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Chapter 2. Buying a Mobile Computer > What You Need to Know about Buying a High...

What You Need to Know about Buying a High Computing Performance Laptop

So, you have a bit more money to spend and you want to impress your friends with the bone-crushing power of your mobile computer. Or you are a corporate executive with only hours to analyze complex numerical data before presenting it to the board of directors. Either way, you want all the computing performance you can get, and price is a secondary concern. Here's what you should look for when spec ing a high-performance laptop:

  • Processor— Intel Pentium M, 2GHz or faster. The fastest Intel Pentium M processors top out at 2.13GHz as of this writing. You should get at least a 2GHz processor. Faster is always better, but you can pay a real premium for that extra 10% of performance.

  • Chipset— Mobile Intel 915PM Express (preferred) or Mobile Intel 915GM Express. Okay, get ready for the techno speak. In most cases I saved you the complication of technical details, but here it matters. The Mobile Intel 915PM Express or the Mobile Intel 915GM chipsets are specified because they support a 533MHz front side bus (FSB) between the processor and the memory. In layman's terms, a 533MHz FSB makes your computer run faster because data is exchanged between the processor and memory at a faster rate. The 915PM is preferred because it does not have a built-in graphics processor. This is desirable because Intel's graphics chips are somewhat lackluster compared to manufacturers such as ATI and nVidia. So the lack of a built-in graphics processor will mean the laptop manufacturer got a graphics chip from somewhere else, and it's probably better than Intel's.

  • Graphics processor from a major graphics chip manufacturer such as ATI or nVidia— Keep in mind that if you are interested in game playing, you might want to check your favorite games to see what graphics they specify. That way, you ll get the processor you need.

  • Memory— 1GB DDR2 SDRAM. There are two things you should know. I specify 1GB here because you will probably run complex programs that need a lot of memory. Also, DDR2 memory is specified because it is the fastest laptop memory available.

  • Wireless— Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG internal wireless card (802.11a/b/g).

  • Internal hard disk— 60GB or larger.

  • Optical disk— DVD-RW/CD-RW combo drive (burns DVDs and CDs).

  • Operating system— Windows XP Professional.

  • Productivity suite— Microsoft Office Professional (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook).



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