View Full Version : Notebook required

28th January 2004, 09:07
I need a new notebook, - purpose is VS2003 development.

Brief requirements:-

3gb P4
1024 mb Ram
60gd+ HD
Floppy (external is OK)
2 x serial (1 will do 2 better)
1 x parallel
XP Pro
Hi res screen (pref 1600 x 1200 but smaller if necessary)

Had a look at dell since my current notebook is a dell. Problem seems to be ports.

Any suggestions/offers ?



28th January 2004, 10:18
You need to narrow down a search a bit by making a few principal decisions:

1. Do you plan to work on battery long or is it just a desktop replacement?

2. Also, you need to think if you like shiny brandnames like Sony etc. Technical differences could be minimal but if you like showing off then good brand is a must.

3. You need to decide on screen size - I take it 14'' minimum useful for VS (too cluttered on my 15'; work, even 18'' home).

4. Weight - again you seem to want desktop replacement which means its going to be heavy (3 kg+).

5. Gaming - used to be big question but now most laptops have good video cards, given choice I'd go ATI rather than NVIDIA as their latest offerings suck.

28th January 2004, 10:34
Sony are cool.

They do a sexy beast with 16" hi res screen and 1Gb ram as standard. Quite pricey. Only for well off happening kind of contractors (like me). Costs just under £3K inc VAT.

Sony Vaio GRT796SP


Hard disk drive capacity (GB) 80

Optical drive specifications Write: DVD±RW 1x, CD-RW 8x, Read: DVD-ROM: 5x max.

Floppy disc drive Not Supplied

Floppy disk drive Optional (PCGA-UFD5)

Multi-purpose bay For DVD±RW drive, second battery, weight saver

Display size 16.1" (40.9 cm)

Laptop Screen Resolution TFT colour display 1600 x 1200 UXGA

Graphics chipset NVIDIA GEFORCE FX GO5600

Graphics memory 64

Multimedia MPEG2 digital video and 16-bit stereo sound

Main usage Business

Speaker Built-in stereo speakers

Interfaces VGA connector for monitor (via display adapter);Parallel port;RJ-11 direct port;DC-In;Docking Station port;MG Memory Stick Slot;TV out;Headphone Jack;i.LINK (IEEE1394), 400 Mbps;Microphone Jack;RJ-45 direct port - built-in Ethernet 10 BASE-T/100 BASE-TX;3 x USB 2.0 (High/Full/Low-speed)

Modem Built-in modem V.90, K56 flex, Fax / Modem

PC card slots 1x Type III 2 x Type II, I PCMCIA: Card Bus compatible

Lithium-ion battery PCGA-BP2NX

Approx. Weight (Kg) 3.700

Operating system Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional

Pre-installed software (Imaging) Photoshop Elements 2.0 (Image editing software);PictureGear(TM) Studio 1.0 (Digital image application)

Pre-installed software (Movie) QuickTime(TM) 5.0 (movie player application);Click to DVD(TM);WinDVD(TM) (DVD Player Software)

Pre-installed software (Video) DVgate (video/still capture);Adobe® Premiere® 6.0 LE (video editing software)

Weight range (Kg) 3Kg+

Pre-installed software (Music) SonicStage® (music storage programme);RealPlayer® (music player application)

Pre-installed software (Utilities) Acrobat® Reader 5.1 (PDF Reader);Sony Notebook Set-up (notebook configuration);HotKey Utility 3.0;VAIO WebPhone software;Network Smart Capture (video and still capture)

Pre-installed software (Others) Click to DVD(TM) 1.1;Norton Antivirus;Drag n Drop CD+DVD 3.0

Supplied accessories Lithium-ion battery;AC adaptor;Weight saver;Power Cord

Bluetooth(TM) Not Supplied

Bluetooth(TM) Optional accessory

Wireless LAN Integrated Wireless LAN 802.11b

Integrated CCD Camera Motion Eye No

Integrated CCD Camera Motion Eye n/a

Guarantee 1 year (extendable to 3 years with optional Warranty Pack)

Language version English

Microprocessor Mobile Intel® Pentium® 4

Microprocessor speed 2.5 GHz-M - Intel SpeedStep technology

Standard memory (MB) 0000001024

Memory specifications DDR-SDRAM (266Mhz)

Cache memory (L2 - KB)

28th January 2004, 15:24

The Sony I looked at (not sure if it was exactly the same model) had a parallel port but no serial port. Both of these are must haves for what I need to do, so it was unfortunately no good.

