I'm the kind of guy who's so dependent on his laptop that it makes sense to always have the best one for my needs. I'm willing to go to extraordinary lengths for a good laptop, because it's probably the one item I own that directly impacts my productivity.
I've had my trusty Sony Vaio Z12 for two years now, which is a personal record for laptop longevity. Until very recently, no other laptop existed that was so powerful and light that also had a full 1920x1080 high-gamut panel (for non-nerds, that's a really amazing screen). However, ever since Asus announced their UX31A and UX21A, I've been ready to switch. The UX31A is similar to what I have now, but slightly less powerful and way thinner. The UX21A is a lot more exciting to me because it's an 11.6" screen model, which means that it's 15% lighter than what I have now, half the thickness, and can be kept in my backpack when I go through airport security.
The only problem? Asus is taking their sweet time releasing the UX21A in the US. The UX31A has been out for a month, but no word on it's smaller sibling.
The solution: buy the Japanese version. You may not know that Japan tends to get laptops before the US gets them, and for some reason, they tend to have better specifications. For example, in the US the UX21A has a 1.7gHz processor, but in Japan it has a 1.9gHz processor. Eleven percent faster. It also comes with a matte screen, which I prefer to the glossy ones sold in the US.
But even if US and Japanese versions were equal and came out at the same time, I would still buy Japanese because they have better keyboards. Specifically, they have more keys, which can be remapped to perform functions normally only found on full sized keyboards. My Japanese sony has 87 keys on the keyboard, while the US version only has 82. The extra keys are in very convenient places, too. My spacebar is about half the size of a normal space bar, and it has an extra key on the left and two on the right. I have the ones adjacent to it set for home and end. The right shift and backspace keys are also shortened to make room for an extra key to their lefts. I use those for page up and page down.
If you're a programmer or a writer, being able to jump to the beginning and end of a line as well as moving through text a page at a time is a big efficiency boost. The home and end keys are particularly efficient because you don't have to move your hands from the home row to use them.
By the way, Japanese keyboards have all of the English letters and numbers on them, and then have Japanese characters off in the corner of the key. Even if you can't touch type, the keyboard is perfectly functional.
So how do you get a Japanese localized laptop? To buy the Sony, I flew to Japan. Sony wouldn't sell it to me because I wasn't Japanese, so I had a Japanese friend order it to his house. It took longer to receive than expected, so he had to ship it to me after I left. This was a huge hassle, and I wouldn't recommend it.
For the UX21A, I used a service called White Rabbit. For a 15% fee in addition to the cost of shipping, they will buy a Japanese product and then ship it to you. Fifteen percent sounds a bit steep until you realize that they can get products at much cheaper prices than you could get in person. That's because the best prices in Japan tend to be mail order places that only ship within Japan.
To find the best price, go to kakaku.com. Don't be intimidated by the dense Japanese everywhere. Type in what you're looking for and you'll be brought to a page with a bunch of prices and enough pictures to confirm that you're getting what you expect. When I asked for a quote on the UX21A they quoted me a price very close to the cheapest one on kakaku, so I believe that they actually do order the cheapest one available to them. The cheapest one in my case was 11% less than Amazon's price, which is probably the cheapest one I'd be able to get in person, so overall I'm paying a very small fee for the laptop.
Once you've found the kakaku page for your item, go to www.whiterabbitexpress.com and request a quote. When asked to paste the link to the product, paste the kakaku page so that they'll automatically order the cheapest one.
The one problem with this whole process is that only Fedex will ship laptops between Japan and the United states, due to their lithium ion batteries. Shipping was fast, but it cost me $175. There are no US prices on the UX21A to compare to, but ordering the top of the line UX31A in the same manner would cost around $1700 from Japan after all fees versus $1659 at Amazon. Basically the same, but you get a faster processor and better keyboard. If you buy Apple laptops, you can do things the easy way-- as you checkout, you have the option of Japanese localization, even when ordering within the US.
In the community section I wrote a review of why this laptop is so awesome.
Awesome article Ty!
One thing for people to consider when buying electronic hardware from Japan is that if it's a PC, it'll have a Japanese OS pre-loaded on to it. So they should at least know how to reinstall Windows, and search out equivalent english drivers (or for models that are exclusive to Japan, know how to find them on the Japanese support site)
Also, people buying cameras/TVs should check whether their maker loads more languages than just Japanese on their firmware.
Sony, Sanyo, Toshiba, Panasonic are notorious for only having Japanese on their domestic models (they are cheaper than equivalent intl models bought domestically as a result).
Canon, Nikon, Sharp usually release both their domestic & intl models with all available languages.
If it comes with Windows Ultimate (which pretty much none do...), I think you can switch to English. Otherwise, yep... reinstall Windows. I pirate it because I figure I've already paid for the license.
Thought about getting the NEX-5N Japanese version, but remembered you showing me that your NEX only had Japanese, so I didn't.
