Usability and legacy concerns

By Tiffany Maleshefski  |  Posted 2008-02-06 Print this article Print

What about users who require workstation-level graphics, such as three-dimensional graphics and special effects? If that's the case, you will need to make sure the laptop you select includes an advanced video graphics card.

On that note, smaller machines usually aren't outfitted with a plethora of ports, and that's why you want to make sure you get a port replicator, which will add USB 2.0 ports; offer a pass-through connection for Gigabit Ethernet; and outputs for an external mouse, a keyboard and a display.

In addition, which employees will rely on ultraportable machines for travel? The higher cost and potentially lower performance won't make these systems right for everybody, but if a user travels a lot, a lightweight machine is vital. It's almost always a good idea to complement ultraportables with docking stations, though, for added expansion when needed.


The ability for a laptop to be used comfortably by a variety of users is a critical buying decision, but it's one that often gets overlooked.

It may be true that the right-handed people of the world far outnumber lefties, but both groups need to be able to easily open their laptops, so look for lid releases that accommodate both left- and right-handed people.

Then there's the issue of the mouse. Laptop PCs can always be equipped with an external mouse, but your company's road warriors are more often than not going to rely on a pointer device embedded in the body of the notebook.

The two main laptop pointing choices are tracking devices and touch-pads, with some systems having both.

Touch-pads are becoming the more popular option for manufacturers to build into their machines, but they might not be the most efficient choice for your employees.

"It may sound crazy, but every time I go into a big-box store to look at laptops, the first thing I look at is which ones have a tracking device; the consumers out there are being denied tracking devices," Wilson said. "People use touch-pads so ineffectively-it's rub, rub, rub, rub, rub."

If you are locked into a touch-pad, set up tap points and scroll zones, so when users move their fingers from edge to edge, the movement is equated edge to edge on the screen.

Legacy concerns

It's natural to think about what's new when choosing a laptop for your organization, but it's important to also think about what's old.

For example, does your company still require a native serial port?

"You won't believe how many people still need the native serial port," Wilson said. "That extends from the telecommunications industry with telephone switches to networking, where you've got to go into the wireless closet and hook up a serial port to a router."

Wilson also advised that large companies be sure that new system-level features can be disabled at the BIOS level and that notebooks can run a dual-core processor as single core.

"Lately, we've had a lot of old applications that have been around for years that aren't running on the new technology," Wilson said.

"These are applications [whose vendor may not] be around anymore," he said. "They're running in the company, the business is dependent on them, but they have no support. As we put new hardware under those applications, sometimes they quit running. We can shake our finger at the application, but the reality is that application has got to run." ??


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