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Choosing the Ideal Notebook for your Business


Every business has different requirements for choosing the perfect notebook computer for their needs. For example, a legal practice may require little more than a computer capable of running Microsoft Office software to compose documents and read emails, whereas an architectural firm may require a mobile workstation-class notebook that can handle the processing speed and graphics required by specialized design software.

Choosing the proper notebook can be complicated, especially when sales pitches for notebooks are imbued with technical jargon that even the most tech-savvy customers may not fully understand. What features are truly important to you as a customer when selecting your notebook?

Price

Most successful businesses are budget conscious. First and foremost, you should keep in mind how much you want to spend on a notebook. This is not to say that you won’t spend more or less than this, but having a number in mind will help you in deciding later whether a proposed notebook feature is a must-have or not, and whether spending the extra money on a non-essential feature is worthwhile when taking your allotted budget into consideration.

 

Size and Weight

The mobility requirements for your notebook are a huge factor in selecting a notebook. If the only trip you’ll ever make with your notebook is from inside your home or office and to your car, a 17-inch notebook weighing eight pounds may be fine; however, if you have occasions where you might have to stand for long periods or walk for long distances carrying that notebook, you’ll likely wish you purchased a much smaller, lighter notebook sooner rather than later.

It’s important to note, though, that smaller, lighter notebooks may sacrifice certain features to achieve their small sizes and weights – for instance, some 12-inch and smaller notebooks may not come with an internal DVD drive, and may be limited on available processor speeds due to overheating concerns. It’s practically unavoidable that you will have to make some trade-offs to get the perfect balance of performance and mobility.

Processing Power

Perhaps the most confusing aspect of selecting a notebook is deciding on your requirements for a processor. For business users performing basic tasks such as web browsing, email, spreadsheets, and presentations, practically any processor currently on the market will be adequate. More advanced business needs may require higher-end processors based on the expected performance and duty life of the system.


Processor Families

The major manufacturers of computer processors are Intel and AMD. Most consumers are very familiar with Intel as the market leader, but are not too familiar with AMD. Both through its own R&D efforts as well as simply by existing as competition to Intel, AMD helps to drive many innovations in the computer processing field – innovations such as the mainstream adoption of 64-bit processors and integrated on-chip memory controllers. As they try to gain market share from Intel, AMD’s upfront costs tend to be lower to the consumer and offer very comparable performance to Intel. AMD also acquired graphics card maker ATI Technologies in 2006, and systems based on AMD processors may offer better out-of-the-box graphics performance as a result.

Within each manufacturer’s product lines, there are several product families of varying performance. Intel’s latest Core i series processors and AMD’s latest Phenom series processors deliver the latest technology and highest performance to today’s systems. As can be expected, the latest technologies are more expensive to manufacture and therefore come at a higher price to consumers. To keep personal computing cost effective, both Intel and AMD keep their previous generations of technology on the market to offer at a lesser expensive price while offering beyond-adequate performance for most business needs.

 

Speed Rating

Raw processor speeds are communicated by manufacturers as clock-speeds measured in Gigahertz. However, these ratings are only useful in comparing the performance of processors in the same family – for instance, comparing one Intel Core i7 processor to another, whichever has the highest clock speed should perform faster – but are not useful in trying to compare the performance of two dissimilar processors, such as comparing an Intel processor to an AMD processor. The reason for this is that dissimilar processor families have different performance per clock cycle – if Processor A has a clock speed of 1 GHz and can get 2 tasks done per clock cycle, and Processor B has a clock speed of 2 GHz but can only get 1 task done per clock cycle, then both processors have similar relative performance.

 

Memory

Higher amounts of memory, or RAM, installed into a notebook system will allow you to run more programs simultaneously. Most notebooks today ship with at least 2 GB of RAM, which is sufficient for most basic business needs. If you do an exceptional amount of multi-tasking, or if you have specialized software needs which may require more memory, however, you may need to look at getting a higher amount. Over-estimating in this category is not entirely necessary, however – if you purchase a notebook today and later find that you need more memory, almost all notebooks are customer-upgradable to higher memory amounts.

 

Storage

Storage drive capacity and speed can be highly important when choosing a notebook. Larger capacity drives can store more programs, documents, and archived emails – a 100 gigabyte hard drive can hold approximately 20,000 songs or 40,000 photos at 10-megapixel quality, and a 200 gigabyte drive as you’d expect can hold double that amount. Faster hard drive rotation speeds can provide a performance boost – a 7,200 RPM hard drive will generally perform better than a 5,400 RPM hard drive. Newer solid state drives have no moving parts, and are therefore more resistant to damage and higher performing than traditional hard drives. That being said, solid state drive technology is relatively new and carries a price tag that is on average four times the price of a comparable capacity hard drive.

 

Graphic Processing

Every system has one of two types of graphics processing – embedded or discrete.

Embedded graphics borrow processing power and memory from the main system processor and memory. For most basic business needs, this is fine, but for business needs which are graphics-intensive such as graphics designing, video editing, and architecture, this will cause major system slowdowns (and in some cases, specialized software for these tasks simply won’t run properly or at all!)

 

Connectivity

Connectivity can be very important for a mobile user, especially when you need access to the internet or to business network resources such as servers, storage and printers. Connectivity can include Wi-Fi wireless networking, Bluetooth capability, and cellular internet access. If you require the ability to fax or use internet in places that may not have broadband readily available, you may even need a legacy 56K telephone modem included.

 

Ports and Connections

USB, eSATA, Firewire, VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort – various devices such as external hard drives, printers, keyboards, mice, monitors, and projectors have varied connectivity options, and you need to ensure the notebook you select has the connectivity you need to connect to all the devices you own or will potentially need to use in your business.

Some notebook models have optional docking stations which connect to specialized notebook docking ports to allow fast connection to multiple peripheral devices at once. If using your notebook as a desktop computer replacement, this is an especially nice option to allow usage of desktop devices such as multiple displays and full-size keyboard and mouse. USB docking stations are available for notebooks without a special docking connector, but typically cause performance degradation during usage.

Choose What's Important to You

With so many considerations in choosing a notebook, it’s easy to see how easily a sales pitch can become confusing. However, if you keep your budget in mind, compile your feature requests into a must-have list and a wish list, and piece together your notebook to suit your budget and desired performance, it’s easy to begin narrowing down your choices and ensure that your business remains running and productive regardless of whether workers on in the office or on the go.

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