The tech helper: What to look for in a notebook (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Nov 10, 2010, 2:06 GMT
Washington - With so many notebooks on the market today, how can you decide which model is right for you? Start by determining how you`ll primarily use the machine. Will your priority be travel, gaming, business, entertainment, or some combination of those? The answer to that question will go some way toward determining which features you should look for and which you should avoid. Read on to learn more.
Q: I`m going to get rid of my desktop computer in favour of a notebook that can do everything my desktop could. What should I look for?
A: Notebooks that are specifically designated as 'desktop replacement' models typically have large screens, beefy processors and graphics cards, and close to full-size keyboards. They`re also often quite heavy - too heavy to carry around comfortably for long but still portable enough to lug along if you don`t mind dealing with some significant extra weight.
However, you can have the best of both worlds - desktop power and true portability - if you think a bit unconventionally and set your sights on models designed specifically for businesses. Instead of a bulky notebook with a screen big enough to replace your desktop display - and this usually means models with screens of 15 or 16 inches, and sometimes even larger - look at business-class units that can be plugged into a docking station.
A docking station is essentially a small, plastic platform into which a business-class notebook snaps. The docking station itself contains additional ports, typically extra USB ports and connections for full-size, external desktop displays and other external devices. You can buy a very powerful yet portable business class notebook for not much more than a consumer class model. What you get is both dockability and true portability - the best of both worlds.
Business class notebooks include Dell`s Latitude line, Lenovo`s ThinkPads, Toshiba`s Tecra, or HP`s Elitebook or ProBook. Business class notebooks also are typically built to withstand a bit more punishment while on the road, so you`d be getting a stronger notebook as well as one that, with a docking station, can double as a desktop unit.
The docking stations themselves can be purchased either from the same manufacturer that makes your notebook or, often, at a lower price from eBay outlet stores. Keep in mind, too, that not all notebooks are dockable. Consumer models are typically not. What this means is that these models will lack the docking port, typically found on the bottom of a notebook.
Q: My current notebook computer has Vista, and it`s very slow. I`m looking for a notebook computer that will run Windows 7. Which features should I get?
A: Almost any notebook sold today will run Windows 7 just fine. In fact, unless you`re dealing with notebooks from Apple, most notebooks will be sold with Windows 7 as the default, or standard, operating system.
However, if your current notebook runs Vista, albeit slowly, you may be spending money needlessly if you feel you need a different notebook to run Windows 7. Windows Vista is notorious for making perfectly good hardware seem sluggish, especially over time, as more applications and bloatware pile up to cause slowdowns.
Many, in fact, are finding that Windows 7 by itself breathes new life into hardware that seemed inadequate with Windows Vista. So before you run out and buy a new notebook, you might want to look first at the specs of your current notebook to see whether it`s up to the task of running Windows 7.
Just open Vista`s System dialog box from the Control Panel, and you`ll see most of what you need to know. Do you have 2 gigabytes (GB) or installed memory or more? Do you have a single or dual core processor running at 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster? If so, you`re probably best off just buying an upgrade to Windows 7 and seeing how much more life you can get out of your current model.
If you`re still bent on getting a new notebook for Windows 7, concentrate less on internal specifications - because just about any notebook sold today works fine with Windows 7 - and more on how you`ll be using your notebook. Big screen? Light weight? Durability? These are the factors that will ultimately determine whether you`re satisfied with your choice.
Q: I`m a student, and I need a budget notebook that will allow me to play games as well as do my school work. Should I focus on the graphics card above all else?
A: First, gaming laptops are typically among the most expensive, since high-end graphics cards, processors, hard drives, and screens are all coveted by gamers, whose applications demand a lot from a computer. But if budget is a primary concern, then you have to prioritise.
Where you start in your prioritisation should depend on the particular games you`re playing. If high frame rates are critical, for example, then emphasising graphics card performance over other components makes sense, although a fast processor will be critical in keeping frame rates high as well. But in terms of notebook components, the order of importance for gamers is often graphics card, processor, screen size, hard drive, and memory (RAM).
Q: I`m looking for a notebook primarily to surf the internet, check my e-mail, work on Word documents, and listen to music. What are the features I need?
A: For these light-duty tasks, the wide world of notebook computers is open to you. So concentrate on usability aspects of a machine rather than processor or amount of RAM.
It`s easiest to start by ruling out certain features. Because you mentioned surfing the web, netbooks may be too small, as their cramped screens are less than ideal for web surfing today. Also, many consider the glossy screens of many of today`s notebooks to be less than ideal for office tasks such as word processing - and even for web surfing. That could mean that a budget business model may work best, as these combine light weight and no-nonsense features such as matt screens. Look particularly at Dell`s Latitude e5400 series or HP`s ProBook line.
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