The Right Laptop for You!

In my line of work the most common question I am asked is:

“What laptop do you think I should get?” and “What is a good laptop?”

With many brands of Laptop computers and even more models within those brands, it can be very confusing for the individual looking to buy a Laptop. However another thing which contributes to the confusion the buyer is already experiencing is the myriad of opinions and information shared by the people around who pose as “in-the-know” on the topic of Laptops.

I will share with you some tips on choosing a laptop for you and your needs, as well as expound a little on what you might want to do with all that “other” information which has been distracting you from focusing on the basic and important things that you should be focusing on.

Part ONE
First thing to do: Ask yourself questions!

Before you start asking other people “What laptop should I get”, you need to ask yourself some important questions which will help to make the task of buying a laptop much easier from here on out.

1. What do I need the software to do for me?
Answer yourself by going over all the projects or tasks that you want your Laptop to perform for you. Some common ones are:
– Word Processing (Writing Letters)
– Email, Chat and Web Browsing
– Watch DVD’s/videos
– Listen to Music
– Copy/View Digital Photos

Then there are some other things that some may want to do such as:
– Presentations
– Graphic Design
– Video Creation and Editing
– Audio Recording and Editing
– Play Games

The first group of tasks are pretty ordinary and only require an ordinary amount of system requirements, whereas the second group is more power demanding and therefore requires a faster and more powerful system.

2. What do I need the hardware to do for me?
Answer yourself my thinking of all the locations you are going to be using your laptop in. Here are some ways that people use their Laptops.

USER 1 – Some people use their laptops on a desk 99.99 percent of the time and only move it to take it from one desk/table to another desk/table.
USER 2 – Some people use their laptop on a desk 50-60 percent of the time and the other time it spends on the persons lap or on a bed etc …
USER 3 – Some people are road warriors and use their laptop everywhere … at the desk, in the airport, on the plane, on a train, in a meeting on their lap etc …

Here is how the laptop will differ from one user to another:

USER 1 – This user can use use any laptop he/she desires … from the large 17inch screen desktop replacement laptops to the ultra-portable 12 inch screen laptops or 7 inch netbooks like the ASUS EEE PC. Also Battery Life is not an issue since the user will most likely have the unit plugged into the AC power most of the time if they are at a desk.

USER 2 – This user will want a machine that has reasonable battery life and that is reasonably light weight. Battery life may be needed if the user wants watch a DVD in bed without having to have the unit plugged in and the weight of the laptop will come into play when the user wants to hold the laptop on his/her lap for any extended amount of time. This user may opt for a 15.4 inch screen laptop, but this might be too heavy and bulky for uses other than sitting at a desk. A 14.1 in screen laptop is usually preferred.

USER 3 – This user needs a laptop that is light weight, thin and with good to super good battery life. I would also strongly recommend a laptop that is designed ruggedly with strong plastics and overall build. This user will not want anything bigger than a 14.1 inch screen machine.

Interesting Note:

The size of the laptop screen makes a big difference when choosing a laptop — a BIG difference. Here are some things that change …
– Price
Smaller is more expensive becasue its harder and more costly to make something more compact. On the other hand a 17″ screen laptop might cost more then a 15.4 inch screen. So usually the cheapest laptop screen size will be a 15.4 inch with 14.1 being slightly more costly for the same system configuration.
– Size and weight
Generally the bigger the screen the bigger and heavier the laptop body gets. The body of a 15.4 inch screen laptop of the same make and line will be noticeably bigger and heavier than the 14.1 inch screen laptop model in the same line.
– Quality and Flex
Sometimes it is noticed that the quality of a 14.1 inch screen laptop is slightly better than its 15.4 inch counterpart, or maybe there will be less flex in the plastics etc …

3. What is my budget?
It is obvious why this is a needed question to ask ones self, but it can be good to really allow yourself time to decide on a max amount that you would be willing to spend on a laptop.

Part TWO
Get other peoples input and filter it!

Naturally you will find yourself talking with others about your need for a laptop and thus you will find yourself getting all kinds of information from all kinds of sources. This is not a bad thing at all … but you need to be aware of the hazards so you can filter what you hear and read. This way you will retain the important bits.

