How to Buy a Laptop
A laptop computer makes a popular gift to give or receive. But the laptop landscape is dotted with thousands of species and subspecies. Which one should you choose, and how should you buy it - online or in a big electronics store?
Buying a Laptop: Netbook or Notebook?
The major division among portable laptop computers is the notebook versus netbook distinction. Basically, a netbook has just enough computing power and storage space to connect you to the Internet; there, it finds computing resources to do serious work. A netbook also has a small screen and keyboard; it's designed with heavy emphasis on portability at the expense of usability. Often a netbook will not have a CD/DVD drive, so you it won't double as a portable DVD player, and you won't be able to install new software from a CD.
A notebook has lots of disk storage, CPU processing power, etc., to do work locally even if you can't connect to the Web. It's screen and keyboard are big enough for extended periods of video viewing and typing. Naturally, a notebook is heavier and more expensive than a netbook. Netbooks can be found for under $300 now, but a quick scan of the shelves at local retailers tells me that there are plenty of bigger and more functional notebooks in the $400-$500 price range.
If your primary considerations are price, a light weight machine, and small form factor, then a netbook may be just the ticket. I travel on business 3-4 times a year, and I'm getting tired of lugging my old Sony VAIO, which weighs in at over 10 pounds. And since I use it mostly for webmail when travelling, I'm thinking about an Asus, Acer Aspire, or an HP Mini netbook. But if you're buying a laptop to function as your primary workstation, you'll want something a little beefier.
Recommended Specs For Notebooks
Within the notebook genre are several subdivisions based upon features and performance. Generally, you don't want to mess with a notebook that has less than these core features:
CPU: 2.0 Ghz or faster
RAM Memory: 2 GB or more
Hard Drive: 160 GB or larger
Optical Disk: CD/DVD read/write drive
Screen: 15+ inches, 1440x900 resolution minimum
Ports: Ethernet, USB, PC Card, Firewire, SD
WiFi adapter: 802.11G or 802.11N
Operating System: Windows 7 or XP (avoid Vista)
If you find a good bargain but the notebook's hard drive seems too small, ask about upgrading to a bigger one free of charge. The difference in cost per gigabyte is truly tiny these days and a motivated vendor should be negotiable.
A faster hard drive is another upgrade you may want to negotiate before you buy. Normally, notebooks ship with 5400 rpm drives. Upgrading to a 7200 rpm version improves data read/write speed by one-third; programs load and execute faster, DVD movies stream more smoothly, etc.
Where to Buy a Laptop
Should you buy online or in a local brick-and-mortar store? Well, there is no answer to that question that doesn't involve asking more questions. Do you care whether you drive on potholes; if cops arrive when you call for help; or whether there are homeless shelters available when you get laid off? If not, then you needn't worry about paying state and local sales taxes; you can buy online from some outfit in another state.
Do you trust total strangers? Do you trust the nice things that total strangers say about other total strangers on the Internet? If you do, then you shouldn't have any problem buying a steeply discounted brand name notebook online. Does nothing ever break on you? If that's the case then tech support probably is not a consideration and you can buy from the online vendor who offers the lowest price because he spends nothing on tech support.
These are a few things to consider when shopping for a notebook or netbook computer. What factors did YOU consider when purchasing a laptop? If you bought a netbook, does it meet your needs? Post your comment or question below...
Posted by Bob Rankin on 22 Dec 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Buy a Laptop (Posted: 22 Dec 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved