Thursday, August 05, 2004

Laptop or desktop?

One advantage to this blog is the ability for me to address questions I'm frequently asked. At least once a week, I advise clients and colleagues on the merits of choosing a laptop over a desktop computer.

A laptop, now often called a "notebook" offers the obvious advantage of small size and portability. But it's never easy to have data in two places instead of one, so adding a laptop to a desktop environment requires some discipline to copy or synchronize files across both computers.

A fully loaded laptop, often called a desktop replacement, has either a docking station, or an array of ports on the sides and back. This allows you to keep peripheral devices plugged in and always available, such as a full size monitor, printer, and network connection.

Of course, portability becomes a drag if you do that, since you have to unplug everything to head out the door. So ultra-portable notebooks become a highly coveted choice and often a more cost effective purchase in the long run. After all, we're measuring productivity when we invest in office equipment.

The lightest computers, from Sony, Sharp, Dell and IBM weigh under three pounds, but do so by skipping the essential places to plug in various devices, usually lack a floppy disk, and often have an external CD or DVD . Now you know why they are so light!

Evaluate the purchase of a new computer by comparing these components:

screen size
hard disk capacity
battery life
available options to support:
floppy drive, CD, printer port, network, wireless, USB devices
sound quality if that's important in your work
cost of extended warranty

Every new computer has a warranty and most system failures happen early on. Yet laptops are delicate, have specialized parts and are harder to repair. The extended warranty almost always pays for itself, so consider it, even if it adds 10% to the original cost of the computer.

Don't' spend $3,000 on a new computer, though, thinking it's your dream machine. Buy the best computer that's in your price range, and don't expect it to still operate at peak performance in three years It will be obsolete, but you'll still love it.