this post is dedicated to melanie and pj in tennessee
first you have to decide laptop or desktop. let me make this easy. if the laptop you’re looking to buy weighs more than 4lbs, you’re not going to enjoy carrying it around–which in my mind defeats the purpose of getting a laptop. best case scenario for laptops: 3lbs or under. i highly recommend the IBM thinkpad X-series.
the most important (and expensive) variable in a computer purchase is memory. when you’ve got several programs open (firefox/internet explorer, microsoft word, winamp, kazaa, etc.), they are all loaded in memory, so the more programs (including the operating system) you want running smoothly at the same time, the more memory you should get. presently 256 megabytes (MB) is standard bordering on low, 512MB is great, 1GB (1024MB) is out of this world. anything higher than that is obscene. don’t worry about the type of memory, you won’t notice the difference.
a hard drive is for long term storage of data. because laptops are small, you’ll usually only have two options: 20 gigabytes (GB) or 40GB. if you actually have an 60 or 80GB option, your laptop is going to be as heavy as a cinderblock (or you’re reading this from the year 2005). desktops apparently start at 80GB and head for the stars, like 250GB, or 800GB in a RAID configuration. my laptop from feb 2002 has a 30GB hard drive with 2300 mp3s (which take up 10GB). i still have 7GB left.
CPU (the processor)
the red herring of computer purchases is processor speed. people buy new computers because they run at 3 gigahertz (GHz) rather than 1GHz, but what they don’t realize is that their memory and their hard drives will slow them down first. desktop processors range from 2.4GHz to 3.6GHz. laptops run from 1.5GHz to 3GHz. IBM’s latest X40 laptops actually have slower processors than their predecessors so that they consume less power (which equals longer battery life)! save money by choosing a slower processor.
- get a 17″ flat panel LCD monitor. the resolution is going to be the same as a 18 or 19″ lcd display (1280×1024 pixels), but 17″ will be cheaper and crisper.
- get a CD-RW/DVD combo drive. you’re probably not going to be burning DVDs.
- i love my optical mouse. i did not like using a cordless mouse, because the two AA batteries inside weighed a lot and made me mouse like i was drunk.
- buy a printer from hp. i would avoid epson or lexmark.
- make sure your laptop has built in 802.11b/g wireless.
summary, circa sept 2004
(grayed options = justin’s sweet spot)