Tag: netbook

Laptop Buyer’s Guide–2016-2018

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 laptop at Rydges Melbourne hotelYour old computer is going slow and you are thinking of your next computer. But what do you get? Perhaps, you may be thinking of getting someone a laptop computer as something that could go a long way towards their computing life especially if they move around a lot.

But you want to be sure you buy the right portable computer that suits your needs properly and are gaining the best value for money out of the new equipment. It is becoming more so with the way laptop computers are offering similar levels of functionality to traditional desktops, where you are able to buy high-performance machines that can excel at graphically-intensive tasks like gaming or high-end professional graphics. This is while most of the mid-tier computers offered nowadays are able to do what was expected of last generation’s high-performance computers.

Today’s laptop computers are moving towards areas that were considered by some to be previous off-limits to this class of computer. For example, there is an increase in the number of high-performance laptop computers that can appeal to people playing high-end games or dabbling with advanced computer-graphics work. As well, the Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C connection is opening up paths to high-performance computing thanks to the ability to plug in external graphics modules.

What should I pay attention to

There are certain specification that you need to pay attention to when you choose that laptop or 2-in-1 computer so you can be sure it is up to the job you purchased it for.

Pay attention to the class of CPU your computer is equipped with and its expectations. Here, you will find that entry-level processors the Intel Pentium and Celeron processors will get by for most basic computing tasks, perhaps with some casual gaming or video / audio playback thrown in. Expect that Intel Core m or i processor families and their AMD equivalents will do most computer tasks without stressing with the Intel Core i5 being able to suit most tasks effectively. If you are after performance for advanced gaming, workstation-grade graphics or heavy number-crunching, you may need to look towards the Intel Core i7 processors.

The amount of RAM memory in your computer will affect how many programs you can have running concurrently alongside including the ability to have one or more of these programs work with large files. In the case of your Web-browsing efforts, it will affect how many Web pages you can have open at once whether as separate tabs or browser sessions. This is without the computer slowing down or using up battery power because it has to swap memory data out to the hard disk because you, for example, are running Google Chrome with many Websites open along with Microsoft Word which you are using to make that “magnum opus” document that is based on your Web-based research.

Another factor to pay attention to is the amount of storage you will have on your computer because you don’t want to always be moving your files in to or out of the computer via something like a USB hard disk or rent a large amount of space on an online storage service. As well you don’t need to be regularly thinking of what programs or data to be getting rid of all the time.

Choosing to have your laptop computer equipped with either integrated or discrete graphics can affect how well it performs if you end up doing a lot of graphics-intensive work like advanced games, photo/video editing or workstation-grade graphics. It can also affect how well it performs with some other tasks like video transcoding or playback.

A trend that is surfacing with this generation of portable computers is that an increasing number of these computers may have the ability to be connected to an external graphics module to “bump up” the graphics performance when you need it. In most cases, these modules will be sold as an option you can purchase at a later date.

Most often, the screen size has an influence on how portable your laptop will be and whether it can suit certain tasks while on the road. This obviously influences how large the computer is, thus influencing factors like the ability to have larger storage or the kind of keyboard you can work with. Let’s not forget that it can also affect how much workspace you can have at once especially if you are a multitasker.

From my experience while reviewing laptop computers for this Website, I had found that a computer having a screen size of between 12”-14” was able to offer the best balance between comfortable use for content creation while being portable enough to be carried in a shoulder bag or small briefcase. It also is the smallest screen size for a computer that  provides a keyboard that is big enough for comfortable typing, especially if you are a touch-typist.

If you buy a 2-in-1 laptop that can be turned in to a tablet, you may find that the 13″ screen may be too large for use as a tablet. This is because most of us are used to the iPad which is a 10″ screen. But the larger screen on a tablet may provide comfortable viewing for situations where two or three of you are watching online video or browsing through photos or Web resources.

It is also worth paying attention to the screen resolution for your laptop’s integrated screen because this can be a trade-off between how sharp and detailed your display looks and how much battery power your laptop needs to run during the day. In a lot of cases, you may find that those laptops with too high a screen resolution for their screen size can become unbearable to use unless you spend a lot of time adjusting your operating system’s user-interface settings because the text and shell icons may be too small for comfortable use. It is although the newer operating systems do factor in the “dot-per-inch” settings for the higher-resolution displays and maintain that same level of visibility.

In most cases, you can get by with a screen that natively uses 1366×768 as its maximum resolution when you are on a limited budget or use a screen less than 13”. On the other hand, you can use a Full HD (1920×1080) screen resolution in most other situations because this resolution puts up a sharp display without draining your laptop’s battery too heavily.

Key trends to look at

There are a few key trends that are coming strong in the recent crop of laptop computers in addition to faster processors, increased RAM and storage capacity including use of solid-state storage, and integrated graphics subsystems that rival baseline discrete graphics cards.

USB Type-C connectivity

USB-C to be the key connection trend for the current laptop generation

An increasing number of laptop computers released during the 2016-2018 model years will be equipped with a USB Type-C socket. It is being considered as the single pipe that serves power connection along with high-speed data transfer. Some of these USB Type-C connections are also working as another high-speed data conduit like a DisplayPort or Thunderbolt 3 connection which I will be talking about next.

At the moment, this connection is appearing mainly on premium models but is trickling down to mainstream and low-cost computers. It is appearing as a sole connection type on some of the ultraportable computers including some low-end varieties because this connection type is very conducive towards a slimline design. But it will appear on a range of traditionally-designed laptops including most ultraportables and mainstream designs as an extra input-output port alongside the USB Type-A ports.

The USB Type-C connector is also being used as an external DisplayPort-compliant display connector and if you want to connect an existing monitor or projector to these computers, you will have to use a USB Type-C adaptor that is compliant to DisplayPort specifications and support “DP alt” mode.

You can connect existing USB-equipped peripherals to computers that have only these connections by using a USB-C adaptor cable or docking station (expansion module) that suits your needs. Some of the adaptors that have their own power supply even provide USB Power Delivery support so you can charge your laptop or avoid compromising its internal battery’s runtime while using external accessories – this is a feature you must look for if you want to get the most out of your laptop and adaptor device. Here, you can buy these accessories at most office-supply, consumer-electronics or computer stores.

External Graphics via Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port on Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Thunderbolt 3 ti open up paths for external graphics on this Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

The USB Type-C connector will serve as a way to provide a Thunderbolt 3 connection which is being exploited not just for direct-attached storage, but for external-graphics modules. Here, this connection is appearing mainly on premium-grade laptop computers including some ultraportables and will end up as a product-differentiating feature

What this allows for is that a person could buy an external graphics module that can be connected to their computer for improved graphics performance. This will come in two forms – a module with an integrated desktop graphics chipset or a “card-cage” where you can install a desktop graphics card.

Akitio Node Thunderbolt 3 "card cage" external graphics module - press image courtesy of Akitio

Akitio Node Thunderbolt 3 “card cage” external graphics module – to hot up the Thunderbolt-3-equipped laptops graphics abilities

At the moment, these devices are being pitched primarily at gamers who are wanting to “hot up” their gaming laptops but I would see them as something that permits a portable computer to work in a higher-performance manner for gaming / workstation / multimedia use  at your main usage space. NVIDIA even made it possible to allow workstation-grade graphics setups to work in this context, thus opening up the door towards situations like mainstream laptops heading towards mobile workstation territory.

Solid-state storage as the preferred option

Increasingly, solid-state storage is being implemented on more portable computing devices. This is either as a sole storage device or alongside a separate mechanical hard disk.

The driver for this technology is the the fact that this storage method isn’t demanding on battery power which is very important for portable computing. As well, the typical solid-state drive occupies less space in the computer than a traditional hard disk and is lighter, also making it conducive towards portable use. Let’s not forget that solid-state storage is quicker and more responsive.

But the “cost per byte” for solid-state storage is still more expensive than the traditional hard-disk technology, and is more so when it comes to capacities in the order of 500Gb or more. Typically, this will lead to 15” or larger mainstream laptops being equipped with a 1Tb hard disk as the base option with a 128Gb or 256Gb solid-state drive as a “high-speed system disk” option. Or you may come across a solid-state disk up to 512Gb as the sole integrated secondary storage option as a common specification for most laptop computers.

USB external hard disk

High capacity USB hard disks can be a godsend with laptop computers that have small solid-state storage capacities

If you value what solid-state storage offers in the form of high performance, reduced battery consumption and a lightweight computer, you may find that something around the 256Gb mark may hit the spot. But you would need to consider using a USB external hard disk of at least 1Tb as an “offload” storage device for your data especially if you expect this computer to be your main or sole computer. On the other hand, if you value a combination of performance and storage capacity, a laptop that uses a 128Gb SSD system disk and a 1Tb hard disk as the secondary disk could serve your needs better.

Integrated graphics with the same performance as baseline discrete graphics

Intel has pushed the HD Graphics and Iris Graphics integrated-graphics chipsets to offer the same graphics-performance prowess as an equivalent baseline discrete graphics chipset offered by AMD or NVIDIA. This would be represented by a “budget” desktop graphics card that you would equip a “workhorse” desktop PC with if the motherboard has no graphics chipset on board.

Here, they are investing in the integrated-graphics chipsets due to the fact that they don’t draw too much current and don’t yield too much heat thus being suitable for portable-computer use. This is more so with computer configurations that use 8Gb or more of RAM and they use some of that RAM capacity to “paint” the screen images. What these chipsets are offering is the ability to answer everyday computing including casual gaming or occasional photo and video editing work.

