471 - Buying a New Notebook PC - Part #1

When it’s time to buy a new PC for the home or office it may be prudent to at least consider replacing that old desktop with a new notebook PC. A seventeen- inch or even a fifteen-inch notebook can be a cost effective replacement for a “tower.”  Today’s notebooks bear little resemblance to their expensive, fragile and low performance ancestors. Today’s notebooks with “wide screen” viewing, full size “ten key” keyboards and plenty of power are often as cost effective as “towers.” Nearly all notebooks have ports to attach larger screens, printers, and wireless keyboard and mouse. WiFi capability allows notebooks to maintain Internet connection as they are moved about your home or business and the HDMI connector can turn your dumb TV into a smart TV. 

On the downside, notebooks are easier to break and more expensive to repair than desktops. They are also easier to steal and prone to ruination from spilled drinks, but if mobility is important, they are indispensable.

Shopping for a notebook is not easy. Relating individual needs to the features and functions available can be difficult. The entire retail PC industry is built around the certainty that the majority of users have absolutely no idea what they need, what’s available or what the buzzwords actually mean. Retail sales personnel in the big box electronic stores typically work on commission and will sell you what’s good for them regardless of what’s good for you. Online research organizations like Consumer Reports tend to revue products by brand name and that can be misleading. Companies like Dell and HP don’t design, manufacture and service the PCs that carry their name. The buy them from a number offshore manufacturers and sub-contract technical service and repair to other companies. Their product and service quality levels can vary greatly from model to model depending on who built it and who is servicing it.

Quality is very important in notebook PCs because their major components are so expensive to replace. Cheaply made notebooks with bottom end components and flimsy cases simply don’t hold up under normal wear and tear. Hinges break, cases and screens crack, video and power connectors break loose from the motherboard, batteries die, hard drives crash and keys pop of the keyboard. The low-end ($300-$500) notebooks are rarely a bargain.

We prefer the notebooks that carry the name of the companies who actually design, build and repair them. ASUS, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba actually manufacture and service their products. Companies that design, build and service their own PCs control the quality of their own products and live or die on the reputation of their name. They also maintain their own repair facilities and have a vested interest in keeping their own customers happy. That is not the case with companies who outsource the design, manufacture and service of their brand to third party providers (often low bidders).

In purchasing the ideal notebook for your business, home or school applications there are several things to consider. You need to understand not only how well the notebook fits your present usage, you also need to know what features are available, what those feature do and how those features might affect your future usage patterns.

Next week we’ll start the discussion on the size, speed, capacity and features of notebooks, what they do and how these factors affect the user experience.