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Laptop and Notebooks

Laptops Buying Guide
Computers have revolutionized the way we do things, for the most...
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Laptops Buying Guide

Computers have revolutionized the way we do things, for the most part they've made our lives easier, and then again they've allowed us to become dependent on them for our daily lives and work as well. Desktops are great, they're powerful and they allow us to get a lot of things done, but as their name suggests they are made to be on a desk top and therefore not very portable.

Laptops came along to fill a niche where people needed portable computers, at first they were primarily for businesses, but as they've become cheaper it seems that most people that work with a desktop computer have got a laptop as well. In the beginning laptops were big and bulky, and not really as powerful as a desktop, though as technology advanced they became just as powerful as their desktop counterparts, and in some instances actually replacing the desktop entirely.

When you decide to buy a laptop you're going to find that you've got numerous choices, and purchasing a laptop usually isn't a small investment, they can cost several thousand dollars easily, so it's not something that you want to jump into blindly and just make an impulse buy.

You can find laptops varying in sizes, and specialties from business oriented, multi-media centric to gamer oriented, and everything else in between. Which one you'll want will entirely depend on your specific needs and uses for you computer.

There was a point where a laptop was a laptop and that was about it, but now they come in all different 'flavors', and more recently the 'netbook' has come into play as well.

The main draw for a laptop is their portability obviously, and people are actually replacing their desktops altogether with laptops for this main reason. We like freedom, and wireless internet allows us that freedom, yes a desktop can be wirelessly connected but again it's not very portable. People who are replacing desktops in their homes with laptops like the ability to be able to move from room to room and still be connected, those of us that work from home love the ability to basically work from anywhere there is an internet connection. We can change our scenery at will by just moving to another room, or even going outside, or maybe even going to the local coffee shop to grab a coffee, socialize and get some work done. The portability gives us freedom, and this is something we all crave, the freedom to go where we want, when we want and still be connected.

Laptops or Notebooks can be broken down into a few basic categories, of course usually when ordering a laptop you can build it to your own specifications so it can be really whatever you want or need it to be in the end. You'll usually find laptops categorized by their weight, and normally that works, but as with anything there are exceptions to the rule of course.

Netbook
The 'netbook' or 'subnotebook' is normally a smaller laptop, that is built to be lightweight, and very portable, they usually aren't very powerful, but get the basic jobs done, like email and internet and few other odd and ends. The name 'netbook' of course came from the fact that they're primarily for accessing the internet, browsing websites and checking email. These usually have smaller storage space compared to their laptop counterparts, and many will have some variation of a Linux operating system installed. These have become very popular for their portability, ease of use and very low cost. These have actually been around since about 1999, but they haven't really taken off in popularity until late 2007 with the introduction of several models from various manufacturers. Specifically the introduction of ASUS EEE PC was really when this type of laptop started to gain momentum in the marketplace, many other companies soon followed with their own variations. Netbooks usually weigh in at around 1.5 to 3 pounds in weight, making them very portable and easily traveled with.

Ultralight
The Ultralight notebook is sort of similar to the netbook but usually more feature rich in that they will come with more powerful processors, better graphics and more storage space, these usually can be used for work as well, and these are great types for people who travel frequently. They usually weigh under five pounds, and are small and thin. People sometimes confuse the Ultralight with the Netbook, and really the line is blurring a bit at this point as Netbooks become more and more powerful and feature packed.

Laptop/Notebook
This type is a very general type of laptop, these can range from being used for business, home uses, light game playing and just an all around basic functioning computer. These usually weigh between 5 and 7 pounds, depending on what's inside, battery life, size of screen etc. These are great all purpose laptops that allow people to take their work with them and have the ability to do many things. These types come in many shapes and sizes, with varying screen sizes, battery capacities and storage capacities, if you're looking for a general all-purpose laptop then this is the type you most likely want to look at.

Desktop Replacement:
As the name suggests these are meant to replace the desktop computer, but they really can't honestly. These types of laptops are meant to do everything a desktop computer can allowing a person to own just this type of laptop, but really no laptop can truly replace a desktop, though they can make an excellent substitute for those that need the power of a desktop on the go. These types of laptops are usually heavy, and really not all that portable unless you consider greater than seven pounds of weight portable. Desktop replacements normally have large screens, powerful processors and all the bells and whistles of a desktop, they are meant for a person to be able to do everything on it that you can do with your desktop. Of course though it is still a laptop and can never truly replace the desktop with it's functionality and power, and of course the ability to upgrade and easily swap out broken parts as need be.

-Gaming Laptops
These usually fall under the category of desktop replacements as they normally include powerful processors, and high end video cards they can also include dual video cards or SLI configuration. Many of the gaming laptops also come customized with graphics or themed to a certain popular game of the time.

Apple Products
These laptops can fall under a category of their own really, Apple makes a few different laptops that do not conform to the common standards of other laptops. With Apple products you now have the ability to run Windows on them since they've switched over to an Intel based hardware system, this is great for people who might want an Apple product but are not accustomed to their operating system. The one interesting thing you'll find about Apple laptops is the price, they are more expensive than equally equipped PC based laptops, there's also an argument about the reason why, but it's not something to go into here. Basically, before Apple made the switch to Intel processors, most people were relegated to the world of Windows based laptops. Switching to Apple, meant moving to a PowerPC architecture that was not compatible with the x86 architecture lifestyle. However, now with the use of Intel Core 2 Duo chips within MacBook, even the staunchest PC evangelist can get an Apple laptop and delve into the Windows world for comfort if needed. There are programs like Boot Camp that allow dual booting of both operating systems so one can switch back and forth between the OS's, on the inverse side of course you can now install the OSX operating system on a PC. (There is of course the ongoing battle between the Apple and PC camps as to who or which is better, personally I feel that as long as it gets the job done then so be it...)

