Jun
14
2009
0

How to Buy a New Computer: Part III Basic Laptops

New Laptop

New Laptop

I recently posted about how to buy a new computer.  First, you need to think about balancing wants versus needs.  My second post was about the new laptop category of cheap and lightweight netbooks.

Why should you choose a basic laptop?

If you are highly concerned about cost, portability, battery life and not as concerned about optical drives [1] , screen size, or keyboard size you probably want a netbook.  It will probably run you between $300 – $500.[2]

If cost-be-damned you just must have absolutely everything, well, then get yourself a high end laptop.[3]  The sky’s the limit with a computer like this.  You can configure an Alienware laptop that will make Deep Thought hide its processor in shame for $5,000.00 or so.

If you are concerned about cost but just cannot sacrifice optical drives, screen size, or keyboard size, you probably want a basic laptop.  A basic laptop is all about compromises.  You get the hardware you need from a desktop, but without the thin, light, elegant, and portable design.  These laptops typically weigh between 6 and 8 pounds and cost between $600 and $1000 or so.

There are so many nearly indistinguishable computers in this category, there is no real point in suggesting a particular laptop.  Just about every manufacturer has several choices for basic laptops.

  1. DVD/CD drives []
  2. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  3. Scroll to the bottom for my pic k. []
Mar
24
2009
0

Drooling over the Dell Mini 9

New Laptop

New Laptop

Since I reviewed available netbooks about two months back several new options have opened up.[1] There’s the new Samsung NC110[2][3] and a slew of new Acer One’s.

However, none of them can touch the 4GB Dell Mini 9 on sale right now for $199 with Ubuntu.

I know I had earlier said that 8GB was too small for my purposes. I had even suggested that I was more interested in some of the other available netbooks over the Dell for this reason.  However, I want to make my next computer a Dell, true to my word.

The reason I’m considering the 4GB version where I was dismissing the 8GB version before is the incredible price and the purposes to which such a laptop would be put.  In order to do about 98% of what I need with a laptop, I could easily use a netbook.  On any given day I use:

  • Firefox for web browsing
  • Thunderbird for e-mail
  • Pidgin for instant messaging
  • FileZilla for FTP transfers
  • Notepad++ for programming/text editing
  • OpenOffice for word processing, spreadsheets
  • TightVNC for remote access

All of these programs are open source software and available for Ubuntu[4] and Windows.  So, in shopping for a laptop, I really don’t care about which operating system I use.  The 4GB Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu could do all of these things – and for a $199 price tag.  Plus, with the Mini’s SD card slot, I could pop in an extra 16GB of memory for only $26.

  1. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  2. The Samsung NC110 is the successor to the NC10 []
  3. A review of the NC110 I found helpful []
  4. An easy-to-use Liniux installation. []
Feb
13
2009
0

400 Registered Users!

1955 Packard 400

1955 Packard 400

February has been a wacky month.  And, on Friday February 13th the 400th user registered for this website. [1] Since the 300th registered user, quite a lot has happened:

  1. Photo courtesy of atxbill []
  2. Trust me, its easier than it sounds… []
  3. I have several more of these planned []
Jan
07
2009
2

How to Buy a New Computer: Part II Netbooks

New Laptop

New Laptop

Yesterday I discussed the basics of buying a new computer.  The most important first step is figuring out what you need and what you want out of a new computer.  There are three main types of portable computers available these days: netbooks, basic laptops, and high-end laptops.  Today is all about “netbooks.”[1]

(Scroll to the end to see my picks…)

Netbooks

A netbook is a very small laptop designed to extremely mobile and portable.  They are optimized for portability and wireless connectivity.

Netbooks typically have a display of 10″ or less. [2] They usually don’t have any CD or DVD drives. [3]  They usually have very small solid state drives or mid-sized hard drives.  On the plus side, they usually have bluetooth, media card readers, and WiFi.  They’re typically between 2 to 3 pounds, depending upon brand and type of battery.  They’re also relatively cheap – between $350 to $500.

My requirements may differ from yours.  If I were to buy a netbook, I would want:

  • Minimum 2 USB ports, preferably 3
  • Minimum 100 GB hard drive
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Bluetooth
  • WiFi aka 802.11a/b/g, and preferably also 802.11n
  • Ethernet port
  • Modem port

Other things people might care about (but I don’t):

  • Webcam
  • Keyboard size
  • Monitor size

Keep in mind, I’ve never used any of these laptops – I’m just evaluating them based on their prices and my own opinions as to their respective brands and specs.  Although, I’m enough of a nerd that I put together a spreadsheet to compare those five netbooks as well as about another dozen or so models and submodels.  If anyone is interested in seeing the spreadsheet, mention it in the comments below or drop me a line.

Dell has a new netbook too, but it only has solid state drive options – which are too small to be of use to me. [4] However, I’m sure it would be perfect for some people.

My picks are, in rough order of preference:

If I were to buy a netbook today, I’d probably go for the Acer Aspire One.  It occupies a sweet spot in terms of price, is a decent brand, and has very comparable specs to the higher-end models.

Next, basic laptops!

  1. Photo courtesy of Ciccio Pizzettaro []
  2. TV’s and monitors are always measured by the diagonal. []
  3. This means they’re no good for watching DVD’s or playing CD’s. []
  4. 8 GB of hard drive space is barely enough to run an operating system and a few programs these days… []

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