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Laptops: Choosing Between Portability, Power, And Price

Aug 18, 2007
Every day, lighter and smaller laptops are hitting the market. These ultra-mobile models may be easy on the shoulders, but it's important to still weigh your options before purchasing. Sometimes you have to sacrifice power for portability. Where can you make sacrifices and what's essential?

An ultra portable laptop is usually defined as being under five pounds, but the quality of these models cover a wide range and price points go from just over five hundred dollars to a few thousand. You also need to consider battery life and, of course, performance.

If you just need to pull up an office document like a spreadsheet or get online to check your email, then you might be looking at a hyper portable laptop, or subnotebook. These weigh less than 2 pounds and have shed all the bells and whistles to do so. There are no optical drives; so no DVD or CD drives, smaller keyboards, and smaller screens.

For most of these hyper portable computers, the processing and memory power is comparable to a desktop made just a couple of years ago. This should suit most users fine, unless they want to play games or edit video. Where you're going to be making big decisions is size and functionality. Not everyone can type on a miniature keyboard and not everyone has the hawk eyesight sometimes required to see a tiny screen.

Many ultra-mobile PCs and small laptops are also coming with a new feature; touch screens. Much like a PDA, they include a pen to hand write notes on the screen, but will also boast either an on-screen keyboard or a detachable portable keyboard. This design is more tablet like and the screens are often even smaller.

The other crucial factor you want to look at when purchasing an ultra portable laptop is battery life. Why get a computer that you can back pack into the mountains if you're only going to get an hour of battery life out of it? Many of the new ultra portable models put a lot of emphasis on battery life and battery weight. Not only could it be a deal breaker for you, but it also affects the price significantly.

Overall, the choice to go lighter and smaller is up to you. If your constantly lugging around what feels like a 12-pound brick and your shoulders are starting to pay the price, then maybe ultra-portable might be for you. But, if you're the kind of user that likes to play high-graphic games, play with video, or run heavy duty software, you may need a system with full power functionality.
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