Two years ago I finally jumped off the Thinkpad wagon to buy a Sony Z12. I have my loyalties and preferences, but at the end of the day I know that the one feature that actually directly impacts my productivity is screen resolution. The higher the resolution, the more stuff that can fit on the screen at once. The more I can fit on the screen, the less swapping between windows I have to do, and thus the less I have to interrupt my workflow. At the same time, I travel a lot, so I need a small computer. My criteria will always be the smallest usable computer with the highest resolution.
For a long time, the Sony was that computer. New computers came out over the past two years, but none of them stacked up well against the Sony. Even the Z12's successor, the Z21, wasn't much to write home about.
Then one day I read an announcement saying that Asus was releasing two new ultrabooks (you know, the Windows laptops that look like Macbook Airs), an 11.6" and a 13", and both would have full 1920x1080 screens. They'd be about half the thickness of my existing laptop, and the smaller of the two would be half a pound lighter. I was sold.
I bought the 11.6" version, the Asus UX21A Zenbook Prime.
The screen on the UX21A, particularly on the Japanese version, which ships with a matte screen, is excellent. You know that 42" LCD TV you have in your living room? This little sucker has the exact same resolution. HD video looks unbelievably crisp. The gamut range is far better than normal laptops, but not quite as good as the Sony Z12. Brightness is as good as I've ever seen on a laptop.
The processor and SSD are fast, but finding a fast computer is easy, so I'm not going to get into all that. Suffice to say that the 1.9gHz i7 is fast enough for anything you'll throw its way.
They keyboard, especially the Japanese one with the extra keys, is very good. No complaints, but not as sublime as the Thinkpad keyboard is/used to be. The trackpad is huge and responsive, with the best two finger scrolling I've ever seen on a PC. Still, I hate trackpads and am still shocked that people like them. I've used a trackpad exclusively for two years and would still much prefer the eraser-like pointing stick found on Thinkpads. Besides far better control and not having to move your hands to move the mouse, you completely eliminate the very real problem of your palms mashing on the touchpad as you type. If I have any complaint about the UX21A, it's that it has a trackpad like every other laptop. I don't expect any different, though.
Despite being a small eleven inch laptop, the speakers on the UX21A are the best I've heard on a laptop. They still aren't great, per se, but they're loud and clear. The high range is excellent and it degrades down the spectrum to having no bass to speak of.
Besides the high resolution and reasonable 5hour+ battery life, what makes this laptop particularly great for travelers is that it doesn't have to be removed from your bag when you travel. I think that subconsciously that may be the driving force behind me choosing this laptop over its larger brother.
Oh, and the other major traveler-friendly feature: its USB ports charge at 2.1 amps, even when it's off! This is HUGE. It means that the laptop doubles as a very ast cell phone / kindle / camera charger. No other laptop does this (although a few charge at .5 amps).
To make the inevitable comparison between this and the MacBook Air, the Asus has a much much better screen and speakers and can charge your gadgets. The Macbook Air can be configured with a bigger hard drive and more ram, and has better battery life. I think it's a pretty easy choice, but if you're not hardcore about screens or have bad vision, the MacBook could be a better option.
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.
For the longest time I hated, detested and utterly never understood why people bought mac or any other apple products. They were (and still are) expensive, mired in propietary gadgets, and very restrictive. People used to tell me all type of stupid stuff to justify them buying mac/apple products. They don't crash (wrong), they don't get viruses/infected (wrong), they are easier to use (wrong, you just double click on stuff just like windows).
But I did it, I finally gave in and bought one of the new macbook pro retina. With the student discount and some upgrades it came out to a decent price. Here is why I ended up getting it.
1. Two OSes for the price of one. You cant run mac comfortably on windows. I've tried hackintosh and vmware, They work, don't get me wrong, but they are mired with problems, slow, unresponsive and require a ton of work when new updates come out. But on a mac you can fully install windows and run with barely any issues. While the optimization might be different and not be true to specs because the hardware is so mac focused (you get a lot less battery life for example), you just end up being able to reliably run both Oses (and linux as well, but you can do that on any computer) with no hassle.
2. The price has gone down. Right after I found out you can run both Windows and mac, I immediately felt a bit relieved, but was still disappointed at the huge price I would have to pay compared to similar windows laptops/ultrabooks (atm the best ultrabook is Asus 301A w/ corei7 4558u by the way, truly a beast of a computer). I was planning on getting the Asus, but it was expensive. Heck any good laptop running a 58u or 28u were expensive. I wanted retina resolution and 28u or 58u processor (these processors run at higher wattage and have a significantly better integrated graphics processor called iris). I expected mac to release without 28u or 58u and be at least 200-300 dollars more expensive if one where to get the 8us. But they surprised me. Not only does every new macbook have an 8u processor and retina display and is all flash, but they lowered the price by 200-300 by doing so. slap on a 100 dollar student discount (insert: they didn't even ask me for confirmation, but I am a student though).
3. Apple makes very strong, durable laptops. I gotta say the best thing by far about the actual laptop is the build. The keyboard is great, very spring and good to type with with very useful shortcuts. The trackpad, is well, flawless. very responsive, large and tons of very handy gestures. The screen is great and not glossy, which is the only thing about the asus I hated. the all aluminmum build means its is tough. It also weighs a lot less now, and only around .5 pounds more than air, but u get a much better screen, processor, graphics etc. Overall the actual laptop is just very strong and feels premium. A lot of other manfacturers have tried to copy or at least impose design style into their laptops, but most of the time they feel cheap, or weak, or just fragile, not with apple. albeit, the asus is covered in gorilla glass, which might make it awesome.