Buying a notebook computer for business use is overwhelming these days. Should you buy a notebook, netbook, Macbook, Powerbook,? Will your business computer be better off with a 12″ display, a 14″, or a 17″ that will do everything your business desktop computer will do?
Do you need a special business spec notebook computer or will an “entertainment” computer do? Business computers tend to have security features that are great for James Bond, but if you’re running a simple business you probably don’t need an encrypted disk or RAID data backup options.
Business notebook computers today have changed drastically. Most of you won’t need a computer built specifically for “business”. Here’s a bit about what to look for in a business computer – assuming your a one-wo(man) show and just starting your new business. Let’s say it’s an online business, as that makes it easier – and any specs I talk about here that are appropriate for those with an online business will work fine for someone that doesn’t have an online business.
Here is an overview of what you’ll want in a business notebook computer:
Operating System (OS). If you’re a Mac person you already know it and I can’t help you. I’m not a Mac person – primarily because I don’t want to relearn everything I’ve learned in 25 years on the IBM computer. I also don’t like how I must compensate for owning a Mac. Software isn’t as available and files and hardware are not as compatible as I’d like. Enough said.
You’ll likely be using Microsoft Vista – some version of it. It’s slow if you don’t have a fast computer and 2-4GB of RAM. It does have some good features, so might as well stick with it. Microsoft XP PRO is my favorite OS but, it’s getting harder to find and isn’t very well supported on newer computers because all the computer manufacturers want you to buy the newest OS so they make more $.
Display Size. Couple things about display size. One is, if you have large hands there’s no way you’re going to type on a 10″ or probably a 12″ notebook computer. Start looking at the 13″ and larger. As the size of the display shrinks – the weight of the computer tends to get lighter as well. 17″ computers are like carrying around your desktop computer in most cases. A 14″ computer is plenty large. I use a 12″ and it’s perfect really, and I can get that at a light weight.
Processor. Go with a Dual Core processor – AMD or INTEL. For speed, go at least 1.6GHZ. If you can get an AMD Athlon NEO processor – they’re the latest rage and will give you a decent battery life. Realize that the faster your processor the faster it’s eating your battery up. A 1.6GHZ has become standard speed for processors as it’s fast enough to do minor brain surgery. If you need faster – like for graphics rendering, video rendering, etc – go for a 2.8 GHZ or faster processor. Realize that you’ll have about 1-2 hours max use at this speed, and you’ll need to plugin to a wall to use your notebook computer more often than you’ll want to.
BUS Speed. Bus speed is kind of like highway speed. If you have 8 lanes of highway going one way – maybe safe speeds could be 100 mph. They do it in Europe. 100mph would equate to 1600 MHZ BUS speed. My new HP dv2-1003AX has a bus this fast. That’s the fastest I’ve ever heard of. Choose a BUS that’s at least 667 or 800 MHZ to make sure your business notebook highway is wide enough.
RAM. Random Access Memory. A lot of RAM will result in remarkable differences in the speed of your computer – I like 2GB minimum, and now with the advent of the new 64bit computer architecture we can get 4GB and more into the computers. If you can get 4GB – get it. Microsoft Vista is a serious RAM hog and you’ll appreciate the extra RAM.
WIFI. What is it? It’s a wireless way for your computer to connect to a WIFI base station – which you can have setup in your home off your road runner account or while you’re driving through a strange city and park the car at the side of the road. Many businesses have “open” – unsecured WIFI networks running which you can maybe log right into. They might kick you right back out when they see you’re logged into their network but most times you’ll get away with it. WIFI is important at Starbucks, the airport… anywhere they blast WIFI broadband internet over the airwaves. Sometimes you’ll have to pay – like at Starbucks. Sometimes it will be free. Free WIFI connections for your business are nice WIFI connections.
WIFI will be designated a/b/g/n. These are all the different possibilities. I’d get all of these if possible. If no “n”, then you can get away with that. Bluetooth should also come with your business notebook computer -you may never use it – or you may be sad you don’t have it someday. Bluetooth is like a mini-wireless network that can be used for small jobs like running a wireless mouse, wireless headphones, transferring files from your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone – or other tricks. Might as well have it – it’s cheap.
Hard Drive (HDD). Your hard drive for an online business should be big enough. I’d say 250GB as a minimum. My new notebook computer I’ll use for business has 320GB and 5400 rpm speed. RPM speed of the disks spinning in your hard drive is important for 2 reasons. The first reason is that if your disks spin fast – your computer is fast. If your disks spin at 7200 RPM that is much faster than 4200 RPM and you’ll be flying! On the other hand, you’ll be flying for a very short time as a faster spinning hard drive means your batteries are working really hard to spin it that fast. Your battery life will be short. Many compromises when trying to find the perfect business computer.
Optical Drive. (DVD +- R/W). The optical drive is the DVD / CD reader/writer. The + and – are designations that identify the compatibility with different types of discs. Get + and – to be sure you’ll be compatible with everything. Blue Ray drives are coming – and you’ll likely choose one of those when they come out en masse. The normal DVD drive now is 8x. That’s slow, but most people don’t need it faster than that. If you produce DVD’s for your business you’ll want to buy a DVD replicator that can burn 4, 8, 16, or 32 at once – not use your notebook’s DVD drive.
Battery. Lithium Ion is the only type of battery you want. Don’t opt for Ni-CAD – not ever. There are usually 3 and 6 or more cell options. The more cells the better. I’d never buy a notebook computer with less than a 6-cell battery. If you can find an 8 or 9-cell battery – get it. Be careful that the extra cell batteries don’t transform your notebook into an uncomfortable brick – some of the larger batteries are strangely shaped and add a slant to your notebook that you may not be able to deal with.
Weight. You know what you can carry around all day. If you’re not going to be hauling your business notebook around everyday and walking far with it then you can probably deal with one that weighs more than 3kg. For me – this 1.73kg (less than 4lbs) business notebook is fine. I don’t enjoy toting a heavy notebook around.
Ports. Ports are places you plug external stuff into your computer. My new business notebook doesn’t have an internal DVD drive, it’s a USB connected external DVD. It’s fine for me and saves some weight since I won’t be carrying it around much – if ever.
You should have these ports as a minimum:
2 or 3 USB 2.0 or 3.0 ports. These allow you to connect MANY types of peripherals and you’ll be happy with 3 or more of these buggers.
Modem. A place to connect your phone line for dial up connections when broadband internet isn’t available.
RJ-45 in plug. Computer cables have RJ-45 cable connectors to plug into your computer, you should definitely have one.
Serial VGA port. Plug your external monitor into this. Very helpful if your notebook computer display dies!
Webcams are fun – you should probably have it. Microphones – built in are nice. So is a headphone and microphone jack you can plug in a headset.
Below are the specs for a new HP Pavilion dv2-1003AX computer. I highly recommend this computer for anyone’s business use – you won’t be disappointed, and, at about $900 (4/2009) the price is right!