I’ll take a second to shamelessly plug this laptop I’m using. I know the market for 300Mhz Pentium II machines has more or less hit the low end of the curve, but thus far I’ve been very pleased with this box — a Dell Latitude CPi A300XT, serial number WMRB9, according to the BIOS.
I pulled this one out of the trash heap at the local recycling center, put memory, a hard drive, a spare optical drive, a battery, a hard drive caddy and a memory access panel on it, and probably spent less than $40 on all that (yes, including a new Samsung 20Gb 5400rpm hard drive). If I had it in me, I could bump it up to 256Mb on a single stick. … Come to think of it, I think I will!
It uses the same standard swappable drive bays as the old 8000-series Inspirons, which means you could, if you wanted, drop in a new dual-layer DVD+-RW, or a second hard drive, or just about anything else. I don’t think there’s a Mini-PCI bay, but there is the PCMCIA option for wireless. (I use a WPC11 v3, which is fantastic, by the way.)
Linux runs like a champ on this, and Arch is a dream on it. Ubuntu is good, but 300Mhz is about where Ubuntu falls off and performance starts to fall, in my experience.
I swapped out the 800×600 screen for a 1024×768 model, taken from another carcass. The video card is a bit of a lightweight (it’s a NeoMagic MagicGraph 256AV, according to lspci), so that’s a downside. But it works, so I can’t complain.
The only other feature I would change is the way the memory braces are aligned: They point toward each other, which means if you need a matching pair of low-profile memory chips to use both braces. For now I’m just using one 128Mb stick and a second won’t fit because the tops bang against each other. Classic design flaw.
It predates the power-sucking monsters that are the norm these days; battery life is two hours, and that’s on a leftover cell from a machine sold in 2001. And that’s only ’til the display light turns orange. I can usually run it down for another 45 minutes before it just shuts off completely.
The best part is, they’re only worth about $100 on ebay. You can easily pick one of these up for the price of a fancy dinner with your date, or a new mid-grade video card for gaming. And I can guarantee you’ll come away much more satisfied than you would with heartburn, or running WoW at 800×600 and middle-of-the-road detail.
Trust me on this one. If you’re in the market, pick one up. If you’ve got $100 left over and you want to tinker, pick one up. They’re worth it.