Configuring Your New Notebook
Intel's third generation of i3/i5/i7 core processors Ivy Bridge are almost universally seen in most laptops sold today. However, if you do find yourself faced with the choice between a Sandy Bridge processor and an Ivy Bridge, it is best to opt for latter. While Ivy Bridge only boasts a small performance boost over its predecessor, its models offer a significant die shrink, which helps reduce the power needed to operate the processor. Reducing power consumption equates to longer effective battery life, which is great for any mobile notebook device.
AMD Trinity Accelerated Processing Unit is another viable choice for consumers. The Trinity processor combines the central processor and graphics processor onto a single chip, while simultaneously offering low power consumption. The AMD series similar Intel offers three different classes the A6, A8, and A10. The AMD line of processors is not as powerful as Intel's, albeit they are more affordable than Intel chips and also offer a great deal of utility. The standout feature of the AMD Trinity APU is its integrated graphics cards, as they offer a high level of quality. One of the interesting additions to the AMD Trinity chip is its high quality integrate graphics cards. Normally for gaming buying and dedicated graphics card is a must; however higher end Trinity models such as the A10-4600M offer performance comparable to last generations dedicated GPUs. This kind of performance is adequate for gamers who want a gaming notebook on a budget, though if you want a machine that can run at visuals at a higher quality investing in a dedicated GPU is still a prerequisite.
So after you decide which make you want, you need to figure out just how much processing power you require. Most people are going to be served just fine with a Core i3 (A6) or i5 (A8), while video editors, for example, are going to be better served with the faster processors. Gamers can probably get away with the slower chips, but I'd highly recommend a faster processor.
Quad core chips have become more accessible, but are still relatively expensive and are adrain on battery life; they are identified by a "Q" next to the model number. If your notebook will be mostly stationary, used as your primary machine, and used for heavy gaming or video editing, you can make a case for a quad.
Now, if you're custom ordering a notebook from the manufacturer, it gets trickier. Avoid the most expensive chips; I try to go for the second or third least expensive chip they offer, as the increments in price are usually in line with the increments in performance. With limited exceptions, don't spend more than $150 upgrading the processor for most tasks, and major jumps in price are rarely worth it. If you're just doing word processing and Web surfing, even the slowest dual core processor they offer should fit your needs.
Most manufacturers offer 4GB of memory standard even on their lowest-end machines, and that's really what you need. A quick look to NewEgg.com shows notebooks with 4GB of memory starting at just $480.
In the past, manufacturers tended to gouge consumers on memory upgrades when custom ordering, but in recent years, this trend has changed, with only Apple really keeping up the habit. If an upgrade to 4GB of memory is less than $90, which is the cost of getting that much separately, go for it.
Upgrading past 4GB can still be expensive. Only video editors are going to need more, and even then, it's still questionable whether it's worth the added expense. On a desktop where it's an extra $100, it's not a big deal, but on a laptop where you're looking at closer to $300 to hit 8GB, it's not worth it unless the notebook is your primary editing station.
Additionally when it comes to purchasing extremely thin notebooks such as Ultrabooks, you should make sure that the machine you are purchasing offers enough RAM. Upgrading the RAM in Ultrabooks is extremely difficult if not impossible, that's why it is important that you make sure you have enough upon purchase. Though as we already stated, most machines come equipped with 4GB of RAM, which is more than enough for the average user.
If you are buying a new machine then that likely means it will be equipped with one of two Operating Systems, Windows 8 (Windows 8 RT for netbooks and convertible laptops) or OS X Mountain Lion. While Windows 8 has not yet officially hit shelves, the 90-day trial version has been released giving us a pretty solid idea of what the new OS will be like.
While the metro inspired tactile aesthetic of Windows 8 is a clear break away from the normal OS layout and may be making some consumers weary (possibly even reminding them of the travesty that was Windows Vista), consumers need not worry Windows 8 appears more than functional, though it is different.
Once consumers are able to learn the basics, they will find that the Windows 8 adds a great deal of utility to the consumer. Windows 8 is designed with touch-screen capability in mind, though the OS works perfectly fine with keyboard and mouse as well. The screen edges are active, allowing users to control in app navigation, search for programs, documents, and even share content. The start menu is gone in Windows 8 with the start screen in its place. Instead of navigating through menus users will be able to arrange a layout of live tiles which will update with content for the users right on the start screen. To launch an app or program all users will need to do is click on the corresponding tile. For those of you who want things to return the way that they were, a desktop mode is available, though users will still have to start in the standard Windows 8 startup screen to access the desktop mode. As far as the actual performance of Windows 8 is concerned it is actually comparable to Windows 7 in most areas while offering slightly faster boot up times.
On the other hand if you are purchasing an Apple product you will be receiving Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. The most notable change with Mountain Lion is its increased integration with iCloud, such as documents in the cloud that shows you all of your corresponding documents upon launching an app. In all Mountain Lion adds over 200 new features. Many of these are of course small, but the culmination of them is an operating system which offers a great deal of ease to the consumers.
Regardless of whether you find yourself equipped with Mountain Lion or Windows 8/RT, both are quality Operating Systems and users will not have to worry about installing an old OS to have to avoid a dud.
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