Let’s not forget that nearly all recent-issue laptops that are equipped with discrete graphics are also equipped with integrated graphics. But these setups switch between the graphics chipsets automatically dependent on the software you are running and on whether you are using the laptop’s internal battery or external power as well as how much battery power is left in the internal battery. These automatic-switchover setups are known by trade names like NVIDIA Optimus or AMD PowerPlay and, in most cases, work behind the scenes.

Improved sound reproduction

Most of the computer manufacturers are providing improved sound reproduction for their portable computer products, save for the low-tier models. This is in answer to a problem associated with the way these computers are designed where the sound came out being tinny or lifeless.

Initially the sound functionality in a computer was to provide audio prompts like the familiar “ding” tone but computer users are asking a lot more out of these computers. This is to allow them to enjoy music and video content on these systems thanks to file-based or streaming media delivery; along with being able to use IP-based voice and video communications platforms to talk to distant people.

This trend is being fulfilled by the computer manufacturers working with respected home or professional audio brands to “tune” their products for better sound reproduction. Examples of this include HP initially working with Dr. Dre’s Beats Audio but subsequently working with Bang & Olufsen; or Lenovo and ASUS partnering with Harman, known for JBL speakers or Harman-Kardon home audio, to “tune” some of their products.

System classes

Nearly every one of the main laptop manufacturers are following the same playbook that every one of the popular vehicle builders have followed when it comes to segmenting their product ranges. This is where a particular class of vehicle would be targeted towards a particular driver type such as the standard family cars being targeted towards the typical everyday driver.

Low-tier portables

These are a group of small notebooks that have followed on from the “netbooks” offered around 2009-2011 and have a very similar focus to those computers – a “cheap and cheerful” system that doesn’t have much. One could see these computers as being equivalent to the low-tier small cars that offer a baseline seating capacity of up to four normal-sized adults, a feature set that doesn’t offer much along with a powertrain that isn’t considered to be powerful.

Typically they will have an 11”-14” screen served by integrated graphics and will have a low-powered processor like an Intel Pentium or Celeron. The RAM memory will be this side of 4Gb while the storage will be up to 128Gb. Some of these computers will come as a 2-in-1 design of the detachable kind or, perhaps, a convertible kind rather than the traditional “clamshell” form factor. You will most likely see these computers offered in a bright colour so as to increase their appeal to children especially.

Units with a storage capacity of 32Gb to 64Gb and an 11” screen are being pitched as a Windows-based alternative to an Android tablet or an iPad. This is a way for Microsoft to “cut in” to the market traditionally held by Apple and Google when it comes to personal tablet computers.

Personally, I would see most of these computers serve as a baseline portable secondary computer for those of us on a budget and don’t expect to do much with them. Families could even see them as a “first-computer” option for lower-secondary-school (US: middle-school) students.

If you are expecting them to be your budget option for your only computer, I would recommend looking towards something with 128Gb storage and a 13”-14” screen and, perhaps, making use of an external hard disk. This may be more so for people like the older generation who just want something for basic computing and online-communications tasks but don’t want to shell out much.

Mainstream laptops

Lenovo Thinkpad G50-70 Laptop

Lenovo G50-70 – an example of a mainstream home laptop

This class of laptop computer is seen as the “bread and butter” for consumer and business portable computing ever since these kind of computers became popular as a viable alternative to the desktop personal computer. Over the last two decades, they got to a point where most households and businesses preferred to buy a laptop computer over a desktop computer for regular personal computing requirements.

In the same context to cars, they could be considered as being equivalent to the common family cars, typifying medium-to-large size vehicles that have the ability to seat four or five people comfortably, have a wide range of options and are powered with a powertrain that suits city and highway travel. Like these family cars where vehicle builders offered a range of model varieties with different powertrains (engine and transmission combinations), body styles or feature sets, the laptop manufacturers would provide a large product selection and options list for this class of laptop with some offering the ability for you to “build your own computer” where you have a system with the right product mix that suits your needs.

These computers will have a heavier and thicker chassis and will have plenty of connectivity options along with a larger battery for portable use. Essential features for this class of computer, whether home or business, are a 15” screen with some offering a variant with a 13” or 14” screen for portability or a 17” screen for a large workspace. Here, these screens would be mainly driven by integrated graphics although premium varieties will use discrete graphics.

The horsepower for these machines will typically come from any processor in the Intel Core i family with i3 or i5 being of choice for value-priced variants. AMD A4 or A6 may also be offered as a processor alternative for cheaper options. There will be a minimum of 4Gb RAM with newer machines offering 8Gb at least, and storage will be either in the order of at least 500Gb on a hard disk or 256Gb on a solid-state drive along a good chance of them being equipped with a read/write optical drive, most likely a DVD burner. Some of these systems may come equipped with a 128Gb or 256Gb solid-state drive alongside a 1Tb hard drive. This will be set up with the solid-state drive being your system disk where the operating system and applications are kept, thus allowing for quick starts.

There will be some premium variants that have discrete graphics, a high-performance processor like an Intel Core i7, 8Gb or more of RAM and 1Tb hard disk or solid-state storage. You may come across with some of them being equipped with a Blu-Ray drive as their optical drive. These models will end up being pitched for multimedia (photo/video editing, AV playout, etc), workstation or gaming use. and will appeal to this kind of application. Again, this is equivalent to higher-specification family cars which come with all the desirable options.

Mainstream home laptop

Mainstream laptops that are pitched as home computers will typically have some attention paid to their aesthetics but will miss out on durability, security or manageability features that business laptops would be equipped with.

They will also be sold through department stores, consumer-electronics stores and similar outlets that “Average Joe” would come across. Sometimes the office-supply stores or specialist computer stores may offer these computers as something for ordinary households to benefit from.

Here, you can get by using these computers as a portable household computer which most likely will be one that you can easily stow away in a drawer when not in use. It can also appeal to senior secondary or tertiary students as their first computer that they take with them when the leave the family nest. Some small-business users can get by with using them as their business computer, perhaps with having the operating system upgraded to a “professional” variant like Windows 10 Pro.

Mainstream business laptop

Expect this class of computer to be pitched towards office or field use in the workplace.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

A traditional business laptop represented by the Lenovo ThinkPad lineup

There will be most of the features and specifications associated with the mainstream home laptop computer although there will be a lot of emphasis on durable construction, security and fleet-level management. For example, there will be the use of fingerprint readers on a lot of these machines allowing for “sign-in with your finger” while there are chipsets associated with data encryption and authentication, including the use of Trusted Platform Modules. You may find that computers equipped with a fingerprint reader would come with a baseline password-vault program of some sort that is tied in with the fingerprint reader so you could sign in to Facebook or Gmail using your fingerprint.

Some of the manufacturers like HP and Dell offer different ranges of mainstream business computers. This is while other companies like Lenovo and Acer offer some models with the mainstream business product lineup, typically the entry-level models, that are focused towards the small business user.

Dell Vostro 3550 business laptop

Dell Vostro 3550 business laptop – an early example of what the Dell Vostro small-business laptop is about

Product ranges like the HP Probook and Dell Vostro range have a feature set very similar to the mainstream consumer laptop except that they would come with the “pro” edition of Windows, increased connectivity including VGA and Gigabit Ethernet ports along with TPM module and fingerprint reader security features as an option at least. With these systems, it is typically assumed that the IT team for a small business or community organisation consists of whoever owns or manages the organisation, along with IT-astute members of their community, and the retailer who supplied them the equipment or business-IT solution.

This is compared to the premium business product ranges like the Dell Latitude and HP Elitebook ranges where these computers come with a wider range of security and manageability features either as standard equipment or as options, along with the increased connectivity options. These machines are typically sold under contract to government departments and larger businesses who have their own IT staff or contract with an IT service provider to look after their computing and communications needs.

The HP Elitebook 2560p – an earlier 13″ example of a corporate-grade business laptop

The mainstream business computers will primarily be sold through specialist computer outlets whether online or “bricks-and-mortar”. It is more true for those outlets who place their focus on selling to the business market with a “solutions-based” approach where there is a strong support cycle. For example, you may approach one of these providers when your shop “grows up” from the old cash register to a fully-computerised point-of-sale system.

The question that may be raised when buying the mainstream business laptop is whether the manageability features that these will be supplied with are a waste of money or not. This also includes whether your supplier will use these features as part of them providing  after-sales support for your system.

Personally, I would place importance on a mainstream business laptop if you value system durability and security for your data or a strong relationship with your IT supplier, which is important for the typical “work-home” laptop that you take around frequently.

But with this class of computer, be careful of your potential supplier over-specifying your system. This is more so when your small business or community organisation is being sold management functionality that isn’t really necessary for their operation. Here, I would ask if they are using any of these features as a tool to provide remote support or for you to have the right level of security over your data in your business’s context.


Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook on tray table

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook – one of the first Ultrabooks that defined this class of ultraportable computer very well

The typical ultraportable computer is designed to be light and occupy less space in your bag or briefcase, while running for a long time on its own batteries. A lot of manufacturers even invest a lot of money in developing these models and positioning them as the “beauty queens” of their product lineup. But these ultraportables will offer a level of performance very similar to what most of the mainstream home and business laptops will offer.

Some of these machines that fit Intel’s preferred specifications for an ultraportable are described as Ultrabooks but the others in this class are simply described simply as being ultraportable, thin and light or something else that describes their beauty. There has been an increase in product development in this class of computer due to the fact that everyone else wants to compete against the Apple MacBook product lineup that exudes itself in the beauty stakes.

