Mossberg: Special Considerations Buying a Laptop

Buying a laptop computer requires a little more attention to details and features. New technologies on the way for laptops should be watched closely, and many may want to defer purchasing for awhile, according to Walt Mossberg at All Things Digital.

Some new technologies to be aware of are the new hard disks that include a Flash memory cache called Hybrid Hard Drives. These systems buffer the access to the drive and make access much faster. Some small, portable notebook computers may even switch over entirely to Flash-based memory for the main memory.

Also, vendors will be increasingly moving to LED backlit LCD displays. These displays have more uniform brightness and consume less power. [Neither of the above two features are currently available for Mac laptops.]

In addition, for travel, itis a good idea to check for the availability of built-in Webcams, microphones, and communication software that supports them.

Finally, itis a good idea to pay attention to the availability of ExpressCard slots and the kinds of modem or other cards available for the slots. The Wi-Fi system should be 802.11n.

When purchasing a laptop (notebook) computer, especially for travel, one must be careful to pick the size and weight thatis suitable for travel, especially for use in cramped airline seats.

Apple MacBook

"I find that laptops with 13.3-inch widescreen displays make a nice compromise between mobility and power. At the moment, there are very few brand-name models in that size, notably Apple?s $1,099 MacBook, which weighs 5.2 pounds; and Sony?s Vaio SZ line, which weighs 4.1 pounds but costs roughly twice as much," Mr. Mossberg said.

Finally, thereis the eternal issue of Windows vs. Mac. "Apple?s two laptop lines, the MacBook and MacBook Pro, are very good," Mr. Mossberg concluded. "They have better built-in software than any Windows laptop I?ve seen and don?t suffer from the security issues that plague Windows. And they can even run Windows software, if you need that."

In typical fashion, Mr. Mossberg covered all the bases with a knowledgeable, even-handed approach that was technically astute and also informed and educated. Even so, he could hardly resist the temptation to put in a good word for the Apple notebooks. Who couldnit?