An idiot guide to buying a notebook computer (2014)

These are the important points to consider when buying a notebook computer:

  1. OS – Mac or Windows 8? this is perhaps the most basic and first thing that you need to decide. If web surfing is all you need, Mac is probably better due to great design and long battery life. If you are a gamer, probably a i7 machine, more than 8GB RAM and dedicated graphic cards are important.
  2. Aesthetic and weight- To some people, the look and feel of the computers trumps speed and features. A metallic feel , thin, light weight, sleek are often important attributes. Portability is also very important for this category, personally I feel anything below 1.7 kg is acceptable. Check the power adapter, no point to have a sleek pc
  3. Speed: i3 and i5 computers are mostly suffice for most users. Rarely you need a i7 processor. When I was shopping for a Mac notebook for iOS development, I was surprised that an 2011 version of MacBook Air using a dual  core processor works wonderfully for applications such as Microsoft Office, web surfing and more importantly Xcode (which only available on Mac machines).
  4. Built quality: Lenovo Thinkpad, Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic often build some of the best quality notebooks. Check the keypads, the hinges on the LCD panel (E.g. my Acer 5830 machine  has a bad LED panel hinge design and it broke after 1 year despite careful usage). There is a good reason why their machines are more expensive than the Taiwanese brands.
  5. Battery life: probably one of the most important factors if you are on the road often, most modern machines easily can last 3 hours or more. Macbooks typically last 8 hours or more.
  6. LCD resolution and quality: This is a often overlook aspect in Notebook selection. Macbook Retina, Microsoft Surface tablets have some of the best screens. For most people, most mid range notebook PC and Macbook Air, Macbook are good enough. Beware that many low end touch screen notebook PCs have a less than appealing vividness in the LCD screen. Check if the panel has anti-fingerprint coating and if the finger swapping is responsive. LCD size could be an improtant factor as well, 12″ and below is probably too small especially for the people without perfect eyesight. 15″ and above is really for home use only, 13″ or 14″ is probably good for most people.
  7. Other important factors that may make or break your buy decision:
    1. Do you need a built in DVD writer? IF NO, Macbook Air or Ultrabook is the way to go.
    2. Does the ports well design? E.g. the USB ports should not place on lower right side of the keypads where you place USB thumbdrive or a corded mouse) which tends to obstruct your mouse movement. Most modern good notebook design places USB ports on both sides of the computer.
    3. Does it have the “Fn key permanent” feature? This is one feature that is important for me and it makes or breaks my decision in buying a Toshiba.
    4. Warranty. For the ultra sleek notebook pc, you probably wants extended warranty as the repair could be very expensive. If you are offered a good deal on extended warranty, the additional cost outweighs the the benefits.

    The list can not be exhaustive, but this is a quick checklist that you should consider. Me? I bought a Toshiba U840T for USD$1000  in 2014 which is perfect for me!

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