Friday, June 06, 2014

Lenovo Flex 14 "quick" review

So, a month ago I finished up my work contract and didn't bother to ask for an extension. Working for over half a year for mostly 6 days in a row, with several 7 days over 50+ 60+ hrs wears you out. Badly. Since then I've spent the time off exploring Toronto, New York and London.

Now, finally back in the Land Of Shopping Centers (Singapore), where I'm dying of the humidity. I'm mostly recovered, physically, from the work schedule, and have some time off now till my next gig to get myself updated with the latest happenings in Houdini 13, as well as to explore the Houdini Engine.

Houdini Engine at the moment, only runs on Windows, so I decided to break down and get a windows laptop to run stuff. I was suggested running virtualization - but it seems the open gl is software only - plus it might be good to explore windows 8. (cue laughter)

Anyways, one of the infamous "PC Shows" was up the weekend after I arrived. Went down there today to check out all the possible models, and decided on the Lenovo Flex 14.

Several models were tempting my tastebuds:
- AfterShock - A local singapore brand probably has the only "proper" laptop (my words) at the show. Matte IPS screen, Quad Core mobile processor, several drive bays, proper geforce card, not one of those entry level mobile gpus - perfect for the TD messing about at home that wants a super lightweight rig (the 13.3in model weighed in at 2kg!).
- Asus - One of their ultrabooks was highly tempting, with a very good price. IPS screen that was matte!
- Lenovo Flex 14, that I bought. 

I was going to keep my budget under 2k, and I was actually quite shocked at the prices of laptops these days. A i5 laptop that will be perfect for day to day use runs less than SGD700. I was like.... what?! There are mobiles and tablets costing more than that!

The Flex that I bought, has an i7 processor, 840m gpu (4gbs of vram!), 8gb of main ram as well as a 1tb drive (going to swap that out for an ssd soon...). SGD1149.

Why the flex? Because what I want to do - explore houdini engine - is just that, exploration. Not full on work. Which was why I had to give the AfterShock PC models a skip, those are great machines, and if I really needed a working windows machine, they are my top choice, easy.

The Asus Ultrabooks were really nice, the model I wanted priced just around 1.3k.

I had a long think about it (the asus was 1.45kg, vs the flex at 1.9kg, which helps when flying!) and decided to go for the cheaper Flex, since I was not so sure how in depth into Engine I was going. Long story short, I actually picked an even cheaper Lenovo Flex 14, at 999 (this was an i5), and I also opted for a 20 upgrade to 8gb of ram. Fine and dandy, it was a damned good price!

But, when I was collecting my machine, I was told by the manager that I should not have been sold the upgrade, and the ram upgrade was not something that could be done on the spot (I was like, uh oh). He then offered me to step up to the i7 model, which does have 8gb of ram, and the i7. It seemed like a good deal, so I went for that.

The machine I got had some teething issues, booting up, the keyboard didn't work. I was like.... >.>

Thankfully, removing the keyboard driver miraculously allowed the keyboard to function. Oh, I forgot to mention, this laptop has a touchscreen (!!!!!) so if necessary, I could just use the touchscreen on the laptop, not the physical keyboard.

Apart from that, the screen's corners have some white light bleed areas. Maybe they'll go away after awhile, maybe they won't. Since I'm not going to be working on photographs on that screen I'm like... whatever. Which is sad, as its supposedly an IPS screen!

The machine was also rather sluggish out of the box, which was quite vexing, but after putting the power options to performance, yeah, it was running at a good clip. The disk though, is a 1TB platter, which, I'd guess is a 5k rpm (or slower.) Houdini and Unity took *forever* to install, unlike on the mac where they install in seconds. I will break down and buy a SSD...

The speaks on the Flex 14 are quite loud and bassy, which might make for rather enjoyable movies... after i buy a usb dvd drive. These ultrabook wannabes don't have dvd drives built in. I think it does sound rather boomy, compared to my mbp's more mid-ranged focused sound.

Oh, I also have a major gripe with the keyboard! The Return key has a bunch of home/end/pg up/pg dn buttons to the right of it, so it takes a fair bit of effort to not hit those keys when typing! Blargh. If not, the keys are actually pretty darned good. Mine are not backlit sadly, but hey, I'm cheap. I'll bet I will pull my hair out when I'm coding in monodevelop....

What else... Windows 8 of course. My first experience with Windows 8 on my dad's laptop a year ago was a disaster... I had to google how to shut down that infernal machine >.>

Trying it this week on a surface tablet was actually really good, but on a laptop, there is a disconnect of the user experience between desktop applications, and the tiled home screen.

All in all, I think the tiled screen was forcefully shoehorned in. I really don't need it.... but what can I do apart from buying Microsoft and imposing my will on the UX/UI teams? Nah, not my thing. Plus, if I had that kind of money, I'd rather be funding materials engineering and wildlife/ecological conservation. Space Elevators and Space Wolves! But I digress.

So yeah, not a fan of Windows, if you can tell :P

Honestly, I'd love to get a newer generation macbook pro, but
a) The 13in mbps no longer have discrete graphics
b) Only the 15ins have nvidia graphics, and for what I do, I cannot justify the cost.
c) I probably can't justify the cost of a new 13in anyways.

We'll see what this new baby brings :)

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