Notebook computers are becoming ubiquitous in today’s computing world. Last year, for the first time, computer manufacturers sold more portable computer than stationary ones, including both netbooks and notebooks in the former category, but not counting smartphones, which are usually portable (though very small) computers in their own right. Many notebooks are powerful enough to be the primary computer for even power users, and prices have been tumbling fast at the bottom end of the notebook scale ever since netbooks began to put pressure on that low-end notebook sector.
The less expensive end of the notebook spectrum starts around $450 to $500, not far above (if higher at all) than the top end of the netbook scale. You lose the advantage of small size and light weight with the low-end notebook, but gain other features, such as a faster CPU and a larger display with better resolution. It is for these reasons that spending more for aÂ netbook looks like a situation involving quickly diminishing returns. Unless the lower size and weight are critical to your need, you are probably better off with a notebook.
That said, low-end notebooks are often quite a lot larger in at least two dimensions and significantly heavier. A ten-inch netbook comes in a package about 10 inches by 8 inches by about 1 inch thick. Contrast that with the dimensions of a notebook with a 15-inch display: about 14 inches by 11 inches by 1.25 inches thick. As a comparative measure, the average small netbook contains 80 cubic inches of computer stuff. The low-end 15-inch notebook contains 190 cubic inches, or even more. The weight increases from under three pounds to about six pounds, more than double.
With this additional size and weight come more features and benefits, as mentioned above. At the same time, you get a bit more operating system, usually Windows 7 Home Premium, which comes with more management tools and capabilities to match the larger and more complex system. The best value in the lower end laptops comes at about $500, which is indeed inexpensive for such a system. Processor speeds increase to over 2 GHz (though usually in a single core), hard disks increase to around 250-300 GB and memory usually doubles to 2 GB, as compared to the 1 GB of the low-end notebook. Don’t forget the biggest advantages of these full-sized notebooks: a much bigger keyboard and a display that will not be as hard on the fingers and eyes. If you only have one system and you have the money, the display size alone is a good reason to go with a notebook over a netbook.
Jumping up a notch in the notebook spectrum, the midrange notebook (with prices in the $600 to $1000 range) may be the sweet spot of the Windows 7 notebook marketplace. For this extra outlay of cash, you can expect to get better brand recognition, faster processors, more memory, more hard disk space, and often more than a single core in the processor. If this part of the spectrum is in your price range, look for a system with a dual-core processor of around 2.2 GHz, 4 GB of memory, 500 GB of disk space, and a 15-inch or greater display with a resolution of around 1280 x 800 pixels or greater. These machines generally come with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit or Windows 7 Professional; try to get the latter version of the operating system for your money, since it offers a lot of additional power, especially in the areas of networking, compatibility, and utility functions such as backup and restore.
And bear in mind that these are all highly portable machines, all the way from the lowest cost to the highest. Notebooks (and for that matter, netbooks) add an entire extra dimension to your computing affairs. When a laptop is your main computer, wherever you go you have all of your stuff. That may cause some stress related to loss or theft, perhaps, but it also means that you can do what you need to do from anywhere with electricity and broadband. As I write this, I am 1200 miles from home; mobility means more than a quick trip to the coffee shop. It means that I can be where I need to be with little or no loss in productivity. That is probably why the notebook has become so popular.
Plus, even if you are a very high-powered user indeed, you can still use a laptop all the time, every day, for most of what you do. On the high end, these notebooks are very much like all but the most powerful desktops. You may have to spend more to get to that level, but it is available. You can get things like a Core 2 Quad 2.5 GHz or a 1.2 GHz Intel i7 processor. Drive sizes are a terabyte or better and 6 to 8GB of memory is also in the picture. These machines, in the $1,200 to $2,000 range (and even higher) can do all but the most demanding jobs.
With one of these, you will almost certainly get Windows 7 Ultimate, which come complete with virtually every Windows capability in the land. If you’re in the budget category of these PCs, shop to your heart’s content and feel free to customize at will. These systems tend to have a lot of options, with associated extra costs that might slow most people down, but if you have the budget, go for it. This is a case wherein if you have it, flaunt it. Always buy all the computer that you can afford in order not to be obsoleted quickly. So if you can, look for the fastest laptop processor, the largest drives, the most memory, the best graphics, and Windows 7 Ultimate.