Dell XPS 13 Kaby Lake Ultrabook – the latest example of an ultraportable clamshell laptop

Such computers could be seen in the vehicle world as being equivalent to the sporty-looking coupés and convertibles which have improved performance but are styled in a way to exude their beauty – a car to be seen in as well as to drive.They can also be seen as being equivalent to the luxury cars where there is an emphasis on the luxurious driving experience.

Most of these will end up with a screen size of between 11” and 14” with some larger variants coming with a 15” screen. The screens will typically have a resolution of up to QHD (3200×1800) and work from the computer’s integrated graphics processor. As for the horsepower, this will come most likely from Intel Core m or i processor families that are optimised for reduced power consumption and heat output. As for RAM, this will be typically 4Gb-8Gb RAM depending on the model with some premium models offering 16Gb RAM. They will also have a storage configuration of up to 256Gb on a solid-state drive or 500Gb on a hard disk with some top-shelf models offering 512Gb to 1Tb on a solid-state drive.

A lot of these computers will appear in the traditional “clamshell” form while an increasing number of them are appearing as a detachable or convertible 2-in-1 form. As well, most of these computers will be styled to look very elegant, more as fashion accessories and something you can impress others with. This will include use of finishes like rose gold or champagne gold on some of the premium models.

These computers will appeal to those of us who can afford the premium offered for a system that provides mainstream-grade performance in a very lightweight chassis. Units equipped with low-tier processors like some Core m varieties and have low-capacity storage will appeal as “portable-use” secondary computers rather than as main-use or sole-use computers.

High-performance laptops

The laptop is now showing itself as a computer type that doesn’t have to be an ordinary old low-performing unit for pedestrian computing tasks. Increasingly, the manufacturers are offering mobile computing systems that could relate to the high-performance cars of this world whether for work or play and they are being offered under one or two separate product ranges or even as separate brands.

High-performance mainstream laptop variants

Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming laptop

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop – a high-performance variant of the Dell Inspiron laptop computer lineup

This is in addition to mainstream consumer and business laptop variants that have been specified for performance like being equipped with high-performance CPUs and discrete graphics processors, along with plenty of RAM. The high-performance variants are typically identified as “gaming” or “workstation” packages but they still have the same conventional look as one of the regular mainstream laptops, perhaps with some detailing that underscores the performance.

These computers are portable computing’s equivalent of the high-performance variants of a vehicle builder’s common family-car products. Such cars are identified with names that have sport or GT connotations and are referred to as “sports sedans”, “hot hatches” or something similar. These cars are typically equipped with a high-performance powertrain and have exterior and interior detailing that conveys the sporting image.

Gaming laptops

Alienware gaming laptop

An Alienware gaming laptop that can benefit from the Alienware Graphics Amplifier expansion module

Gaming laptops are being pitched towards the young gamers who expect performance while they play the advanced games. They carry on from the “gaming rigs” – the aggressively-styled desktop computers that gamers tune up for performance during their gameplay.

They will have a highly-strung discrete graphics chipset integrated in to them, typically one of those GPUs that is tuned to work with fast-paced games. As well, they use extra RAM with this being in the order of 8Gb to 16Gb if not more, and a highly-powerful processor like the Intel Core i7 family. There will even be the ability to tweak more performance out of these components through the use of desktop software while they use high-performance hard disks or solid-state storage for their secondary storage. As for the screen, the size will typically range between 13” to 15” with the resolution being at least 1080p Full-HD quality.

Expect most of the gaming laptops to be designed to look aggressive because they convey the image of one of the American or Australian muscle cars that were popular through the late 60s to early 70s; or a car from one of Europe’s well-known sports-car marques. These were vehicles designed from the outset for high-performance driving.

Mobile workstations

Dell Precision M2800 Mobile Workstation courtesy of Dell USA

Dell Precision M2800 – a mobile workstation that also bridges performance and portability

This class of computer will typically be constructed for business performance and will have particular components that are designed to get the most out of a CAD, engineering, statistics, animation or similar highly-powerful business program. A significant number of these systems will be described as “certified” workstations in that they are certified by Autodesk or a similar software vendor to run their software reliably at best performance.

These business-class computers will be at least 15” with high-end business-focused discrete graphics and will use a processor like the Intel Core i7. The RAM memory will typically be at least 8Gb and using particular high-reliability chips while there is a high-performance hard disk and/or solid-state drive on board. Some of these systems will even be serviceable so that the components can be upgraded or replaced at will.

Some, if not most, of the mobile workstations may offer the features associated with a mainstream business laptop such as a fingerprint reader, a TPM module or manageability features. This is especially for those of us who are dealing with plans or blueprints that are considered highly-valuable intellectual property.

What to remember

Should I buy a laptop or a desktop computer?

This question will come up more frequently with those of us who are buying a computer as the main or only personal computer that we use rather a computer we intend to use as a secondary computer.

I would recommend purchasing a laptop or similarly-portable computer if you place emphasis on the portability factor.

For some of you, this may be about having to regularly store your computer away while it is not in use or to move it around the house as required. One of these situations is to use the dining table or kitchen bench as a desk, something you will be asked of if you live in a small home or apartment. It may also be about an aesthetic requirement to stow the computer away when you aren’t using it, even if you maintain a separate home office. This may be of importance where you expect to have your home office serve as a spare bedroom (think of that sofa-bed or something similar you have in there for guests), or you integrate your home office as part of a main living area.

On the other hand, you are taking your computer between two or more locations. For example, you have that “work-home” laptop that you use in the office then take home so you can do further work there. As well, you may be travelling a lot including frequently using public transport or using a café as your “second office” or “office away from the office”. It will also include those of you who are likely to live a nomadic lifestyle where you don’t expect to live at the same address for the long haul, such as people who are on work placements for example.

Setting up a dedicated workstation with your laptop

You can set up a dedicated workstation that is based around your laptop computer so you can work much better at your regular desktop working locations. This practice can work well with the mainstream laptops along with ultraportables and performance-grade computers where you expect to use these computers as a main-use or sole-use computer. It will also be of importance for those of you who have decided to move away from using a desktop computer as your main computer.

Typically, you establish this workstation by installing at least one larger monitor, along with a full-sized keyboard and a regular mouse on your desk and connecting them to the laptop computer. In this context, when you use a large monitor in this way, you may find yourself being able to use two screens (the laptop’s screen and the larger monitor) as a large display space.  You may decide to add better speakers or connect the laptop to a sound system like that old hi-fi amplifier and those old speakers for improved sound reproduction while you could add extra local-storage opportunities like a USB hard disk or optical drive. As well, you may take advantage of a wired Ethernet connection for assured network-connection reliability. Then you disconnect these peripherals from your computer when you take it between locations.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 Ultrabook in tent mode

Tent mode – one way you could set up a 2-in-1 as part of your workstation

Some of you may use a bracket which allows you to hang your laptop computer so it becomes one of the screens in your multi-screen setup. Such brackets will typically anchor to your monitor so you effectively have a contiguous large-screen display and they can apply to the 13”-14” computers. Similarly, a 2-in-1 set up in a presentation-viewer or tent mode can provide a very similar experience.

Minix Neo-C USB-C Multiport Adaptor press image courtesy of Minix

One of the docking stations or expansion interfaces that can be part of your workstation

Most of us would simplify this process using a docking station, which is a fancy name for an “expansion interface” module that simplifies how you connect these peripherals to your computer. Most of these devices simply plug in to a USB 3.0 port while the USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 port on newer equipment allows for a simplified high-speed data-pipe between the expansion module and the laptop computer. As well, an increasing number of these USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 docking stations also provide power to the host computer. It is also worth noting that some of the larger display monitors may offer the docking-station functionality  as a differentiating feature where they have, for example, an integrated multiple-port USB hub. This can save on the cost of another docking station if you are buying that large screen as well if the screen offers the same kind of connectivity that you want.

You could set up one of these peripheral-based dedicated workstations for each regular workspace that you use with the ability to spend more on equipping the workstation you use the most with the better peripherals. As well, you could even get away with “pushing down” peripherals to less-often-used workspaces when you equip your main workspace with better peripherals. This is like what most people have always done with refrigerators or colour television sets where the newer better one ends up where they use it most while older units end up continuing to give service in secondary areas.

To gain best advantage out of these setups, it is a good idea to use a docking station to connect the wired peripherals to the computer. If your computer is relatively new and implements a USB Type-C / Thunderbolt-3 connector, make sure that the docking station has this same connection. If you have a Thunderbolt-3-equipped computer, you could use a USB-C dock as something to start with, then see a newer Thunderbolt-3-equipped dock as something to use in the main workspace.

As well, make sure you buy one with at least all of the connections that you need for your desk-bound peripherals. If you are thinking of using a wireless mouse or keyboard, look towards any of those input devices that use Bluetooth rather than a proprietary connection that takes up a USB connection for its receiver dongle.

The laptop computer as a secondary computer

There are those of us who may find that we can get by with two computers – a fully-specified desktop or large laptop that has all the performance and capacity we need as the primary machine; and an easy-to-transport laptop that doesn’t have all of the specifications but is capable of being a portable-use secondary machine. Examples of these would be the budget portables, most affordable 2-in-1s, or the lower-specified models in a manufacturer’s ultraportable lineup.

