Laptop Buying Guide

 By Mark Sanders, Channel Writer
Go online or walk into any store's electronics section to find a laptop and chances are you will feel paralyzed at the sheer variety of laptops available. Most shoppers have a general idea of what their laptop should look like and what they want in terms of features, but are often intimidated by their sheer number and baffling complexities of the laptops available, which have grown to include terms such as netbooks, and CULVs, and small business (as opposed to enterprise) laptops..

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Laptop Design is a Key Differentiator
Plastic is still the most commonly used material in laptop frames, and while inexpensive, manufacturers have managed to turn them into art forms. The most common technique is a process called In-Mold Decoration (IMD)—a process made popular by HP, Toshiba, and Gateway—in which decorative patterns are infused between plastic layers. This process has evolved into textures and etched imprints, where the patterns can be felt by running your fingers over them.

Bigger Screen, Heavier Weight
Weight and screen size are directly correlated to one other. The cutoff point between a laptop that should stay permanently on your desk and one that can be a commuting companion is a 14-inch widescreen. There are exceptions, of course. The Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Core i5) and Samsung R540-11 are two of the lightest 15-inch laptops—lighter, in fact, than many of the 14-inch ones in the market.

The other up-and-coming wireless technology is called Intel's Wireless Display, or WiDi, for short. It's very similar to a wireless version of HDMI, except there's no dongle or piece hanging off of the USB port—the technology is built into the laptop. With WiDi, you can wirelessly connect your laptop to an HDTV, without the use of clunky VGA or HDMI cables. You do, however, need to purchase the Netgear Push2TV receiver that has to be tethered to your HDTV. WiDi is available in laptops like the Dell Inspiron 17R-2950MRB, the Toshiba R705-P35, and the Samsung R580-JBB2. .

Most laptop manufacturers also sell accidental coverage as a separate plan, on top of extended warranties that work on top of a standard one, so you might end up spending close to $300 for three years of comprehensive coverage. Apple offers a maximum 3-year extended warranty ($250), while most Windows-based laptop manufacturers will offer up to 4 years..

As for the rest of the laptop market, the most dominant processor chips come from Intel. For instance, you can choose one that maximizes performance or one that favors battery life. Or you can choose one that plays to both strengths: The Intel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7s are currently the most popular processor brands and have the benefits of both power and battery efficiency. If you desire all-day battery life, it's best to go with a low-voltage (ULV or LV) or an Atom processor, such as those found in the Toshiba T235-S1350 and netbooks, respectively.

big battery can be your biggest ally in a day travel hectic day. Many laptops, including netbooks, are sold with multiple battery options. Apple laptops, on the other hand, have non-removable batteries. In this case, figure out where battery life ranks in the grand scheme of things. For instance, netbooks, which come with a 6-cell battery option, last between 7 to 9 hours on a single charge. Business laptops, on the other hand, come with the largest variety of battery options..

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