Monthly Archives: February 2012

How to shop for a new laptop: (What to look [Out] for)

One of the topics we are often asked at RiteTech concerns how best to shop for a new laptop computer.  As the costs of PCs continue their slow drop, laptops and other mobile devices are becoming more and more the “new normal” for a typical professional’s work equipment.  However, there are several key areas to be careful about when selecting that portable device – particularly for those who may be first-time buyers – or, if it’s been a while since you’ve purchased:

1.  If possible – Test-Drive the laptop’s keyboard!  Not all laptop keyboards are made alike.  Some are backlit, others are unexpectedly noisy (particularly in meetings), yet others may have the “full number pad” (numeric keypad), while others do not.  Some keyboards may have strangely-shaped or sized keys, etc..  Others may have a strange “feel” to them… how would you know, without trying one out in advance?  A detail this seemingly “mundane” can quickly turn a laptop purchase into “laptop-buyer’s remorse”.  See further below for more tips on how to help avoid that…

2. Beware the Trackpad.  The Trackpad can potentially cause nearly as much frustration as the keyboard.  Some have a button to turn them “off” (which can be very handy when you’re not in the mood to use it).  See similar comments as #1.

3. Screen size and weight:  Bigger isn’t always better (in fact, it normally isn’t).  Keep in mind that the larger that the laptop’s display is, it will add to the weight and size of the unit.  Larger screens also mean greater space required for the unit itself (not a good thing when crammed on an airplane), and typically mean shorter battery lifespan.  Lastly, large displays are more likely to be potentially damaged – just because you have more screen “real estate” to deal with.  Our personal recommendation is normally to stay within about 14″-15″ display for a laptop.  It is much more important for the screen’s resolution to be higher (quality/fineness of the pixels) than it is for the display to be large.

4. Does the unit have a DVD/CD drive?  Does it need one?  More frequently, we’re seeing more units which either don’t come with the DVD/CD drive, or where it’s a separate plug-in.  This decision is going to be more driven by the typical use of the unit.  E.g. how frequently do you need (or want) to play CD’s/DVD’s, load new software from optical media, etc.?  That should be the main factor on this item.

5. Kensington “Lock” Port (security).  This is the small “Lock” plug (sometimes labeled with “K” or a Lock icon) which is a fairly standard feature of most laptops.  This allows an optional security cord (lock) to be tethered to the device, to help discourage quick thefts of the equipment.   HOWEVER – the “K” lock is frequently omitted from many smaller devices – such as certain Apple laptops, such as certain MacBook Air’s.  While we are huge fans of most Apple hardware (where appropriate of the job), this is an area where we respectfully disagree with their design philosophy.  In our opinion, any laptop should have the Kensigton lock port.  That said, this shouldn’t be the primary driver of your purchasing decision – however, if physical security of the equipment is a moderate concern – you may want to stay with models which have the Kensington lock port included.

6. Extended warranties, On-Site service warranties, and/or breakage warranties.  The simple fact is that the typical PC in an office setting will require some form of physical repair or service within the first 2-3 years of ownership, such as a hard drive or power supply replacement, noisy fan, etc..  That’s even more likely for laptop and/or portable devices- which experience additional abuse as compared to stationary desktop PCs – and are much more likely to have physical damage from drops, spills, etc..  We strongly suggest an on-site warranty for all business PCs, and a breakage/damage warranty being considered for laptop PCs, particularly for those who are “rough” on their equipment, or with an extensive travel schedule.

All of that said, where’s the “best place” to shop for laptops, try them out in advance, and/or what are the best brands or configurations?  These are all great questions, that the team here at RiteTech can help you with.  Contact us for additional information…

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