Searching for a New Laptop (Part 1)

The Search Begins…
Buying a new computer is not a task to be taken lightly. Hundreds, if not thousands of dollars are to be invested in technology that you hope will still be relevant 2 or 3 years from now. Sort of like buying a car, isn’t it?

Well, this past fall I started the search for a replacement for my trusty but almost five-year old Dell Inspiron 6400/E1505 (pictured left) which I purchased back in 2006 to replace a ThinkPad that was just fine, but could not be upgraded to face the demanding specs that the soon to be released Windows Vista required. Hopefully my experience in searching out a good laptop for the price will help you in making your purchasing decision, whatever brand you decide to buy.
I went with this model of Dell at the time because not only was it getting good reviews, but I could really ‘max out’ the specs so that it would hopefully last throughout the Windows Vista years, but whatever version of the OS Microsoft had in store next. Looking back, this proved to be good long-term thinking. There was a bit of a technological leap from Windows XP to Vista, just as there was from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 (if you have been computing long enough to recall that time in history). Graphics power, not for gaming, but just to employ the Aero glass effect that Vista deployed, needed to be seriously considered. A good, discrete graphics card was a top priority for me. The fastest processor as well as maximum system RAM rounded out the top three ‘must-haves’.

What did I end up getting back in 2006? Here are some specs of my Dell:

  • Processor: T2600 2.16GHz
  • Graphics card: ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 (256MB onboard RAM)
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Hard Drive: 120GB

All this for just over $2,000 in 2006! Laughable now, considering what $2000 will get you these days. At any rate, it proved to be a good purchase and I am posting this article from the same laptop today. It is happily running Windows 7 Professional, Office 2010, VIPRE Antivirus and a few other necessary Windows applications. My computing needs are really minimal: I just would like a faster processor and the ability to run 64-bit programs, since that is the way of the future (if not the present).

So, another important point to consider when thinking of making a search for a new PC is: “what are my needs?”. Ask yourself: Will I be using this PC for gaming, high-demand graphics work or just for surfing the Internet, emailing, and some digital photo manipulation? There are many decent, low-cost PCs and laptops on the market that will handle the basics well and you don’t need to pay a small fortune for them. On the other hand, if you have greater computing demands, you will likely need to step up to some premium models. Again, there are bargains to be had at all price points if you are patient, can wait for sales and are willing to do some research.

With my needs firmly in mind, I now take the first steps in finding my next laptop!

Coming in Part Two: Where to Begin?