2009 Netbook and Notebook Buyer's Guide

Article Index

Summary And Conclusion

Wrap it up, I'll take it -
To wrap things up, we're going to present a quick-'n-dirty cheat sheet as to what you get and give up by opting for a certain segment. Finding the perfect notebook is pretty darn important; get stuck with one too weak for your needs and you won't be able to swap in a more potent CPU and GPU. Get stuck with one that's too large, and your back will hate you so long as you own it. Get stuck with one with a keyboard that's too small, and it'll be collecting dust in no time flat. As we stated before, the key to notebook buying is to really take time to consider what exactly you need (and don't need, to an extent) from your machine. After you're equipped with that knowledge, you can finally start shopping for a segment instead of blindly searching through the whole notebook department.

Netbooks Pros:
  • Ultra cheap ($299 or so)
  • Ultra portable (~10" display, under 3.5 pounds)
  • Great battery life (some last 4-6 hours on a single charge)
  • Full QWERTY keyboard and full Windows XP operating system
Netbook Cons:
  • Cramped keyboard
  • Small trackpad
  • Subpar screen resolution
  • Lackluster hardware
  • Terrible multimedia playback capabilities
  • No optical drive (usually)
  • No gaming prowess whatsoever
  • Few I/O ports
  • Uncomfortable to use for long periods of time

Thin-and-Light Pros:
  • Practically as portable as a netbook
  • Great battery life
  • Near full-size or full-size keyboard
  • Decent multimedia capabilities
  • Decent array of I/O ports
  • Ability to get a discrete GPU
  • Quiet operation
Thin-and-Light Cons:
  • Limited screen resolution
  • Can't play cutting-edge games
  • 2x - 5x more expensive than a netbook
  • Vista is resource intensive, takes a toll on these machines

Midrange Notebook Pros:
  • Can be had cheaply
  • Handles multitasking/basic tasks with ease
  • Can be equipped with high-res display
  • Can be equipped with discrete GPU & Blu-ray drive
  • Very expandable
  • Full-size keyboard
  • Lots of sales/deals to be had
  • Loads of choices from different brands
Midrange Notebook Cons:
  • Sacrifice style for convenience
  • Low-end machines are barely more powerful than netbooks
  • 15" machines with low resolutions waste the screen space
  • Can often be thicker/more noisy than anticipated

Desktop Replacement/Gaming Rig Pros:
  • Plenty of screen real estate
  • Ample I/O ports
  • Room for dual HDDs and GPUs
  • Spacious keyboard/trackpad
  • Can handle multimedia, gaming and A/V editing tasks
  • Could potentially replace your immobile desktop
Desktop Replacement/Gaming Rig Cons:
  • Large, bulky and heavy
  • Can be absurdly expensive
  • Very noisy and hot
  • Hard to use in cramped spaces (cars, airlines, etc.)
  • Terrible battery life in most cases
  • Lower-than-average resell value

Which notebook is right for you? Only you can decide that, but hopefully this guide has taken you from "completely lost" to at least, "on the right track." Once you know what kind of machine you're looking for, your next step should be to establish a rough budget. If you're scouting a certain segment with a certain budget in mind, the rest pretty much falls in place. As a rule, we recommend buying the most you can for your budget in order to prevent buying a new machine every six months to a year. You want your purchase to last, and buying cheap now can cost you in the long run. Unless, of course, that's exactly the goal, as with a netbook. With any luck, you're feeling a lot more encouraged and a lot less confused now that you've read this--good luck out there!

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