What do you look for in a laptop?

Someone from HP recently asked me what I might look for in future laptops. I'm having a hard time getting my head around what I'd want in the future, because none of the laptop makers are meeting my needs in the present. When I'm looking for a new laptop, I'm generally looking to take as much of my desktop convenience with me as possible. I want to edit video and photos if I need to. I need to check my email and stay connected to all the aspects of my online business. I want to connect to the Internet from anywhere. And of course I want all this in a compact package that doesn't weigh me down when I have to lug it through an airport terminal.

When I'm spending most of my time on the road, I value portability over everything else. When I'm doing the weekly commute I signed on for last November, I want something that is powerful enough to handle all my video and photo editing needs, without feeling like a boat anchor. I always want something that requires the fewest additional peripherals to get my work done, which means having the right connectors and card reading slots built in.

I loved the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D tablet PC I used for several months in 2006 primarily for its compact size. As a travel tool for checking email, keeping up on online reading, and writing on the road, something the size of a trade paperback was absolutely perfect. For most of the rest of my computing needs, the Lifebook P1510D came up short. The screen resolution was lacking, the model I had lacked Bluetooth, the processor was a bit underpowered for any kind of video editing. The maximum memory supported was far too low for either photo or video editing. In spite of all those shortcomings, I was very happy traveling with the Lifebook.

When it came time for me to buy a new laptop earlier this year, I had several criteria in mind. I need a laptop with enough power for HD playback and editing. A screen no bigger than 15-inches was top of my list because I want to keep the weight down for all the travelling I do. Core 2 Duo processing power became a must. 4GB of RAM is my current minimum requirement. Ideally I wanted 512MB of dedicated video RAM, but that seemed to be a feature available only in laptops with 17-inch+ screen sizes. I also required a convenient solution for either ATT BroadbandConnect or EVDO, which is another travel must. Nice to have features included things like SD and Compact Flash card slots, FireWire in, a built-in webcam, DVD burning and Bluetooth for syncing my cell phone with my Outlook data.

What I ended up with was a compromise that consisted of getting the power user features I wanted, like BroadbandConnect, 4GB of RAM, 256MB of dedicated Video RAM and a 15-inch screen. Bluetooth and DVD burning are also included in my current laptop, but FireWire and card reading require external gear. I've toyed with a Microsoft Lifecam for video conferencing, but I use that so little that it's hard to say it's a feature I need.

Am I asking too much by wanting a laptop compact in size while sporting all the features of a desktop replacement? This isn't an issue of money - my current laptop spec'd out at around $3000 and it still doesn't do all the things I want. This isn't an Mac vs. Windows issue - I looked very seriously at getting a MacBook Pro until I realized Apple and ATT BroadbandConnect currently don't play well together. If you have a laptop, does it do everything you need it to? Or did you end up with a series of compromises? What features would you love to see in a future laptop the next time you're in the market for a new portable?