“The iPad is a data-out device, not a a data-in device.”

Buying a laptop computer can be a daunting task, especially if you are not computer savvy.  Having the luxury of a 20 year technology career under my belt gives me a bit of a leg up on the average consumer, but it can still be trying.  If you are someone that uses their laptop computer several hours a day for work and personal, then it can be as stressful as buying a car.

I am often asked to troubleshoot, fix, recommend or review laptops for friends and family as they embark on this procurement.  I thought I would share some strategies and general tips to assist you in buying the perfect laptop computer, and maybe dispel some common misconceptions.  These guidelines are for the average consumer, not the nerd that spends Friday nights at gaming parties perving out to Laura Croft or hunting Zombies with their virtual friends.

1.   Speed & Storage – Every new laptop will have enough speed and storage to handle your needs.  Years ago there was a huge spike in software capability that was not matched by the hardware or processor side of the equation, resulting in some sluggish computers.  All computers have enough processing speed, RAM and storage to handle ALL of your needs.  Have a quick conversation, jot down the specs and send to your trusted computer friend, or us.

2.  Your Use – What are your computer habits?  Do you travel often and need a lightweight model?  If you primarily keep your laptop on your desk with little travel, then perhaps a larger screen is better.   Will this laptop be primarily for reading, say while traveling by train to work?   This is one of the biggest mistakes people made when the iPad came out.  The iPad is a data-out device, not a a data-in device.  This means its great for reading, but having to type more than “OK”, or “Approved” in an email is difficult, as many people found out too late.  Using an iPad at home to control your music library is a wonderful application of that device.  Some other items to consider:

  • Work At Night – You might need a back lit keyboard, extremely helpful when working at night.
  • Battery Life – Good questions to ask if you travel on planes often and a 2hr battery is gonna cut it.
  • Light Weight – Good For Traveling
  • Temperature – Some laptops run hot, especially if they have crazy audio components.  This means the fan on the computer is constantly running.  Make sure you address this with your salesman.

3. Operating System – If you are going Apple, not a big deal.  If you are going with a PC, then you have some concerns and options, as always with Microsoft.  HP is only releasing computers with Windows 8 I believe.  This OS is completely different from Windows 7.  Its also not getting a wide acceptance from the community.  Most companies are buying the computer and rolling back the OS to Windows 7.   Dell Computers will sell you a laptop or computer with Windows 7.  Anyone who knows Microsoft understands you NEVER want to be first to use their operating system.  Let a year go buy and let them flush out the bugs or in some cases, discontinue the product (Vista).

4.  Anti-Virus – This is a necessity, you can not run a computer without it.  Many new laptop purchases will have a free 90 day trial or some other deal.  Ask your salesperson and factor this into your total cost of ownership.  We like Kaspersky, much better and cheaper than Norton.

5.  Wireless Keyboard and Mouse – Do yourself a favor and pick one of these up if you work from home often.  They are often 30% cheaper to buy online and have delivered than going to Best Buy.  Logitech is a good one.  At least pick up the mouse for your home use, it will speed up your daily computing tasks immensely.

6.  On a Severe Budget – If you only have a couple hundred dollars and need a computer quickly.  Check out craigslist ads.  There are computer laptop repair shops that post ads.  They sell refurbished laptops at a fraction of the price, they also give a 30-60 day warranty where they will fix anything that goes wrong.  The other HUGE value add is that the laptops typically comes with Microsoft Office already loaded so you get Word, Excel & Outlook – a $250 value.

Hopefully our Rugged Readers can provide additional tips and pitfalls to avoid, but this should get you started.

Thanks For Reading !

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