I finally got a nice laptop

Well, I finally broke down and did it.  For Amazon's Prime Day this past week, I ordered myself a new laptop.  And this time, it's actually a nice one.

Acer Spin 5 and Lenovo IdeaPad U310 side by side

The old laptop

My previous laptop was a Lenovo IdeaPad U310 that I bought almost 8 years ago.  I know because I looked up the blog entry.  It's actually still in pretty good shape, which is why I haven't replaced it.  It already had decent horsepower (a Core i5, upgraded with 8GB of RAM) and I upgraded it with an SSD about three years ago, so it still performs reasonably well for my purposes.  In fact, my son will be inheriting it so that he has a non-school laptop he can use. 

On the other hand, it is 8 years old.  And while it still works well, it's starting to show its age - the screen hinge is starting to wear out and the WiFi adapter is unreliable.  On top of that, I've been spoiled by having relatively good laptops at work, so I kinda just wanted something nicer.

While the IdeaPad is a solid laptop, it's not particularly fancy.  It's an ultrabook, but a low-end one - I only paid $650 for it in 2013.  It's got decent build quality and a touch screen, but that's about it for amenities.  No keyboard lighting or stylus.  The screen is workable, but not great - the main problem being that it has a very narrow viewing angle.  It's not particularly light (about 3.7 pounds according to Lenovo's specs) and it tends to run a little hot when under any kind of load.

The new laptop

I looked at several of the laptops on Prime Day special, but after going back and forth several times, I eventually decided not to compromise and just spend a little extra money on something nice.  I eventually settled on an Acer Spin 5, which was on sale for $880.  Normally, I'd be too cheap to spend that much, but I figured that as long as I was getting a new laptop, I might as well make it a noticeable upgrade.

Acer Spin 5 with stylus out

And in terms of features, this is a significant upgrade.  Of course, being a new system, the Spin 5 has more horse-power, with 16GB of RAM, a Core i7 processor, and a 500GB NVMe drive.  However, it's the other features that are what make the big difference for me.  For starters, the Spin 5 is a convertible, i.e. it has a 360 degree hinge and can fold into a tablet mode.  (My wife's Dell Inspiron 7000 is also a convertible and I've always thought it looked like a cool capability.)  To complement that, it comes with a nice powered stylus that stows in the body of the laptop.  The keyboard is backlit (which I didn't used to think I cared about, but really does make a difference when you want to work in low light) and the touchpad has an integrated fingerprint reader that you can use to log in with Windows Hello (which is a dumb name, but whatever).

The screen is very nice.  It's a 13.5" IPS display with a 3:2 aspect ratio and very thin borders at the edge.  This actually feels much bigger than the old IdeaPad, even though it has a 13.3" display, but at a 16:9 aspect ratio.  I actually think that this alone may have been worth the price.  The increase in vertical screen space is immediately noticeable and makes the laptop much more pleasant to use, whereas the smaller display on the IdeaPad often felt a little cramped. 

I'm also enjoying the ultra-portable aspect of the Spin.  It's very thin and only weighs about 2.6 pounds.  That makes it very easy to carry around and keeps it from feeling unwieldy in tablet mode.

I've only had it a few days, but so far I don't have many complaints.  I do find the fact that home/end the function key for page-up/down kind of annoying.  Especially when print-screen and pause/break (which I use much less frequently) both have dedicated keys.  I guess I'll get used to it, but it's still dumb.  I also didn't like that, for the top row, F1-F12 are the function keys and the media features are the default.  Luckily, that's easily fixed with a BIOS setting.  One other minor weirdness is that the 3:2 screen means that the system is a slightly weird shape for a laptop.  I mean, it does fit into the bag I use for the IdeaPad, but just barely - it's got plenty of room on the sides, but it's almost too tall to close the bag.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the Spin 5 so far.  I'm still getting the software set up, so we'll see how it performs with some regular use, but I don't anticipate any problems.  And I'm already using the tablet mode for casual web browsing and finding it just as handy as I'd hoped.  I don't think I'm ever going to be able to go back to a cheap laptop again.

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