Choosing a laptop

"Hey, I need a laptop. Which one should I buy?" Every time I hear this question, I want to answer, "Oh, you need the Toshiba Satellite 105 -and make sure you get the TruBrite display on it." That would be such a simple answer to a simple question. But the answer isn't so simple.

Recommending a laptop for someone else can be as tricky as choosing a car for them. Satisfaction after the purchase depends on many personal preferences and how a person will use the laptop.

Laptop-toting, frequent flyers probably won't want a large bulky laptop weighing over ten pounds with a 17-inch screen. I've seen one of these nearly crush an airline tray table.

A person who watches many DVD's on a laptop may want to pass on purchasing a laptop with a compact twelve or fourteen inch screen.

Keyboard layouts vary from one laptop manufacturer to another. I like my delete button in the top right corner of the keyboard. If I have to look for it three keys in from the edge of the keyboard, it throws me off and slows my typing.

There are many other variables that link the "best" laptop choice to its user's personal taste. Color, speakers and sound quality, tension and sound of the keys (yes, some people care), weight and even volume of the cooling fan can be deal makers or breakers in this decision.

I recommend selecting a new laptop in person. Make a trip to the local computer store and walk the aisle. Put your fingers on the keyboard (take some hand sanitizer) to determine if the layout is comfortable. Look at the screen from different angles to see if it remains crisp or loses its brightness. Pick up the demo laptop and feel the weight. Ask the sales person questions until you are satisfied.

A short list of recommendations applies to almost all laptop purchases. As of this writing, I would recommend that you buy as much memory as you can afford -a minimum of 1 Gb of RAM (preferably 2 Gb) since memory contributes most noticeably to computer performance. Also, if you will store your enormous iTunes library and are prolific with digital photography, consider a laptop with a larger hard drive.

If you find all these options overwhelming and they fill you with fear, here's some consolation: It will be difficult to make a bad purchase if you stay with well-known name brands when buying a new or upgrading your old laptop. Laptop features increase and improve while their price points vary little from year to year. Try on your new laptop in the store before you take it home. If it fits your tastes there, it should fit well everywhere.

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