472 - Buying a New Notebook PC - Part #2

Last week we expressed our bias regarding Dell, HP and other brands that don’t design, manufacture or service the PCs that carry their logos. We prefer ASUS, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba, companies that actually design, build and service their notebook products. We also advised against buying “cheap” notebooks (under $500) because they don’t hold up under normal wear and tear.

“Form factor” is one of the first things to consider in selecting a notebook to fit your user profile.

If you plan to carry your PC with you frequently using it in various locations, (cafes, libraries, classrooms, offices, trips) you may prefer a 12 –14 inch “ultra-portable.” They weigh only three or four pounds and are ruggedly built to survive frequent handling and moving. These should be sturdy with strong hinges, a long life battery (6-8 hrs) and a cushioned carry case. Expect to pay six to seven hundred dollars for a decent ultra-portable. Their down side is having small screens and minimum function keyboards. On a positive note, you can enjoy the ultra-portable’s lightweight mobility on the road and attach a large screen and standard mouse and keyboard when at home or in the office.

 If you rarely travel with your notebook but do move it about the house frequently, you’ll probably prefer a “good” 15-inch notebook. Moving your PC around the office or home can be every bit as hard on it as travel. “Cheapies” won’t hold up. Power connectors, strain-relief’s, hinges, screens, USB ports and hard drives all take a beating. Vents get blocked when using in bed or on laps and overheating shortens component life. The only way to make your cheap notebook last is to put it on a desk and leave it there. Don’t move it about.

If you are going to use your notebook like a desk-top (using it only in one place) you should consider a 17-inch notebook. These are known as “desktop replacements” because they are intended to stay put. They typically weigh seven or eight pounds. Their size and weight make them unattractive as travel companions but their full size screens and keyboards make them ideal as “desktops.” As a rule they are not as sturdy as the smaller notebooks but they don’t need to be. A 17-inch “desktop” replacement in the six hundred dollar range can be a viable long-term replacement for an aging “tower” PC in either the home or office.

Once you have decided on the form factor you’ll want to consider available features and functions. The price ranges mentioned above are for notebooks that are of contemporary, standard configurations and have enough memory; hard drive space and CPU power to accommodate the vast majority of users. Manufacturers and retailers often try to “upsell” shoppers to higher power, more featured and more expensive models. If you need higher level power or features of more expensive notebooks you certainly should make sure you get what you need, but be careful. A fifteen hundred dollar notebook won’t go any faster on the Internet than one that costs five hundred dollars. Having a two terabyte hard drive doesn’t do a thing for you if you only use one tenth of it (200Gigabytes) like the average user. 16GB of RAM won’t make your PC go any faster than four GB. An i3 CPU travels the WWW at exactly the same speed as an i7.

Next week we’ll talk about features, functions, speeds and capacities and how they relate.