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The Perfect Laptop… For Writers

I was having a conversation with a co-worker recently about different kinds of laptop roundups we might do in the future similar to what we did here for web designers. One of the roundups I suggested was Laptops for Writers, which was met with some skepticism. What would make one laptop or another better for a writer? she asked. The first thing that came to mind was portability. I only bought my first netbook because I wanted something I could write with that didn’t weigh too much so I could carry it around all day.

Beyond that, what other attributes does the perfect writing laptop have? Good keyboard is a given. Anything else?

  • Long battery life. :)

  • Camilla

    Good screen for readability.

    • K T Bradford

      do you think glossy or matte is better?

  • gwenbasil

    Stays cool when sitting on your lap.

    Wide enough keyboard to type lots without wrist stress.

    Touchpad that you can turn off, so you don’t nudge it with the base of your thumb and move the cursor in the middle of a sentence.

    Durable …thingies that hold the screen to the body – when I’m typing on a laptop it’s usually sitting on my crossed legs and open nearly as far as it’ll go.

  • (1) I like having an external mouse and I always back up files on my Swiss Army Memory — so having at least two USB ports is good. I typically use an external numeric keypad with a small USB bus to plug the mouse in — the embedded numeric keypad and Fn+arrow combinations for PgUp and PgDn of most laptops aren’t as easy as using that external numeric keypad.

    (2) Glossy or matte screen? Interesting question. Two of my Sony laptops — one has a very matte screen (800×600) which is very good to work in a library or other public lit space, while the glossy screen (1280×768) shows graphics much better and works well at home with the lights dim.

    (3) Besides good keyboard feel — for those of who can touchtype at speed — look for unusually small Backspace keys or arrangements where the Backspace isn’t at the upper right corner of the keyboard. Some people can’t stand 90% standard key size keyboards, some can.

    (4) See if you can figure out where the CPU chip is on the underside of the laptop — for people who aren’t fat like me and can actually balance a laptop on one’s lap, the CPU may be hot and uncomfortable if it is resting on a leg. Fujitsu’s tablets seem to me to be the best at providing a fuzzy textile shield, so you aren’t putting heat conducting metal right under the CPU.

    (5) And remember — a can of compressed air will clear a lot of debris out from under the keys and improve feel back to the way you remember it from when the machine was new.

    Personal Preference: Sony has better screens, Fujitsu has more solid units — my three Fujitsu tablets all still work (one is a Win98SE era machine) and have had the best OOBE, Out Of Box Experience, of any of the dozen plus PCs I’ve owned.

    Dr. Phil

  • Ellen

    Probably mostly things I haven’t thought of yet. But I agree with the people who say long battery life and stays cool in your lap. Also, good wireless card!

  • Long battery life.

    Decent wireless card. My netbook’s is a little less strong than my previous laptop’s, which can be a problem if I’m trying to get wifi in a cafe/hostel with the router tucked in some corner or back room.

    Another issue is OS, if you have preferred writing software. (Or how easily, say, you can Hackintosh a Windows netbook to get Scrivener.)

    Storage space. Granted, if you have a desktop for most work and a netbook just for writing when out and about, this is less of an issue. I currently just have a netbook. The ones with like 8GB storage would have killed me; while travelling, I hate having to carry something extra like an external HDD, so I went for a netbook model with 160GB. Music and TV is mine.

    Ruggedness. My needs as a traveller are a bit more than a commuter or cafe-visitor, but if this netbook fell apart the first time I dropped my bag, it’d be useless.

  • BJ

    The software packages it will run … like Scrivener … #;-)

  • Eric

    I’m in the middle of my search at the moment. Netbooky portability and a solid keyboard are my overriding concerns, but I’d like to get a reasonable degree of power for the purchase. Have my eye on the Asus 1215N, but I want to play with one before committing, and it’s not coming out for another week and a half. *impatience*

  • The keyboard needs to not only be comfortable, but needs to feel so good that it makes you want to write more, if only so you can caress the keys. My netbook doesn’t fulfill that, alas, but my current Toshiba laptop is pretty good for it. My previous laptop was a Vaio, and its keyboard was a delight to type on. But it was also a fairly delicate keyboard, and random letters would cease to work on a semi-regular basis, which was no good.

  • Keyboard shouldn’t have keys in weird spots!

    I second the touchpad problem. It either needs to not be so sensitive it picks up on parts of your thumb or wrist, or be in a location where that’s not a problem.

    I prefer matte screens.

    Long battery life.

    At least one usb port, of course. Two would probably be better.

    I might request well-balanced. My netbook tends to tip to its hinge, because the battery is set back like that. Depends on how wide open I have the screen if it does this.

    Oh, you know what I’d really like, is an easy way to clean the fan. Mine started making noise after I’d been to my parents house, and I suspect it sucked up some cat hair in there. :P And noise is not conducive to concentrating on writing, especially in a public space.

    I like to know it’s pretty durable. Because you’re going to be carrying it everywhere, and to cons, and since they’re small (well, we /are/ talking netbooks right?! Who would write on anything else?! ;) ) they tend to get crammed in with books and things. In short, they’re treated a little more roughly than a typical laptop.

    I am SOOO glad netbooks came along! For years I was looking for a small computer to write on. It didn’t have to do much! I just needed a word processor and a way to get the writing off of it after I was done! The few options there were didn’t look and feel and act the way I wanted.

    Netbooks are what I envisioned having, when everyone else wanted a hovercar.