Notebook advice

  cactusjack 16:29 23 Sep 2004


I am thinking of purchasing a notebook, which will be used mainly for surfing the web, MS Office, and may be playing a couple of games. I’ve kept up with the world of PCs and bought an Evesham PC this year, but I’ve not really paid much attention to notebooks over the last few years.

I would be grateful if anyone could advice me in the following areas regarding notebooks:

- Processor:
The Dell website has the Centrino processor, Pentium 4 and Pentium M Processor available. Is there any significant difference between these processors?

- wireless connectivity
I’m not sure of the ins and outs of wireless technology. The Dell site offers several options for wireless connectivity: “Wireless LAN Solution – WiFi”, “Wireless WAN Solution - 3G/GPRS” and “Bluetooth”. Can anyone explain which is more effective or useful?

- best companies for notebooks
I’ve looked at specifications from Simply, Dell, PC World and Evesham. Simply seem to have some good deals, but I’m not sure about their customer service. Dell allow you to customise what you want, but again, I’ve heard bad things about Dell’s customer service.

- wide-screen v normal screen
Some notebooks have a wider screen – is there any real advantage of a wide-sreen?

- batteries
I’ve read that battery life often lasts for 2 hours on most notebooks today. The laptop my dad bought 6 years ago also had a 2 hour battery life. I would have thought that battery life would have increased over the years…

I would appreciate any feedback,

Thank you.

  Kate B 21:31 23 Sep 2004

This might be heresy on a PC forum but have a look at the Mac notebooks - it's one way of getting round the myriad of specs offered by the PC manufacturers.

If you bought a Powerbook (nippier processors than the iBook) and upgraded from the basic spec to a gig of Ram, Bluetooth and Airport Extreme you'd have a very capable notebook with storming battery life (my iBook lasts for nearly five hours).

In answer to your questions, Bluetooth is an under-rated wireless technology that has been somewhat eclipsed by wi-fi. Bluetooth is great for ad-hoc wireless connections between devices like PDAs, mobiles and computers (both PC and Mac). Windows XP with SP2 supports Bluetooth better than any previous iterations of Windows, though you'll need a dongle (looks like a USB flash drive). I use a Bluetooth dongle with my iBook and it just works - no drivers to install, nice intuitive software. You can also use Bluetooth to do away with the cable between your PC/notebook/PDA and a Bluetooth-enabled printer.

Wi-fi is an increasingly popular method of wireless networking, mainly used to share a broadband connection. With the right kit - modem/wireless router and Wifi receiver (either internal or a dongle or, in a notebook, PC card) it should in theory be pretty painless to set up, though you don't really need it at home if you've just got the one machine. If you're thinking about sharing an internet connection, though, it's invaluable.

Again, I find it much easier on the Mac notebook: again, it just works, there's very little fussing about with obscure stuff like IP addresses.

Finally, do buy a widescreen notebook if you're going to play games (there are quite a few available for the Mac and you're less likely to find it choking on a new game as the hardware upgrade cycle is longer with Macs) or watch DVDs; otherwise I'd stick with a smaller, lighter notebook - especially if you're planning to travel with it.

I'm sure others will have buying advice too - enjoy sifting through it and come back if you have any further questions.

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