Apple brand notebooks have become much more popular for their versatility, and usefulness especially among the artistic crowd, they are popularly known to be used for video and graphics editing and creation. They've also become much more popular since Apple decided to convert over to Intel processors, this change in hardware allowed them to gain a large market share and move from niche computer to more of mainstream acceptance.

Tablets
Tablet style laptops fall into a category of their own as well, these are technically a laptop while looking really nothing like one. A tablet style notebook resembles a writing tablet and normally does not come with a hardware keyboard, the screen of the tablet is touch screen based and the keyboard is displayed on screen for users to type with. You'll find these normally in business or medical related settings where speed, portability and ease of access is most required. For the most part though tablets can be as powerful as a standard laptop and come with the same feature set as well, just the lack of the keyboard makes then not really suitable for everyday usage where a hardwares keyboard is needed for input.

Things to take into consideration when purchasing any laptop:

Weight and Size
These both go hand in hand, weight is proportional the size usually. If you need a laptop that will be a desktop replacement and not moved around much then the weight and size of it won't effect you too much. A large laptop is nice to have as it offers more power to do what you need to do, along with the ability to be portable if need be. Desktop replacement laptops are nice, but not something you'll want to lug back and forth everyday to work and back.

Battery Life
Battery life is a very important issues concerning laptops, after all their primary function is to be portable, thus using a battery to make them so. Some laptops have the ability to use extended batteries and some even allow one of the bays to be swapped out to allow for two batteries to be used to further extend the life of the power available. If you intend on using your laptop as a portable computer where it will always be on the go with you then make sure you check the estimated battery life, then check with independent sources to verify that the laptop actually gets that kind of mileage from the battery. Something I personally might take into consideration as well is the cost of buying a secondary battery, some laptop batteries can be very expensive while others not so much.

Screen Size
This might go with the size of that laptop, or at least it's somewhat related but really depending on what your needs are you might need need a huge 17” screen laptop, yes a large screen is nice, but if a 14” screen will work for your needs then why get the larger one and not only add weight but size as well.

Storage Space
This might seem obvious but not really, the amount of things you can store on your hard drive is something you need to consider. The size of the hard drive can vary greatly between machines and prices of them, you can get a laptop with a small hard drive or some that even have two hard drives in them, but of course your cost is going to rise exponentially with the more storage you get. Now you might say if you run out of space you can store it elsewhere, or just swap out for another hard drive, yes both are feasible options, where the second not so much, swapping out the hard drive requires you to also re-install the operating system as well which requires more work on your part. Try and figure out the size you'll need based on your common usage of things, what programs you need to have installed, maybe take movies and music with you as well, movies will come and go but your music collection will likely stay there and grow taking up more space.

Usage now and in the future
This is a major factor when looking to purchase a laptop of any kind, what will you be using it for, and what might you be using it for later in the future. If all you need is a laptop to check email, browse the internet and maybe listen to music then your choice is clear, but if you want to be able to play games, watch movies and do everything you do on your desktop then you're going to have some decisions to make when it comes to configuring your laptop. Don't just think of the now when purchasing a laptop, think towards the future and what you might want to be able do with it, you don't want to buy a laptop and only to find in a few months that it can't run a program you need it to.

Depending on the type of laptop you purchase it can be a big big investment, and something that is quite likely going to be with you for a very long time. I myself have had my laptop for about five years, that's old when it comes to computers, but it still works and it does what I need it to do still to this day. At the time I purchased it, it was a top of the line business class laptop, I don't regret at all paying a premium for it as it has more than lasted me doing what I need it to do. Yes it's getting a bit antiquated right now but it works and does what I need it to and that's what matters to me.

When purchasing a laptop think of the future, don't just think of the here and now, this applies to the regular average person as much as it applies to a businessman or a college student. If you're a student buying a laptop for school, remember you're going to be using this laptop all through school and probably beyond, if you're specializing in something like multimedia get a laptop that is made for that as it's what you'll use and need the most.

I've said it before and I'll says it again and again, research, research and more research is a key to buying any type of product. Though with laptops it's especially a concern, laptops have a tendency to be fragile and have problems due to their compact size, some are better than others as with anything. Once you decide on a specific laptop model you're interested in check around to see what types of problems others may have encountered with them, check to see if the battery life is really what the company claims it to be. A laptop can be an investment in money and the future, you don't want to rush into it blindly, you wan tot be well knowledgeable with what your needs are.

Of course check around for reviews as well of laptops, many websites have roundups of the popular laptops, listing their pros and cons so you can get a quick and easy look at the strengths and weaknesses of several styles of laptops at a glance.

And of course you'll also want to look for hands on reviews of laptops, here' you'll get to see close up pictures of the laptops, and you'll learn quite a bit more than any manufacturer will tell you.

Reviews are nice, but the best source of knowledge is someone like you that already owns a laptop, they'll be honest with you in telling you the problems if any they're had with their laptop, from them you'll learn what works and doesn't with a certain laptop. Look around for forums or message boards that specialize in laptops, join and don't be afraid to ask questions about any one particular model you might be interested in, the members are just like you, everyday average people just trying to help one another out if they can. Sites like these can be an invaluable source of information to a prospective buyer, there you'll learn specifically the ins and outs, pros and cons of any product.

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