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Five tips on buying a Laptop or Netbook

Author

Timmie
CD Freaks Editor
Article posted 25 Sep 09 15:28

Introduction

If you are planning to buy a Laptop or Netbook, this is the buying guide to read. This Laptop/Netbook buying guide gives five comprehensive tips to take with you before you start shopping.

  1 Make sure the Notebook is comfortable in use and interface 

If you are planning to spend some time using your new Laptop, make sure it will be comfortable. A better interface will mean more comfort and a lower chance on health problems.

Most keyboards are built over the full width of the laptop, often meaning smaller keys. Since your hands and wrists try to adapt to these miniature keys, problems might occur. Best way to avoid this would be to choose a larger Laptop; still some find smaller ones more attractive. Please make sure to weigh-in comfort as well, since this lowers the chance of Carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.

Every modern Notebook or Netbook has a touchpad as a replacement of the mouse. Every day use of a touchpad might be hard on your fingers so therefore we recommend buying a separate mouse. If mobility overweighs comfort a smaller laptop could be a better choice.

  2 Buy a Laptop that suits your needs

Think about the main purpose of your Laptop. If purely Internet and word processing is your game, make sure not to spend too much money. Should mobility be an important factor, you might want to choose a Netbook over a Laptop.

More and more people replace their Desktop PC with a Laptop. This means that you should remember that everything you do on your Desktop, should be able to do on your new Laptop.

Laptops are easier to store when not used, and are more energy-efficient than (older) Desktop PCs.

3 Shop around for battery life

Laptops are designed to use away from the good old desk, and therefore need a high battery life. Make sure to shop around. A good laptop should be able to run for hours on a full battery. As the technology moves forward it shouldn’t be too hard to find a notebook that doubles the battery life.

Most laptops will allow you to configure the laptop’s battery use, which will make it more efficient. For example the laptop will dim its screen’s backlight so that the actual battery use will be lower. Some processors allow speed throttling, which means they will slow down when it isn’t needed to run on full speed. 

Compared to laptops, smaller so-called Netbooks have a very long battery life, being very energy efficient because of the lack of raw power.

Size difference between a Laptop and Netbook.

Size difference between a Laptop and Netbook.



4 Size matters! Think carefully about mobility

Both size and weight are very important. Think carefully what you will use the laptop for. Is mobility an important factor, or will the Laptop replace your Desktop PC?

When mobility is a factor you will have to weigh in both the Laptop’s weight and its battery life. Both are related since longer battery life often means more weight due to the increased cell size. 

Try to find the ultimate mix between both size and the Notebook’s quality. Ask yourself how much you are willing to give up for mobility. For example you could be a real fan of big screens, and therefore carry around more.

5 Be future proof… 

 Probably either an uncle or other family member has told you that technology moves so fast that in two years your PC or Notebook is no longer of any use. In some cases this is true, but by buying as much Laptop as possible you will lower the chance of a very short future.

Not immediately related to the Laptop’s technology, but still very important is the warranty. All Laptops and Netbooks come with a standard minimum of one year, and offer extra guarantee for a premium. Still carefully consider whether you need a warranty, and don’t get palmed off.

Two important things to know are that both the Laptop’s processor as graphic processor are two integrated features and therefore are not upgradeable. Think on what you will need your laptop for in the coming years, and we are sure you’ll make a good decision.

Laptop memory is relatively easy to upgrade, so you will not have to focus on this too much.

