The feedback I'm getting from many of you is that IBM is making the most durable, consistently reliable laptops on the market, with Sony Vaio following close behind. Buzz is particularly vocal about his fabulous experience with IBM laptops. A few people still tout Dell as a solid solution, but Randy's experience has me steering clear. Randy's story isn't the first time I've heard had things about Dell's customer service, although it looks like Dell ultimately tried to make things right. I'm stuck with this HP for the moment, because I needed it for my trip. With any luck, the Toshiba will be waiting for me when I get back - I really like the Toshiba; it's too bad the hard drive is so flaky. The HP is holding up well, despite a maximum resolution of 1024x768 and the lack of a FireWire port. I'm getting by just fine on a temporary basis. I've even done some video crunching while I'm on the road and it's been invaluable in assisting our search for housing in Seattle.
My earlier post about the Creative Zen Micro completely overlooked one of the best features of the device - it supports Outlook synchronization. One of the most touted features of the iPod product line is the ability to store vCard contact info, calendar data, and to do list information. To the best of my knowledge, the Zen Micro is the first non-iPod device to offer similar support (for Outlook users only). I'm learning that the software installer that comes with the Zen Micro isn't the greatest, but once you get past the install, the Zen Micro UI is one of the more elegant options available. I honestly don't care whether you buy one or not, but it's now tied with the Rio Carbon as my favorite 5GB portable device. The Carbon wins on overall elegance, but the Zen Micro is jam-packed with excellent features and delivers a slightly better music navigation experience. Both devices offer an impressive battery life, when compared to the iPod mini.
I'm no longer convinced that LCD, DLP, and plasma are the best options for great home theater viewing. Thin rear-projection CRT units are giving the entire big screen category a run for their money. Toshiba recently produced the 46-inch 46H84 rear projection HDTV ready television at a retail price of $1400 or less. I've seen it in use in a home theater setting here in Seattle and the picture quality is absolutely amazing. The entire box is a mere 22 inches deep. Rear-projection still weighs a back-breaking 143lbs, but the image quality can't be differentiated from LCD, DLP, and plasma units of similar size. Maybe someone with some test equipment could find flaw in the CRT product, but the brightness, contrast and image quality are in many cases better than comparably sized models in other formats. A comparable 46-inch LCD is $5700 or more. DLP at 46-inches is $2000. And plasma is at least $2700 for a model I couldn't even recommend. I'm skeptical of the way any TV screen looks in the retail store, because the lights always alter the view experience.