As to your list most of it is a bit redundant but:-

1) Don't care about battery life. Never use it on battery.

2) Not too bothered about branding

3) Except when in a hotel (which is quite often) it is connected to an external screen and 19" monitor. This is at 1600 x 1200 'cos thats the minimum I can be effective with IDE's. My dell is only 1024 x 768 so that is a pain when I am using it's screen. Don't really care about the physical screen size but for me 15" on the notebook with 1600 x 1200 is OK.

4) I don't really worry too much about weight. It's lugged from home to airport to hotel etc. But trying to keep total under 5kg with case and crap like that is useful since some of the airlines I use can go on a hand bagges crusade.

5) Don't care about playing DVD/Music/Games. Only reason I need a DVD is because that is the media a lot of the resource I use are supplied on.

I think I am going to be driven by what I Can actually get that has both a paraller and serial port.


Mark Snowdon
28th January 2004, 19:26

I think you will find it difficult to get that sort of spec.

What do you need the serial and parallel ports for ? Those 'legacy' items are getting rare. Are you doing device driver stuff ?

Would a mini docking station be acceptable ? or a pcmcia card with two serial ports ?


28th January 2004, 22:41

Yep, I know it's difficult.....

The reasons for the ports are:-

1) The parallel port. Some of the development I do is Micro Focus Cobol, an old version 3.4. This requires a dongle on the parallel port. The rainbow driver is not available beyond NT but there is a hack available that gets it running on XP.

The actual code produced is 16 bit OS/2 which runs in NT-OS/2. Obviously XP won't run this code but having recently done some experimentation I think I can achieve my goals with a host NT partition and MS Virtual PC.

Since I travel with it the parallel port must be on the notebook.

2) The serial port. Quite a lot of the development I do involves certain specialised peripherals, ultimately the requirement is to be able to access "COMn".

In an ideal world I would have about 5 com ports (the card I use in my desktop provides an additional 8) . So if a mini docking station (or PCMCIA card) provides ports that are acessible as COMn it should work fine.



28th January 2004, 23:36
COMs should still be there, though I'd be careful to check

29th January 2004, 10:24
That is one of the issues. Trying to get an accurate answer. Whoever I try (high street and dell so far) I have the following conversation:-

Me: "And so that serial port on the card is exactly the same as a serial port on the mainboard"
Salesman: "Yes"

M: "So to labour the point all my software which uses it will continue to function without problems"
S: "Yes"

M: "So I will make it a condition of the sale"
D "Oh no we can't do that"

M: "So you'll lend me one for a couple of days first"
D: "No"

The problem is that they wan't me to shell out a considerable sum on the say so of some herbert who can say no more than "it will probably work, but if it doesn't tough". Still 'twas ever thus I suppose.


29th January 2004, 14:01
I was reading a thread on Tek-Tips the other day from someone who was trying to run an ap in a "dos" box on XP and communicate with a USB serial port because his laptop didn't have a serial port.

The ap was an antique (like most of mine) and he got as far as having it sort of recognize that a port was there but that was it.

Funny how essential some of these "legacy" items can be....

29th January 2004, 15:12
Yes, the app I do quite a lot of work on was spawned from one I produced in Aus in 95 - on a completely different HW platform (completely bespoke). That in turn had been spawned from one I wrote in the UK in '87 - on a different completely bespoke HW platform.

If the port to .net is working well then maybe I'll be able to string it out for another 15 years.


29th January 2004, 16:07
details information on all ports should be on sites of company-manufacturer.

all fails I can sell you my old laptop with rare COM ports for bargain £5k ;)

29th January 2004, 23:54
Don't think they are quite that rare, AtW.

30th January 2004, 14:51
USB / Serial adapter £20 (Maplin), multiport pcmcia card ~ £200 Grey matter.

