|Toshiba Qosmio X75|
The last pair of trial laptops I purchased for myself was in 2010, so after 4 years of solid use, I figured it’s about time to update the fleet. Everything is still running fine, but I’d rather not push it until I have a courtroom meltdown.
When I purchased my last pair of laptops (yes, it is best to have two identical computers if you are in the “hot-seat”), I shared my Top Ten Trial Presentation Laptop Specs. Interestingly, those specs would still make up a capable trial presentation laptop today. The computer evolution cycle has certainly slowed since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when a computer could become completely obsolete within a couple years. At the time, the development pace of operating systems and software was so intense that if you wanted to upgrade to the latest version of something like TrialDirector or high-end Adobe graphics programs like Photoshop or Illustrator, you would find that a hardware upgrade was necessary to get the most out of them.
In 2010, the nicely-configured Dell laptops were around $1400 each. The 2014 models I purchased run around $1900 per copy. Here are the specs:
Model (Toshiba Qosmio X75): There are a few options for high-powered laptops, including HP, Dell (Alienware), MSI and Toshiba. Since a lot of the software we use is designed for Windows, if you’re a Mac fan, you’ll need to add some extra software such as Parallels or Boot Camp.
Processor (Intel® Core™ i7-4700MQ): The latest and fastest available is generally the best option, offering a longer replacement cycle.
Operating System (Windows 8.1): A few months ago, I would have insisted on Windows 7. Now that Windows 8.1 has been released, things appear to be working properly. While the fluffy new “charms” desktop is cute and may be helpful if you’re using a touchscreen, it is simple enough to set up your desktop like Windows 7.
Memory (32GB DDR3L 1600MHz): RAM is one of the elements of speed, which is critical to trial presentation. Get as much as you can.
Display (17.3” widescreen): Although the small ultra-portable laptop or tablet make nice travel companions, there is not enough screen to work with if you are doing video, graphics oranimation work, or just running several open windows. When you are not connecting to a large external monitor, you’ll need all the screen real estate you can get.
Graphics Memory (3GB GDDR5): Discrete graphics memory is important if you are working with graphics, video or animations. This frees up the system RAM to focus on your applications.
Hard Drive (256GB SSD + 1.5TB standard): Unless you’re only carrying a couple of small databases, you’ll want as much hard drive as you can get. The solid state (SSD) drives are much faster, but are also more expensive, and are not yet readily available in the larger sizes. Some high-end computers feature an SSD for running the programs, and a standard drive(s) for storage. Although you could make an argument for using external drives, the more you depend on cables and extra hardware, the greater the risk for disaster or loss.
Optical Drives: As with the extended life of the 1.44” floppy drive in the legal professions (remember getting all of those transcripts on these?), so is the CD/DVD. Don’t be convinced that all you need now is a USB connector. You will still see CD’s and DVD’s frequently used to distribute video, exhibits and other media, and although you can get external drives for this, an internal is always sure to be with you.
USB Ports: USB (3.0) is the latest available standard, said to approach ten times the speeds of USB 2. You’ll really notice the difference when copying a case database from one drive to your backup. As with other features, more is better. Add an external drive, wireless mouse, remote for PowerPoint, and maybe charging your phone on another, and you’ve already eaten up 4 ports.
HDMI: Many recently-outfitted courtrooms offer HDMI connectors, so this is something to consider. You can always use an adapter if necessary, but less junk is better if your laptop comes with a port.
RGB: The SVGA cable is still considered the “standard” in trial presentation, as is the 4:3 screen display. Again, you can use an adapter, but having the port is easier, and will also help when configuring the external display.