1. Who is your source of information?
Many sweet and well-meaning individuals enjoy giving others their views and opinions on what they like or what has worked for them etc … this can sometimes be very detrimental to the person seeking a laptop finding what is really going to work for THEM in THEIR situation and with THEIR habits of laptop use.

When you are hearing someone talk about their laptop and their experience, take it with a grain of salt and realise that most people are somewhat inclined to look at the brand of laptop they are using as “the best”. Many people say things like “This has been a super machine and I haven’t had any issues with it since I got it 2/3 years ago”. This kind of thing is possible but unlikely and it is more likely that the person is either concealing certain issues which have occured or has forgotten those past issues.

Some people will only mention issues that they feel were major, like a system board needing replacing or a screen going bad, and they will knowingly leave out things like the DVD drive failing or laptop overheating issues etc … On the other hand some people would not be aware that the laptop they have owned for several years has an overheating issue or that the plastics are cheap quality or that the battery life is very poor. An individual persons experience is just that – one persons experience and should be seen as such … not as an experience you yourself can count on!

Also, laptops are constantly changing in their make and design. Different models of the same brand name also vary and there are usually big differences from one model line to another model line.

Here is how the Laptop Brand, Line or Series and Model tree usually work: (all examples below are fictitious)

Brand Name: Wizard
Line/Series 1: Genius
Line/Series 2: Smart
Models of Line/Series “Genius”: G101, G300 and GL50
Models of Line/Series “Smart”: S2010, ST5000 and SX1002

The above example is to just help you understand the basic terminology and structure for Brands, Lines/Series and Models.

So if someone says they have had a particular laptop for a few years and its been great, well maybe it has been, but every few months new laptop models are being made with slightly different designs etc… so exactly what was in existence 1 year or 3 years ago will most likely not be around today. The same Brand might be around and the same Line or Series, but the models will be different and in many cases that means that materials, build and design will be different too – it may be better or it may be worse.

Also try to get your information from someone who is, and has been for some time, in the business of consulting those looking for a laptop to suit their needs. Ask the individual how long he/she has been doing this and for how many people roughly.

2. Good, Better and Best!
One thing that is often shared as “sound information” from one individual to another is the following:

“Well, all of them (laptops) are made in China anyway …”

This line is used many times and by many people in the wrong way.

Basically what the individual is trying to say is that because all (or the vast majority of) laptops and laptop components are manufactured in China therefore there exists no significant difference of quality from one Brand of laptop to another. This is simply false and can be the most damaging thing to say to someone looking for a laptop, unsure of what Brand is better quality than the rest. Why? … read on …

While it is true that most Laptops and Laptop components are indeed manufactured in China (and Taiwan) it is not true that they are all of the same quality and design. Do you hear people saying that since Kia and Toyota are both built in Australia (for example) that they are both of the same quality? No! Why? Because the quality design and make comes from the company itself and not from the country it is built in. The Kia and the Toyota might both use some similar parts (again just an example) which may be made in the same country, but the important thing (apart from quality parts) is the actual design and techniques used in creating the final product. Laptop A may be using quality components built by Intel just as Laptop B is, but what is just as important is how the components are lined up and how the entire system in relation to all of its parts and components is designed and manufactured.

Each major Laptop Brand will have its own factories and within those factories it will have its own standards and guidelines. Each Manufacturer (Brand) also has different ways in which they test their models and products. Some may choose to test the battery life vigorously and others will only do a basic test. Some may deem it necessary to have a robot open and close a models LCD screen to test its longevity and endurance, while others will do no such thing. There are differences from Brand to Brand and there is such a thing as “Good, Better and Best”.

That being said many of you will undoubtedly be wondering “What is the best quality laptop available today?”

3. “Best Quality Laptop” vs “Best Laptop”
USER 1 – “What is the best quality laptop available at the moment?”

USER 2 – “What is the best laptop available at the moment?”

