An expert guide to laptops
The word ‘laptop’ refers to many different kinds of small computer you can use on the move. A laptop computer is usually about the format of an A4 sheet of paper with a full-sized, QWERTY keyboard.
Other ‘netbook’ computers are smaller, lighter, have less computing power and use smaller keyboards. Then again, ultra-thin laptops are now appearing from Apple, Sony, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba and Acer which are less than 1-in thin and weigh about 1-2 pounds less than a standard laptop.
We’re now so familiar with portable technology, with manufacturers advertising them almost as lifestyle items, that many of us consider laptops as fashion accessories, just as we would our phones.
Laptops are now fully-functional, light enough to take anywhere and available in any colour with patterned surfaces. The eyes have it when it comes to purchases, it seems. This may sound superficial but manufacturers are taking it seriously. Everyone wants a nice‐looking, sleek laptop to carry around.
According to chip maker AMD, customers are not so much interested in what’s going on inside their laptop but they do want it to look good, and do the job it has been bought for. The technology needs to perform its tasks and everything else – apart from the price – is immaterial.
Not so sure about that, but AMD has certainly taken a novel approach to its marketing which cuts out the traditional techno-speak, simplifying the laptop selection process.
Working with its technology partners it has made it easy for you to see what you’re buying, and what the laptop can be used for. Its ‘VISION Technology from AMD’ sticker on the laptop casing determines the purposes for which a particular laptop is suitable.
A few things to remember
You also need to think very carefully about what you’re going to use your laptop for. Some think of it as a desktop replacement they can use anywhere in the house. While others regard their laptop as a truly portable device they want to have with them everywhere they go.
Choose features carefully
If the laptop is regularly being used away from a main power supply, then long battery life is important. When on the move, low weight and compact dimensions pay off.
If you want to run Windows and a clutch of other applications – just as you would on your desktop PC – then think about memory and hard disk space. You’ll need 2 gigabytes (preferably 4GB) of the former, and certainly a minimum of 100 gigabytes of the latter if you’re storing videos and pictures.
Make sure your screen’s big enough as well. A 15-in screen is standard but you might prefer a 17-in widescreen display for films or tv.
If you’re using a laptop to cut videos or play back HD TV, to edit large-size digital photos or handle 3D gaming, then you’ve really got to increase the machine’s spec and price (£1,500 - £2,000).
The processor can never be too fast. Without a high‐performance graphics chip, you can forget about 3D gaming. Without one, most of the top games won’t even start, never mind run at a decent speed.
The ideal is what are called hybrid laptops – such as the Sony Vaio Z - with two on‐board graphics chips. Depending on the demands you’re placing on the machine, select the high‐performance or the regular chip – which helps extend battery life.
A faster processor increases frame rates (fps). The higher the frame, the quicker the game will run. This is really important if you’re into online gaming where a few frames per second can make all the difference. Look for laptops with Dual Core processors, such as the Intel Core 2 Duo and AMD Turion X2.
Bridging the gap between the power of a laptop and portability of a netbook Dell’s M101z is the perfect take anywhere PC. With fantastic battery life and a full width keyboard it is great for keeping in touch on the go, for students looking for a great laptop for work and play or for a portable entertainment centre.
If you are looking to give the gift of ultimate entertainment with a personal touch Dell’s new range of XPS 15 laptops feature JBL and Waves Sound Design speakers and full HD screen with Nvidia graphics for the best way to enjoy films, photos, online gaming and music.
3D ready and the industry’s first Skype certified laptop you can enjoy easy video chat as well as first class entertainment from this sleek and stylish laptop.
Not only does the XPS range deliver a great entertainment experience, XPS laptops can now be customised in Dell Design Studio, with over 140 designs to choose from! Find the perfect design for any style and give a personalised gift this Christmas.
Don’t forget the extras
The eNAU608 external DVD Writer from Lite-On is a portable gadget that is not just a handy tool for backing up and sharing data in even the remotest locations – it also has an unusual and world-first twist.
Creative users can customise and interchange the top cover design to show off their individual style everywhere they go. From photographs of loved ones, to favourite art works or even just wacky or seasonal designs – the eNAU608 lets those with a flair for fashion and design express their personality, and adds a touch of fun to computing tasks.
Priced at £51 the eNAU608 is available from a range of retailers and is supplied with a collection of pre-designed covers to get users started.
Just in time for the Christmas holidays, Hitachi has just launched the perfect external storage companion for musicians and technicians to use alongside their Apple laptop. The new G‐DRIVE slim external hard drive provides users with 320 gigabytes of storage and ubiquitous USB 2.0 connectivity in a compact design at an affordable price of £75.
Not only that but it’s also Time Machine ready for added backup protection and, at 7mm, it is the thinnest, 2.5‐inch external hard drive in the world.
The Dell Inspiron M301z from £399 is worth a look.
The Acer Aspire 5740.
The Apple MacBook Air 11 inch version starts at £831.99.
Dell's choice of laptops includes the Studio XPS 16 for the more demanding user.
Comparison between Macbook Pro and Dell Studio XPS 16.
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