Here, we cam shift data and synchronise files between the multiple computers using  shared folders on a NAS; a cloud storage service like Dropbox; removable media or sharing a “file-transfer” folder on one of the computers via your home network. As well, you can install on these computers a reduced complement of software that fulfills the essential tasks that you want to do on the road.

Thunderbolt 3 on this kind of secondary-use computer may also appeal to a range of users who may occasionally seek extra display performance from these computers and simply hook up an external graphics module for this purpose. This may be to turn out a “there-and-then” rough-edit of video taken during a location shoot that is part of your video project; or to “work through” a high-end game while on the road.

This kind of setup would appeal to those of us who want to do some computing work while away from our main home or office location, but keep that location as where you do most of your work.

Should I use a mobile-platform tablet or a laptop as my secondary computer?

Some of you may think that a mobile-platform tablet like an iPad or Android tablet is all you need for a secondary computer device, rather than you purchasing a laptop. The same question can also be raised by some people like those of the older generation who want to purchase a personal computing device like a laptop or iPad but don’t see themselves using it regularly.

This can hold true with those of us who do a lot of content consumption and create very little content while away from your main workspace. Examples of this may just be you writing a small amount of text such as short replies to email or writing up notes. But you may find that using a keyboard accessory like one of the many keyboard cases may have you able to create more content using a mobile-platform tablet.

It can also hold true if you do make use of software that is written for desktop (regular-computer) platforms. Here, the software that is written for these platforms comes with more abilities compared to similar software that is targeted towards mobile platforms and you will find yourself being able to work more productively with this software.

Here, if you are primarily doing activities like Web-browsing, viewing video content, playing casual games or answering a small amount of email, you may get by with a mobile-platform tablet. On the other hand, if you do frequent amounts of content creation including answering many emails or make heavy use of highly-capable regular-computer software, the laptop would earn its keep.

It is also worth noting that the “2-in-1” computer that can double as a laptop or a tablet may offer a bridge between these two conundrums. Most of these computers run Windows 10 and will run the commonly-powerful office software if you are thinking of using them to work on that magnum opus document, with the 13” varieties having a full-sized keyboard so you can type comfortably. This is while you can engage in social media with most of the social media platforms having their own Windows 10 apps.


Should I buy a gaming laptop or a mobile workstation as a high-performance personal computer?

Increasingly, most computer manufacturers are offering a range of high-performance computers in their product lines, whether as performance-optimised variants of their mainstream products or units designed from the ground up as gaming laptops or mobile workstations.

But you may be dabbling with high-end games, or high-end-graphics and video work and are considering this kind of equipment. What kind of high-performance computer should you really go for?

Those of us who are working with high-end games or are doing video editing, computer graphics or animation as a hobby may find that high-performance mainstream laptops or gaming laptops may be the way to go. It can also apply to students who are putting their foot in the door when it comes to architecture, engineering and allied courses. You would be on a winner if the computer you are after is equipped with a Thunderbolt 3 connector because you could buy an external “card-cage” graphics module and a CAD-grade high-performance desktop graphics card at a later state when you can afford it.

On the other hand, a mobile workstation would earn its keep when you head full-time in to the world of advanced graphics, especially if you are using the computer as your “axe” to make regular money.

Which system for whom

Expected computer role

Main or sole computer

You may be upgrading your main “workhorse” computer and wanting to use something a bit more portable. The system could be your “main” computer that you use in your primary working area while you use another computer as your “on-the-go” secondary computer. Or it could just be your only computer that you have.

Here, I would recommend a mainstream laptop computer or, if you can afford something more luxurious, an ultraportable if it’s your sole computer you are taking with you a lot or a high-performance machine for other situations. In all cases, place emphasis on the computer’s storage capacity and RAM memory and buy a system with as much of this as you can afford. You may find that if you are saving towards your computer, a stretch goal you could apply is for a machine that has more RAM or storage capacity than what you initially budgeted for.

Those of you who make light use of a computer like using it just for Web surfing, online communication (email, Social Web and some Skype) and some word-processing may find that you can get away with one of the entry-level laptops. The word-processing application may be the deal-maker that has an entry-level computer overtake an iPad or similar tablet especially if your idea is to create a memoir or some other magnum opus. It can also apply if you are wanting to head towards creating that small-time Website or blog. This is because of these computers having a keyboard more conducive to this activity and being able to run a fully-fledged word-processing or similar program.

Some of you may find that you may not be able to have a lot of storage on your main or sole computer, such as if you are on a budget and are buying a low-tier laptop, or are buying that ultraportable because of your travelling. In this case, I would make sure that the computer you are getting is equipped with at least one USB 3.0 Type-A port or a USB-C port and purchase a high-capacity USB hard disk as a data-offload solution.

Secondary computer

If the laptop or other portable computer you are buying is simply something you are intending to use as a supplementary computer while you keep using your main computer, you may be able to look at different factors here.

In most cases, you may be considering this computer for use while you are travelling while your main computer stays at home or in the office. Here, you place importance on the portability factor. This is where you could consider an ultraportable computer, whether in a clamshell or 2-in-1 form. If you are on a budget, you may find it worth looking at one of the entry-level 14” variants powered by a low-end processor. In this situation, you can skimp on storage capacity if you are sure you can offload data to your main computer.

Some of you may use a secondary laptop at home, perhaps as a “family computer” that you can store away when it isn’t used. Similarly this would be a laptop computer that you may give to your “better half” as a gift and have them keep their data on it. In the same context, you may be considering a “private” computer that you use for your personal data so you don’t store any of it on your business computer. This is more so for those of you who have your laptop supplied and managed by your workplace or rent or lease the IT your small business needs on an ongoing basis.

Here, most mainstream computers with modest specifications may answer your needs. If you are expecting it to be a personal alternative to that “work-home” laptop, you may then have to place emphasis on storage capacity for this application.

Particular usage cases

Highly nomadic user

There are some users who will have a “sole-use” laptop computer but are likely to move between many different locations. These may range from people working in the merchant navy or on oil / gas rigs where they are likely to spend a significant amount of time on that ship or rig; through people who are engaged in placement-based work where they are never sure if they will be in the same work location; to students who are mainly living in temporary accommodation like college dorms / residence halls or short-let housing.

Here, the laptop computer can suit your needs very well. At the moment, most mainstream computers would suit your needs especially if you find that they offer a large amount of storage. This is important for you because you may end up piling music, photo and video content on the hard disk before and during your travels. If you are a gamer, you will most likely be storing all the data related to the games you regularly play, be it the game files or information about your progress in that game.

You may be interested in the high-performance variants like the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming that I previously reviewed if you value performance for gaming or entry-level workstation tasks.

If you are expecting to transport your computer around your destination location such as, for example a college student living in a college dorm who then takes the computer between classes, the library and the dorm, you may want to consider an ultraportable laptop or a 13”-14” mainstream laptop. Such systems can easily be stored in a backpack or other day luggage without taking up much room and they are relatively light compared to the traditional 15” mainstream laptop.

The use of a small-sized high-capacity USB external hard disk may satisfy your needs if you have to buy a computer that doesn’t have enough storage for your needs such as an entry-level laptop. Here, you can easily stow this hard disk in your luggage without it taking up too much room if you need to transport it. This hard disk can simply serve as a backup or offload storage device while you keep what you are working with on the laptop’s own storage.

Similarly, having a computer that implements the Thunderbolt 3 connection and works properly with the external graphics modules can appeal to this class of user.

Work-home use

A more common scenario for those of you who regularly work away from home is to take the same computer between your home and your workplace. Some of you may also be likely to use this same computer for your personal computing needs.

Here, consider the purchase of a mainstream business laptop with as much RAM and capacity as you can afford. The 13”-14” varieties appear as a sweet spot for portability if you use it on the go, but you may have to look at an ultraportable if you are travelling a lot with it.

They also benefit from the “dedicated workstation” approach and should have at least a USB 3.0 port. Personally, I would even go towards a computer with at least a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port, then use a dock with a similar connection and the desirable peripheral connections for your main workspace.


The first thing to be sure of when you buy a laptop computer tis that you are buying the right unit that suits your usage requirements.

Here, this is about making sure you have a computer that has the right amount of horsepower, storage space and RAM capacity to suit your needs yet is light enough for the portability that you need out of it. For those of you buying a computer for your business needs, you also need to be sure that you aren’t being forced to buy the more expensive overspecified model that can end up being complicated to deal with.

Tips to avoid those mistakes that can easily happen with tablet and ultraportable computers in the living room

As the small computer form factors such as the tablets and ultraportables (Ultrabooks, etc) become popular, there is room to make mistakes with using them in the living room. This environment is where you are most likely to be when you are tired and wanting to relax and, in a lot of cases, you may be having a bit to drink.

These mistakes can end up with your equipment being out of action for a significant amount of time and could, at worst, cause irreparable damage. It is although the manufacturers are understanding the realities associated with the portable equipment and are making it more rugged.

Avoiding the risk of that device being sat on

A similarly-coloured iPad can be at risk of being sat on when on the couch

A similarly-coloured iPad can be at risk of being sat on when on the couch

For example, you could be using that iPad while lounging on the couch and you need to get up to visit the kitchen or bathroom or answer the door. Then you put that iPad on the couch as you get up. This can be a risky move for the device if one hasn’t got their eyes peeled for these devices.

In the living room, this can easily happen with most of us when we are tired or have had a bit too much to drink. It can be exacerbated with devices that have sleeves, wraps or other accessories that could blend in easily with the scatter cushions and other upholstery that exists at your house. Then you could end up easily sitting on that iPad that is on the couch as you find somewhere comfortable to sit and this can cause damage to that device.

