I’m looking to replace a laptop at home, and I know a few other people in the market as well, so I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled.
Some of the specs are really pretty amazing. For under $750 you can get a laptop with a powerful dual-core processor, 6-8 GB of RAM, and a huge hard drive. But the hard drives are always 5400rpm.
And it occurs to me that disk is almost always the bottleneck. If you had 512MB of RAM today or something, that could be your bottleneck, but almost any new computer seems to come with plenty of RAM. (Although more RAM is always better, and I confess to thinking 4GB is inadequate for real work.) CPU is almost never my bottleneck, aside from really rare use cases like resizing thousands of photos or compiling a long series of applications for multiple architectures.
But whenever my computer is “being slow,” it’s waiting on disk, and I bet it’s the same for you. Takes forever to boot? Slow disk! Programs take a long time to launch? Slow disk! (Cucumber tests take forever to run? It’s all disk I/O!)
So what surprises me is that you have to work really hard to find a laptop that has SSDs. It’s fairly easy on new Macs, but I initially dismissed them from inclusion because you’ll easily spend $1500 on a base model. But then I realized that it’s the same with “PC” laptops: try to find a new SSD-equipped laptop for under $1500. This makes some sense on the surface — SSDs are still a premium, high-performance device, so you’ll pay a premium.
But here’s what irks me: you can get a perfectly capable laptop — I’d even dare say “fast” — for about $600 today. 6GB RAM and a good dual-core chip. But it’s got a 5400rpm, 500GB hard drive. You could buy it, crack it open, and drop a 128GB SSD in for under $250. But no one makes a computer like that: a sub-$1000, moderately compact (and by that I mean “less than 8 pounds,” not netbook-style) laptop that happens to include an SSD. This is insane to me, because I think it’s exactly what most people actually need.