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As most interpreters nowadays take notebooks to the booth, I was wondering which are recommendable -apart from tablets - specifically; portability, capacity and low noise.

I'm looking for something to recommend to those colleagues whose keyboards and fans challenge anyone's concentration.

asked 19 Oct '11, 20:56

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

I don't have much experience with tablets, but if you're buying a laptop here is what you should consider:

  • Choose a model with a solid state drive (SSD) over a hard drive. SSDs are purely electronic storage media and so do not spin and click like a traditional hard drive. Please note that SSD disks must be backed up regularly, as they have been known to fail unpredictably. I recommend using special software to continuously monitor your drive's health.

  • Choose a model with built-in passive cooling components or buy a cooling pad that will help absorb heat. With mechanical rotating parts like traditional hard disks and optical devices, fans are the noisiest component in a computer system.

  • Choosing a model with a low-noise keyboard that doesn't click is more difficult. The best thing to do is to try it before you buy the computer. There again, there are huge differences. A more expensive machine will generally, but not always, have a better built-in keyboard. Although I find Macintosh laptops way overpriced, I must say that they make sense for use in the booth, as their keyboards are usually very comfortable and silent. If you must run Windows-only software, you can run a Windows virtual machine ( using VMWare or another hypervisor ). I personally prefer VMWare to Parallels, since you may wish to use your VM on a variety of hosts running Mac, Windows or Linux.

  • In terms of everyday use, make sure your computer remains clean. Dust it off regularly to keep the fans clear.

  • Also, make sure you never need to use your cd-rom player in the booth. If you have cd-rom based dictionaries, make an ISO copy and load them up with an emulator.

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answered 20 Oct '11, 11:23

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

I recommend a Dell Vostro v130. It sports a 2nd-gen Core i5 CPU (lower power consumption), has a replaceable battery (which lasts considerably longer) and is still very light (it weighs about 1.5kg). See You can ask for any configuration. Even if you're ordering from Germany, you can have a Spanish keyboard and Spanish Windows (or a different language, of course). You can also change the default configuration to improve the CPU, for instance, go up to 4GB of RAM and switch the default HDD for at least 128 GB SSD. Dell computers are reasonably affordable. The only problem is the battery life (you only get about 3 hours before it runs out of juice).

Another alternative is the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook, available from EUR 999 (with a 128 GB SSD drive and 4 GB SDRAM). This is an ultrabook, so don't expect all the bells and whistles like a DVD drive.

The MacBook Air is IMO the best ultrabook alternative if price is no issue (better battery life, more responsive trackpad, quiter fan).

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answered 20 Oct '11, 13:29

Delete's gravatar image

Delete ♦

edited 18 May '12, 13:09

I agree with your last comment. However, the "overpriced" argument against Macs often doesn't stand. The 11-inch MacBook Air costs 999 €, which is a reasonable price. And 11 inches should be enough in the booth.

(18 May '12, 08:17) Alexander

Well yes, in fact, you can buy the 11-inch MacBook Air for EUR 949, but then again you would only have 2 GB RAM and a 64 GB SSD drive, which is ridiculous. The 11-inch MacBook Air with 4 GB RAM and 128 GB SSD drive costs EUR 1,149 (i.e. EUR 150 more expensive than the Dell equivalent). Updated: May 2012.

(18 May '12, 09:03) Delete ♦

I use a MacBook Air from Apple. Its fan and keyboard are not noisy at all.

By the way, it is my first Apple computer, so I needed to make sure I could continue to use my dictionaries and other programs that run on Windows. I found it very easy to install a virtual machine (Parallels) with Windows, so I am using all the programs that I used to on my PC.

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answered 20 Oct '11, 08:57

Oliver's gravatar image


One of these keyboard protectors might help silencing a clicky keyboard.

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answered 18 May '12, 08:16

Alexander's gravatar image


I've recently acquired a Lenovo Yoga 900S, and I have to say I'm delighted with it. The only potential downside as a booth computer is that, while it is quite compact, it's a bit bigger than the smallest things out there. It also isn't on the cheap end of the scale. Other than that, it ticks all the boxes I had in mind, and then some:

  • silent: SSD storage, no fan, silent keyboard.

  • size: still small enough. Total footprint 30x20cm. Booth space is precious.

  • battery life: haven't fully tested this, but it looks like you should be able to get at least 8 hours out of a charge, if not more.

  • weight: 1.1 kg. Lightweight charger.

  • connectivity: this is where it trumps the Macbook - 2 proper USB ports (for that last-minute ppt presentation from a delegate), on top of 1 USB-C and 1 mini jack.

  • touchscreen: ideal for scrolling through documents

  • yoga: Lenovo have designed what is probably the best laptop hinge out there. Yoga laptops can fold completely (360º) and function as a tablet, or be used in "stand" or "tent" mode.

  • backlit keyboard - while you would hope you wouldn't need this in a booth, this feature could come in handy. Also on a plane, etc.

I do think it's worthwhile getting this specific model (the 900S) because it’s the smallest of the series. It isn't terribly easy to come by, however. Apparently there's a bit of a retailer trade war being waged over the Yoga series in Spain, and it may never make it to the country. In Belgium, it looks as though neither Media Markt nor the Fnac have it. Vanden Borre is where you want to go.

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answered 24 Jan '17, 17:24

Felix's gravatar image


Yes, laptop fans can be quite challeging and worse than air ventilation systems on top of mobile booths. I start to sweat when I see colleagues taking out an ante-diluvian laptop that take half the space of the booths desk :-)

I am using a MacBook Air 13" and I am very happy with it. However sometimes the fan gets a tad noisy with heavy application usage when I open Parallels Desktop in order to work with e-dictionaries that only run on Windows. Keyboard is quite OK but again: it depends on how wildly you hit on it.

I sometimes use my iPad and I am very happy with it: no fan noise, small and handy. Would that be an alternative, Marta? On the downside: no way on using technical Windows based dictionaries that you may have but now you can use Interplex, a terminology management system, now adapted for iPad, and iPhone and with internet conection to IATE, Linguee and Wordreference and Wikipedia I feel that the use of technical dictionaries is not that important but I understand it could be a hindrance.


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answered 18 May '12, 12:52

Conrado's gravatar image


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question asked: 19 Oct '11, 20:56

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