Suggestions for purchasing a Laptop?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Judy R. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I am looking for a laptop that would support an online business. I have a decent computer at home, but would like to have a separate computer for the business. I was thinking of a laptop; are there any you would recommend? I would need some ability to back-up. We have DSL High Speed Internet at home and would like to go wireless. We're a little lost on how to do that, though we have the parts. PS: I enjoy your newsletter -- some of it is way over my head, but I am getting some good basic information. Keep up the good work. Thank you. "

My response:

Brand name wise, Toshiba and IBM (in my opinion) produce some very sophisticated and top of the line equipment, but they are also pricey. Dell is by far the biggest mail-order computer retailer, followed by Compaq, and HP, Gateway, IBM, and others (Source: Arthur A. Thompson and John E. Gamble, "Dell Computer in 2003: Driving for Industry Leadership", University of Alabama, 2003).

Price-wise, you'll spend more on a Laptop if it is:

  • smaller (lighter / thinner)
  • has more memory / hard drive space
  • uses a mobile processor
  • has a fast video card with dedicated memory
  • has extras (DVD Writer instead of a CD-R writer, for example)
  • Typically the smaller / lighter laptops use less hardware, which (almost always) implies that battery life on the laptop will be greater. Also, the smaller / lighter laptops typically use the Mobile Processor ("Centrino") which consume less power than a standard 'desktop' processor, resulting in much longer battery life (2 hours compared to 6 hours, for example).

    If you're constantly "on the go" with your business, perhaps the biggest issue for you will be whether or not you'll have access to a power source for your Laptop. If this is not the case and you simply want something that's portable, then you can probably save a few hundred dollars by not purchasing an ultra-lightweight Laptop with a mobile processor.

    One other thing to mention: regardless of which laptop you decide to go with, I recommend you stay away from the Celeron-based processors; they are significantly slower than the newer-generation Pentium 4's (with 800 MHz FSB, or 'Front Side Bus') and the cost is relatively nominal in comparison to performance. And at minimum, I suggest you get at least 512 megabytes of system memory (RAM). RAM can make a huge difference in the time it takes to switch between applications.

    Side note: FSB is the speed that the processor communicates with all other peripherals inside the computer (RAM, video card, hard drive, etc). FSB speed can have a profound influence on the overall speed of a computer and is often overlooked by consumers.

    RE: I would need some ability to back-up. We have DSL at home and would like to go wireless. We're a little lost on how to do that, though we have the parts.

    Disk imaging is the ultimate backup solution because (compared to file-by-file backup) disk imaging takes a snapshot of your entire hard drive -- including the operating system. For this job, I highly recommend Acronis True Image. My Laptop doesn't have a CD Burner and I use True Image to backup the Laptop through the network. The new version of True Image (v8) supports "incremental" disk imaging backups, which can save you a significant amount of time backing up a huge volume (it will only backup changes made since the last backup). It's simply a fantastic program!

    Disk Imaging Basics

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