A good idea to avoid this situation would be to place the portable computing device on the coffee table or side table when you want to get up from that chair or sofa. Personally, I would make this easier by having side tables that have enough room to rest at least one 10” tablet like an iPad or avoiding the temptation to forego the coffee table or similar tables in the name of minimalist living.

The book-style cover offers extra protection for tablets in the living room

As well, the covers that you can get for the iPad and other tablet computers that open and close like a book also work well in keeping spilt drinks from damaging these computers and are a must when you use them in the lounge room. Here, you simply close these covers when you put the computer on that table.

Similarly, decorating the accessory covers or the backs of the tablet or ultraportable computer devices in an individual manner can allow one to make a device easily identifiable from the others especially when there are many of these in a common area. I would find this more important with popular devices like the iPad which use a consistent style and interface and also find this important where a particular brand or model of this device is favoured by most of your family or friends. I made a reference to this practice when I reviewed the Toshiba Satellite L730 which was available in white.

Reducing the risk of drinks being spilt in to that ultraportable computer

As well, ultraportable notebook computers can be at risk of drinks being spilt in to them when they are left open on the coffee table. This is more so with drinks that are in tall containers like bottles, tumblers or wine glasses.

Here, a good practice would be to close up these computers when they are not in use there. In the case of the detachable-keyboard “hybrid” convertible, these computers could be assembled before you close them up to keep drinks out of them.

Further on, a laptop wrap may also work wonders in protecting these computers from being damaged by drink spillage on the coffee table.

Avoiding the romantic candlelight mistake when using notebook computers

Candles and portable computers - a bad mix

Candles and portable computers – a bad mix

As for laptops, notebooks and similar computers, the area behind the screen can be a death trap for these computers when it comes to using those candles to set up that romantic environment. This is a greater risk with wide candles including tea-lights rather than the tall “taper-style” candles that are typically used with a candlestick and the risk is greatly exacerbated when you swing the laptop lid outwards.

This was highlighted by an incident that happened with some close friends where the husband was downloading pictures from a digital camera on to his laptop and his wife, who just so loves that romantic candlelit look, set up some candles at his work table. There happened to be a small candle just behind the computer in the blind space behind the screen and this scorched the display unit in that computer.

The blind spot that exists behind a laptop and is risky when it comes to candles

The blind spot that exists behind a laptop and is risky when it comes to candles

In these situations, check that there are no candles behind the computer before you open it up and keep an eye on those candles that are on your work table. Especially pay attention to the blind spot behind your computer and make sure any candles in that area are fully visible.

It may be better to make sure that if you want to set up those candles around the laptop, that any lit candles stay on the side of the computer or towards the centre of the dining table.


By reading this, you can avoid placing your equipment at risk of damage when you use it in that lounge area whether you are working or relaxing.

Consumer Electronics Show 2012–Part 1

This year, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has achieved a record of 3100 exhibitors and has made an opening for newer technology companies. This is through the establishment of the “Eureka Park TrendZone” which had space for 94 of these startups.

For Microsoft, this year was their last appearance as an exhibitor and Paul Allen had given the last keynote speech for that company at the CES. They will simply work alongside their hardware and other software partners at further events.


The major trends have been taking place with the portable and mobile computing aspect of our lives. This is mainly in the form of more powerful smartphones and tablets as well as an increased number of Ultrabooks – small slim ultraportable computers that snap at the heels of the MacBook Air.


Energy-efficient powerful processors

This show is being used to premiere NVIDIA’s Tegra 3 ARM processor, which is an improved processor for mobile devices. This is intended to allow for increased power and longer runtime for these devices. This processor isn’t just intended for the tablets but also for use in the car dashboard as has been demonstrated with the latest Tesla electric supercar.

As well, Intel were premiering their Ivy Bridge “classic” processors which are optimised for improved graphics while being energy efficient. These processors are intended for the upcoming generation of laptops including the Ultrabooks.

New operating environments for the regular computer

Microsoft were also demonstrating the Kinect gesture-driven user interface on the PC and this wasn’t just for gaming like its initial XBox 360 application was. They used this show to promote Windows 8 as being the next computer operating system for tablets and regular computers.

Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready

It was also the year that Bluetoot 4.0 a.k.a. Bluetooth Smart was being promoted. This was a very low-power Bluetooth specification which made the technology work properly with sensor applications due to allowing these devices to run on a pair of AA batteries or a watch battery for many months.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices could work with these Bluetooth Smart devices and permit them to work in an energy-conserving way. This has legitimised the Bluetooth technology in personal health and wellbeing applications, with this application class being premiered at this show.

Mobile Computing

One technology that is affecting this class of devices is the launch of LTE-based 4G wireless broadband in to most of the USA by many of the US mobile carriers. This is expected to allow for higher data throughput and bandwidth for the data-based services.

Smartphones and Multifunction Internet Devices

One major brand change that occurred over this show was Sony’s handheld-communications identity. This was previously known as Sony Ericsson but is now known simply as Sony Mobile Communications.

Here, Sony had launched the Xperia S Android phone and their first LTE-enabled phone inthe form of the Xperia Ion. These are also to be “PlayStation capable” which allows them to run Sony’s PlayStation games in the manner they are meant to be played. They also released the Walkman Z series which is Sony’s answer to the Apple iPod Touch and the Samsung Galaxy Player multifunction Internet devices.

Samsung had released their Galaxy S Blaze 4G which is their LTE-enabled iteration of their Galaxy S Android phones. LG also released some more of the Spectrum Android smartphones to the US market. Lenovo had launched the first Intel-powered Android smartphone in the form of the K800.

But, for the Windows Phone platform, the big announcement was Nokia’s Lumina 900 which was a Windows Phone equipped with a 4.3” AMOLED touchscreen. Was this a way for Nokia to claw back in to the multifunction smartphone category again?


Here, this device class has become more powerful and capable, especially with the spectre of Windows 8 coming around the corner and a strong effort by all to unseat the iPad from its dominant position.

Toshiba had shown a 13” and a 7.7” prototype tablet but were exhibiting their 10.1” Android tablet/ As well, Coby were launching 5 ranges of 7” and 10” Android Ice-Cream-Sandwich-powered tablets with the maximum having 1Gb RAM and 32Gb expandable flash memory.

Acer had launched the Iconia A700 series 10” tablets with Tegra quad-core horsepower, 5Mp rear camera and HD front camera, and driven by Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

Asus had launched the Transformer Prime Mini 7” Android 4.0 comverrtible Android tablet which coudl be similar to the EeePad Memo. This Android Wi-Fi tablet was a 7.1” 3D-screen-equipped unit with 5Mp rear camera / 1.2Mp front camera, stylus and 64Gb flash storage.

Samsung had used this show to premiere the Galaxy Note to the US market and premiere the Galaxy Tab 7.7 LTE which was enabled for the 4G wireless broadband networks.

Sony had launched their S1 Android Homeycomb powered tablet. This one had a 9.4” screen and could work as an electronic picture frame or alarm clock; and was able to work with 4G LTE wireless broadband as well as Wi-Fi. Of course it would work with the DLNA Home Media Network and implemented an “off-centre-of-gravity” position for stability. They also showed the Tablet P clamshell tablet to the US market even though it was available in other markets. They weren’t sure if it would be launched in the carrier-controlled US market.

Regular computers

Ultrabooks and other “traveller” notebooks

This year had been a changing year for the lightweight “traveller” notebook computer. This class of computer had seen the tablet computer appear as a serious competitor and Intel had defined the “Ultrabook” as a new lightweight slimline class of portable hotspot-surfing computer.

ASUS and Lenovo had exhibited convertible Ultrabook computers which could become tablets, with Lenovo’s example known as the Ideapad Yoga which was powered with the Intel Ivy Bridge chipset.

Acer’s next Ultrabook is the Aspire S5. This was claimed to be the thinnest Ultrabook and had an 8 hour battery runtime. It also had a USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt peripheral connect for use with higher-capacity hard disks for example. LG also launched the XNote Z330 Ultrabook as did Toshiba with the Portege Z835 and HP with the 14” Envy Spectre Ultrabook.

Lenovo were exhibiting their IdeaPad U310 (13”) and U410 (14”) Ultrabooks with a choice of processors but with 4Gb RAM and a choice of 64Gb SSD or 500Gb regular hard disk. The 14” U410 variant was also available with 1Gb NVIDIA graphics.

Dell has jumped in to the Ultrabook bandwagon with the XPS 13. This had the standard spec set with an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor, 4G on the RAM and a choice of 128Gb or 256Gb solid-state storage. The display is typically the 1366×768 resolution with Gorilla Glass screen as well as Bluetooth 3.0. Like the HP Folio 13 Ultrabook, this could be available in a “big-business package” with the business-security and customisation needs or as a regular consumer/small-business package.

Samsung launched their redesigned Series 9 ultrabooks with 13” amd 14” models. These were powered by a Core i5 processor and were equipped with 4Gb RAM and 500Gb hard disk as standard. The 13” variant had a 128Gb SSD as an alternative option.

Of course, the Ultrabook and the tablet had placed doubt on the viability of the 10”-11” netbook. But Lenovo was one of the few who had pushed on with a netbook in the form of the S200 and S206 series. These 11.6” units are available with an AMD or an Intel Atom chipset and  have 2Gb RAM and a choice of 32Gb SSD or 500Gb hard-disk secondary storage.


