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Seven Factors You Must Check Before
Buying Your Notebook Computer

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It is estimated that over 42 million computer notebooks will be produced this year (2005). The market for laptop and notebook computers is growing at a rate of 20% each year according to Taiwanese notebook makers.

And they should know - they make 70% of these notebooks or their components for such major players as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Gateway. The popularity of notebook computers seems to be increasing; they are popping up everywhere - on TV News Desks, in sitcoms, in movies, or in your friend's lap!

They may get even popular as hundred of millions of old desktop PCs are retired in the coming years - one can only guess how many of these old bulky machines will be replaced by these, sleek, sexy up-starts.

So if you are planning to replace your dusty old PC with one of these very capable compact notebook computers - do yourself a favor - consider these Seven major factors BEFORE you buy your Notebook:


1. Size - This is one case where size does matter! It's the main reason you're considering buying a notebook or laptop in the first place. You want something that's lightweight, portable and versatile; to carry on your next business trip, to take to class, or to move from room to room in your home with ease.

Choosing the right size notebook or laptop for your needs does take some consideration. However, your job is made easier because notebooks and laptops have been categorized for you . They are grouped according to size. Here's a quick rundown:

  • Netbooks Usually 9 or 10 inch screen, around 3 pounds.
  • Tablet PC (smallest) Size of a paper tablet or notepad, less than 3 pounds.
  • Ultra Portable (small) <11" x <10" Less than 1.3 inches thick, less than 4 pounds.
  • Thin and Light (mid-size) 11-14" x <11" 1 to 1.4 inches thick, from 5 to 7 pounds.
  • Desktop Replacements (largest) >13" x >11" More than 1.5 inches, more than 7 pounds and up

  • Please note - the weight here is without the power adapters and accessories that may be needed with your notebook. Add 2 to 3 pounds for these extras.


    2. Hard Drive and others - What size hard drive do you need? Drives are increasing as notebooks become more compact and more powerful. You'll need only a 20GB or 30GB for most tasks on your notebook. If you handle large graphics or large amount of files (dvds, M3Ps, etc.) you need more - 60 to 100GB or higher.

    Depending on your needs or purpose you will need other Drives such as DVD/CD. You will need a CD-ROM for installing. And a CD-RW drive for burning your own CDs if that's one of the tasks you want your notebook to do. Other options are available -- many notebooks can access or use external drives for data storage, cd burning, etc.

    Tip: Many notebooks come pre-loaded with software programs installed, which is great, but these programs take up space on your hard drive -- so check to see the size of your 'actual' hard drive you have for your own storage space.


    3. Processor - The Processor or CPU is the heart of your notebook or computer. It does the processing and applications. Most people prefer Intel Pentium Processors; the higher the number the faster it will process! Go with a Pentium 4 - M if you can. It is very expensive but it's extremely fast and permits a longer battery life. May also want to check out the new Intel's Sonoma chipset, this platform will become standard on many high end notebooks soon.

    Speed is how fast your computer can process data and perform your tasks. The faster the better! Latest models get up to a blazing 3.6 GHz or more.

    Tip: You might also want to check the rotational speed of your notebook's hard disk as it can affect performance a 5,400rpm notebook disk is much faster than a 4,200rpm model. How fast the disk spins, will also determine the performance level of your notebook.


    4. RAM (random-access-memory). This is what the computer uses to run applications and data on your operating system. It's generally agreed that you need at least 256MB for Windows XP and Mac OS X. You will only need 128MB for other operating systems in Windows or Mac. Most laptops now have 3GB - 8GB of RAM or more.

    Video RAM or memory - if game playing or heavy graphic work is the main purpose of your notebook, check the video RAM. With each new generation of Notebook Technology - RAM keeps increasing, up to 2GB of RAM in some machines.


    5. Connections - Until all major connections on notebooks become standard, and they will over time - you have to check the connections of the notebook you're buying. If traveling and portability is the main reason for buying your notebook - make sure it has the connections you need.

    Wi-Fi stands for Wireless Fidelity, also known as 802.11b which transfers data wirelessly at a maximum rate of 11Mbps for up to 150 feet. There are two other ways of transferring wireless data: 802.11a up to a maximum of 54Mbps and 802.11g which is hybrid of a and b, it is also capable of 54Mbps.

    Some notebooks like the Fujitsu LifeBook N6010, have a tri-mode 802.11a/b/g wireless system.

    A fully loaded notebook may come with these kinds of connections: 56k Modem, up to 4 USB 2.0 ports, Internal Gigabit LAN, 15-Pin VGA, S- Video, 25-Pin EPP/ECP, Internal 802.11g Internal Wireless LAN, Bluetooth Module and FireWire.

    Tip: To avoid disappointment later, always double check these connections with your dealer before you buy your notebook computer. Plug-ins can be a problem, check this before you buy.

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    6. Battery Life - Check to see what the battery life of your notebook computer will be - check the cost of an extra battery or a docking station. Many notebooks come with different batteries, four cell, 6 cell, 8 cell, etc. - if battery life is important to your needs, get the largest battery. In most cases, it's best to buy an extra battery if you will doing a lot of traveling or 'in-the-field' work.

    Battery life is gradually increasing, 2 or 3 hours is common. 5 or 6 hours is considered good. General rule of thumb-- the bigger the notebook, the lower the battery life.


    7. Price/Deal - Shop around before you buy! Old cliches are cliches for a good reason - they hold a lot of truth. Shop around and check out the reviews and prices at many stores, online and offline. Do your homework, read reviews, check out online forums - these places will turn up any problems of a particular model.

    Unless you have a local reputable dealer that gives great service and support as well as great warranties or guarantees, it may be best to buy directly from the manufacturer or notebook company.

    Why?

    Usually, factory outlet prices are the lowest prices you will find. The dealer also has his/her reputation on the line, if you can't get quality service from the primary dealer or maker -- you may have a better recourse or action to take than if you're dealing with a reseller out in the boondocks.

    The primary producer or maker will have more to lose. So go direct - if you can and buy from the maker's factory or online site.

    However, don't always be concerned about getting the best deal or bargain. As well as the price, support and customer service is also extremely important - especially if you're considering buying a notebook online. Check out the warranty, Mr. Murphy. Things do go wrong - just make sure your have a recourse that delivers satisfaction.

    So remember these seven factors when buying your computer notebook. If you have to - list them by using your fingers - Size, Hard Drive, Processor, RAM, Connections, Battery Life, and Price. Just be careful how you point those fingers as you list off the different factors before your dealer; armed with the knowledge above there shouldn't be any need for unnecessary rudeness or surprises.



    The Notebook Guide

    www.bizwaremagic.com


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