Many people are heading back to school and looking to buy a notebook right now. In buying a notebook you’ll find many components are overpriced by the notebook manufacturer, and others cost great amounts of money for marginal performance difference. This brief article lists how to configure a notebook to get the most performance for your money.
The Display is the main output device of your laptop. Observe screens in person to find out what resolutions and features you prefer. 4:3 screens include XGA (1024×768) SXGA+ (1400×1050) and UXGA (1600×1200). Widescreen displays include WXGA (1280×800) WSXGA (1680×1050) and WUXGA (1920×1200). The higher the resolution, the more desktop space you have, but the smaller the fonts are. Higher resolutions are much sharper and less pixelated than lower resolutions. If gaming is important, make sure to get a resolution that your graphics card can make use of. It would be a waste to get an XGA screen with a spiffy ATI Mobile Radeon 9800 video card.
More RAM is always better, but it is easy to get more than you can use. 512MB is ideal for office applications or web surfing. For gaming, however, 1GB is a must. Heavy digital video editing may require 1.5GB or more. Many notebook manufacturers grossly overcharge for RAM, so get the lowest option from the dealer and buy the rest at www.newegg.com or another online discount store. RAM is the easiest component to put in yourself.
Notebook hard drives vary from 4200RPM to 7200 RPM. Hard drives are the largest bottleneck in any system. A faster hard disk will greatly increase productivity and slash load times. 2.5″ drives that are common in notebooks are currently limited to 100GB of storage at 4200RPM, or 60GB at 7200RPM. The capacity you need should decide what size to get. If you just play a few games, but often, get the lower-capacity faster drive. If you hoard video and large files, the 4200RPM drive with greater storage is more convenient.
Video cards have huge effects on performance, but only in specific categories such as CAD/3d modeling and gaming. Users who do not do these two things or do so sparingly will notice little to no difference between integrated graphics and the latest 256mb powerhouse. A radeon 9200 or FX 5200 with 64MB of video RAM will handle light gaming nicely. Anything above that is better suited to enthusiasts.
The CPU adds all-around performance, but at a large cost relative to the boost. For the price/performance ratio, The CPU is best left at the base option, or one notch above (the base option for current Pentium M notebooks is 1.50GHz, so one notch up would be 1.60GHz). For pentium-M systems, make sure that it is the most recent Intel Pentium M contatining the “Dothan” core chipset which has higher performance for each clock cycle. More recent Pentium M chips have model numbers such as Pentium M 735, 745 and 755. The CPU is also the hardest component to upgrade, so any leftover money should be added to it.