Of course, the regular 15”-17” laptop has not been forgotten about with the calibre of these computers approaching “multimedia” specifications. Most of the 17” units had 1080p resolution and were equipped with Blu-Ray as a standard or option for their optical disks. The hard disks came in the order of 1Tb or, in some cases, 2Tb and system RAM was in the order of 8Gb.

For graphics, most of the laptops on the show floor had NVIDIA graphics chipsets with display memory of 1Gb to 2Gb and able to operate in dual-chipset “overdrive” mode. Samsung even exhibited the Series 7 “Gamer” which was pitched as a thoroughbred clamshell gaming rig.

In-car technology

This year was a chance for new upstarts to integrate the car with the Internet. MOG and Aha by HARMAN have increased their “Web-to-radio” footprint by integrating CBS Radio into their Web content aggregation lineup and partnering with Honda, Subaru, JVC and Kenwood to increase their equipment availability. This is in addition to improving the Aha iOS app and porting this same app to the Android platform this year.

Similarly, Parrot have extended their “Asteroid” Android-driven in-vehicle infotainment platform to three different devices – the Asteroid CK which yields telephony and audio content;, the Asteroid NAV which also provides GPS navigation and Internet access via Wi-Fi; and the Asteroid 2DIN whcih is effectively a car-radio replacement by having integrated AM/FM/RDS tuners.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next instalment of the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 series which will cover the networked lifestyle at home.

Acer–to stay on with the netbook


Acer will stop making cheap crap, but keep selling netbooks. Discuss. — Engadget

Acer VP: ‘We’re never gonna give netbooks up, let them down, run around and desert them’ | Engadget

My Comments

These articles had outlined the way the development of portable computers has become and the way Acer has stood on with the netbook computer even though other companies are dumping this product class and focusing on ultrabooks and tablets. This has been emphasised with their classy Aspire One series of netbooks which also use Android as an alternative operating system. Here they have worked on this product class and refined it so that it isn’t an ordinary product anymore.

On the other hand, Windows 8 and its “Metro” touchscreen user interface may legitimise the convertible notebook form factor where the notebook has a touchscreen on a swivel so it can be turned in to a tablet, an example of which is the Fujitsu TH550M which I reviewed previously. If Acer had developed a convertible netbook that had the touchscreen and ran Windows 8, they could create a perfect “bridge” product.

This is where one could benefit from a proper keyboard for text entry wile having a 10” touchscreen like all the good tablets have. It is in a similar way to how camera manufacturers have established the “bridge” cameras which could work as point-and-shoot cameras but had increased levels of configurability for advanced photographers, with some such cameras being able to work with accessory lenses or flashguns.

Buyer’s Guide – Buying a laptop or notebook computer


I had previously posted a buyer’s guide about notebook and laptop computers but am providing an up-to-date version which reflects my experience with the notebook computers that I have reviewed over the last few months. It also will reflect what is part of the notebook-computer marketplace especially as the technology evolves and the cost of different specifications changes over time.

Notebook Computer Classes

Nowadays, it is becoming harder to place a notebook computer in a distinct class because of the fact that technologies are blurring these lines of division. For example, I am starting to see that most standard notebooks and desktop replacements and even the subnotebooks are appearing with 500Gb on the hard disk and 4Gb on the RAM. As well, I am seeing netbooks start to come with 250Gb on the hard disk through this year.


Examples: Dell Inspiron Mini 10, HP Mini series, ASUS Eee series

HP Mini 210 netbook Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook

A netbook typically is of a small form factor, with a 10” widescreen display and works on a very low-end processor. It has a very low-capacity secondary-storage device like up to 160Gb or 250Gb for a hard disk or may use lower capacities with a solid-state storage device. The RAM memory will usually exist at 1GB at the maximum.

These machines are typically pitched as a secondary portable computer for people who do a lot of email or Web browsing “on the go” with a minimum of typing. They are also pitched for use in the home as an auxiliary computer such as in the kitchen or “Facebooking” in front of the TV.

Subnotebook / Ultraportable

Example: Dell Inspiron 13z, Apple MacBook Air series

A subnotebook or ultraportable computer is a larger computer that is typically designed for portable use and has a lot of emphasis on small size, thin profile and low weight. They may be optimised for long battery life.

Here, these computers will typically have a widescreen display of 13 to 14 inches and will have electronics optimised for low voltage operation. A lot of these machines may have a processor that has mainstream performance characteristics and will have a generous amount of primary RAM and secondary storage. The keyboard will still be large enough for you to comfortably type on and you may have a larger touchpad for navigating the screen. Some machines of this class may not have integrated optical drives and may not have high connectivity options such as a large number of USB sockets in order to allow for weight reduction.

Standard Notebook

Examples: Dell Studio 15, HP ProBook 4520, Sony VAIO E-Series, Apple MacBook Pro series

 Sony VAIO E-Series laptop  Dell Studio 15 Multimedia Laptop

The standard notebook computer is typically of large size and has average connectivity options. It will typically have a built-in optical drive, except some units that are built on a “thin-and-light” chassis. The screen will typically be a 15” widescreen type and these units will be built on a mainstream portable-use processor platform like the Intel Core platforms. An increasing number of these machines as well as the desktop replacements will be equipped with a full-width keyboard that has a separate numeric keypad so you can enter figures quickly.

Compaq Presario CQ42

There will be entry-level units like the Compaq Presario CQ42 which may be based on a processor platform like Intel Celeron and will have less memory, hard disk space and graphics performance than most of the standard notebooks. They will be pitched at students buying their first notebook computer or parents buying a notebook for their child who is starting senior school or university.

Desktop Replacement

A desktop-replacement notebook computer will be optimised for its role as an alternative to a desktop computer. It will have a large screen and have its processor, memory and hard disk space optimised for performance. It will rate highly with connectivity but will be very heavy and not rate well for battery runtime. Some machines may not even have a battery pack and will be sold as transportable computers or “desknotes”.

There are machines that will be optimised for multimedia activities like audio, video and photo editing and will have display and sound technology optimised for this activity. On the other hand, there will be gaming notebooks that are optimised for fast-response gaming “on the go”.

Product Positioning


Examples: HP Compaq Presario laptops, Sony VAIO E-Series laptops

A laptop positioned at consumers will typically have a design that focuses on beauty and will be optimised for multimedia. They won’t have features that support reliability or security like fingerprint scanners, theft-recovery or data-encryption software or automatic hard-disk damage-limiters. In most cases, these units may be designed in a price-conscious manner because most consumers will end up buying on price alone.

There are exceptions to this rule where some manufacturers may try newer user-interface technologies on these computers or supply computers that are optimised for performance in the gaming or multimedia context.


Examples: HP ProBook laptops, Dell Vostro laptops, Lenovo ThinkPad laptops

HP ProBook 4520 Series laptop

HP ProBook 4520 Series business laptop

Most machines made for this market are typically deployed by businesses, usually large businesses who buy a large fleet of these units for use by their staff during their tenure at the business. They have a different expectation to the consumer who buys a notebook for themselves.

A notebook positioned at the business end of the market will be optimised for reliability and security. For example, there will be various security technologies like fingerprint scanners or facial-recognition scanners built in to these machines. Manufacturers will also implement technologies like “free-fall” sensing on hard disks to safeguard data from being damaged by accident.

In most cases, there will be less emphasis on beauty or multimedia capabilities because the business market tends to adopt a more serious and conservative attitude towards machines that are “for the job”. This is although manufacturers like Dell are offering customisations for their computers that include different colour trims or improved multimedia capabilities.

Premium Models – the “Black-Label” end of the market

Examples: HP Envy series, Acer Ferrari series, ASUS Lamborghini series

HP Envy notebook computer

HP Envy 15 - an example of a premium notebook computer

An increasing number of laptop manufacturers are supplying at least one or more high-end laptop computer models that place emphasis on style and performance. The manufacturers will typically contract with a brand that is well-known for highly-desirable luxury goods to style the computer in the same image as goods associated with that brand, such as a Ferrari or Lamborghini “wet-dream” sports car. In some cases, other manufacturers, particularly those in the premium hi-fi or professional-recording scene, like B&O or Dr Dre’s “Beats” may contribute their technical know-how to a part of the computer’s functional design like its sound-reproduction capabilities.

These special computers will usually be pitched in a similar manner to luxury cars and are either for personal use or business use in a manner similar to how the company-funded executive’s car is used. Some of the machines in this class may not have the manageability and security functionality that a business notebook may have as standard but it may be worth knowing whether these feature are available as an option for that executive notebook that you are looking towards having.

These computers are worth their salt if you are considering using them for a significantly long time for both personal and / or business use but there should be a way of upgrading memory and hard-disk space on them or buying newer and better batteries later on down the track as you use them over the many years.


Do you intend to travel a lot; and how do you intend to travel?

If you do travel a lot, especially by public transport. you may have to give more focus towards portability. Here, you may have to consider either a netbook, ultraportable / subnotebooki or a “thin-and-light” standard notebook.

A netbook would be appropriate if you use it for ad-hoc emailing and other communications tasks but wouldn’t be suitable for long-term work. You would also gain better value out of it if you were using it as a computer that is supplementary to your main desktop or laptop computer.

An ultraportable or “thin-and-light” standard notebook may be more suitable if you intend to do a lot of work on this machine such as filing reports from the field. If you work with digital photos such as editing them, it may be worth looking towards a “thin-and-light” standard notebook for this work.

It is also worth investigating the possibility of opting-in higher-capacity batteries so you can obtain more run-time on the machine while you travel, especially by public transport. This is because not all public-transport options will provide access to ready power for charging.

