Published Date
01 - Dec - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2006
With a large number of colleges and universities setting up their own Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops are an ideal computing solution for students. And with prices going down, now almost matching mid-range Desktop prices, many corporations prefer to arm their executives with laptops, saving not only desktop space but also enhancing productivity by allowing them to work from home.

You now have a wide range of CPUs to choose from, both single-core and dual-core. Many ultra-portables come with single-core CPUs and offer more than a 40 per cent increase in battery life (over dual-core). If longer battery life and portability are more important to you than performance, a single-core CPU is your best bet. But if you need performance more than anything else, go with a dual core.

Questions To Ask

Can I upgrade my laptop?
Check to see if you can upgrade some components-namely the hard disk, optical drive, and RAM-to your liking. Also check whether the warranty will hold if the laptop is upgraded, as in addition of extra RAM or hard drive.

What form factor should I opt for?
Very critical factor; if you're buying a laptop, you're going to be carrying it around! While looking at the weight, don't forget to factor in the weight of the charger and other accessories. Ultra-portables-targeted at frequent fliers and others on the go-are very thin, and weigh less than 1.5 kg. The most commonly seen laptops (with 14-inch to 15.4-inch displays) weigh between 2.5 and 3 kg. Desktop replacement laptops needn't be constrained much by weight and size-they won't be carried around much. These weigh above 3.5 kg and can be bulky.

What software is bundled?
Find out whether an OS comes preloaded or if you have to get your own copy. In the latter case, you need to factor in the cost of the OS as well. Check for driver CDs, and look for other software like CD/DVD burning software.

Future Trends

With laptops getting smaller and more powerful, battery life is the next step. With some innovative technologies, laptop manufacturers have managed to squeeze in battery life of up to seven hours. Fuel cells have promised batteries that won't require electricity at all: they use methanol. So when the battery runs out, just top it up with methanol and you are good to go! Methanol is 40 to 60 times more energy-efficient than Lithium-ion.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen to generate power; the water formed as a by-product is also utilised to keep the process running. Fuel cells differ from normal batteries in that the reacting chemicals can be replenished. The technology is fast maturing.
Laptops have forayed into the gaming arena-a desktop-only domain just some time ago-in style. The latest laptops have really good hardware to help you run the latest games. Some manufacturers also offer laptops with multiple GPUs for cutting-edge performance.

What To Look For

Display size
With widescreen displays becoming popular and going mainstream, all laptop manufacturers are migrating to the widescreen camp. These displays give you better video quality and enhance the experience of watching movies and playing games. Normally, laptop display sizes range from 11 inches to 17 inches. Display sizes below 12 inches are well-suited for people always on the go. The most popular display size lies between 14 inches and 15.4 inches. For a desktop replacement laptop, a 17-inch display would be desirable.
Connectivity options
All laptops have at least a network card, S-Video and VGA/DVI connectors to connect external displays, four USB ports, and a card reader. Some laptops even offer a FireWire port. Parallel and serial ports are hard to find on the latest laptops, but you probably won't need them. There is small variation with reference to add-on cards: some laptops support PCMCIA cards, while other support the newer ExpressCard, which is more energy-efficient and faster. Don't base a buying decision on the basis of an ExpressCard-though desirable, it's not entirely necessary. All laptops today support at least one Wi-Fi standard from among 802.11 a/b/g.

Battery life
Look for a battery life of at least two hours. If you think the standard 6-cell battery on your laptop is not enough, you can go with a 9-cell battery; it lasts longer. A 9-cell battery is bit larger than the regular 6-cell battery, and will protrude to the side of the laptop, but is worth the extra battery life-1.5 times higher.

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