Here is the difference:

USER 1 – This user is asking for a specific type of laptop – one of quality. This person is easy to answer for the experienced IT Professional simply based on the question of quality. When comparing Brands of laptop computers based on raw quality we look at things like

– Materials used for the outer body of the laptop
– Materials used for the inner “skeleton” or chassis of the laptop
– Heat distribution
– Accident Protection Designs / Shock-Proof Designs
– Hardware Noise
– Size and Weight
– Overall quality of buttons, keyboard, pointing devices etc …

USER 2 – In comparison this user is asking a far too general question since “best” for this user could be judged on any of many merits. “Best” is only for him/her to decide since it is more about opinion and personal preference.

What’s the point of telling you this? Well if you are someone looking for a laptop and you are going to seek the help of an experienced individual, rather than asking what user 2 asked, which was far too general to get a clear decisive answer, ask a more precise and descriptive question. That way you will get a more precise answer.

Last but not least!

We would like to answer the question “What is the best quality laptop available at the moment?”.

Nowadays the Lenovo ThinkPad is the one machine that overall will beat any other brand name for quality. Here are some reasons why: CLICK HERE

Remember, this is talking about quality and not about the look and such. If you think that there is a better quality laptop around than the Lenovo ThinkPad we would be very interested to hear about it.

If you have any laptop enquiries feel free to write the FSRC at:

Take Care
– Jack


11 Responses to “The Right Laptop for You!”

  1. Phil Says:

    A simpler way to make sure you get “something that lasts” and is reliable, regardless of the type, screen size etc (those are personal choices) is:
    1) Choose a strong maker (IBM/Lenovo, Toshiba, HP etc)
    2) Choose the BUSINESS line models of those makers

    Business line laptops models are usually better made. They are a bit more expensive too but worth it if you want something that will last at least 2-3 years…

    My 2 cents…

  2. Luke Says:

    Another point in choosing a laptop these days is which operating system you want. Windows is no longer the only one to use. There are an ever increasing amount of OSX (Apple) and Linux users. You can install Linux on any PC you buy but if you want OSX you’ll need to buy an Apple Mac. Apple Macs can run OSX, Windows and Linux on the same laptop either by partitioning the Hard Drive or using a virtualization program.

  3. Jack Says:

    Luke: That is a good point however I would not generally promote that people buying an Apple Mac unless their budget was pretty large. Apple laptops are not cheap in price and they are not all the best quality either. I personally have not had good experience with an iBook and a relative of mine as well as another friend both had very good MacBook’s but both complained about an assortment of problems ranging from weak plastics deteriorating from normal use to hard drive failure and overheating.

    The Mac operating System however is, from what I have experienced, top-notch and is just made to work. I wish the Apple operating system would work on PC’s as well as it does on an Apple laptop.

    I have gotten MacOSX to run ok on my Thinkpad, but there were quirks with some of my hardware like bluetooth and card reader. For the last 2+ years I have stuck with Linux alone and have helped dozens of others to migrate from Windows to Linux.

    Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Luke Says:

    Jack, it’s worth mentioning that running Mac OSX on a PC is illegal and Apple are fighting a legal battle against a company called Psystar who are doing exactly that. For those reading this it’s actually something that only someone who is pretty computer savvy would know how to do anyway.

    Linux is great and you can’t beat the price of course but it’s a little more for the advanced user unless you have access to a tutor like yourself. OSX is easier to get to know for the average user by him or herself.

    Regarding build quality Apple have recently introduced a new “unibody” aluminium manufacturing process in which they forge the laptop from a single block of aluminium which is stronger than the old method of putting together thin sheets of aluminium and supporting them internally. They definitely weren’t ones you would want to bash as they could dent.
    They now use that in their whole laptop range which is good. But yes, they are more expensive, it’s true. On the plus side you do generally get more money for them than PC’s when you come to sell them as I have found.

    Some other useful features when choosing a laptop are things like Sudden Motion Sensor which parks the head on the hard drive to avoid damage in the event of a sudden jerk or drop. Macs and some PC’s have that but may call it by a different name. Another useful feature Macs have is the MagSafe power adaptor which easily disconnects the power cord in the event you trip on it, thereby saving your laptop it from a nasty fall. Not seen any PC’s with that yet.

