5 Reasons Why You Need a New Notebook Now

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Last year. That's when my father just finally gave up on pfs: Write, the same word-processing software he'd been using since 1986. If his old printer hadn't broken or if the DOS-based program worked with a modern inkjet printer, he'd still be typing away in a mouse-less, single-font program from the Cold War era, because it seemed good enough to meet his basic document-editing needs. 

Unfortunately, far too many consumers are following my father's example, sticking with three-, four-, or even five-year-old notebooks because they don't see a compelling reason to upgrade. As a result of this trend, research firm Gartner projected a tepid 3.8-percent growth rate in 2011 PC sales (hey, at least they're growing). 

Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal attributes the decline in sales both to younger consumers who prefer to buy tablets and smartphones and older consumers content with their current PCs. "For older buyers, today's PCs are not a particularly compelling product, so they continue to extend lifetimes, as PC shops and IT departments repair rather than replace these systems," he said in a press release.

If you're one of those folks who feel content with a senile system, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. Here are five reasons why you need a new notebook this year.

  • Longer Battery Life: Unless you replaced the battery, your three- to five-year-old notebook can hold only a fraction of its original charge. Even worse, it probably didn't last that long in the first place, as mainstream notebooks from 2008 and earlier offered poor endurance. 

    Today, you can purchase a notebook that gets more than 6 hours of endurance, such as the HP Pavilion dm1z, for less than $500. Or you can get an incredibly long-lasting business system such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 that can go for over 20 hours on a charge! Think you don't need to stay unplugged that long? Think again, because even in the office or the living room, you should never be chained to an outlet.

  • Lighter Weight: A few years ago, most ultraportable notebooks were too expensive for the average consumer. That 15-inch clunker from 2007 feels more like a desktop than a laptop when compared to svelte systems such as the Apple MacBook Air, Samsung 9 Series, or any of the Ultrabooks(a new class of uber-thin laptops Intel has been pushing). 

    With an 11- to 14-inch notebook that weighs less than 5 pounds—preferably less than 4 pounds—you can completely change your mobile life and really take your PC everywhere you go. If you need a desktop-like experience, you're better off buying an external monitor ($150 gets you a 21-inch display) to plug in when you're at home.

  • SSDs/Faster Storage: There's nothing quite like the speed of an solid state drive. The faster boot times, lightning-quick app opens, and improved responsiveness make a computer with an SSD seem decades ahead of one without.

    Back in 2007-2008, solid state storage was in its infancy. Even if you could afford a notebook with SSD, the speeds weren't always impressive. The price of moving to SSD is still high, but many more systems come with SSD options now. Better still, for around $200, you can upgrade any modern notebook to SSD yourself. And laptops with Intel's 2nd Generation Core Series CPUs and chipsets support SATA 6Gb/s SSDs, which are twice as fast as the previous generation of drives!

  •  Intelligent Graphics Switching: If your 2008-era notebook has discrete graphics, it gulps power like a teenager scarfing down slurpees. In 2010, Nvidia released its Optimus technology, which automatically switches between discrete and integrated modes to give you the best combination of performance and power efficiency. With Optimus, even a gaming-oriented notebook such as the Alienware M11x can last more than 8 hours on a charge. AMD also recently released its own automatic graphics switching technology, though its implementation lacks the fine control of Optimus' technology.

  • USB 3.0: Even in 2011, many notebooks still don't have USB 3.0 ports. However, you'll need SuperSpeed USB to attach the current generation of high-performance backup drives. With transfer rates more than double those of USB 2.0, USB 3.0 drives such as the Iomega eGo are a must-buy for anyone with lots of media files.
So even if your old-school computer from 2008 or before lets you perform the basics, it's time to up your mobile game with a new notebook. You'll experience a new world of power and functionality you might not even know you needed.
Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Gus Says:

    You say it is time to change my laptop. Great! I have been wanting to replace my machine for years. All the things you mention -- better battery life, faster CPUs, brighter screens, etc -- are super, but they are not what I care about. I need a moderate sized display (max 13"?) with a minimum 1400x1050 pixel resolution, an aspect ratio of either 4:3 or 6:4, and no color distortion in profile mode. I need a work machine, not a 16:9 entertainment machine for watching movies. I need handwriting recognition and pixel-precise graphics control, not fat finger icons and handwriting the size of pre-school crayolas. I need apps that interact seamlessly with the apps used by my company and clients. My old clunker meets these criteria. Offer me a new ultrabook with a 6:4 combo resistive-capacitive display that runs the equivalent of Office and Photoshop, and then we can talk about the other cool extra stuff.

