How to buy the perfect laptop

How to buy the perfect laptop

Summary: It used to be hard to make a decision on which laptop to buy. But with all the new options available, it's even harder.

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  • When good notebooks go bad

    Every notebook is susceptible to accidents and system failures. Keep an eye open for longer than usual warranties, and check to see if the manufacturer offers an international warranty rather than local — particularly useful for travellers.

    We recommend, if available, paying for a good three-year warranty with express service. Try getting it direct from the manufacturer rather than dealing with in-store warranty extensions.

    What's it made of?

    Most laptop cases are still made from moulded plastic, but you can find some encased in metal, which dissipates heat better. Look for models made from light, strong metal alloys. If you're in the market for a desktop replacement, check that the case has adequate ventilation for the powerful (and hot-running) components inside.

  • Connect the docks

    A docking station quickly turns your notebook into a desktop. You connect your peripherals (monitor, keyboard, mouse) to the dock, which stays at your desk. Simply attach the notebook to the dock, and you instantly get the conveniences of a desktop without having to unplug everything when it's time to go.

    Most manufacturers offer docks designed to go with their notebooks, while third-party docks, such as the Logitech Alto Cordless and Belkin High Speed Docking Station, are also available.

    Another advantage of a docking station is increasing the number of ports your laptop has, whether it be extra video connections, more USB ports, or legacy ports like serial and PS/2. Thunderbolt is likely to shake things up here. For instance, Apple's recent Thunderbolt Displays, through one cable not only offers a monitor, but more USB ports, a FireWire port and gigabit Ethernet for your MacBook.

    If you don't need all of the features of a dock, but could still use the extra connectivity, check whether the notebook maker offers a port replicator, which is basically a pared-down version of a dock.

  • Are you the tablet type?

    Before the iPad, tablets meant something entirely different.

    Comparable in size and weight to ultraportable notebooks, tablet PCs occupy a different niche, allowing the full productivity of a Windows machine, as opposed to the content consumption focus of Android and iOS tablets.

    They're available in two basic designs: convertibles, which are laptops that have displays that swivel and fold flat facing outwards; and slates, which have no attached keyboards, but can be connected easily enough to one.

    This space is set for lots of changes with the introduction of Windows 8, expected in October 2012.

    32- or 64-bit?

    Most vendors should be selling laptops today with Windows 7 64-bit, with only business laptops being the exception for compatibility reasons. If the choice is presented to you, you'll want a 64-bit version of Windows, as the 32-bit version can't address 4GB RAM or greater.

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Topics: Hardware, Laptops, Mobility

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8 comments
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  • Celeron? They still make those?

    LOL... I remember back in 1998 when they claimed they wouldn't be manufacturing Celerons greater than 400mhz! 15 years later...
    jmwells21
  • Where is text about RAM ?

    It looks that slide dedicated to RAM has the same text as CPU slide.
    Tomas M.
  • *sigh*

    Every time I see someone playing a game with a touchpad, I die a little more inside. I had a friend who always "forgot" his mouse as he played Crysis running on his laptop with like dual desktop level GPUs. We never did figure out why he kept buying so much hardware.
    Aerowind
  • Good article, but misses key points and is a little biased.

    OK well you forgot to mention the most important thing besides the CPU- RAM! RAM (and good frequency dual or especially triple channel memory) is [i]very[/i] important for keeping a healthy system. 4GB is the amount I recommend for good computers, and the standard for high end nowadays is 8GB.

    Also, there are more operating systems besides the M$ Windows monopoly or exorbitant Macs. Ever heard if Ubuntu? Fedora? Any Linux-based OS?!!
    beau parisi
  • Misses the key points

    I couldn't agree more. CPU speed, ram and Blue ray. I am also surprised that many shops when selling the laptops. notebooks, and others don't sell Cooling pads as many of these need. They should explain the benefits at least. The amount of times I have had laptops in for repair is due to cooked CPU's because people use them on beds, carpets without thought as to why there machine is overheating or getting hot. Logitech bring out a great cooling pad for just over $50 NZ$ well worth it.
    signpost1p
  • My perfect laptop runs Ubuntu

    I love my laptop - its nearly always been a Dell - Latitude series. I have 3. 2 x E6510 and a E6520. I immeadiately replace Windows what-ever with the latest Ubuntu 64 desktop and install Virtualbox and run Windows 7 Windows XP and Server 2008 - as I have them on a ESATA 500GB external drive via virtual box. Always get the max memory and 7200 ESATA hard drives.

    The E series are excellent as the Hard drives is easy to snap in and out from the left side of the PC. SO I can have multiple harddrive with different OS's loaded if I need ful performance. Also great for testing new versions of Ubuntu.

    I also have a MacBook Pro 15 that dual boots MACOSX 10.6.xx and Ubuntu.
    kyleamadio
  • "Mainstream" a good option for many

    "Mainstream laptops are like budget desktops; they're good for general tasks, but they won't win any contests for their performance."
    I don't agree - for people like me, their performance is quite ok. I have a 7/64 system with 4 GB ram. According to Revo Uninstaller, I have 98 programs installed, and it runs all of them fine, often 10 at a time. It weighs 5 lbs and cost $600 (in UK). Maybe if you're a graphics or gaming whiz, you need more performance, but for probably 80% of us, a standard 15'' laptop is entirely adequate.
    jonc2011
  • Page #3 text duplicate of page #2

    Page #2 looks like a CPU, text is about CPUs. Page #3 looks like RAM, text is a duplicate of page #2.
    mbrian@...