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Solutions: How to buy a laptop

I am looking to buy a notebook and the selections are making me crazy. My needs are simple! I need to be able to load Quickbooks, check my e-mail, get wireless Internet access and burn photos onto discs. I guess pop in a DVD if we were traveling. I looked through the ads and there is an HP 14.1-inch that looks like an okay deal, $629 after rebates. It has 3 GB memory and a 250 GB hard drive. I am confused about AMD or Intel because that seems to cause a slight price difference. I realize you can't recommend brands, but am I on the right path?

AMD and Intel are the two major CPU chipmakers for PCs. The CPU chip is one of the main factors in a PC's performance. The chipmakers have been leap-frogging each other over the years with features and capabilities. It is difficult to get an "apples to apples" comparison since they number their chips differently and have such different architectures. Usually their respective prices will tell you which are in the same ball park. AMD chips are usually a bit less expensive. I've bought and used both, no complaints. Based on your needs, anything you buy will have sufficient processing power, even at the lower price range. Now, with all that said, and all other things being equal: I'd go with an Intel-based laptop. The new Core Duo Intel chips run very cool, an important feature with laptops, which generally do not have the space for large cooling fans and heat sinks. The standard laptop screen is 15.4 inches (my personal choice); 14.1 is considered small but makes for a more portable laptop. Seventeen-inch laptops are among the largest, but for me, it feels like I'm lugging around a desktop. It's a personal choice. Three GB of memory is great, but I would not pay extra for it; 2 GB seems to do just fine for the activities you described. Stick with Windows Vista Home Premium and not Windows Vista Basic. I've also noticed a slight increase in laptop prices lately. I've bought a few in the $550 range this year, but haven't seen anything in that range in the last few weeks. But this seems to be cyclical and I'm sure it won't be long before we see some better deals come around. As far as recommendations, I've bought just about all the major brands, but have had better luck with HP and Compaq.

Send questions to or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Solutions: How to buy a laptop 09/19/08 [Last modified: Friday, September 19, 2008 8:19pm]
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