Sunday, November 6, 2016

Gadgetry Upgrade

For the past 4-5 years, I used a Lenovo Ideapad Z575 which had long given up its edge, a broken HTC mini one which is now replaced by a smartphone given to me by a cousin of mine which was lying around his workplace and a Fujifilm F600 EXR point and shoot camera with a dust on its sensor which leaves its black footprint on each of the photo I take with it.

My laptop screen was dead some months ago, which I replaced. Even the replaced battery was such a retard that I couldn't stay away from the power plug. In the summer, the core temperature of CPU reached up to 100 degrees, ultimately resulting in unexpected shutdowns in the middle of skype calls or a nervous La Vuelta mountain stage. For a month ago, without any prompt or windows BSOD, my laptop just gave up. The keyboard and mousepad works only in BIOS, when windows boots, I couldn't move a damn thing or type my password. Probably a north-bridge issue. Well to keep the story short, I let my considerations and bank account off the leash and decided to upgrade the gadgetry.

So, a month ago, I treated myself with a DELL XPS 15, a beautiful Dell U2415 Monitor, a Logitech MX Master bluetooth mouse and a Nikon D5300 with 18-105 Kit lens!

First I ordered the well received portable XPS 13 but my clumsy fingers weren't happy with the small size factor of the 13 inch laptop. So I returned it back and got its bigger brother. In my potential list were macbook pro for that cool trackpad/display and few other windows laptops but then I went with this one because:
  1. Specs and aesthetics: XPS 15 is a sheer wonder to look at. The thin bezel (border around the screen) just nailed the design factor for me. The laptop is housed in a sturdy metal body which feels stiff and the carbon fiber area near the keyboard provides a rubbery smooth feel for the fingers and palm. Just a pure aesthetic bliss! 4K touch panel version was stretching my budget too far. The one I got has a Full HD IPS panel, external Nvidia GTX 960M graphic card, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD(which I got replaced with my 256 Gigs SSD and the HDD now acts as an external storage) and it runs on a Skylake i5 quad core. It hosts enough ports for my needs and a SD card reader which is quite useful. 
  2. OS Comfort factor: I have always used Windows/Linux and I have my own scripts written for productivity. The specific keyboard shortcuts are deeply ingrained into my finger muscles that I don't want to unlearn and relearn it for mac or rewrite scripts for the platform.
  3. Ecosystem: I had two iPods back when I was in college, a 1st Gen iPod shuffle and later a 2nd Gen iPod touch. Though those were the loveliest of gadgets that I owned, I hated the whole iTunes business. The whole ecosystem of mac world puts me off. I have my own set of freeware on Windows like Q-Dir, AHK, Notepad++, MusicBee which will need a replacement if at all possible. That's too much of a hindrance for me.
  4. Exclusivity factor: To be really honest, I see uncountable macbook pros and airs in the hands of business travelers and girls/guys in cafes and everywhere here in Europe that it isn't really exclusive anymore like it was back home in Mumbai. Well, I admit I am a vain ass and the non-exclusivity factor did affect my choice.
  5. Value for money: Though there were other similar spec laptops from Lenovo and Acer lineup which were cheaper than this one, I gave up on my pursuit of "maximum bang for the buck" in exchange for the look and feel of the XPS.

After a month of use, I must say there are some things which might be annoying to nitpicky personalities:
  1. Smudges: Oily smudges on the palm-rest area pop up just after light usage. The right photo above speaks for this case.
  2. Speakers: Placement of speakers underneath the front edge of the frame is a questionable decision given that there is enough space on the surface left because of the smaller keyboard. External Speakers are advisable for those who want a better sound experience, though the speakers are not that bad. For audiophiles, I need not suggest!  
  3. Keyboard: Why did they waste so much real estate on the frontal area? Neither did they place speakers besides the keyboard, nor did they design a bigger keyboard which could have been ergonomically better given the 14/15 inch footprint of the ultrabook. I think they probably wanted to optimize manufacturing costs by using the same keyboard for XPS 13 and 15. Considering the price point, that seems outright unjustifiable to me. 
  4. Webcam: A well discussed issue with the XPS's; due to thin bezel, they had to place the webcam under the front IPS panel on the left side showing unflattering view of the your face. Well, it has a good side though, you humbly realize that you don't always look as cool as you might think you look ;) I do have an external USB webcam, so not an issue.

I even let go of my aversion of mice and got me a Logitech MX Master to try it out. Man, after using it for a month now, I am thinking of getting another at work too. That is one supercool piece of a mouse. Ergonomically, that is from weight and shape point of view, it suits my hand really well. It's expensive for a mouse but after thinking about how much time I spend every day working with computers(avg 12-13 hours a day including work!), I think the money is well spent even if it enhances the experience tiny bit; this mouse is a day and light difference to those standard mice which I used before. It has even helped me get rid of that RSI feel. At work, currently I use two mice; one for each hand, because they are small and light, I get wrist pain after a while.

Finally, the whole new setup has enough oomph for my multitasking needs: surf with thousands of open firefox tabs, watch HD videos seamlessly, do Lightroom/GIMP stuff, run light VMs and play games. Overall, an aesthetically pleasing place for me to go about spending considerable amount of my time.

Well, I won't write about the Nikon now, I'd rather post the photos I take with it ;)

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