Notebook Computer Guide



GOOD NEWS! Any computer shopper can now afford a good performing notebook computer. Depending on your needs you may be able to purchase a laptop for a lot less than you might expect. There are many levels of laptop performance available today and in a wide range of prices.

Now you need to determine what notebook computer is best for you. This decision is important but not difficult. Please use this guide to your advantage. It will help you to find the best laptops for the best price.

First evaluate the notebooks primary use. This will be necessary in the selection process.

* Due you travel occasionally or more frequently? This may impact the size and weight of the laptop you choose.

Will you depend on the battery power for long periods of time, or will you use the AC adapter a majority of the time?

What performance level will you need from your notebook? Most laptops will be in the following categories.

1. Basic performance for home/office and Internet use
2. Mid-performance for some gaming, digital music and picture viewing/editing
3. High-end performance for 3D graphics, gamming, and multimedia use


Now lets narrow your selection by defining your needs from a notebook computer. The main criteria for your selection are size/weight, screen size, battery life, processor, memory, hard drive, CD-ROM/DVD drive, graphics and modem.


The two main categories of notebook computers are thin and light and desktop replacement. Thin and light notebooks are for those that travel frequently. They are smaller in size and typically weigh 3 to 6 lbs. Due to the small size their performance is usually not at the high-end and their price is a little higher. Desktop replacement notebooks are still portable but are more for performance and price. They are larger in size and typically weigh 6 to 9 lbs.

Screen Size
The typical screen sizes are 12.1″, 14.1″, 15″, and 15.4″. The 14.1″ size, is standard on most laptops. If mobility is your main concern, shop for the smaller sizes. If this will be a permanent desktop replacement, shop for the larger sizes like the 15″.

Battery Life
The normal battery life for notebooks is 2 to 6 hours. The standard battery life is around 4 hours. The longer life batteries add to the cost of your notebook computer. Unless the extra battery life is required, I would stay with the 3 to 4 hour battery. If needed, you can always buy additional batteries.

Most thin and light notebooks use Intel’s Pentium M processor. This processor was designed for use in the smaller notebooks. Its speed ranges from 1.0 to 1.7 GHz, but utilizes little battery power. Larger desktop replacement notebooks are able to utilize Intel’s Celeron and Pentium 4 processors, typically used in desktops. These desktop processors give you the highest performance for the best price but also use a lot more battery. The Pentium 4 speed currently ranges from 1.8 Ghz to 3.2 Ghz. Or choose the older Celeron processors with speeds of up to 2.7 Ghz.
The newest processor available is the Pentium 4-M, which gives the performance of the Pentium 4 but has battery saving technology. Any processor over 1.0 GHz will be adequate for basic performance needs. For more high-end applications, shop for speeds above 2.2 GHz.

Shop for a notebook with at least 128 MB (megabyte) of RAM but 256 MB is recommended. This is a cheap upgrade that should be considered. For mid to high-end applications shop for 512 MB or more if a lot of 3D gamming or video editing will be done.

Hard Drive
The typical notebook computer hard drive size is 20 to 60 GB (gigabyte). A 20 GB hard drive is more than enough for most users. It doesn’t hurt to shop for a larger hard drive if you can afford it.

A standard CD-Rom, CD-RW, DVD, and CD-RW/DVD combo drive are all available in laptops. The least expensive drive is a standard CD-Rom drive. You should shop for a notebook computer with at least a CD-RW drive. This will allow you to backup files from your computer to a CD or to make other large file transfers. A CD-RW/DVD drive will allow you to copy to a CD and to watch movies while traveling or at home.

Integrated graphics are used on some laptops to keep them small and light. A 32 MB card is the most common for standard desktop replacement notebooks. For more demanding 3D graphic or video applications, shop for a 64MB card.

A 56K V.90 modem and Ethernet connection are standard in almost all notebook computers.

Additional Options
USB 2.0 ports – use to connect printers, mice, cameras
S-Video out port – for connecting to TV’s and projectors
Parallel port – to connect to older printers
Monitor Port – use to connect external monitor

Notebook Shopping Tips
First decide if you want a thin and light notebook or a desktop replacement notebook. Unless you travel a lot, shop for a desktop replacement notebook. A desktop replacement will give you the best performance and best value. Then based on your budget, shop for the performance features that will be most beneficial for your notebook computer.

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