Monday, 25 May 2009

Buying a laptop? Look beyond specs

Planning to buy a laptop? However, don't know how to start hunting for the ideal notebook. One that meets your requirements and fits in best into your work regimen.

Remember, while specs are what manufacturers tout -- dual core processor, large screen, size, and lightweight -- there's more you need to consider while zeroing on the laptop of your choice.

These features though may not look obvious, will go a long way in making your purchase enduring.

Display: Gloss or matte?
When you buy a notebook computer, pay special attention to whether the LCD display is "glossy" or "matte". Increasingly, manufacturers are offering glossy screens. While these are great for watching movies on your laptop, they're not optimal for doing traditional office work.

The reason is that the glossy screens are highly reflective. In typical office environments, glossy screens can be hard on both your eyes and your concentration, as you'll have to work harder to ignore the ambient lighting and background objects that are reflected in your screen.

Bottom line is that if you're buying a notebook primarily to get work done and not to watch movies or play games, avoid glossy screens. Also, glossy screens are more susceptible to scratches than matte screens. So if your laptop is likely to go through some rough and tumble daily, this is another reason to go for a matte

Built-in wireless
Most notebooks in the market today come with built-in wireless network connectivity. The trouble is that many still include yesterday's technology.

The wireless transmission standard is about to get a big boost in speed with the official unveiling of the 802.11n standard, which provides Internet and networking connectivity speeds that are about 10 times faster than the wireless standards currently in use.

That's a significant speed boost, and it's one you want in your notebook computer, especially because changing the type of wireless connectivity that you have in a notebook is difficult or impossible once you buy the machine.

Avoid notebooks that offer only the built-in 802.11b or 802.11g wireless cards. Even if the version of 802.11n offered in a notebook sold today is dubbed "draft" or "pre-release", it'll likely still be far faster than the 802.11g standard -- and you'll probably be able to upgrade it later, once the standard is finally ratified.

Rugged exterior
How well a notebook computer is built will likely determine whether you still own it three years from now or whether it gets sold off for parts.

The unfortunate fact is that as competition has forced manufacturers to offer notebooks at rock-bottom prices, quality of exterior construction has suffered.

If you'll be doing a lot of travelling or will be buying a notebook for a youngster, think about buying notebooks that were made to take some abuse. The Dell Latitude series, the Acer TravelMate, or the Lenovo ThinkPad are all highly regarded in terms of durability.

Too hot to hold?
Combine a powerful processor, fast hard drive, and hefty battery, and what do you get? Heat -- and lots of it. There's a good reason why the moniker "laptop" has all but disappeared: Some notebook computers are really not suitable for resting on your lap because they get too hot on the underside to hold comfortably.

But some notebook computers are still designed for those who wish to work from their lap. That's why it's important to find out just how hot a laptop gets on the underside. Either contact the manufacturer and ask specifically about this or visit a store in which the notebook is running, and feel the underside.

Hate noise? Go for SSD
Noise is less of a problem with notebooks than it once was, but it can still be a factor -- especially if you're easily bothered by noise while working.

Noise in notebooks generally comes from two sources: the hard drive and the cooling fan. If you want to eliminate the source of hard drive altogether, consider a new notebook with a solid-state drive.

In-built UPS power
Batteries act like your laptops in-built UPS. They are the lifeline of your machine. So, it is important that you check up how many hours your battery will run. Some batteries last long, but some don’t. There are three main types of batteries:

Li+: Most people get Lithium-ion (Li+) batteries. These are generally good, safe and secure.

NiMH: If you want something cheap, a nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) battery will do.

NiCad: This probably won't be an option, but if a dealer does try to sell you a nickel cadmium (NiCad) battery, run away. They require constant recharging.

In these days of technology obsolence it is very important to find out the upgrade options available. Also, one should keep in mind that laptops can be upgraded up to some extent only. While it is possible to upgrade main memory, and removable drives, the upgrades can cost twice as much as a desktop.

It is even cheaper and environment-friendly to upgrade your laptop rather than to discard it. So, before buying try and explore upgrade options available.

Though this may not be that important, still there is no harm in checking the best deal available. Do a recee of the various combo plans being offered by various vendors.

Like presently Compaq is offering WiFi music player free with its notebooks.

Also, check which dealer is offering accessories like free bag, headsets, wireless mouse or some discount coupons.