For Seniors: Laptop Buying Decisions —Internet Connection
Your laptop can connect to the Internet in various ways — wirelessly, through a broadband connection, or using a dial-up modem. The Internet connection you choose affects not only the speed but the cost.
Dial-up: If you intend to use a dial-up connection (that is, connect over your phone line), your laptop has to have a dial-up modem either built in or in an external model. Dial-up connections can be very slow, and while you’re using them you can’t use your phone to make or receive calls. Do not use dial-up unless you absolutely have to.
Wireless: Wireless connections require that you have a laptop equipped with wireless capability. You can access the Internet wirelessly when you’re near a wireless (WiFi) hotspot (a place that offers free wireless service such as hotels, airports, libraries, and restaurants.
You can also subscribe to a Wireless Wide Area Network (WWAN) service from a mobile phone provider, to tap into its connection. Check laptop models to be sure they are wireless-enabled. There are various techy standards for wireless, such as 802.11a, b, or g. The very latest standard to look for is 802.11n, which delivers better wireless performance.
Broadband: Broadband connections can be DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable. In both cases, you pay a fee to a provider, which might be your phone company or cable company.
DSL works over your phone line but doesn’t prohibit you from using the phone when you’re online. Cable runs over your cable TV line and is a bit faster than DSL, though connections can be less dependable. Both are considered always-on connections, meaning that you don’t have to wait to dial up to a phone connection or connect to a wireless network — you’re always connected.
Check with AARP to find out if they offer discounted connections in your area.