    As for other problems like hard drive failures, they can happen to any laptop. The laptop manufacturer is just using a drive made by another company, it’s not a reflection of weakness with that brand of laptop per se (unless they are known to always fit them with really unreliable hard drives, I suppose). One thing we know is that hard drives will eventually fail so it’s good to get an external hard drive and back up your data regularly. OSX has great backup software installed for this.

    As for overheating on Macs, there was a problem with running too hot on the very first intel processor MacBook Pros 3 years ago but they fixed that within a couple of months and I’ve not heard of it happening to any of the 15 or so people I’m in touch with who have Macs since then.

    Of the four macs I’ve had the only weak point has been the slot-loading DVD drive. Failed on 2 of them. Thank goodness for the warranty! Always good to get an extended warranty if you intend to keep a laptop longer than the standard one it comes with.

    Sorry if this has been a bit long but hope it’s useful…

  5. Jack Says:

    Hey Luke, good to hear from you again!

    It is definitely true that running Mac OS on a PC is illegal and I am in no way condoning the practice. I just mentioned that I had done it for interest sake.

    In regards to Linux vs Mac OS and how easy it is for a MS Windows user to migrate to either OS … I would have to say that they are really getting very similar in the way of ease-of-use on a typical “Home User” basis. I have helped people of many ages migrate to Linux – from people in their late 50’s through to teenagers … people with serious office jobs through to ordinary home users who want the media and entertainment experience etc … Many of them were only afforded a couple hours with myself to explain the change in concepts between Linux and Windows and how to go about doing what they wanted to do in a new environment. After that many were “on their own” and I was overjoyed to see them later on down the road with their usage of Linux going great and them having learned so much on their own.

    There have been those who wanted to tweak like crazy and they would sometimes screw something up which I would help sort out over chat, phone or email. But then again this would also happen with Mac OS – Basic users would be happy as Larry, while those who fiddle around would find out that not everything goes as they would like it to go.

    MacOS, like Ubuntu Linux, is very easy to use with basic user know-how for tasks a basic user would want to accomplish. But for someone with basic user know-how to go tweaking and customizing MacOS, Ubuntu Linux or MS Windows for that matter, would not be a great experience most likely.

    Ubuntu Linux 8.10 has now been touted by online IT newsagents to be either as easy to use and install as Windows Vista, or easier. For a Linux Distro that is only several years old that is pretty incredible.

    Onto Hardware: Hard Drives can fail due to long periods of overheating, and the machines I was talking about were Macbooks with the Intel DC and C2D CPU’s. They were overheating around the area of the Hard Drive as well as the area immediately under the LCD panel. Also the deterioration of the palmrest area plastics was pretty appalling. I am sure that since then, and with the new technology of the single block of aluminum, that Apple have overcome these issues, but they still cost quite a bit more than PC’s.

    In relation to MacBook before the Unibody form factor here is a quoted excerpt from a online review site:

    “Regular complaints, to name but a few have included: discoloured palm rests; poor image quality; warping and poorly fitted plastic panels; easily worn touchpads and even cracking cases. Of course, many of these issues have been addressed in new builds, but that hasn’t stopped people from finding all-new issues or encountering the same problems over and over. Clearly it wasn’t one of the company’s better efforts and it wasn’t even especially affordable either.

    Affordability or the lack thereof is something the new MacBook shares with its predecessor, but clearly Apple has been thinking hard about the multitude of issues that plagued the old machines. Its answer is the much publicised ‘unibody enclosure’ that inspired the “brick” teasers. Basically, in an effort to ostracize the issues of the old machine, Apple has pioneered a new manufacturing process where the shell of the notebook is machined from a single piece of aluminium. Thus dodgy plastic panels and cracks should be a thing of the past, since as materials go Aluminium is pretty durable and there’s no need to screw together several different components. ”

    If someone can afford the new Unibody MacBook then by all means go for it, but I have not met any such person to date. The most common budget I have encountered is about $1000 and the highest was $1250, which is still under the minimum price for a Unibody MacBook of $1299.