There are 15 comments

Bakst0ne
MyCE Junior Member
Posted on: 25 Sep 09 16:27
    Thanks for this guide! I'm looking for a notebook, and I'm considering buying a netbook - the price is very attractive! Do you, or anyone else, have tips or models they would recommend? From what I can see, the specs of most netbooks seem to be almost the same!
    geraldoconnor
    New on Forum
    Posted on: 25 Sep 09 18:59
      Excellent article! I, for one, have a tendency to buy more "zoomers and wizzers" than I will ever need or use. Obviously, this drives up the purchase price. We all know this, but your 5 TIPS are a good reminder. WELL DONE.
      CCRomeo
      Retired Moderator
      Posted on: 25 Sep 09 20:04
        Note some laptops are becoming like large netbooks; with optical drives, long battery life but slow CPUs; fine if that is what you plan to use it for.
        Seán
        Senior Administrator & Reviewer
        Posted on: 25 Sep 09 20:05
          Most Netbooks do indeed have the same or very similar spec when it comes to RAM, CPU and hard disk. The main things that differ are the screen size (8.9" to 10.2"), speakers and the battery life. For example, the Acer Aspire One and Samsung N120 have the same Atom N270 CPU, 160GB HDD and 1GB RAM, but the Samsung N120 has better speakers, larger screen (10.2" vs 8.9"), much longer battery life (up to 9Hr vs 3Hr) and a larger keyboard.

          One thing in common with most Netbooks is that they run Windows XP and the performance feels a lot better than many entry level laptops running Windows Vista, at least every one I've used. For example, my Samsung N120 fully boots from the power button to the desktop with HDD activity stopped in 50 seconds. Generally I put it in hibernate, in which case it is ready to use in a couple of seconds, much like a full size laptop getting out of hibernation. From my experience, most applications run just as smooth as on a full size laptop, obviously except anything CPU or memory intensive, such as a graphics suite, video editor, etc. For video, it plays pretty much everything including H.264 up to 1280x720 with smooth video.

          As the Atom CPUs used in Netbooks are quite limited, if you do get one, be very careful which software you install that loads on startup or which runs in the background. For example, Skype is quite hefty and can add around 25 seconds to the boot-time alone! A workaround is to configure each software to not automatically start with Windows and this way you can manually run the software as you need it.

          I would not worry too much about hard disk space, as 160GB can hold quite a lot. Just don't dump your entire movie collection on it! If you need additional storage, get a 2.5" HDD, which is self-powered by USB. An external Western Digital 500GB passport is about half the size of DVD holder.

          The screen will take a little while to get use to due to its lower resolution. Despite the myth that the writing will be tiny, I find it very comfortable to read the text on my Samsung 10.2" netbook. However, after using an Aspire One with an 8.9" screen, I do find the writing on its display a little too small for my comfort. The resolution of nearly all Netbooks (8.9" to 10.2") is 1024x600, which is the same horizontal resolution of 15" PC LCD monitors, so the vast majority of websites display fine on it without the need to scroll left/right. Due to the narrower height, it's best to avoid installing toolbars. The best browser from my experience on a netbook is Google Chrome, where the header contains nothing more than the tabs in the title bar and the address bar below it, leaving plenty of viewing area for displaying webpages, probably as much vertical viewing area as using Firefox without toolbars on a regular 1280x768 laptop display.

          For travelling, especially on holidays, a Netbook is a lot more travel friendly. As they are around 1.5kg lighter than full size laptops, this is a huge weight reduction in a carry-bag, especially in an airport. It's also more comfortable to use on a bus or plane and the lengthy battery of some (e.g. my Samsung N120) means that it will run most of the day. At home, I occasionally use mine as a portable TV, using DVBViewer to stream satellite TV from my desktop.

          The following shows a rough size comparison between a 15.4" laptop and a 10.2" netbook when placed on top of each other:

          Attachment 193354

          Despite the size difference, the distance between the left of the 'A' key and the right of the ';' key of my desktop PC keyboard is about 18.5cm. The same measurement on Samsung N120 is also about 18.5cm! The main keys made smaller are the 2 far-right keys on each row.

          The following gives an idea of how the viewing width compares between the two while on the forum index. This also gives an idea of how much smaller the the writing size is, since the forum has a fixed width:

          Attachment 193355
          mciahel
          Senior Moderator
          Posted on: 25 Sep 09 20:59
            Quote:
            Originally Posted by Seán
            If you need additional storage, get a 2.5" HDD, which is self-powered by USB.
            Any USB powered 2.5" HDD overloads the USB port it is connected to quite heavily. Reliability is something different. Worst case scenario is a fried USB controller.


