Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Pcmag's top ten Laptop Computer buying tips

PcMag's top ten laptop buying tips
  1. Be clear about what you expect your desktop system to do now and in the future. For example, if you plan to edit video or audio clips, you'll want a high-capacity hard drive (at least 160 GB), and both a CD-RW and DVD+, - or multiformat drive for back-ups, as these file types usually eat up lots of storage space. And in this day and age, in which a broadband connection is a must for faster downloads, make sure your system comes with integrated Ethernet. For notebooks, high-end desktop replacements are usually your best bet for multimedia tasks.
  2. Manage your budget. Even though you know how much you can afford, getting carried away with optional features is easy. The costs can add up quickly. Buying a system with 1GB of memory is overkill if you typically run one application at a time, but 256MB is a reasonable amount of memory in a budget system. Note, however, that we recommend at least 512MB of memory in order to ensure that the Microsoft Windows XP operating system will run properly. Also, if you opt for a high-end video card, realize that you'll have to spend more for a display that can accommodate the card's highest resolution modes.
  3. Look for bundled extras when comparing prices. Free software, printers, and other peripherals can add hundreds of dollars to the value of your desktop package. Check the cost of consumables, though, especially for printers. The cost of ink for some "free" inkjets, for example, can quickly outstrip the total expense for an equivalent printer from another manufacturer. For software, check if you are getting a full version, instead of a trial version that expires in 30 days.
  4. Don't skimp on mass storage. The difference between a 40GB and a 60GB hard drive may be as little as $50 when you order your desktop, so configure your system with as big a drive as your budget allows. Upgrading to a larger drive later on will cost more and can be a difficult task for a novice, particularly if the PC is a notebook.
  5. Some desktops and notebooks (particularly the lighter ones) don't offer support for legacy devices such as parallel printers, serial modems, and PS/2 pointing devices. If you own one or more legacy peripherals, be sure your desktop includes ports your old equipment can connect to. Otherwise, you'll have to purchase new peripherals that connect via USB or FireWire ports. Some notebook models offer optional docking stations that include all the legacy ports.
  6. Read the fine print for hidden costs, especially where warranty options or "free" services are concerned. Some offer limited warranties, which last less than a year. You may want to invest in an extended warranty for your machine. Some system builders limit you to initial tech support only; you may have to pay for additional service calls.
  7. If you're on a strict budget, make sure your desktop price includes a monitor. For those angling for a value notebook, look for a built-in wireless solution and hot-swappable optical drives.
  8. Find out if there's an actual cost to those "free" technical support hotlines. Look for a toll-free number; otherwise you'll take a hit on your phone bill, especially since hold times for tech support are notoriously long. And beware of a "limited warranty." This may mean only 90 days of toll-free technical support, after which you may have to pay a premium just to call for help.
  9. As with any sizable purchase, buy your desktop from an established, reputable company. There are plenty out there. If you're hankering for a more customized desktop or notebook setup, consider some of the better-known boutique vendors. Just be prepared to pay for it.
  10. Consider the size of your workspace. If you have limited desk space at home, a tower or mid-size desktop could leave you with little or no room to work. Slim desktops and small-form-factor systems can free up some space, as can a flat-panel display. Realize, though, that small systems are often less expandable than larger ones and that flat-panel displays are more expensive than monitors. A desktop replacement notebook might be more ideal space saver, as many come with desktop processors and ample storage and optical drives.

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