I’ve mentioned many times that my main computer is my notebook computer. Sure, I have a desktop computer, too, I just don’t use it very much.
Before getting my Inspiron 8600 in 2004, my primary computer was a Dell Inspiron 5000, which was also a notebook. That notebook taught me a number of important things to consider when buying a notebook — especially when buying one to be the main computer.
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First, and foremost, you should consider why you even want a notebook.
Do you want a computer that you can take on a personal trip, but plan to use only when you’re traveling?
Or, do you want a notebook to be your primary computer, so that when you travel with it, you have all your programs, records and data?
That initial decision is crucial in determining which notebook you buy — and how satisfied you will be with it.
If you want a notebook for temporary, occasional use, you’ll probably be happy with one of the cheap $600 models that are advertised in the newspaper each week.
With an Intel Celeron or an AMD Sempron -based notebook, the computers start out slow, and then are typically loaded with "helpful programs" that the manufacturer thinks should run all the time so that they can slow you down even more.
You can use WinPatrol (free) to get control of these unnecessary programs. Spend your time on Google deciding what you need to keep and what you can safely stop — or buy WinPatrol Plus ($30) to get access to their information database to guide you in those decisions.
For this type of computer, you should consider it disposable for all but a hard drive failure, at least once the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. You can’t buy repair parts anywhere, except for hard drives. You have to deal with the manufacturer or an authorized service center. You may be able to buy an extended warranty, but the cost will be a very significant fraction of the cost of the machine itself. You also may have to ship your notebook to be repaired.
If the notebook will be a substitute for your desktop computer, or, if you want your notebook to be your primary computer as mine is for me, you will probably want to buy a much more expensive model.
By the time you pick the fast processor, the large hard drive, the higher graphics capabilities, the extra memory, and such necessities for a desktop substitute, you’ve quickly arrived at $2,000 or more for the notebook.
At this level, you definitely will want to buy the extended warranty. I choose to buy Dell notebooks and pick the 4-year in-home extended warranty and their 4-year Complete Care accidental damage coverage, too.
Why do I buy a notebook computer? I use my notebook on a roll-around notebook computer table in my family’s den. That way, I’m with the family (not in another room) and can read emails and surf (and talk) while I watch television or a movie.