Oh yeah - portable and happy-go-lucky - like me!
This is Part 6 in the How To Buy A New Computer Series
Part 1 Buying A New Computer
Part 2 Hard Drives and Memory
Part 3 How to Pick A CPU
Part 4 What Are L1 and L2 Cache and Bus Speed?
Part 5 How To Choose The Right Monitor
PERFECT FOR YOU
There is no such thing as The Perfect Computer – but there is a perfect computer for you.
Now that you understand the hardware specs, it is time to find the right combination of speed, memory, power, and price that will make your working life a dream.
LAPTOP OR DESKPTOP
The first, obvious choice is between a notebook computer and a desktop computer.
Do you need a computer that let’s you be online any time and everywhere? If your idea of an office is the local Starbucks, then a notebook is a must.
There are two essential questions to ask about a notebook:
- Is it light enough to lug around with me?
- Is it powerful enough to do the work I need to do every day?
Notebook computers necessitate a series of compromises.
- A big screen adds weight, but a small screen makes multitasking impractical.
- A processor powerful enough to run applications like Photoshop drains the battery quickly.
- A computer light enough to carry for any length of time is going to be either under-powered or over-priced.
So you need to seriously think about how you will use your notebook before you fall in love with it. If you don’t plan ahead, the divorce can be costly.
Notebook computers fall into roughly three classes, each heavier and more powerful than the previous one:
- Lightweight and super-portable
- Every day use
- Desktop replacements
THE DESKTOP REPLACEMENT
If a notebook will be your only computer, even if you travel with it, you may need a larger, heavy desktop replacement style notebook. These computers usually have 15 – 17: screens and can weigh over 8 pounds. They will probably run for less than 2 hours on a fully charged battery.
But a powerful laptop can run video or photo editing software without choking. It will have a hard drive roomy enough to store your documents without the added weight and space of an extra external hard drive. And it will be able to handle all your business tasks as well as playing a DVD to pass the time in airports or on the plane.
Just make sure to buy a rolling case for your new computer.
THE FEATHER WEIGHT
Until this year, a super-lightweight computer (under 3 lbs.) cost over $2,000.00. The only market for such devices was assumed to be salesmen and business executives who would gladly pay any premium for small and light.
Then the ASUS Eee PC changed everything.
A real computer that runs Windows XP, weighs less than 3 lbs, fits in a bookbag, and costs less than $400.00 – the EEE PC shook up the notebook market.
Now everyone from Lenovo to Dell to HP is selling a netbook, and prices keep dropping.
It can be hard to resist the “grab and go” appeal of the netbook – but before you buy one, make sure you understand: a netbook cannot be your primary computer.
The netbook excels at one thing: it is the perfect companion PC for reading email or surfing the web when you can’t or don’t want to use your regular computer.
At least as they are currently configured, netbooks are too underpowered to use for much serious work.
THE EVERY DAY NOTEBOOK
In between these two extremes is the every day notebook.
A good laptop will have a good (but not super) processor – usually Core2 Dual instead of Core2 Quad. Most online sellers, like Dell, will allow you to beef up the specs, so that you can buy a large enough hard drive and enough RAM to run several applications at once.
Expect to pay anywhere from $800.00 to$1,000.00 for a laptop with a 15 1/2″ display, a Core2 Duo 2 GHz processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 320 GB (5400 RPM hard) drive. Increasing the size of the hard drive or the speed of the procesor will, of course, increase the price.
Such a notebook will be able to replace your desktop computer when you travel without breaking the bank. You may find you often use it in the evenings, when you are away from your desk, as well when you are away from the office.
If you decide to settle for less power, a smaller hard drive, or less RAM, you can probably save $150.00.
PLAN A YEAR OR TWO AHEAD
Keep in mind – it is harder to upgrade components on a notebook. You can’t add a second hard drive or buy a new monitor. Even swapping out the RAM can be tricky, since many notebooks have only one user-accessible memory slot. So you often have to discard the installed RAM, rather than just add to it.
Many business users replace notebook computers just as they do cell phones. They buy a cheap model, expecting it to only last a year or two. When it slows down, breaks down, or gets stolen – they just buy a new one.
If this sounds like you – invest in good back up and encryption programs.
If you want your computer to last for 3, 4, or 5 years – don’t shop bottom of the line. The dollars you save up front will melt away with wasted time and lost productivity.
Photo by Tanakawho Released under Creative Commons License