I want a new laptop, but not any laptop.

I currently own a laptop. A Panasonic CF-51 MK3, the model with an intel GPU and a dualcore CPU. Launched in 2006, this thing is absolutely superior.

I’ll tell you why.

  • This thing is stable enough. It runs Linux for months straight without major crashes. Everything works. You simply don’t get that with most hardware.
  • It’s got a 15-inch 4:3 display, which is tall enough to be comfortable to actually use, unlike the 16:9 abominations of today.
  • Due to the form factor, the screen is further away from the keyboard than in today’s models, making the eyes and the back not hurt when looking at it. There is enough space for your hands to comfortably lay on in front of the keyboard.
  • The keyboard has this superior layout where the home, pageup/down and end keys are at the rightmost edge. The keyboard also feels great and the arrow keys are properly arranged.
  • It’s shell around the keyboard is made of plastic, making it not heat up your hands, and outside is cast magnesium – shattering floors and other inferior objects on which you drop it.
  • The touchpad’s surface doesn’t stick to your finger, it’s precise and by default requires much less finger movement than today’s large ones; its size makes it hard to accidentally touch and it’s dedicated buttons have the exact right pressure requirement.
  • The quality of the speakers in this thing is unheard of these days. You can actually listen to music using them without having to cringe to the sound quality at all. It sounds bright and clear. The frequency range is as wide as you can ever hope. The speakers are large enough to not fit anywhere in a smaller chassis.
  • This thing doesn’t run it’s fans at all when halfway idle. 0 RPM. You can’t fucking beat that. And that is what I require.
  • This thing is built to last. Yeah, it weighs 3kg but there’s a reason for it and I’m fine with that. It was also expensive because of that but I’m fine with that too.
  • It has enough performance to be quite usable even today. That’s 6 years from launch in real use.
  • I have two batteries of unknown age for it, still lasting multiple hours each. They are made by Panasonic from the ground up and you can’t beat that.
  • It has plenty of connectivity: old-school serial, ps/2, VGA, USB 2, FireWire, gigabit ethernet, Wi-Fi, Cardbus and an SD card reader. I won’t need anything more than this for years to come.

I require all this from a laptop. I’ve been looking for a replacement for this almost ever since I bought it (because I knew how hard it would be), and haven’t found one.

The only fucking problem with this thing is that it’s processing power doesn’t match today’s standards anymore, making compiling, game development, heavy javascript and stuff like that a pain in the ass.

I need at least four cores, 8GB of RAM, a half-decent GPU and a large screen.

Panasonic lost their chance by moving to smaller models and abandoning these full-featured laptops. Also, it’s incredibly hard to find out which of their models are quiet and which are not – A CF-51 with an ATI GPU makes constant loud fan noise. Can you find that information anywhere? Nope.

So – age doesn’t matter, manufacturer doesn’t matter, looks don’t matter, price doesn’t matter (too much). The above stuff matters. Where can I find a laptop?

2013-12-23: Continued here, and in the comments.

