The Ultimate Notebook Buyer’s Guide (Well my ultimate buyer’s guide anyway)

I’ve been meaning to buy a laptop (or Notebook for the politically correct), for quite some time now, and seeing as tax time is coming up, making the decision to do so sooner rather than later is probably a good idea.  This laptop is going to be primarily a home web machine, seeing as the web is quite often needed ad-hoc it seems silly to have a desktop PC on all the time for this purpose alone. Me being a software developer, however, I want something that I can obviously do a bit of development "tinkering" with it as well so it can’t be a completely crap machine (Celerons are definitely out for example…)

The GLW (Good lady-wife) says that my budget is $1000, and while I agree we want to keep the price down, I take that to mean "as close to $1000 as possible", which I happily agreed to 🙂

The Spec’s


I was checking out the difference between Core Duo and Core 2 Duo’s today, and despite the article being slightly outdated, I have concluded that a Core 2 Duo is a must have for it’s better performance with no discernable increase in power consumption. Probably a 1.6Ghz-1.8Ghz will be sufficient, I do want semi-decent battery life.


This is something I don’t intend to budge on, this is going to be a Windows Vista machine, so it MUST have 2GB of RAM, no question.


This is probably my biggest sticking point and one that I think will have to be determined ultimately by price, I would love an NVidia or ATI card as I know how woeful the Intel graphics chips are for anything but 2D graphics. I’m an NVidia man myself, more for software reasons than hardware, but usually I find these cards adding some $100-$200 to the price. I did find a forum post on which GPU to choose, which was pretty helpful. I’m thinking a minimum of a Intel GMA X3100, seeing as the machine has to run Vista’s Aero nicely 🙂


The standard these days is WGXA (which gives a resolution of around 1280×800) and to be honest it’s usually enough, I’ve seen some WXGA+ screens which would be nicer (especially as it’s one of the few parts of a laptop you can’t upgrade later). But I doubt I’ll hit my budget if get one. I’m definitely only going for a 15", after all this is something we should be able to use in bed as a "laptop", not have to put on a table as a "portable desktop".

Hard Disk

Minimum 120gb, preferably at least 160gb, if I need more I’m thinking a portable USB drive will do the trick.

Other Must Haves

  • Minimum 2 USB ports (preferably more)
  • Wireless LAN
  • Wired Ethernet Port
  • DVD Burner (who cares what speed, it’s going to be a rare occurrence that I burn something with it)

I’m starting to wonder whether I’ve missed anything.

What’s out there

From a little searching it seems like an Acer Extensa 5620Z almost perfectly fits the bill, and here I was thinking what I wanted wasn’t achievable.

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