Perfect Portable Laptop

We’re lucky to live in a time when we have lots of choices. Of course that makes for lots of decisions, which can get complicated. I need different computers for different uses, and have spent the last few years working through some of those options. I already wrote about the tiny, inexpensive netbook I bought for occasional trips where weight is at a premium and I don’t need power. Now I want to talk about a very compact, very powerful computer that I’m going to use when traveling and I need to get real work done.

I’ve used laptops from a lot of manufacturers over the years, from companies like Dell, Toshiba and Sony. But my favorite make so far has been the Lenovo ThinkPad line. Starting with a T61, then moving to a replacement workstation W700, I’ve found them to be fast, durable, with great keyboards and trackpads, problem-free and generally a joy to use. Recently I started using the lightest of this line that’s got the kind of power I need for serious image processing. It’s the Lenovo T410s, a svelte model with a 14-inch screen and about an inch thick, weighing in at just under 4 lbs. It’s got a multiple-core, very fast Intel Core i5 processor, powerful NVIDIA graphics card, 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD (Solid State Drive, which helps it boot fast). The screen is larger than most small laptops, with a crisp, bright resolution of 1440 X 900, and calibrated nicely with my X-Rite ColorMunki package. As a traveling photographer, although I’d love a smaller laptop, to get real work done I need a reasonably sized screen and serious power.

I’ve used it now to cover two Kansas City Chiefs pre-season games, and since it’s so small and light, I’ve just kept it with me (in a backpack) so I could download and edit on the field at halftime. That saved me a good 5-6 minutes of fighting my way in and out of the bowels of the stadium to the photo room. With just a twelve-minute halftime, that’s crucial. I’m getting about three hours of life out of the battery, and could extend that by lowering power settings and taking advantage of the switchable graphics. I’ve taken it on the road too, and its size makes it a perfect airplane machine.

I plan on adding more storage to it (probably putting a second drive in where the DVD reader/writer is now), and will get a lot of use out of this machine while out of the office. It’s got a near-perfect perfect balance of size, weight and power for a traveling photographer. For office use I’ll probably stay with one of the W-series ThinkPads, with its even more powerful performance. I’ll write about that as I give it a try. For now, though, life is good. If you’re interested in this line, our friends at Lenovo are putting together a site with some discounts. It should be live soon, at