10 Responses to “I want a new laptop, but not any laptop.”

  1. FelixNemis Says:

    Hi c55, thought I’d chime in.
    I don’t know of anything that meets all those requirements but I might as well share what my experience with the laptop I have for what it’s worth.
    I have a Asus Republic of Gamers G75V (for almost a year now). It has an i7 processor and 16G of RAM.
    As far as power it performs well with pretty much anything. It has most connectors except older ones (no firewire though, does that count as old) and no expansion card slot.
    It has a very efficient vent system, and while it does seem to be on when idleing (with a modern processor this is almost a given) it hardly makes any noise and I usually don’t notice it at all (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was off more often than I know).
    It has a 17 inch 16:9 1920×1080 screen which for me is a great size and resolution, it is also comfortably positioned for viewing. The high resolution is especially nice when working with two windows side by side.
    The touch pad is not stellar, it’s too big (as you mentioned) and while it has a nice surface, its not as responsive as others I’ve used. This isn’t much of a deal for me though because I always use a wireless usb mouse. (I keep my laptop on a wooden board just wide enough for it and the mouse, kind of like a portable desk)
    It has a full keyboard with well positioned keys with the exception of the pageup/down keys which are arranged horizontally instead of vertically (they are above the numpad). The keyboard also has a controllable backlight.
    It actually has two HDD/SSD slots which is nice but I currently only need the one drive it came with.
    The case is completely plastic but it but it’s not at all flimsy. It is quite durable especially the hinge which is not at the very back and is one of the most solid I’ve seen.
    It is quite bulky as well and weighs in at 4.5 kg (not my measurement) it is also wedge shaped with the back end being considerably thicker than the front.
    It battery life is reportedly not the best (no surprise) but I only occasionally use it on battery, more important to me is that it can stay suspended on battery for significant amounts of time.
    The built in speakers are miles better than most laptops (though that’s not really saying much) It even has a built in “subwoofer” which means the bass actually has some volume to it. They don’t go particularly loud, but then I wouldn’t expect them to and the volume they provide is more than sufficient for personal use.

    So in summary, not exactly what you’re looking for but I definitely wouldn’t rule it out.
    There may be laptops that fit your need much better, but this is by far the best one I know of.

  2. Philip Says:

    Hi c55
    Well, I have a laptop just like that. I have to say it runs Slackware/Ubuntu/most distros just fine. Anyhow, It is a Samsung ATIV Ultrabook i5 core, 6 or 8 GB RAM, quad core, and a relatively large size screen. Anhow, here is a really close match.


    All I’d suggest is to go on google and search samsung laptops. They have some very nice ones. Good Luck. :)

  3. Pgrytdal Says:

    Have you taken a look at the System 76 Bonobo Extreme?


  4. celeron55 Says:

    FelixNemis: Ha – we bought one of those for my dad. It was the best we could find, but it has it’s problems:
    - The screen could be attached further back from the keyboard for better positioning
    - The speakers sound bad compared to what I have now.
    - I said weight doesn’t really matter, but 4.5kg is ridiculous by any standards. You just can’t carry it at all.
    - The fans do make noise when idle. Maybe they could be stopped when idle with some software though.
    - And the worst feature: It doesn’t run current versions of Linux really at all. Drivers are still in the making.

    It’s pretty good compared to the alternatives, but… bleh, there’s so much to improve.

  5. celeron55 Says:

    Thanks for the link – that sure is in the direction I’m going. However, I can point out problems:
    - There are no hardware buttons in the touchpad and it’s bad otherwise too.
    - It makes constant fan noise; louder than asus g75 or msi gt70. I consider asus g75 a little too loud when idle.
    - It’s battery durability is in the same range as other gaming laptops, which is not good.

    It is a rebranded Clevo P370EM; a super quality review can be found here: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Clevo-P370EM-Barebones-Notebook.81409.0.html

  6. sudobash Says:

    Interesting that you complain about the fans on a sys76 laptop. I can’t speak for that model, but the Gazelle Professional which I have *never* uses its fans. Unless I do some really heavy gaming, the fan is 100% silent. When it is used, it just turns on for ~5sec and then shuts off.

    You are right though about the battery life. I get 3 hours of non-intensive tasks

  7. celeron55 Says:

    Just a quick note: I’ve found out that these kinds of laptops I like are called “workstation laptops”. I’ll make a new post when I decide on them and actually buy one.

    Here’s notebookcheck’s top 10 for those interested: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Top-10-Workstation-Laptops.65537.0.html

  8. electronics, etc.» Blog Archive » What did I end up with? Dell Precision M6800. Says:

    […] Continued from the previous post. […]

  9. enthomsen Says:

    (Another off-topic comment)
    Do you have any experience running Linux on your CF-51? I have tried a few distro’s, but cannot get the sound working. Otherwise, my CF-51 is a joy, especially after upgrading to a Core 2 Duo T7200.

  10. celeron55 Says:

    @enthomsen: I have never had any issues with sound on it. I’ve used Arch and Debian. I guess you have to solve it on your own.

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