Most standard laptops like the Dell Studio 15 may work well for those of you whose main travelling option is to pack the computer in to the boot (trunk) of your car. You won’t have to worry about carrying it around all of the time.

Do you use a desktop computer as your main computer?

You can place a lot of emphasis on portability and get away with lesser processor, RAM and hard-disk specifications if your are running a desktop computer or high-end laptop as your main computer. But you will need to make sure you have good network-connectivity options, preferably Ethernet as well as wireless so you can easily and quickly “check-out” data files from your main computer.

On the other hand, if you intend to use your notebook as your sole computing device, you should look towards performance, screen size, connectivity and hard-disk capacity as key deciding factors for your computer.  This also includes those people who prefer to buy a notebook computer over a desktop for their home computer because they have a small living space, prefer to stow it away when it’s not in use or want to move towards the “new computing environment”.

Application guidelines

These guidelines may sound too “pie in the sky” especially for small-business or consumer buyers who are used to buying the cheapest equipment available. But it is worth paying a bit extra for a machine that will cost less in the long run and have a long service life.

Student’s first notebook

If you are thinking of buying your child who is doing Year 11-12 (senior school / Form 5-6) secondary or tertiary (university, college (US) or TAFE) study their first laptop, you have to be sure not to short-change them. This advice may go against the commonly-accepted thought pattern of buying the cheapest laptop for a student because they may be more likely to damage the computer.

This class of students will use these computers for preparing their coursework that is part of their studies alongside online communications (email, social networks and instant messaging / Skype), games and multimedia such as being a jukebox for parties. They will be taking this machine between home, school / college and friends’ locations either by public transport, your car, a friend’s car or their first car which would most likely be a very old car which is likely to be very worn-out.

The processor, RAM and display subsystem are also of concern for all students, especially those whose work is graphically intensive, such as a design-based course or subjects that make heavy use of graphics or multimedia. This makes the machine more useable by the student because they don’t have to be waiting around for a task to complete on the computer.

The best choice for this class of user would be a standard notebook. Here, I would prefer for them to use a low-end business model, but with the highest-capacity hard disk that you can afford. The reason I would specify this is because the business models are pitched for reliability under the kind of abuse a student might dish at it such as frequent transporting, old cars with half-dead suspensions, perpetual party life and the like. I also specify the highest-capacity hard disk you can afford because there will have to be room for studies, digital pictures, MP3s and the like that will fill up the hard disk very quickly.

If cost is a real issue to you, you may find that refurbished or rebuilt ex-business computers may offer the right kind of value for this class of user. These would be available either online or through independent laptop specialists and these resellers would buy the older computers from large businesses or government departments who are upgrading their computer fleet on a regular basis or buy end-of-lease equipment from computer financiers. Then these dealers refurbish or rebuild the equipment before reselling it. With these deals, it may be worth finding out whether there are newer batteries available for these computers and / or whether they can upsize the hard disks in the computers to larger capacities. Similarly, you may have to raise the issue of whether you can buy an up-to-date version of the operating system and / or office software with the refurbished computer.

Blogger or journalist

This class of user will want to type wherever they are, such as when they are flying. They will also be needing to keep large amounts of data such as manuscripts or, nowadays, photos and video footage. As well, they need to be able to see the screen properly so they can edit their copy easily.

Here, a 13” ultraportable that can fit on the economy-class airline tray table, may work well for these users but they may have to investigate the possibility of buying extra power options like an “extra-power” battery when they do a lot of long-haul flights. In some cases, it may be worth looking towards a business-oriented ultraportable and use the security software on these units if they do a lot of controversial work such as reporting assignments in police states.

Work-home laptop for small business operator

If your laptop is going to be the “work-home”computer for your small business and you don’t have a computer at your small business, I would suggest a standard notebook or desktop-replacement computer. Here, these machines will have the performance that you need for your business life and enough storage capacity for your home and business life. Small-business users shouldn’t pass off the business-class notebooks and may find themselves benefiting from the features offered by this class of computer.

Moving towards the “new computing environment”

If you intend to move your home computing environment away from the desktop computer towards a laptop or notebook computer, it may be worth looking towards a computer which rates well on capacity and performance. This could lead to a mainstream consumer-rated standard notebook or low-end business notebook. Business users should move towards a mainstream business notebook if they want to move to the “new computing environment”.

On the other hand, if you want close-to-desktop functionality, it may be worth looking towards a mainstream business or multimedia notebook. Some of the premium-end computers could also suit this kind of user.

Secondary portable computer for a desktop user or regular notebook user

A 10” netbook could be useful as a secondary portable computer for emailing and other ad-hoc activities. On the other hand, if you do a lot of “typing up” on the go or do value a larger screen, you could go for a 13”-14” ultraportable computer because of its larger screen and keyboard. An alternative option may be a 14″-15″ low-specification standard notebook.  The hard-disk capacity may not matter much to this kind of use because you are likely to transfer the files from the secondary computer to the primary computer whenever you arrive at home or the office or transfer work-in-progress files to the secondary computer so you can work on them.

Here, you would have to make sure your secondary computer does well for connectivity especially as you are likely to connect it to your primary computer in order to transfer files. Here, you may have to make sure you have up-to-date networking requirements and at least a few USB ports so you can use memory keys as a backup measure.


The bottom line that you think of when buying that laptop computer is to factor what you are using it for and how you are using it so you can avoid shortchanging yourself by buying a unit that doesn’t meet your current needs or buying a machine that won’t see you through the long haul.

Product Review – HP Mini 210 netbook


I am reviewing the HP Mini 210 netbook which is pitched as Hewlett-Packard’s main nethook for this year. It is available in a few different colours or can be purchased for extra cost as the Vivianne Tan edition which has the design work of this famous handbag designer on its outside.

HP Mini 210 netbook

– this configuration
Processor Intel Atom  
RAM  1Gb  shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 250Gb HDD partitioned out SDHC card reader
Display Subsystem  Intel Graphics  
Screen 10” widescreen LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi  
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
  Video VGA
  Audio 3.5mm headphones
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Starter  


The computer itself

User interface

The small keyboard is of the “chiclet” type which appears to be flat and more at risk of errors. There is also a touchpad which works in a similar manner to the Apple Macbook Pro and the HP Envy. This means that the selector buttons are areas that are marked off at the bottom of the touchpad area.

Like most laptops, this unit still requires you to press the Fn key to use standard functions and the Fn functions on this unit are written very dimly. This will make it hard to use the function keys like F5 for particular tasks like reloading the browser. I have found that there isn’t a PgUp or PgDn key on the keyboard which is important if you wish to browse large documents or Websites.

As well, the keyboard is very cramped which is common with all netbooks. This therefore makes it not suitable for long sessions of typing.

Audio and Video

This unit still has the similar audio and video capabilities for a computer of its class. It can reproduce a Youtube video properly for the bandwidth of the video and is still efficient on the battery when this happens. You also have  stereo sound reproduction but there is still that tinny sound that is common with laptop and netbook sound systems.

Battery life

There wasn’t an optical drive integrated in to this nethook so I wasn’t able to run down the battery on a DVD of a feature movie being played, which would normally test the battery on video, sound and disk activity. But I was able to complete a new-machine antimalware scan and a Windows Update concurrently, which would test the battery on the hard disk and the network. The unit had finished on 50% full at the end of the virus scan and Windows Update.

Therefore the unit can still do most tasks expected of a netbook on its own battery for a long time.

Quick-start shell

There is a pre-boot “quick-start shell” which allows you to do some elementary tasks without you having to fully boot Windows 7. This allows you to work with the Web, including viewing selected Webmail accounts; use an online calendar or  play music and view photos held on the computer’s storage.

I would like to see this “quick-start shell” extended to support for a desktop mail client for POP3/IMAP/ActiveSync mail setups which most home and small business users would use as well as support for access to DLNA media servers for online media playback. This could be extended to use as a DLNA Media Control Point for use in playing media on DLNA MediaRenderer devices. 


The higher-capacity hard disk can be of benefit when you want to do things like preview many digital pictures or work with a lot of email using a desktop email client like Windows Live Mail. Other than that, it has the typical capabilities of a netbook.

This means that I would still place it as a secondary-use traveller computer or as a “floater” computer for the home network for accessing the Social Web in front of the TV for example.

Wave of Intel dual-core Netbooks to break | Nanotech – The Circuits Blog – CNET News

Wave of Intel dual-core Netbooks to break | Nanotech – The Circuits Blog – CNET News

My comments

The new Intel Atom dual-core processor could be more than raising the bar for netbooks. One class of computer that appealed to me as a threat to the iPad was the “netvertible” or the convertible netbook. This was to have the same abilities as a netbook but also had a touchscreen that swivelled and folded over the keyboard like on other convertible notebooks and laptops.

There are a few issues that may put the brakes on this idea of a netbook competing with the Apple iPad. One is the lack of an e-book publishing system for the Windows platform that is robust enough to threaten the Apple iOS platform and the other is that netbook users are more likely to use their computers for producing content rather than just consuming it, an activity which the iPad is only good at. In this case, a writer, journalist or blogger could use a netbook as a “portable typewriter” for preparing written work on the road.

This may then allow the Atom chipset to be taken further to create a highly-competitive answer to the iPad and could also provide for “step-up” netbook computers for manufacturers who want to provide real differentiation in their netbook product lines. The chipset may also help with dethroning the StrongARM processors from the embedded / dedicated computing market like smartphones, medical equipment, NAS, Internet routers and the like; and extend the Intel Architecture in this class of device.