    In comparing the ThinkPad T400 to the Unibody MacBook we see that in buying the ThinkPad you get a faster CPU, Integrated Mobile Broadband as well as more ports and connectivity options than the MacBook for about $215 less and the T400 is definitely on par with the MacBook as far as quality is concerned.

    I am not at all trying to bash the Mac OS though, it is fantastic! I don’t want to come across like I am bashing the Apple MacBook either, but I also think that MacBook users can tend to be slightly too optimistic about the product and think that everyone can spend that kind of cash for a machine they think is the “master” of quality.

    ThinkPad on the other hand are known all of the world to be an extremely solid and durable business machine and have gotten better since being sold to Lenovo. There are features that ThinkPad have that MacBooks do not have, as there are features that MacBook’s have which ThinkPad don’t have either. But when weighed side-by-side the ThinkPad comes out the winner with more quality-assuring features than the MacBook … believe me I and others have done comparisons.


  6. Dave Says:

    Personally I would recommend that people stay away from laptops with Nvidia “8000” series graphics for now, unless they come out with a fix for the newer batches of gpu’s you will probably get less life out of your laptop.

  7. Jack Says:

    Hey Dave,

    Could you expound a bit more on your post? Why would you get less life out of a laptop with the Nvidia 8000 series graphics?


  8. Jonathan Says:

    The regular price of the basic T400 on the Lenovo site is $1161 but to match the following unibody MacBook standard specs you have to add the following extras which actually make it more expensive than the MacBook:

    Bluetooth $29
    DVD recordable drive $70
    160 GB HD $45
    2GB RAM $40
    Camera $30

    Total price $1161 + 214 = $1375

    However, they’re having a 3 day sale at the moment for $879 + 214 = $1093

    Apple do also offer educational discounts which brings the price down (provided you qualify for it of course).

    I’d say that which one is better is totally subjective as each has it’s pros and cons, including with connectivity. Both are popular and well made brands so the buyer should check himself and decide what is important for his or her specific needs and/or personal preferences (glossy or matte screen, is firewire port needed etc etc). That’s the only way to know which is best for you. Checking the reviews, both have had complaints of some kind or other because you just can’t please everybody!

    Here’s an article about quality :
    Lenovo and Apple offer best laptop quality says Rescuecom
    By Justin Mann,
    Published: October 18, 2006, 12:06 PM EST

    Who is most pro at making sturdy laptops? While Dell may be king when it comes to numbers, it seems that Apple and Lenovo are the most reliable. In a study done based upon issues brought to call centers, Lenovo came in number one when it came to hardware quality and Apple came in number two, with everyone else coming in a very distant third, including Dell: 

Computer support agency Rescuecom studied the call data from its centres and cross referenced it against the market share of brands in different US locations. 
The results on a weighted index showed Lenovo the winner at +243, Apple at +201 then HP at +12, Dell at +4 and Gateway at -12. 
Of course, that won’t convince everybody. There’s always a small group that has terrible luck no matter what vendor they choose, but considering the bad rep that Dell’s customer support has received over the years it’s really not surprising to see Lenovo swoop ahead. Most interesting, “white brand” laptops received the poorest score, though that is probably largely due to the dynamic nature of a DIY laptop. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, it seems, with Dell’s whopping 30% share of the laptop market.

  9. Jack Says:

    It is interesting that I was thinking how mac would be the next best thing to getting a ThinkPad, and now with the Unibody Macbook design it seems even more like it — or does it!?

    Time is telling how the newly designed Apple laptops are taking to their revolutionary metallic shell and already we are seeing the complaints pouring in. Overheating, Graphic Card bugs, Battery issues are the three highest ranking complaints at the present. All is not “Apples and Cherries” in Mac World. Seems Apple were also quick to fix a bug with their tracking device as well earlier on. All things considered one must remember that hick-ups like these are to be expected when launching into a new design method – however it still leaves people wondering why they spent thousands of dollars on a MacBook Pro that reaches temperatures of (and this is not a joke) 206 degrees F (or 96 degrees C). Yes, this may be an extreme example, but it is nevertheless one of many instances where the new Unibody MacBook is reported to be causing trouble. Like before? Actually it seems that software is also playing a role now with many Mac users suggesting utility after utility after patch and program to fix their comrades Mac issues.

