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How do I Choose the Best Notebook Computer?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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To choose the best notebook computer, you must have a clear idea of both your planned computer activity and your budget. Notebook computers are also known as laptop computers. These types of computers are designed to allow users to work away from their desk or workstations.

Notebook computers have been around since 1983 and are very popular with both business and personal consumers. There is a wide range of software, hardware, and functions available in today's units. The price of typical notebook ranges from $200 to $5,000 US Dollars (USD), decreasing each year, based on lower manufacturing and parts costs.

To help select your notebook computer, take the time to sit down and write a list of the planned tasks and activities for your computer. Notebook computer users are typically divided into four categories: business user, media user, student, and computer professional. Each of these categories has slightly different hardware and software needs.

For a business user, select a notebook computer preloaded with the latest productivity software. This type of software includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and accounting software packages. Make sure that your model has built in wireless Internet access, in addition to Bluetooth® connectivity. These two features increase your ability to work in a wide range of locations and provide improved data sharing properties. All notebooks come with the ability to connect a projector and speakers as needed.

Media-heavy users need a notebook with a high-speed wireless Internet connectivity, Bluetooth® technology, a large monitor, high-quality video, and an excellent sound card. These options will improve the user experience and allow the richness of the media to be fully explored. Look for models that have high storage capacity and can manage complex image processing software.

Student users should check the requirements of their academic program to determine if there are any specific software requirements. They must ensure that the notebook has a compatible operating system for the required software. Many post-secondary institutions have a list of preferred computer models and software that they will support. Check this list and only purchase compatible products.

Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software are all important for student users. However, wireless Internet connectivity and long battery life are probably more important. Almost all post-secondary institution campuses provide free wireless Internet access on campus. A wireless card installed in the notebook increases the freedom of study locations available to the student.

Computer professionals require a notebook with a large amount of memory and a high-speed processor. The operating system in place should be compatible with the software development tools that they use. A large screen makes program testing and presentations more effective.

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Discussion Comments
By aarica001 — On Mar 29, 2012

This post is very informative for those who are looking for cheap notebook laptops and the best prices.

By spreadsheet — On Oct 12, 2010

The quality and amount of money that you put into a notebook computer can make a huge difference on what you can get from the experience. For my needs and the applications that I run everyday I do not need the most advanced systems with the most memory that is available on the market. For this reason I often consider the option to buy a refurbished notebook computer. These cheap notebook computer options are a great way to save money on a device that can often be the culprit of costing people heavily on depreciation during the first year of ownership.

By FootballKing — On Oct 12, 2010

I would highly recommend that any notebook computer purchase that you decide to make that you actually see the laptop in person. This actual interaction that you can have with the device is critical to make sure that you are comfortable with the ergonomics and shape of the new device. It may not be as critical or as expensive as purchasing a new vehicle but typing out a few sentences on the keypad and feeling the dexterous qualities of the track pad or other cursor moving device might be a smart thing to do.

There can be big differences in qualities that they manufacturers use when making keyboards and other parts of the machine. If you are a very rough user with your equipment then you might consider a heavily built option or even a notebook made out of an aluminum uni-body.

By IceCarver — On Oct 12, 2010

@fitness23, I can understand the concern you have for size and weight in the large end of notebooks on the market but I would urge you to research the availability of Apple Computer's new 17 inch MacBook pro that is less then one inch thick and very light in comparison to other types of 17 inch notebooks that are available.

By fitness234 — On Oct 12, 2010

I use my laptop as my main computer throughout the day and because of this heavy use I will often go with a more expensive but highly more reliable system then most consumers might choose.

There are large differences in the systems that available on the market and choosing the cheapest laptop at Walmart may not be the best solution for you but then again if money is the key issue in your search for a notebook computer then you may need to go with that option.

The other need I have when using my notebook is that it is fairly portable. While I do not like the new and trendy forms of netbook computers I do like a laptop that has the screen size around 13 inches as opposed to the behemoth 17 inch screens that can be found on the desks of gamers everywhere.

I can appreciate that big of a screen size the the extra weight and need for portability out weigh any kind of screen size advantage.

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