Product Review – Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

I am now reviewing the Sony VAIO P-Series netbook. This is a computer that is of a similar size to a chequebook wallet of the kind that many busy women like to keep in their handbags. The review sample cam in a bright orange colour but is available in blue or white. All of the units have a black bezel around the display and as a strip above the keyboard as a common feature.

This review unit’s colour scheme reminded me of a similar colour scheme used by Electrolux on a vacuum cleaner sold on the Australian market in the early 1970s where the unit was this same orange colour with black trim.

Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

VAIO alongside woman's wallet

VAIO alongside woman's wallet


Price AUD$1599 recommended  
Processor Intel Atom processor  
RAM 2Gb Shared with display
Secondary Storage 64Gb solid-state drive Card readers for SDHC and Memory Stick
Display Subsystem Intel Graphics  
Screen 8” widescreen LCD
Network 802.11g/n Wi-Fi wireless  
  Ethernet (via connectivity adaptor)  
Connections USB 2 x USB 2.0 port
  Video VGA (via connectivity adaptor)
  Audio 3.5mm headphone jack

The computer itself

Because the computer is intended as a personal portable computer that is intended to be small and run for a long time on batteries, the specification set will be very minimal, alongside that of a low-end netbook.

Processor and RAM

Like other netbooks, the VAIO P-Series computer is based around the Intel Atom processor which is pitched at this class of computer. It works on 2Gb of RAM with some being used for display memory.


The display is powered by an Intel Graphics chipset and appears on an 8” widescreen LCD display. This can be a limitation for any long-term computing activity due to the way regular-sized fonts come up on this display. It will then require the user to adjust the “dots-per-inch” setting in the Display menu in Windows Control Panel. You may alos have to use Windows Magnifier and / or reduce the number of toolbars running in Web browsers and similar applications.

Keyboard and pointer control

The keyboard uses a “chiclet” style and may look similar to some of the “pocket computers” of the early 1980s. The unit also uses a “thumb-stick” mouse similar to what has been commonly used on IBM / Lenovo laptops with the primary and secondary “click” buttons under the spacebar.

Secondary storage

The VAIO uses a 64Gb solid-state drive which is based on flash-memory technology as its primary secondary-storage space but there is a memory card reader that works with SDHC and Memory Stick cards available for removeable storage.


There is wireless connectivity for 802.11g/n Wi-Fi networks as well as Bluetooth peripherals, which would appeal to this computer’s user base.

Peripheral connectivity is limited to two USB sockets (which you may have to use one of for a 3G wireless-broadband modem) as well as a headphone socket for audio playback applications. There is a dongle that connects to a special I/O connector which provides for connection to Ethernet networks or VGA displays.

I/O adaptor dongle for Sony VAIO P-Series netbook

I/O adaptor dongle for Ethernet or VGA connections


During the review period, the woman of the house had shown some interest in this computer because of the orange housing and had wanted to wish-list it to her husband. She also had use of the machine to type up a test document and browse her Web-based email account and found that it can be cramped but was enamoured about it as a “handbag companion PC”.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

One main point of improvement that could be provided for is the default use of a desktop setup that allows for readability on this display. The computer could also benefit from being provided with an integrated 3G wireless-broadband modem with software mobile-phone functionality, which could make it attractive to mobile-phone carriers to sell at a subsidised price with a 3G service plan.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

The small display and the large price tag may put this machine out of the reach of most people. But some people who want a handbag-sized computer with a proper keyboard for doing contact management, e-mail, Web browsing on a fully-functional browser and similar activities may appreciate this unit.

Will more Windows-based laptops appear on the “Cool Wall”?


Windows PCs take New York | The Microsoft Blog

My comments

Last year, when Windows 7 and Apple MacOS X “Snow Leopard” came out, a lot more Windows-based laptops and “all-in-one” computers appeared that excelled on their aesthetics as well as their functionality. This has been reinforced with a few of the computers that have come my way for review on this site.

The Envy laptop (product review) has a laser-etched “filligree” pattern on the back of the computer’s lid and on the palm rest whereas the ProBook 4520s (product review) has a “brushed” florentine-bronze finish on those same places. Dell had used a “piano-black” gloss finish on the lid of two of the computers – the Studio 15 (product review) and the Inspiron 13z (product review) while their Mini 10 netbook (product review) had that “gloss-white” finish that was common with previous generations of Apple iPods and Macintosh products for the back of the computer.

If you, like me, are a regular viewer of “Top Gear” which is a very funny BBC TV car show which is pitched at the petrolheads and car enthusiasts amongst us , you may have seen the “Cool Wall” segment on this show (WikiPedia article). Here, there is a very large board that is divided up in to four segments – “Seriously Uncool”, “Uncool”, “Cool” and “Sub Zero”. Here, the Top Gear Boys (Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May) place photos of various cars on this wall according to how cool they think these cars are. Some of us may have noticed a so-called “Super-Cool Fridge” which was a box shaped like a fridge where pictures of cars deemed to be “Super-Cool” went. The Top Gear Boys tended to vary the definition of “coolness” based on the car’s powertrain, body style or other factors, even on whether certain celebrities and high-profile individuals were driving it or not.

If you thought of a “Cool Wall” existing for laptop computers, it may have looked like this with all of the recent-issue Apple MacBook laptops being considered either “Sub-Zero” or in the “Super-Cool” fridge and all of the Windows-based laptops appearing on the “Uncool” side. This is because of the grey finish with that Apple logo glowing on the back of the computer. What is now happening is that the machines from HP, Dell, Acer, ASUS and Sony are now in a position to fill in most of the “Cool Wall”.

This latest crop of laptops that have been shown in the preview show detailed in the Windows PCs take New York article is now showing that more of these manufacturers are showing up with machines that can look as good as the Apple units. Similarly, there have been people who have used Windows-7-based computers to do creative work including music production and this has led to MacOS X “Snow Leopard” and Windows 7 ending up on an even footing as far as desktop computing is concerned.

Some Apple pundits may think that Apple moving away from the Motorola PowerPC processor platform to the Intel processor platform as well as integration of Microsoft technologies into MacOS X may have denied the Apple Macintosh platform its perceived  exclusivity and superiority over other platforms. This is even though Apple had licensed intellectual property from Microsoft ever since they used the Microsoft BASIC code for the Applesoft BASIC interpreter in the Apple II lineup of computers.

At least there is more activity underway with yielding a functionally and aesthetically level desktop-computing field between the two main players.

Product Review – Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook (REPOST)

UPDATE:  I have had to repost this review because something has happened with the site and the copy for the review has disappeared suddenly

I am reviewing the Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook which is the first computer of this class that I am able to review. It would be one of these machines that was considered the right machine to own during the heart of the Great Financial Crisis but still has a place in today’s home network as an auxiliary computer.

As with all Dell computers, you choose the specification for the computer when you order it through their Website and the specification that is available on the Website may differ from the one that I am reviewing. The base specification for this computer would cost AUD$449.but there are more expensive specifications available that primarily have the computer prepared for wireless broadband or an onboard TV tuner.

Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook

The netbook computer itself

The computer is finished in an “Apple-white” gloss finish on the outside and black around the keyboard and screen escutcheon. The gloss finish may still have the disadvantage of attracting fingermarks during regular use. There isn’t anything that can appear to damage good dining-room tables when the machine is placed on these tables.

My review sample is outfitted with the Intel Atom netbook processor and works with 1Gb of RAM, some of which is shared with the display memory.

The secondary storage is based around a 160Gb hard disk as single logical drive and an SD card slot as removeable storage. The computers that come through the Website will have 250Gb hard-disk space.rather than the 160Gb that is part of the test specification.

The graphics infrastructure is based around an Intel graphics chipset that is optimised for netbooks and yields a 1024×600 resolution on the 10” screen. The only external display connectivity available in this case is a VGA socket.

As well, there are three USB sockets – one on the right-hand side and two on the left-hand side.There is also an Ethernet connection for wired networks and the audio in-out jacks on the right hand side. For wireless connectivity, this unit supports Wi-Fi to 802.11g as well as Bluetooth wireless.

The operating system used in this test specification is the Windows XP Home Edition SP3 but computers that are available for sale come with Windows 7 Starter Edition. It may be still worth upgrading the operating system to Windows 7 Home Premium through an Anytime Upgrade pack if you want better network functionality.

Observations and Experiences

The keyboard is responsive but may appear cramped due to the small size of these computers. The touchpad is very small but works well for navigation. These are situations that are considered typical for computers in its class.

I had watched a few YouTube videos about IT and found that the computer is still good with downloaded video content. As well, I had run it through a round of an action-puzzle game on MiniClip which is a popular casual-game site, and the game was still very responsive. Obviously this wouldn’t be the kind of computer for playing the big-time games but would be good for casual games and similar use.

I haven’t worked out a battery “drain test” yet that is appropriate for computers of this class but as I was working on the computer which was running on batteries, I kept observing the battery meter as I used the computer even while I had McAfee do a virus scan in the background and Windows Update deploy the latest set of updates to XP, the computer doesn’t look like it goes tbattery quickly. I also made these observations with the computer under manufacturer-default conditions.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would place this computer as a unit that would be useful as a small-size auxiliary computer for travelling or use around the home such in the kitchen or “Facebooking” in front of the TV. It may work well as something with a keyboard for getting notes on to a file while out and about before you “finish” them on your main computer.