            Michael
            Seán
            Senior Administrator & Reviewer
            Posted on: 25 Sep 09 21:08
              It seems like the Samsung and older 7" EEE must have robust USB controllers, as I've often used two at the same time , but then again I never had an issue.
              mciahel
              Senior Moderator
              Posted on: 25 Sep 09 21:51
                Quote:
                Originally Posted by Seán
                It seems like the Samsung and older 7" EEE must have robust USB controllers, as I've often used two at the same time , but then again I never had an issue.
                You were lucky then
                Checking the specs of randomly chosen 2.5" HDDs, you will find that they draw about 1000 mA during spinup. An USB port is specified to feed 500 mA if requested by the device.

                Michael
                DrageMester
                Retired Moderator
                Posted on: 25 Sep 09 22:41
                  [Off-topic]
                  Quote:
                  Originally Posted by mciahel
                  Any USB powered 2.5" HDD overloads the USB port it is connected to quite heavily. Reliability is something different. Worst case scenario is a fried USB controller.
                  I never had a USB controller fry or heard of anyone experiencing this problem. It sounds like a mostly theoretical or very rare problem.

                  I have experienced some combinations of 2.5" drives and USB ports that won't let the drive spin up, however.

                  I have also experienced write corruption on SD flash memory in a cardreader connected by USB while a 2.5" USB harddrive was connected to the same USB controller, because the cardreader didn't get enough voltage or current when the harddrive was attached.
                  deanimator
                  MyCE Resident
                  Posted on: 25 Sep 09 23:40
                    ON-topic, but still talking about USB ports...

                    When buying a Netbook, check how many ports it has. Most seem to have just two, while only a few have three. I find I need three quite often.
                    DiiZzY
                    MyCE Resident
                    Posted on: 26 Sep 09 00:06
                      If you want durability get a business laptop, it's more expensive and usually offers less bells and whistles but works way better in the end and battery life is by far better than useless consumer laptops.
                      //Danne
                      CCRomeo
                      Retired Moderator
                      Posted on: 26 Sep 09 00:49
                        Look for a Notebook or Netbook with most if not all ports on the right or left sides not in the back (hard to use) or front (hard to use on a stand).at least 3 USB ports four if you use a mouse. Be sure it can updraded easly with additional RAM and a new HDD.

                        If used mostly like a desktop, get a stand; runs cooler and better for typing. A 2nd power supply is more usefull than a 2nd battery. Get or make a set of recovery discs ASAP.
                        deanimator
                        MyCE Resident
                        Posted on: 26 Sep 09 01:47
                          BTW, did you know that a licensing agreement between Microsoft and the netbook manufacturers means that netbook hardware is limited to less than 1.6GHz/1GB RAM/160GB, if they are running XP. If the manufacturer wants to offer the consumer a higher spec´d netbook, then they are required to install Vista!
                          BussyB
                          Former MyCE Support
                          Posted on: 28 Sep 09 13:42
                            Quote:
                            Originally Posted by deanimator
                            BTW, did you know that a licensing agreement between Microsoft and the netbook manufacturers means that netbook hardware is limited to less than 1.6GHz/1GB RAM/160GB, if they are running XP. If the manufacturer wants to offer the consumer a higher spec´d netbook, then they are required to install Vista!
                            Yeah I've heard about it. I'm curious whether the introduction of Windows7 will finally leed to a '2nd' generation of netbooks (that are still reasonable priced).
                            dcampbe
                            New Member
                            Posted on: 28 Jan 10 18:54
                              Quote:
                              Originally Posted by mciahel
                              You were lucky then
                              Checking the specs of randomly chosen 2.5" HDDs, you will find that they draw about 1000 mA during spinup. An USB port is specified to feed 500 mA if requested by the device.

                              Michael
                              A 'y' USB power cable works wonders.

                              http://www.toshibadirect.com/td/b2c/adet.to?poid=438342
                              mciahel
                              Senior Moderator
                              Posted on: 28 Jan 10 20:59
                                Quote:
                                Originally Posted by dcampbe
                                A 'y' USB power cable works wonders.
                                By accident. Sometimes. It gives another 100mA, and it's not specs-compliant.
                                The "user reviews" there are very promising

                                Michael

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