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How to Choose a Reliable Notebook PC

As business goes mobile, a broken laptop can mean a broken business. Find out how to pick a reliable, well-designed notebook.

Tom Peters, the management guru, knows more about laptop reliability that most people. He takes 70-100 trips a year to give speeches. Like many business people, he uses his laptop to run PowerPoint presentations, stay in touch, write his blog and stay on top of business. Quite simply, if his laptop broke down, so would his business. (He is notorious for spilling coffee on laptops on a regular basis.) This is why he his personal assistant always has a replacement computer ready to go at all times.

Laptops enable a new way of working, even if you don't make two business trips a week like Tom Peters. They let people work wherever and whenever they want. It's not just business travel. Think of people working from home, the architect checking plans on site or an accountant visiting a client. They allow companies to respond positively to requests for flexible working. They let companies switch from traditional offices to hot desking. (HP does this and it helps to reduce costs and makes teams more flexible.)

Modern laptops can store all the files most people ever need. They have enough power to run the most demanding applications. With add-on batteries, they can run all day without recharging. Thanks to wireless networks and new technology like 3G Mobile Broadband, people can stay connected to company networks, email and the internet wherever they are.

More people are using laptops. More people are working away from traditional offices with traditional IT support. This puts a huge premium on reliable design and solid construction. Gartner, another research firm, calculates that one laptop in ten is damaged each year. Dropping laptops is by far the most common cause of disaster but spilled drinks and poor paAccidents aren't the only problem. Computers break down and wear out. Hinges break, latches fail, power supplies short out, motherboards fuse. Gartner reports that 15-20 percent of notebooks break down every year. Including lost opportunity costs, they calculate that the average incident costs a business much more than the original price of the notebook.cking are major contributors.

Accidents aren't the only problem. Computers break down and wear out. Hinges break, latches fail, power supplies short out, motherboards fuse. Gartner reports that 15-20 percent of notebooks break down every year. Including lost opportunity costs, they calculate that the average incident costs a business much more than the original price of the notebook.

There is a big difference between low-cost notebooks designed for consumer use and more robust notebooks designed especially for business applications. Typically, manufacturers will swap plastic cases for metal ones and beef up the substructure. There is also a difference between manufacturers. The only way to produce a more reliable laptop is to combine the right materials, heavy-duty engineering and rigorous testing.

What to look for in a notebook

With so much at stake, it is important to choose a manufacturer who can deliver laptops that are less likely to breakdown and which are as resilient as possible. Although they look similar on the surface, there is a big difference between makes once you get under the skin. Here are a few of the things you should look for:

Designed to last. Isn't it depressing when the characters on a keyboard get worn out after a year or two and cases get scratched and damaged? So look for laptops that are designed to look newer for longer.

Thoroughly tested. Find out how each new model is tested. The more rigorous the tests, the longer the laptop is likely to last. For example, if screen hinges are testing for an average of three years' constant use you can bet that the manufacturer isn't staking their reputation that the hinge will last for five years.

Damage-resistant. Since laptops are more likely to be dropped than suffer any other sort of disaster, look for laptops that can detect a fall and, like an airbag in a car, protect the hard disk. Look for a system that can do this in three dimensions, not just one or two because computers don't always fall butter side up. Also, look for features that mitigate the risk of spills damaging a computer.

Strongly built.
What is the internal structure of the computer made from? What about the case? Flimsy plastics or strong metal or alloy? How well-built is the screen hinge? It should look and feel robust.

Although one laptop may look much like another, differences in design, construction and testing can make a big difference on the day you have an accident. It could make the difference between continuing productivity and a complete shutdown. When you're away from the office and away from help, this could be a critical difference. It makes sense, to look beneath the skin and make sure that the laptops you buy for your business are as reliable and robust as possible.
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