Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WMN.Ph article: How to Choose the Right Laptop for Your Needs

I had a lot of enjoyment and nostalgia with this article. It took me back to my days in Hardware Magazine (Ph), and with that, a lot of thinking on what could have been. My work in HWM - or more importantly, my leaving them - was a turning point in my life.

How to Choose the Right Laptop for Your Needs

Choosing your laptop is not just about having the best performance - it's about your lifestyle. Your laptop should be aligned with what you want to do with it.

Text and photo by Richie Ramos

The latest change in lifestyle technology is the introduction of mobility. Desktop computers are becoming the niche market, as more people are buying laptops. And why not? Laptop PCs can be brought almost anywhere, literally letting you bring your digital life with you. But your laptop is only as good as it matches your needs. Here are some pointers - and geekspeak - so you won't get lost when you're choosing your "she-will-be-loved" laptop.

The processor is the brain of any computer. No matter how many bells and whistles you put on your laptop, if it doesn’t have enough brainpower, then it'll still be slow. If you're looking for pure computing power, a Dual Core processor with speeds of 2 GHz (gigahertz) and above will be able to handle web design, graphics, photo manipulation, video, and streaming applications like YouTube easily. But if you only need a laptop for basic programs such as writing letters or articles, surfing the web, viewing photos, and listening to your mp3s, then look for Intel Atom series processors.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, can be best described as a sort of gate for all the information that goes in and out of your processor. You can have a kick-butt processor, but if your RAM isn’t big enough, then your speed will still be slow. For basic usage, 1 GB (gigabyte) can work well. But if you can, spring for 2 GB or higher.
Your laptop's screen is a defining detail for your laptop - after all, your laptop's size is pretty much the size of your screen. If you're doing visually intensive work, or if you simply like to watch movies and see photos well, then you should opt for screens that are 14 inches in diameter or larger. For people who will only use their laptops to surf, pick up email, or do occasional writing, laptops with screens 10 inches and below may be better, as it makes your laptop more portable. Laptops in this size range have been called notebooks and netbooks, due to their small sizes.
Hard Drives
While the processor may be the brainpower of your laptop, the hard drive - or hard disk, is the memory. This is another important part of your laptop. The common idea is to have as large a hard drive as possible. The standard right now is about 160 GB. That much memory can house about 160 near-DVD quality movies. 500 GB hard drives are also bundled into some laptops.

Be careful of "low-price" laptops, as some of them may not have the technology to be truly mobile. Always check if it has Wi-Fi capabilities. Wi-Fi is the standard for wirelessly connecting to the Internet. If you also want to send photos and other information from your cellphone to your laptop, check if the laptop has Bluetooth. Many laptops, however, do not have this - you may have to buy a USB Bluetooth attachment or "dongle."
I've saved the battery issue for last, because if you can’t connect to an electrical outlet, then your battery becomes the one thing you should base your other laptop choices on. The better your laptop's components are (or larger, in the case of your screen), the shorter your battery's life generally will be. That's why some people settle for the minimum for their needs - so they can have longer battery life. If you’re using a high-power laptop intensively, expect your battery power to last about an hour and a half, three at most. If your battery life hits about five to seven hours before charging, that's already excellent. Some of the smaller netbooks have battery upgrades that can let them operate for as long as 14 hours on basic usage.
How will you use it?
Before you buy a laptop, be honest with yourself, and determine what you're really going to use it for. Having a large screen, for example, will make it necessary for you to bring a large bag, or a slow processor might make your client presentations awkward. Remember, a laptop should make your life easier, not the other way around.

Basic Users
- If you're just going to surf the net, answer e-mail, and look at YouTube and Facebook, then getting a netbook is the answer. With its small size, long battery life, and decent memory, it's easy to bring around, and it doesn't get too hot.

Work and Presentation
- Laptops have become useful for many freelancers and corporate people since it’s easy to work outside of the office and present to clients using a laptop. While you don’t need large hard drives, you may need a lot of RAM and powerful processors, especially if you present proposals to clients. You should also have a screen that is at least 14 inches in diameter.

Power Users and Gamers
- For some, their laptops are their offices. This becomes more important if their work involves graphics, photographs, websites, and even computer animation. In this case, the term "having all the bells and whistles" applies. Get the fastest, the one with the most memory (in both RAM and hard drive capacity), and if possible, with a respectable battery life. And did we mention a large screen?

Now, it's time to go out there and get the laptop you want
and need.

*the second image (with the text) was made by the artists over at WMN.Ph. However, the text there was from my article additions.