Have you considered this notebook. I don't own it, but its the lightest I could find for the specs:http://www.dynamism.com/top-notebooks/nec-lavie-z.shtmlProbably around 200 less if you buy it in japan.Note sure if it's 1600*900 or 1080p though, it says 1920*1080 in tech specs but 1600 in description
"If you're a programmer or a writer, being able to jump to the beginning and end of a line as well as moving through text a page at a time is a big efficiency boost. The home and end keys are particularly efficient because you don't have to move your hands from the home row to use them."
If you want a real productivity boost, learn how to use and configure Vim. You can set it up for both programming and "normal people" writing. You'll be able to do much more than just page down/page up.
Thank you for the awesome article. I ended up buying panasonic laptop which has specification that only exist in Japan. i use it outside of the country and could not be happier than what i have now.
This article seems a bit dated but strangely more relevant than ever before! Especially since so many computers are manufactured in China and come with implanted malware even in the motherboards along with sub-standard hardware! Very GOOD article my time was not wasted!!
My wife and I have been using Fujitsu computers for a number of years now. Yeah a bit basic but ROCK SOLID! Every one we have owned has an English/Japanese setting in the BIOS which will change the BIOS language. Very helpful when changing the OS. Only I have to worry about it because she is Japanese.
My current Beast is a Fujitsu desktop unit (love it!).It's used for Productivity only (This word is no longer allowed at Microsoft Corp.) and NOT Entertainment.
The unit came with Win.7 pre-installed (Japanese) and could NOT be removed!! I had to download a special eraser that had to be burnt to CD then it turned everything into 000000(zeros) before I could install Win.XP (English)! Worked like a charm!
I might also point out....pay special attention to drivers with Fujitsu.They have had many joint projects with NEC Electronics Corp. and the drivers are sometimes complex and difficult to source. My current audio firmware DOES NOT recognize Win XP this is another nightmare issue as we move forward in the hideous and impotent Microsoft evolution!!!!
The article is a bit dated but strangely more relevant than ever especially since so much of everything is being manufactured in China and loaded with sub-standard components and malware even implanted in firmware! Really GOOD article!
My wife and I have been using Fujitsu computers for several years now. Yeah a bit basic but ROCK SOLID! Every computer we have owned has an English/Japanese setting in the BIOS which you might want to change if you are going in with an English OS. My current beast is a Fujitsu desktop unit....used for productivity NOT entertainment! Yeah Win.XP If you change the OS pay special attention to the drivers because Fujitsu has had many joint projects with NEC Electronics Corp. and the drivers are at times complex and difficult to source. Also...my unit had originally a Win.7 Japanese OS. Could not remove it....had to download a special eraser...burn it to CD then turn everything to 000000 (zeros) before I could install XP. The audio drivers do not recognize XP! Another hardware issue as we move to the hideous Microsoft evolution!!!
can you please advise me what to buy for example why dont u prefer macbook air and i guess its not suitable for me too due to engineering programs which ultrabook i should prefer also there are some ultrabooks which can swtich to tablet or laptop what you think about them? As you see im really confused and i dont much understand please help me Im waiting your advices and I will prefer the japanese version of it as u did thank you so much again
I tried ordering a mouse computer laptop via white rabbit japan based on your advice, but a week after they gave me a quote just before i gathered enough money to remit the payment, they blocked my email adress when i asked them to update the quote to the new model coz the mouse computer website stopped listing the old model..
When did this happen Can you tell me your case or ticket number? I will investigate. We don't really have a way to block emails. maybe it was some mail server authentication issue?
Of all the bits of gear, the one thing that fundamentally defines how I'm able to travel is my laptop. I use it to keep in touch with people all over the world, make money, find things to do in each country, and buy my plane tickets. It's probably my most important possession, which means that any time a new one comes out that can improve the way I work (better specs) or travel (smaller or lighter weight), I consider buying it.
I went to Japan last month for many reasons, one of which was because there was a laptop there that was unavailable in the states. Its specs were so unbelievably good that no other laptop would substitute. I marveled at how Sony could make a laptop so much better than anyone else, even my beloved Lenovo, and I was determined to buy one.
It took two trips to the Sony Building in Ginza (fruitless) and finally convincing one of my awesome friends (Thanks Elliot!) to buy it for me and ship it to me after I left. Not an easy process. Luckily for you, they released this laptop in the US two days after I got back, for less than I paid. Oh well.
Last year I did a keyboard shootout on the fullsize iPad Keyboard. The winner was a ZAGG keyboard (rebadged by Logitech). That keyboard has been fantastic -- I can type on it just as quickly as I can on my laptop, allowing me to bring my iPad + keyboard to meetings and be super productive. (Click here for a related post on hyper productivity on the laptop).
As the iPad get smaller, I realized it was time for me to do a new review, this time with smaller keyboards made for the iPad Mini.
These keyboards are only 7" inches across, not 9" like the fullsize iPad keyboard, and I was curious to see what losing 23% of the keyboard space would do for my productivity. Since I haven't yet purchased an iPad Mini (waiting for Retina display!), I used the fullsize iPad to run the tests, which was fine since I was just focused on the speed and usability of the keyboards.
I tested four different keyboards: