Buying the Perfect Notebook: What to Look for in the Latest Models

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2014-07-30 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The latest research on the PC market shows that things have gone slightly awry. While the market has started to stabilize from major losses in recent quarters, thanks to a sales resurgence in notebooks and Chromebooks, things just aren't the way they once were. PCs are no longer the dominant force in technology purchasing, and products like tablets and even smartphones have started to eat into lower-end notebook sales. However, notebooks still appear to be selling well, especially in online sales channels. Products such as the Acer C720 Chromebook and the Dell Inspiron line still prove popular among some consumers. Meanwhile, Apple's MacBook Pro line remains a strong seller. All of this comes down to one important question: When you are in the market for a new notebook, how do you find the model that is perfect for you? A couple of years ago, shopping for a new notebook was easier. Most models looked about the same and had basically the same features, and most of them were delivered with Microsoft Windows.  Today's notebook space is a lot more complex, with many choices and options. This eWEEK slide show provides a quick guide on what everyone should look for when buying a new notebook.

 
 
 
  • Buying the Perfect Notebook: What to Look for in the Latest Models

    By Don Reisinger
    Buying the Perfect Notebook: What to Look for in the Latest Models
  • Do You Shop With a Boutique Notebook Maker or Major Vendors?

    It's not often thought about, since many people just go to Best Buy or Amazon.com to buy a new computer, but customers must decide whether a big name like Dell or HP is best for their notebook needs, or if they want to go with something different from a boutique vendor. Boutiques tend to provide products that feature a nicer design and more powerful components than their counterparts on the conventional side. However, they also tend to be a bit more expensive than their conventional competitors.
    Do You Shop With a Boutique Notebook Maker or Major Vendors?
  • Do You Want to Stick With Windows?

    The second question to ask is whether Windows is the right operating system for the job. While Windows 7 might work well for many enterprise customers, Windows 8.1 might not be the right choice. At the same time, Windows 8.1 might be suitable for those looking for the new-look operating system and don't mind the steep learning curve. If you decide on Windows, picking the right version can be a hard choice, but it is something that must be done.
    Do You Want to Stick With Windows?
  • Are Chromebooks the Right Choice?

    Chromebooks are proving extremely popular. At last blush, the Chrome OS-based devices owned 35 percent of the commercial channel and were performing well on Amazon. Chromebooks are less powerful than Windows- or OS X-based machines, but they're still nice for those who want to go mobile and don't require all kinds of power.
    Are Chromebooks the Right Choice?
  • Apple Factors Into the Decision

    All of this talk of notebooks has left out one important company: Apple. The iPhone maker is one of the biggest players in the notebook world and continues to see its shipments grow. If you're not used to OS X, it will take some time to feel comfortable, but all in all, going with a MacBook isn't a bad idea for most customers.
    Apple Factors Into the Decision
  • Power Needs Must Be Considered

    Power will ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to price and value. Those who want to do video and photo editing on the fly will want a device with a Core i7 processor and large amounts of RAM. Those who only want to surf the Web or handle email can get away with a lower-end machine, like a Chromebook. Think about power and its impact on price before choosing a notebook.
    Power Needs Must Be Considered
  • It's About Applicability in the Person's Life

    One of the nice things about notebooks is that they can fit into the lives of just about any customer. Those who travel often and need mobility will find it in devices like the MacBook Air or Chromebook. High-powered devices that weigh more and can be considered desktop replacements are great for designers and enterprise users. There's nothing worse than choosing the wrong notebook for the required job.
    It's About Applicability in the Person's Life
  • What Screen Size Do You Really Need?

    Screen sizes in the notebook market are all over the place. There are 11-inch models for those who want to go ultra-mobile, and 13-inch models for those who want mobility and some power. Customers can purchase 15-, 17- or even 21-inch notebooks if they're after a powerful desktop replacement. There's no one-size-fits-all strategy for choosing notebook screen sizes.
    What Screen Size Do You Really Need?
  • Remember the Mobility Factor

    Although in general notebooks are designed to be mobile, they're not all created equal. Furthermore, even notebooks that come in the slimmer form factors aren't equally as mobile. Ultrabooks and the MacBook Air are designed to be ultra-mobile notebooks, while devices like the smaller MacBook Pro or 13-inch Dell Inspirons are a little less mobile. Be sure to hold and feel all devices to make sure they meet your own definition of mobility before choosing a notebook.
    Remember the Mobility Factor
  • The Price Range Will Vary, Depending on Need

    Prices are all over the place in the notebook market. Customers on a budget can get a notebook for as little as $200 if they're after a Chromebook, while those looking for a top-of-the-line model can spend more than $2,000. For those customers looking in the boutique section of the market to customize a device, they could pay several thousand of dollars. Prices (and thus, mileage) vary greatly in the notebook space.
    The Price Range Will Vary, Depending on Need
  • Is There a Tablet That Can Do the Same Job?

    Finally, one must ask whether a tablet could perform the tasks historically performed by notebooks. While notebooks are nice in their own right, tablets have been eating their lunch in both the consumer and enterprise markets. The issue has become such a conundrum that some makers like Lenovo and Microsoft have developed products that can transition from a notebook to a tablet and back. Think seriously about tablets before plunking down cash for a notebook.
    Is There a Tablet That Can Do the Same Job?
 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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