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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.
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.