Notebook / Laptop Buying Basics

Do-It-Yourself Tech

As wireless technologies become more accessible, computing flexibility and mobility have become much more obtainable. Buying a notebook computer can be similar to buying a desktop (regular) computer, though there are a few key differences.

First of all, notebooks have been traditionally slower than desktop computers and more expensive, though the gap has been closing over the past few years in both areas. But if you buy a computer that says it’s speed X and you buy a notebook that says it’s speed X, expect the notebook to really perform at a speed of X minus something (a good rule of thumb is to assume that your notebook will run 15 to 30 percent slower than its desktop equivalent). However, this is becoming less of an issue, as most software doesn’t fully take advantage of current computer power like it used to.

The next difference to keep in mind is that of processor selection. “Centrino” is a term being widely used right now. Centrino is a type of CPU (central processing unit – the brain of the computer) designed by Intel to run more efficiently (the actual name of the processor is “Pentium M,” though “Centrino” is the more popular name that usually refers to a Pentium M with wireless capabilities). It takes less power, runs cooler, and increases battery life. Indeed, it’s a wonderful new technology. It can be confusing, however, to compare Centrino processor speeds with Pentium IV (the current class of CPU for most desktop computers as well as for some notebooks). For example, the 1.8 GHZ (stands for gigahertz, the measurement used for CPUs) Centrino processor is comparable to the 3.0 GHZ Pentium IV processor. This can be misleading, as usually processor speeds can be compared directly. In this case, the raw numbers aren’t helpful without background information. Thus, even though in writing the Centrino processors available seem like they may be slower than Pentium IV processors, in reality, they are a better designed, new technology.

For most users, the recommended minimum configuration for notebook computers is the following:

Centrino 1.5 GHZ Processor (or an equivalent Pentium IV processor, such as a 2.4 GHZ)
512 Megabytes Memory
40 Gigabyte Hard Drive
Windows XP Home

It should be noted that many other processors are available from Intel (and other manufacturers such as AMD), which do not compare directly with these processors. For instance, “Celeron” is a model of processor widely available. This technology is the least expensive, though the main disadvantage is that it can not handle multi-tasking very well. In other words, if you’re used to having multiple programs or windows open at the same time, Celeron processors are not really designed for such activity. Otherwise, it may be a cheaper alternative if price is the most important factor (Celeron processors, found in both notebook and desktop computers, can decrease the price of a computer by hundreds of dollars).

Much of the information found in the article Buying Computer Basics is pertinent to notebook computers as well.

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