  • Curmudgeon Says:

    Yea...ya know, the times I wish I had listened to my dad.... You should try it sometime, you might learn something. I'll just wait a couple years, and buy today's top of the line, whizz-bang, cutting-edge technology for 1/10th the price. But thanks for trying.

  • Mark N Says:

    Regarding battery life and availability of an outlet. There are some of us who use a laptop because we don't have space for a desktop. I know of a lot people have laptops because they can be closed and stored away when they aren't needed or the space their in needs to be used for something else (like dinner). If they're closed and stored away, then why do you care about power? If that is your only use for the laptop, weight doesn't matter much either. If you don't carry it around, even within your home, those two points don't matter.

    Regarding speed, SSDs, USB 3.0, If it works and you are using the laptop in place of a desktop (stays in one place, always near an outlet), that speed difference won't make much difference either. That is how my wife uses her laptop, when she is not using it, closed and stored.

    For me, I will get a newer laptop, because I do carry mine around, then those points are all valid.

  • M Pinckerton Says:

    Agreed. There is no major reason to buy a new one. Simple battery, SSD drive replacements will keep your old lappy running great. Unless you use a macbook then you have to buy new since battery,hardrive, cannot simply be swapped and OS not supported on older macbooks. USB 3.0 is still in early stages and at least 2 years from being standard everywhere. Tablets will soon dominate the market. Within a year and half. Better screens, portability, battery life, cloud storage, keyboard docs, etc. The laptop will just become a distant memory real soon.

  • ABOSS Says:

    I HAVE NO LAPTOP YET.............

  • Old Fogey Says:

    Your arguments are absolutely correct. I will still keep my 6 year old Dell that I upgraded to Windows 7. It works just great. BTW it has its original battery that I remove when running on AC.

  • Miler Says:

    Most folks have NO NEED of even ONE of those reasons: where is there not an electrical within reach? As long as you can conveniently lug along what you already got, the difference in weight is vanity. Who's in such a rush to need an SSD ... most people WASTE TIME being on the computer, or go on to waste time ... so what's a few seconds here & there gonna add up to. Graphics switching is ONLY for battery life. And USB 3.0?: ... a few seconds, or a few minutes here & there.
    The ONLY reason to get a new notebook now, is one that has EACH & EVERY feature you believe you NEED now.

  • Shirna Says:

    its nicer now that there are many options now in buying laptops...there are really just some things that you want or have to consider.,..including the 5 reasons you listed here...but if you want a simple laptops your old laptop is still applicable,.,they're still working right and just like the laptop of today..only today's laptop has too may improvement and effects....

  • Tung Says:

    These are your compelling reasons to replace a person's existing PC?

    I can see replacing a laptop or desktop if someone is on a pre-Windows XP system but your criteria fails.

    Hmm...any conflict of interest? After all, your livelihood depends on success of the PC industry.

    After your lame article on screen sizes, I'm going stop reading your "insights."

  • Axial Says:

    Too bad most laptops out there today are pure garbage. Why are they garbage? Because manufacturers insist on shipping with trash LCD panels. What do people see first when they go laptop shopping? The LCD panel. Screens used to be 1440x900 or 1680x1050 standard, and now we are stuck with 1366x768 on almost every model. Even getting the sub-par 1600x900 is hard on the wallet. I don't care what type of panel it is, it could be SAMOLED+ and it would still be garbage. If I don't have space to work, then it is useless.

    So no. There is no reason why anybody should by a new laptop now if their old one suits them just fine. If one pays $1000 for a laptop, the manufacturer had better throw in a screen of at least 1600x900. This skimping on LCDs has got to stop. Looking at you, Samsung and LG.

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