If there was ever a market with "too many" choices, it's the laptop market. Netbook, large screen, Intel or AMD? John Mello provides some tips on scoring the top laptop for you.
When it's time to buy a new notebook computer, your choices can appear overwhelming. That's not unusual when a computing platform becomes as popular as notebooks have. In their hunger for market share, laptop manufacturers can't resist mixing and matching features to set their products apart from their competitors, even at the risk of sometimes confusing the people they're trying to sell their wares to. So here are some things to consider when buying your next portable PC.
Generally speaking, notebooks can be divided into several broad categories. There are netbooks, downsized notebooks mostly with 10.1-inch (a few with 12-inch) screens and minimal processor performance, usually courtesy of Intel's Atom CPU; while they have some notebook characteristics, they're really in a class of their own.
The smallest "real" notebooks are dubbed ultraportable computers. With the introduction of the netbook, the ultras lost their appeal in the market for a while, but computer makers have found a way to revive them -- thanks to Intel and AMD, who've produced lines of low-voltage but sprightly CPUs that give ultraportables more power than netbooks. Ultras have bigger displays than most netbooks, too -- such as 11.6 inches for Dell's AMD-powered Inspiron M101z, which sells for around $500, and 12.1 inches for Lenovo's Intel-based ThinkPad X201, which starts at $999.
Just up in size from the ultraportables are what's known as "thin and lights," which are essentially 13-inch notebooks. Laptops with that size display arguably hit a sweet spot for size, usability and portability. Notebooks in this category can range from $800, like the HP Pavilion dm4-1065dx, to $1,000, like the Toshiba Portege R700, to $1,200, like Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro.
If you prefer larger screens -- for working with multiple application windows or perhaps making a casual presentation around a conference table -- then you'll want to look at midsized notebooks.
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