Laptops are a handy way of working when on the move. You can keep in touch with clients and staff, catch up on work and research new ideas at the touch of a button. But like flashy mobile phones and plasma screen TVs, it is tempting to spend money on a laptop even if you don’t really need one. Starting up on your own is a costly exercise and you should calculate whether such an expensive piece of kit would add value to your business. If, after a bit of thought, you decide to buy one, then you should stop and think again about what you’ll need. Will you be out and about all the time, or just a few hours a week? Your battery-life needs will hinge on this question. If you already have a PC it’s unlikely you’ll need a laptop with a huge amount of memory and storage space – because you can transfer data to your home computer (which will likely have plenty more space than the average laptop). It’s given that you’ll want your laptop to work efficiently, but there’s little else you should take for granted. Even the size of the screen and the machine’s weight will come into play if you’re always out and about on trains and planes, so if you’re buying from a high street retailer don’t be afraid to pick up your choice and get a feel for its bulk. When it comes to the technical nitty-gritty you should get on top of the basic terms before you look to buy – you’ll have a more productive shopping experience this way and won’t be overwhelmed by gobbledygook. Phrases to look out for include: Processor: This defines the speed of the machine and how quickly you can perform tasks; the more powerful the processor, the quicker the machine. In most cases faster processors also equate to shorter battery lives. You’ll hear a lot about Pentium, Centrino and AMD Athlon – these are all types of processor installed in different machines and offering varying speeds. RAM: This stands for Random Access Memory, but memory is the important word here. Not to be confused with the hard drive – the total storage capacity of your machine – RAM defines what data can be pulled up when and in what form. A laptop with 256MB of RAM will be able to perform basic tasks well and if used sparingly should suffice for a startup, but 1GB is probably overdoing it. Hard drive: The size of a laptop’s hard drive defines how much stuff you can store on it. Machines become sluggish when they are burdened with downloaded music files and computer games, so if these are your bag, then you’d best invest in more hard drive disk space. Software: This refers to programmes that are downloaded onto you laptop, enabling you to perform tasks like writing documents, sending emails and surfing the internet. One last bit of advice: always check the warranty of your laptop. This is a guarantee that it will work for a defined period of time. If it breaks before then (without you smashing it against a wall), then the shop should replace it with a new model. Warranties vary wildly, ranging from a few months to several years, so remember to check how well you are covered. Laptops are expensive items, so additional insurance is a good idea in most cases. Acer 1644 WLMi Price: £700* Processor: Centrino Pentium M Hard drive: 100GB RAM: 1024MB Battery: 4 hours Screen: 15.4”
Samsung X06 LTM 740
Price: £800* Processor: Intel Centrino PM 740 1.73Ghz Hard Drive: 60GB RAM: 512MB Battery: 2hours Screen: 14.1″ Weight: 1.98kg Dell Inspiron 9400 Price: £799*
Processing Power: Intel Centrino Duo technology 2.16 GHz Hard drive: 100GB RAM: 512MB Battery: 3.2 hour battery life Screen: 17” Weight: 3.6kg Toshiba Portege S100 Price: £850*
Processor: Intel Pentium-M Processor 1.73GHz Hard drive: 60GB S.M.A.R.T Hard Drive DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive. RAM: 512MB Battery: 3.25-hour Battery Life Screen: 14” Weight: 1.9kg, Sony VGN-A517B Price: £1099*
Processor: Intel Pentium M Processor 740 1.73 GHz Hard drive: 80GB Hard Disk Drive (Serial ATA 5400rpm) RAM: 512MB Battery: Powered by PCGA-BP2EA Lithium-Ion battery Measures (WxHxD) 405.5 x 42.2 – 45.2 x 280.1mm Screen: 17” Weight: 3.9kg Panasonic CF-T4 Price: £1599*
Processor: Pentium M 1.2ghz Hard drive: 80gb HDD. RAM: 512 MB Battery: 12-hours time Screen: 12.1”
*All prices are approximate and will vary – they were correct at time of writing and include VAT.