Dec 11

Tips on Buying a New Notebook Computer

Laptop So, I finally decided to turn in my dusty old dinosaur of a laptop for a sleek new notebook. Sorry, little ThinkPad. You’ve been (mostly) good to me. But it’s time for something faster, stronger, lighter - cooler. Thing is, there are about a zillion new models to choose from, ranging from US$1,000 for a basic, no-frills notebook, to more than $5,000 for a high-end multimedia machine. The question is what do I really need? I found PC Mag’s Essential Buying Guide extremely helpful. Here are a handful of their top tips to help you get the best laptop for your buck:

1. A ‘Weighty’ Issue - As a rule, it’s advisable not to compare system weights, but travel weights (that’s the system weight plus the power adapter, which typically weighs 0.75 pounds). Add on the weight of any additional items you will have to carry alongside the computer - optical drive, DVD drive, etc. – to determine whether it’s actually lighter to invest in a super-portable one-drive sub-notebook, or if you would be better off with a slightly heavier computer, with built-in drives. What really counts here is the bottom line – the total weight of the bag that you are going to end up slinging over your shoulder.

2. Size Matters – A small system with tightly integrated components is somewhat more likely to break in a fall than a bulkier unit, wherein there's room for extra bracing. Conversely, the smaller the LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), the less likely it is to break.

3. Powering Up – In general, a smaller notebook means a smaller battery. Sometimes, manufacturers keep weight down on sub-notebooks by providing 3-4-cell batteries that are only good for 2-3 hours of power. So if you choose one of these, it may be wise to factor in the additional cost of an extended or replacement main battery. It’s often cheaper to buy the extra battery (which can cost $100-150) along with your system. In other power-related issues, you may also consider buying an extra power adapter along with your new system; a multi-product charger can handle PDAs and cell phones in addition to notebooks, and costs $75-100.

4. Screen Savings – When it comes to notebook screens, higher resolution is generally better, except for users with imperfect eyesight. If you fall into that category, you may want to stick with WXGA (1280-by-800) resolution rather than WUXGA (1920-by-1200). A transflective (glossy) screen is better suited for movies, photos, and video editing, but produces more glare; a matted (anti-glare) screen is better for word processing and web browsing.

5. Extended Warranties – It’s something to think about; an extended warranty is a moneymaker for the seller; but as the buyer, you may find comfort in knowing that if the notebook breaks, especially early on, the store may just hand you a new one.