by Jeffrey L. Wilson on April 8, 2008
When the time comes to purchase a new notebook, the sheer variety can be enough to boggle the mind of even the most gadget-obsessed tech-head. To make things easier, we’ve dissected the many notebook classes available and created a list of their pros, cons, and capabilities to guide you toward the right laptop. Beware: Notebook categories overlap in their sizes, types, and target users. So follow our step-by-step questions, and check off one box from each category. When you’re done, you should know whether you need a business-friendly ultraportable, a big-screen machine with high-def movie playback, or something in between.
Business machines often come with security and IT-management technology, such as fingerprint readers, TPM circuitry, password-protected hard drives, and Intel’s Centrino Pro platform. You’ll also find them loaded with Windows XP Pro or Vista Business. They tend to come with longer warranties than consumer notebooks do and offer optional integrated mobile broadband. They also tend to be less multimedia-centric than consumer systems, although widescreens are becoming the norm. You can find business notebooks in sizes ranging from ultraportable to mainstream, with the smallest ones having the most connectivity options and geared for the most mobile business travelers.
Consumer notebooks focus on everyday tasks and fun stuff (although you’ll find a fingerprint reader here or there). You can get everything from glossy, bright widescreens and high-definition Blu-ray and HD-DVD drives to multimedia keys and robust stereo speakers. But if all you want is to process Word docs, check e-mail, and blow some time watching YouTube videos, you’ll also find the most basic machines in this category. You can find webcams in both business and consumer notebooks, so don’t let that be a deciding factor here. And though these systems come in all sizes, your options will be fewer as you get into the ultraportable space, as 12-inch notebooks are generally geared toward road warriors who travel on business.