    Jonathan, I am not certain how you came to your price of $1375 for the ThinkPad T400. I got no higher than $1315 without the sale discount which I saw no mention of being a “3 day” thing – maybe I missed it!?

    My ThinkPad configuration was as follows:

    System components
    # Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26GHz 1066MHz 3MBL2) 25W (Faster than the MacBook)
    # 14.1 WXGA TFT, w/ CCFL Backlight, Camera
    # Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD (Not the buggy NVIDIA 9400 and 9600 series that Apple chose to go with)
    # 2 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1067MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)
    # UltraNav (TrackPoint and TouchPad)
    # 160 GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm
    # DVD Recordable 8x Max Dual Layer, Ultrabay Slim (Serial ATA)
    # Express Card Slot & PC Card Slot (MacBook does not have this)
    # Integrated Bluetooth PAN
    # ThinkPad 11b/g Wireless LAN Mini PCI Express Adapter III
    # Integrated Mobile Broadband upgradable (MacBook does not have this)
    # 6 cell Li-Ion Battery (6.5 hours as opposed to MacBook’s 5 hours)
    # Country Pack North America with Line cord & 65W AC adapter
    The ThinkPad T400 also comes standard with:
    – 3 USB 2.0 ports (MacBook comes with 2 and they are placed right alongside one another – not the best design at all)
    – Hard Drive IBM Active Protection System
    – IBM Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0 (MacBook does not have)
    – IBM Rollcage (MacBook does not have)
    – Liquid Spill Protection (MacBook does not have)
    – ThinkLight (for lighting up the keyboard – MacBook’s have the illuminated keyboard only in the higher-priced 2.4GHZ models)

    Also in favor of the Thinkpad T400 is the wide range of options such as:
    – Firewire
    – Integrated 7-in-1 Card Reader (only $10 more)
    – BluRay
    – 9 cell and 4 cell battery
    – Turbo RAM
    – Fingerprint Reader
    and more …. for the price of $1315 or an amasing $1083 with the sale on.

    So even at the top price of $16 more than the MacBook you get a machine that is more powerful with better battery life, many more accident protection features and many, many more optional features than the MacBook.

    I think it is obvious why Lenovo came ahead of Apple in that review.

    One other big PLUS with going with Lenovo ThinkPad is the amazing support and service. Here is what I am talking about…

    Yesterday I rang up Lenovo telling them that the right-click on the trackpoint on a T61 thinkPad I was setting up for someone was not working as good as it should be. It had to be pressed hard for it to respond. The service rep asked for the type and serial number to see the warranty status and then took down my postal street address and name. He asked me if I wanted to replace the keyboard myself or if I wanted to bring it in for repair. I said I was fine to do it myself and he told me that the keyboard would arrive the next day by courier and that I could do whatever I wanted with the old part.
    Sure enough before 10am the next day I had the keyboard delivered straight to my doorstep. Two min later (no kidding) the new keyboard was installed! That type of service is unbeatable!!!

    This was not just a once off experience but has been my experience for years with IBM and now with Lenovo. Thank you makers of ThinkPad.

  10. Jonathan Says:

    Hi Jack,
    The Thinkpad is definitely a good deal, I wasn’t disputing that at all. Maybe they should give you a job, you’re a sold out salesman!

    Here’s where I found the pricing :

    3 day sale :

    Base price :

    Extras :

    Oh, by the way OSX does work fine and isn’t full of problems. Trust me on that one.

  11. Jack Says:

    Ah yes, you are right about the 3 day sale. My bad for not taking notice.

    I totally agree with you that MacOS is a super solid and performant operating system.

    Yes I am sold on ThinkPad quality and service, and I try as much as possible to promote them to those looking for a quality laptop, and not just something with pretty blinking lights and silvery plastics. I have promoted MacBooks as well to those who were interested in doing Video or Audio productions as well as to those getting into graphic design and layout, mostly because the Mac OS is so stable and made to be as productive and streamlined as possible leaving the user with a very powerful tool to just “get things done”.

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