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Techtips 183

By Bryan Lambert - Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pullquote183As many Tech Tip readers already know, the laptop computer is the preferred computer platform used by people today.  However, many people fret that giving up their desktop computer may mean giving up some of the great features that they had with it.  What most people don’t know is that they can get many of the same features (and then some) with a laptop.  While laptops do have limited expandability, if you choose your laptop wisely in the first place, you can come away with a computer that not only suits your needs, but will be a valuable addition to your computing family. Below is a brief run down of some cool extras that are becoming more and more available.

DVD_drive

DVD Burner – Actually, most laptops already include this as a standard optical drive. But if you do get a laptop with it, look forsuch extra features built into the DVD burner such as the ability to burn a LightScribe or a Double Layer disc.

webcam

Integrated Webcam – YouTube anyone? With an integrated web camera built into the laptop (usually at the top of the screen,) you can make your own videos - and it’s useful for video conferencing with programs such as Skype too! 

Card Reader

Card Reader – Also a component usually included these days – if you own a particular camera, look for one that supports your camera's flash memory format

SSD

Solid State Drive (SSD) – A very cool, but very expensive, option being offered on more and more laptops.  Leave the spinning drive behind for a bank of flash memory chips.

TV_card

TV card – The name says it all. Get TV right on your laptop.  The newest TV cards are usually hybrid cards that can pick up HDTV, Analog TV and also work as a video capture device.

Extra Hard Drives – Some laptops offer a second hard drive as a dumping ground for data or as a scratch disc.  This is a very useful place to dump pictures and music. If a second internal drive is not offered, an external hard drive  may be for you.

Fingerprint Scanner

Fingerprint scanner – Goodbye passwords and hello biometrics!  Used to be pretty much only seen on business class laptops, but has been infiltrating the consumer laptop market slowly but surely.

Blu-ray – A very cool, but also expensive feature to get. A reader is often abbreviated as a BD-ROM, a writer as a BD-R and a writer/rewriter as BD-RE. If you do opt for a laptop with blu-ray drive – spin that propeller in the beanie cap you’re wearing and welcome to a very exclusive (for the time being) club..

Long-life batteries /second batteries – There’s nothing quite as frustrating as having your batteries run out.  It is worthwhile to see if a long life battery is available for the model laptop you’re interested in. If not, consider buying a second battery.

Ultra-High screen resolutions – Particularly useful when your laptop includes a Blu-ray drive.

Cell Phone Modem – Cell phone modems, or similar devices will (for a price, plus a service plan) allow you to be truly free surfing the web where you want, when you want.

Docks and port replicators – Basically, these can give you more ports that you may want.

Wireless (Wi-Fi) Printer – With many people hooking up wireless in their home, getting a printer with Wi-Fi already built in just makes sense.

Office Suites – Contrary to popular belief, most laptops DO NOT include office suites.  If you’re looking for a laptop with Microsoft Word already installed, you may be looking long and hard.  Some will have trial versions of the software, but you’ll need to purchase it after the trial period.  Home/Student editions of the software are usually very well priced and for many people worth buying as an extra.Pre-installed “Bundlewaer” – This is actually a feature that people usually DON’T want on their laptop.  Crapware is any software that is preloaded into a laptop that is not normally part of the operating system.  While many laptop manufacturers usually do include a utility to uninstall crapware one at a time, for many it would be better if this “extra feature” is not loaded at all. Some manufacturers have gotten wise and now offer (for a nominal fee) to leave the crapware OFF the system in the first place. Sony hates you, offers $50 "Fresh Start" option to build your laptop crapware-free

Warranties and extended technical support – Some laptops (like the Lenovo ThinkPad series) already come with a monster warranty up-front. For everyone else, there are extended warranties.  Be sure to read the fine print, and find out of it covers accidental damage (like dropping the laptop).  An extended service plan will give you longer technical support if needed.  But, be forewarned, these warranties/extended service plans do add up quickly.

Of Course There’s MoreWe are sure there may be some features that we missed, and others that we may not have gone into deep enough. However, this list, while not exhaustive, gives you a good starting point on the many cool features and extras to look for in your laptop purchase.  Feel free to add others in the Comments!!

 

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