Choosing just the right laptop from among the huge variety available is easier than you think. You simply have to know what you want to use it for. Laptops comes in so many brands, shapes and sizes that trying to find the machine just right for you can be quite an undertaking, especially with the price tags they come with.
The first step to cut through the confusion is to establish what your priorities are. What matters more to you, power or portability? To answer that question, think about how you intend to use your new laptop. Will it serve as your primary computer, handling everything from storing photo files and burning CDs to housing that novel you've been working on? In that case, you want power. Which may mean a little more heft. Or do you seek a secondary computer for running spreadsheets on the go? Then featherweight portability wins out over bells and whistles.
Once you've determined where you fall on the needs curve, between portability and power, the next step is selecting the machine that best accommodates you. I checked the shops for the latest laptops to find the best bets for every kind of user.
If you want your primary computer to be a laptop, and you want one that behaves like a high-performance desktop, then you can't beat the ultra-powerful l.7GHz Toshiba Satellite 5105-S607. This machine comes with an internal DVD/CD-RW combo drive, so you can watch movies on its 15-inch screen, listen to music through its speakers and even burn your own CDs. If you have a digital camera or MP3 player, you'll love the Satellite's postage-stamp-size Secure Digital and slightly larger Smart Media slots, which house memory cards to store photos or music files, and eliminate the need for connecting wires from your device to the computer. Plus, common functions such as a calculator and commands for opening and closing programs are conveniently built into the unit's touch pad, meaning that you don't have to stop the movie you're watching on the screen to balance your checkbook. With all that power and functionality, the 7-pound Satellite lasts about an hour and a half unplugged.
Plan to take your laptop on the occasional trip, but still intend it to be your primary computer? Then you'll want more battery life and portability than the Toshiba offers, and without sacrificing much power. For users who want the best of both worlds, we recommend the 5.4-pound Apple Power Book G4- The PowerBook is right on par with its Windows-based competition when it comes to power and perks, such as its combo DVD/CD-RW drive. However, it blows everybody else away on battery life. In our tesfs, it held strong for nearly six hours. And its titanium exterior is easy on the eyes, as is, its huge 15.2-inch screen. For Windows loyalists, the Fujitsu Life Book S Series is the way to go in this category. The reasonably priced Fujitsu is packed with plenty of great features, including a combo drive . But you won't pay for power in extra weight or inches: The 4.4-pound Fujitsu boasts a crisp picture on its respectable 13.3-inch screen, and it gives you three hours of battery life.
For road warriors who need a second computer they can haul anywhere, i recommend Dell's Latitude X200. The 8-pounds Latitude has an excellent 12.1-inch screen and an 800MHz processor. But what distinguishes the Latitude is its optional docking station, which comes at an extra cost. This detachable unit couches the bottom of the laptop and houses both DVD/CD-RW and 3.5-inch floppy drives, thus surpassing the limitations of most ultra light units.
For those who dare to go even smaller, the 2.5-pound Compaq Evo N200, literally the size of a notebook, is the lightest laptop we tested. Understand that a computer this diminutive will take some getting used to. The keyboard is 10 per cent smaller than the standard size. But if you're willing to make the adjustment for the sheer portability of a machine this tiny, then you'll be happy with the sharp picture on the N2000's 10.4-inch screen, as well as its nicely designed keyboard, which makes typing easier than on a number of other ultra smalls we tested. Another plus: The N2000's attachable extra battery adds four hours to its basic 60- to 90- minute battery life.
Ultimately, the choice of laptop you purchase is yours and the use you intend to put the laptop to also plays a crucial role in what design you go for. Nevertheless, i suggest that you do not purchase a laptop just for the sake of getting one. It is more sensible to consider its usefulness.
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