Not all laptops are created equal. Which one is right for you? Before you go to the store to find your new digital companion, first define your needs. Are you a student or home user? A business professional? Travel frequently? A gamer, multi-media user or creator? A graphic designer? Answers to these questions and considerations based on size, weight, speed and frequency of use frame decisions regarding:
- Processor. For everyday use such as word processing, spreadsheets and email, you do not need the most expensive processor. A Core Duo will give you strong performance and long battery life.
- System Memory. The minimum memory should be 2GB of RAM. Anything less will slow your work. Choose a 64-bit Operating System if you want to use more than 3GB of RAM. The more installed memory on your laptop, the more applications you can run at once, and the better your machine will perform. If you’re running Windows Vista, consider 3GB – 4GB of RAM (or more if your notebook uses a 64-bit Operating System).
- Screen. We recommend a 15.4″ screen. It costs less than a 17″ and is more portable, while the 14″ screen is a bit too small. For the graphic designer, larger screens to produce higher resolution.
- Battery. Laptop battery life continues to improve. In tests conducted by PCWorld, laptops using a Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processor average roughly 3.5 hours on one battery charge. Lighter laptops tend to have longer battery lives than big desktop-replacement notebooks. Be sure to condition your battery by charging to 100 percent and then discharge it completely. Then charge it to 100 percent again. This is not a pointless exercise – it ‘conditions’ the battery and helps it remember exactly how much electrical charge it can hold. After you do that, you should not need to completely discharge the battery again.
- Hard drive. The larger the hard drive, the more data you can keep on your laptop. Most inexpensive netbooks offer 80GB drives. If you plan to work with databases, spreadsheets, or digital photo or video files, opt for a larger hard drive.
- Weight. Laptops range from 15-pound desktop replacement monsters to ultraportable lightweights that weight less than 3 pounds. For travelers, be sure to keep in mind the weight of the laptop as well as the AC adapter, extra batteries, external modules, and cables.
Once you have made decisions on the specifications that best meet your needs, your last considerations are price and brand. Frankie OnCall recommends business class models. They are built with higher quality hardware and tend to be more stable. We have found that laptops made by ASUS or Dell require less repair and fewer part replacements.