know a machine is to use it, so I did most of my work on the 10″ screen. Of course, in the office, I would connect it to an external monitor and keyboard, and I had a fast computer on the side for kernel compilations (ever tried to install Gentoo on a netbook? Don’t.) but I made myself use the Intel Atom based laptop. If I started complaining that something was too slow, then it was up to me to accelerate it.
A few years have passed since then, and the screen size has increased slightly. I prefer 11.6″ screens now. I have huge and heavy systems, but I still like ultrabooks that can fit between two shirts in a suitcase and go unnoticed. I had a Sony Vaio Pro, but it has Wi-Fi issues, and it also had something that I find really, really annoying. The fan would kick in for just about anything. A simple email would sometimes get the fan going, and while it wasn’t the noisiest, it did bother me. The laptop wasn’t only for the desk, it came with me on trains, planes, in libraries, schools and on holidays. Writing in bed at midnight while others are sleeping is fun, but when the fan kicks in, it becomes a nightmare.
Enter the Intel Core M. It’s fanless design has made quite a bit of noise recently (pun intended). If you have seen the new Macbook, then you will know what I’m talking about. Thin, and silent. I almost bought one, but I couldn’t live with that keyboard, it wasn’t possible. Time to change computers.
A long, long time ago, well before working with the netbook company, I worked for NEC. I was really excited about the new Tablet PCs that were coming out, and I wanted one. I never did manage to get one, though. I loved the idea of a computer that was something like a sheet of paper, with a stylus. So I had a closer look at the more recent 2-in-1 machines that are coming out.
So I have a Core-M, and people are sorry for me. I get comments like “Oh, quick, send it back before it is too late”, or “you’ll never get any performance from it”. In a way, they are right, I suppose, I won’t. But then again, I don’t need performance. I run most of my work inside a virtual machine, where I can have compilers, profilers and other CPU hungry applications. For the machine that I use to write with, I just need it to be comfortable. Then I tell people the real story, the fact that I actually went out of my way to get a Core M. Yes, I spent days looking for the right machine, and I think I’ve found it. I looked at the Microsoft Surface Pro, but I didn’t like the lack of memory or hard disk space; 4Gb and 128Gb respectively. The Samsung Tablet Pro had the same sort of issue, and a few other problems due to viewing angles. In the end, I went with a Lenovo Ideapad Miix 700. It comes with a Core-M5, and has 8 gigabytes of RAM, coupled with a 256Gb SSD. And no, it doesn’t have a fan. You can push it as far as it will go, and while the CPU may well start thermal throttling, it won’t make a sound. It gets warm on the outside, but not hot. I can hold it in my hands without a problem.
So I finally have the perfect machine for writing, let’s hope that I can actually get some writing done! This blog (and indeed the entire site) need some love.