Mark Snowdon
30th January 2004, 19:43
Vetran - I know several people who have tried these and had problems.

I think that the mini-docking station is the best bet.


how easy is it for you to create a mini app that tests the serial port for your needs ? Would you need to have your hardware physically present ? No chance of just putting some software on a cd and taking it round the shops ?

31st January 2004, 15:26
Dell 8600 with parallel and serial port. Pentium M 1.7, 1 x 512mb, I'll get another 512 for 95 quid. 15.4 1920 x 1200 screen.

A 2 port PCMCIA card can be got for 90 quid I might try a USB/Serial hub since if it doesn't work propertly it is no great loss.

Thanks for all your help.

31st January 2004, 23:13
I've had no problem with mine, talked to loads of things with it. Not tried programming against it using anything clever, so that may be the problem.

5th March 2004, 16:30
How does it sounds? Only one serial but it has 3 USB ports, you can connect a usb to give you a serial connector.

Intel Pentium Mobile 4 3.0GHz Processor
512 DDR RAM Memory
60Gb Ultra DMA-100 Hard Drive
15 SXGA TFT Screen (1400 x 1050 x 16m)
64Mb ATI Radeon Mobility 9000 Graphics
Built-In Video Camera
DVD/CDRW Combo Drive
Internal Floppy Disk Drive
Firewire, 3x USB 2.0 Ports
56k Modem, 10/100Mbps LAN
Microsoft Windows XP Pro
Ability Office 2002
Antivirus Software

Model: Iridium starbook 865
Price: £1,430.00 including vat
much cheaper than this website www.atv-computers.co.uk/s...cts_id=118 (http://www.atv-computers.co.uk/shop/product_info.php?products_id=118)

One year Warranty, let me know.


16th March 2004, 01:26
I know extra devices, are a pain to drag around, but we just implemented a 8 Serial device solution for a POS system.

We used 2 Comtrol RocketPort USB II devices without much hassle. They are nice and small too, about the size of a spare battery.

Contact Tony Elveridge @ Control Europe

Contact Information-
Comtrol Europe Limited
Unit 2
Avonbury Business Park
Howes Lane
OX26 2UA
Great Britain

Tel +44 (0) 1869 323220
Fax +44 (0) 1869 323211

Tell him I sent you, and he will charge you double! No seriously they are good devices, and each unit can present upto 4 Com ports via USB. The host machine sees them as separate Com ports.

Let me know what price he offers them at, I may be able to get a discount. We just bought hundreds!



19th March 2004, 12:27
Ive just bought this beauty for £900, and i can say its an absolute bargain:-

www.tchibo.co.uk/is-bin/I...KU=0001970 (http://www.tchibo.co.uk/is-bin/INTERSHOP.enfinity/eCS/Store/uk/-/GBP/TdUkDisplayProductInformation-Start;sid=HtcGNfpSMOwGYLoIxHgMUfnKo1P0lTs581Y=?Pro ductSKU=0001970)


The family entertainer
Forget the flicks. Forget the stereo system and DVD player. Forget your old PC. This laptop takes you into a new dimension of entertainment! Write and rewrite DVD´s or CD-ROM´s, turn your living room into a home cinema, surf the net with Wireless LAN - in any room and at any time! Are you ready for this new dimension?

Software (OEM versions):

Mobile AMD Athlon™ XP-M processor 2600+
60 GB hard drive
Multi Standard DVD /CD Burner (DVD-RW/-R/+RW/+R & DVD-ROM & CD-RW / -R)
15.4" TFT Widescreen Display (15:10)
ATI™ Mobility® Radeon® graphics with up to 128 MB shared memory
Internal 56K V.90 modem
10/100 MBit/s. Fast Ethernet network card
Software (OEM versions):

Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition, pre-installed
Microsoft® Works 7.0 & Entertainment Pack, containing:
Microsoft® Encarta
Microsoft® Picture IT Photo
Microsoft® Flight Simulator 2004
Cyberlink Home Cinema
Ahead Nero Burning ROM 6
Pinnacle InstantCopy
Power Director
Music Match
Power DVD
Internet access software:


Laptop bag
Li-ion battery
"Ice Age" DVD
Weight: approx. 2.9 kg