For Seniors: Laptop Buying Decisions — Which Features?
There are many features you should consider when deciding whether to purchase a laptop or a netbook. Often, it boils down to what you want to do with your new computer.
Speed and power: When compared to laptops, netbooks have less-powerful and slower processors, less memory (for processing information simultaneously), and smaller hard disks (for storing data). Still, if you mainly want to check e-mail from anywhere and perform other simple tasks, a netbook should fit the bill.
Portability: Battery life varies, starting at about 2 hours. Netbooks use less battery power to run, so they have a certain advantage, although laptops may come with longer-life batteries. Both laptops and netbooks are very portable. A laptop weighs anywhere from two to ten pounds. Netbooks are a bit easier to carry around since they weigh only about 2–3 pounds.
Monitor: The monitor, keyboard, and touchpad are built in to a laptop/netbook, which sets them apart from a desktop PC. Note that if the monitor is damaged, you have to pay quite a bit to have it repaired, or you can hook it up to an external monitor.
Monitors for laptops come in several sizes, from tiny 9-inch screens on smaller laptops to 18-inch screens on desktop replacement models. Laptops with larger screens are typically more expensive. If shopping for a laptop, look for an LCD monitor, preferably with a screen that reduces glare.
Resolution: A monitor’s resolution represents the number of pixels that form the images you see on the screen. The higher the resolution, the crisper the image. You should look for a laptop or netbook that can provide at least a 1,024 x 768 pixel resolution.
Netbook screens range from 9 to 12 inches. A smaller screen size means lower possible resolution. Smaller screens also mean smaller keyboards which may be more difficult to type on.
Pictures and sound: Netbooks utilize integrated graphics, which are not as powerful as some laptop graphics. If you work with a lot of visual elements (for example, photographs, home movies, or computer games), consider a laptop that has a good graphics card. Games often involve sound, so a high-end sound card might also be useful.
Laptops with more sophisticated sound and image capabilities are often referred to as gaming or multimedia models, and they typically require a large-capacity hard drive to handle these functions.
One clue that a particular laptop has better support for higher-end graphics is if it has a discrete (that is, a card separate from the CPU) graphics card, versus one built in to the CPU (called integrated graphics).
CD/DVD drive: Netbooks lack CD/DVD drives, so you can't pop in a music or movie disc and play it, although you can transfer media to the netbook's hard disk and play it, connect an external CD/DVD drive, or play media stored on the Internet.
Hard disk space: The hard disk is where a computer stores programs and data. Netbooks have much smaller hard disks than laptops, and therefore, can store less data. However, you can opt to store data on the Internet (a Cloud drive) and access it from there. Some programs are also accessible through the Cloud and therefore do not need to be stored locally on a hard disk.
Price: You can buy a laptop for anywhere from US $299 to $5,000 or more, depending on your budget and computing needs. Netbooks cost much less than laptops, typically between US $200 to $300 or so. You may start with a base model laptop, but extras such as a larger monitor or higher-end graphics card can soon add hundreds to the base price.