Road Worrier Gets Seduced By The Magic Of SSD

Like notebook users everywhere, I’ve been contemplating switching to a solid state drive (SSD) machine to get better performance and battery life for a while. After a week on the road with an SSD laptop, I don’t think I can put off that upgrade any longer.

In my roundup of the key technology I use which I wrote back in February, I mentioned that my Toshiba Portégé R600 was nearing the end of its functional life, and that I hadn’t been particularly taken with its successor, the R700. The R600 continues to be my main machine at the moment, though I’ve taken to using an Asus 10-inch Eee PC model running Windows 7 Basic whenever I hit the road or have to go out to a press conference. The R600 is more powerful and I have more apps installed on it, but it now runs way too hot and noisy to use in away-from-desk situations.

Anyway, the two-machine combo is working OK, but a more permanent solution is needed before the R600 decides to give up the ghost altogether. (I’ve worked it very hard during its life, so I don’t blame it at all.) As part of my exploration, last week I took the newly-launched Portégé R830, which is part of Toshiba’s latest revamp of its business range, on the road for our reader meetups.

As well as being my main work machine, we used it to display the trivia quiz presentations. (Melbourne readers got an insight into the risks of using a test machine on the road when it decided to pop up a Norton registration screen and a power configuration screen during the quiz.)

With a 13.3-inch display, the R830 is definitely at the upper end of my size tolerance. However, it passed the most important test for me in this respect: I can sit it on a Qantas fold-out tray and use it while maintaining enough room for a coffee cup on the side.

What really impressed me about the notebook initially was the performance, especially in terms of boot-up time and application launching. I’ve grown used to the idea that choosing to reboot my notebook will often mean a wait of several minutes, so having a device that can do that in 30 seconds played very pleasant games with my mind.

But the biggest long-term benefit of having the SSD built-in was the battery performance. I managed to pull an eight-hour day out of the fully-charged battery on several occasions, which is an impressive performance, especially given that it was connected via Wi-Fi most of that time. (In my experience when travelling, nothing drains a battery like using a Wi-Fi connection.) On my previous machine, I lugged around a spare battery to ensure I could use my machine all day; not having to do that goes some way to making up for the slightly extra space the R830 takes up.

The one issue that might keep from the R830 is the price: a fully-fitted, SSD version will cost me north of $4,000. With loads of appealing notebooks on the market for a quarter of that price, I might have to succumb to a hard-drive version (the R830 itself has an entry-level model around $1,895). But if I do, I’m going to find it difficult.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman drains batteries the way that David Boon drains stubbies. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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