Buying a Notebook? Must-Haves.

Notebook Computer

Notebook Computer (flickr cc: Craig Jewell)

Notebook computers have changed a lot in just a few years.   There are a few improvements on most consumer models that you shouldn’t live without.   Here are a few things to look for in your next laptop:

  • LED Screen

An LED backlit screen uses, you guessed it, LEDs rather than something like CCFL tubes.   An LED screen provides a brighter picture with whiter whites and richer colors.   LED screens are more durable, have a longer lifespan, and consume less energy.   They are thinner and allow the overall size of the notebook to shrink.   LED screens take less time to warm up, as the laptop’s picture often appears quicker when bringing your computer out of sleep mode.

  • Small Power-Brick / Adapter


    Eee PC Adapter (flickr cc: -N8-)

One of the favorite things about my original Asus Eee PC was the small power adapter.   Rather than having two separate cables and a large brick to carry around/unravel, the Eee PC had a simple wall-mounted adapter.   It was much easier and quicker to whip out the Eee PC adapter and plug it in.   The Eee PC adapter also used less space in my bag.   The design is similar to what we see with current cell phones, and many computer manufacturers are adopting this style.

  • Magnetic Latch / No Latch

Another complaint of the older notebooks I’ve owned is the clunky, mechanical latch.   Thankfully, most manufacturers are getting away from this design and opting for a magnetic latch or no latch at all.   The Apple MacBook is a simple design that implements the magnetic latch.   Some smaller laptops and netbooks don’t use a latch at all.   This is more or less a convenience issue rather than anything that impacts productivity.

  • Magnetic / Quick Release AC Power Plug


    Magnetic Power Plug (flickr cc: 37prime)

Not to ride the Apple bandwagon but the MacBook also has a very well implemented AC Power plug.   The magnetic design allows for a quick release if ever someone trips on your computer’s power cord.   Too many times to count, myself or someone in my home, including my dog, has gotten tangled in my computer’s power cord.   If my notebook did not feature a quick-release plugin, it might spell certain death.   A quick-release plug allows the power cord to separate from the unit without bringing your laptop tumbling or crashing to the ground.

  • SSD (Solid State Drive)

SSD (flickr cc: piesto)

Despite their higher costs, Solid State Drives are becoming cheaper and more prevalent.   SSDs are more popular because they are less prone to wear out over time.   A standard Hard Disk Drive has moving parts that wear or slow as your computer ages.   The HDD can also fail due to jolts or hard bumps that can occur when transporting your laptop.   SSDs also consume less energy and are often faster than traditional HDDs.

  • Webcam

Webcams are pretty much the norm on most consumer laptops these days, and I’d say they’re one thing you shouldn’t do without.   If nothing for the simple fact of videoconferencing over your favorite messenger client, such as Skype, webcams provide better communication and entertainment.

Things that will be must-haves soon:

  • WiMax/Wireless Broadband Support

Thanks to the popularity and proliferation of the netbook, it’s my guess that many wireless providers will soon realize the potential WiMax/wireless broadband market.   Although many wireless carriers offer data plans, they are still a little pricey and have monthly limits.   As the demand to be connected continues to grow and prices of mobile devices drop, hopefully wireless carriers will offer reasonable plans without download limits.   Look for wireless internet capabilities to one day be standard in netbooks and traditional laptops.

  • Multitouch Support / Inking Capabilities

The success of Apple’s iPhone, interest in Microsoft Surface, and the mention of inking support in Windows 7 point to a future of touch.   Although the Tablet PC has struggled to gain mainstream popularity, devices like the HP TouchSmart PC show the strong consumer desire for touch-enabled devices.   A few manufacturers are beginning to take note and release reasonably priced tablet netbooks and laptops.   As always, the rumor mill continues to hum of a someday Apple tablet.

  • Instant-on Operating System

An instant-on operating system is an OS that allows a computer to boot in under 30 seconds, providing basic computing functionality.   An instant-on operating system helps blur the line between computer and appliance.   Ultimately, the goal of a Personal Computer is to be personal, something that you can interact with on a daily basis without waiting or thinking about what you’re doing.   The features listed as must-haves integrate notebooks into our lives.

All of these features will eventually become standard options for new laptops and hopefully netbooks down the road.   Consider these options if you’re looking for a powerful, well-built notebook computer and want something that won’t become obsolete in a 6 months.

What are your must-haves in a notebook?