473 - Buying a New Notebook PC - Part #3

In the past two weeks we’ve opined that buying a notebook from companies who actually design, manufacture and service their products like ACER, ASUS, Toshiba, and Samsung) is smarter than buying from companies that don’t, like Dell and HP. We also advised against buying retail  “cheapies” that simply don’t hold up and we covered how your planned usage determines what size notebook makes sense for you. Today we cover the standard features and functions and how they relate to your needs.

Here are the standard notebook features. Web Cam mounted at the top of the screen, 500Gbyte hard drive, 4 GB RAM, DVD R/W, WiFi, Ethernet port, HDMI port, VGA port, 2 USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, internal speaker/microphone and external speaker and microphone jacks, card reader, four hour battery, 64 bit operating system (preferably Windows 7), AC power adaptor and a dual core processor  (CPU) with a Passmark Benchmark score of 1600 or above (Intel Celeron 2957U). This configuration meets the needs of the majority of notebook users. Few will ever use all of the standard features. A good quality computer of this configuration will cost between $500 and $600.

Retailers like to “upsell” to more expensive PCs models. It is important to know what you do need and what won’t help you. The Web Cam is a standard feature. Larger hard drives are available and relatively inexpensive but most people will never fill a 500GB drive. 4.0 GB of RAM is needed to run the new operating systems but having more won’t make you faster. The standard DVD-R/W plays and records both DVDs and CDs, WiFi is built in to all new PCs, some don’t have the “hard wire” Ethernet connector. HDMI and VGA ports are outlets that stream video and sound to external devices (big monitors, TV sets Etc.). USB 2.0 ports are important because they connect printers, keyboards/mice, flash drives, cameras, back up drives etc. The USB 3.0 port is downward compatible and ten times faster than 2.0. That speed is handy for data storage, transfer and back up.

External speaker and microphone jacks are used when the internals lack the volume and tone quality needed. Camera card readers are standard. A four-hour battery is adequate for most, higher rated aftermarket batteries, spare batteries and compact mobile chargers are available for those who require more battery life.

The CPU is the least understood and most expensive component in a notebook PC. No matter how fast your CPU is, the Internet is the pacing item in determining the speed of your PC’s web surfing. Paying for an expensive, very fast CPU when your primary activity is Internet related is like using a Ferrari for a town car where the speed limit is 40MPH. 

We stock ACER notebooks here at The Computer Factory mainly because they have excellent quality and service, the largest selection in the industry and by far the largest selection of Windows 7 notebooks.

Next week we’ll conclude the discussion on notebooks by looking at upgraded features and functions. Who needs them and why.