Price is not everything when it comes to choosing a laptop. The cheaper versions that are on offer may not be sufficiently wired with the business applications you need.
BY: STEVE HART
So the boss says you can get a new laptop to replace the aging machine that has let you down more than once and is as slow as a snail on a bad day.
There’s quite a range of computers out there now – from cut down netbooks that deliver just the basics to powerful laptops that include all the bells and whistles.
Your basic choice comes down to what your firm tends to use – so unless you are already using Apple Macs or Linux-based computers you are probably going to need a Windows PC.
More importantly, before you start pouring over PC supplier’s websites you’ll need to know your budget and what software you will need to buy to put on your new computer. That old version of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint that has served you well for years may not work on your new machine. And of course you will want to transfer all your old emails from the old computer to the new one, so check that what you are buying will allow you to do this without too much pain.
Depending on what you need your computer for, you may be able to get away with using a small net book or mini computer. These machines are small, light to carry and cheap to buy. Some use a memory chip instead of a hard drive to store your documents – reducing power consumption and weight.
They can be worthwhile machines so long as you don’t expect them to do everything a full-blown laptop can do. The downside of using a netbook is that they typically do not come with a DVD drive, so you will probably want an external drive ($200) to install software, and their keyboards are slightly smaller than their big brother counterpart. But these machines can be picked up for less than $800.
If you need the full power of a laptop computer then the world is your oyster. It means you have to choose carefully and not be swayed by special offers and discounts.
Things to watch for when buying a computer are the size of its hard drive, the speed of the processor, the amount of RAM it has built in, the number of USB sockets and the software it comes supplied with. There’s a lot to consider and the final choice comes down to what you need the computer to do for you.
GO FOR SPEED
While you can add more RAM and a larger hard drive at a later date, things such as processor speed and the number of external ports a computer has are basically set in stone. So given the choice between more RAM and a faster processor, go for speed first and add more RAM later if required. However, 2GB of RAM will handle most of what you need unless you are using it for heavy-duty games and video editing.
Software will also be a big issue for you. Many computers on sale in the High Street are aimed at domestic users. You will probably need a computer with an operating system for business users such as Windows Vista Business. Some cut down versions of Windows found in cheaper PCs may not run some business applications.
Given the long list of options open to computer buyers, it is as well to do your research and draw up a list of specifications you need before going shopping.
And one final tip, before handing over your cash, call the supplier’s technical help line to see how long you have to wait for an answer. Most firms will offer a prompt and efficient service when selling their goods, but they should be judged on their after sales service.
Contact Steve Hart via his website at www.SteveHart.co.nz
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A NEW LAPTOP
- Operating system and software: Ensure you get the full business version of any software, not a cut down version for domestic use.
- Processor speed: 2GHz as a minimum
- RAM : This is your computer’s temporary memory and can affect the speed at which your programs run. 2GB should be a minimum.
- Hard drive: 250GB +
- Display: Decide if the screen size is important to you
- Graphics: Does the graphics card have its own memory or does it share your computer’s RAM. For good speed it is better that the graphics card has its own memory.
- Wireless: It is hard to find a portable computer without a wireless card, but check that what you get will work with your firm’s network – speak with your IT manager
- Webcam: Nice to have but not always essential
- Operating System: Check the system is compatible with what you need
- Warranty: You will get one year, but it may be worth extending this – check the fine print.