May 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio May 2002 Current Issue
May 2002 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

How to choose a laptop that best serves your current business needs

Ready to go mobile with your PC, or looking to replace an old laptop? The time might be right to invest in a new solution.

First assess what you really want to do with the computer, which will help determine if you need a desktop or notebook, as well as the processor speed, amount of memory and extras you should add, like a DVD drive or a CD burner (called CD-R/RW).

While Intel has just released the Pentium 4-M chip with clock speeds of 1.6 or 1.7 Ghz, the Pentium 3-M that tops out at 1.2 gigs is still good for 99 percent of the population.

Searching ZDNet (, I found the following four Pentium 3-M notebooks. All have screens with 14.1-inch active-matrix displays. One new term is “hot swappable with floppy,” which refers to a slot that allows you to remove the floppy-disk drive and replace it with a DVD or CD drive while the PC is running.

Toshiba Satellite 3000. Processor speed: 900 MHz; price: $1,250 to $1,400; memory: 128 MB RAM, 20 GB hard drive; average battery life: three hours and 13 minutes; extras: 8X DVD drive (hot-swappable with floppy), 16MB video memory, internal modem, network connections, S-Video infrared and three USB ports.

The Satellite, at 6.2 pounds, is a nice combination of speed, looks and low weight at a good price. Compaq Presario 1720. Processor speed: 1 GHz; price: $1,450 to $1,700; memory: 256 MB RAM, 20 GB hard drive; average battery life: two hours and 40 minutes; extras: DVD/CD-R/RW drive (hot-swappable), 8 MB graphics chip, internal modem, network connections, S-Video and two USB ports. The 5.2-pound Presario has many fine design features, including a quarter-sized button for scrolling up, down, left or right through documents or Web pages.

Sony VAIO PCG-GR 150K. Processor speed: 866 MHz; price: $2,200 to $2,600; memory: 128 MB RAM, 20 GB hard drive; average battery life: three and a half hours; extras: DVD/CD-R/RW drive (hot-swappable with floppy or extra battery), internal modem, two PC-card slots and three USB Ports.

The VAIO packs a lot into 6.4 pounds, but it’s a little unorthodox in that it does not have standard video-out ports. Instead, it comes with a proprietary cable that most A/V companies won’t have; you’ll have to bring your own. It is a powerful notebook in a durable, attractive package.

IBM ThinkPad T22. Processing speed: 1 GHz; price: $2,400 to $3,200; memory: 128 MB RAM, 32 GB hard drive; average battery life: four hours; extras: DVD/CD-R/RW drive, 8 MB graphics chip, internal modem, network connections, two PC-card slots and one USB port.

At 5.3 pounds, the ThinkPad T22 is a reliable workhorse that easily outperforms other notebooks. It is a great corporate machine but is pricey for individuals and smaller organizations.

Accidents are bound to happen. A notebook might drop from an overhead or disappear in a busy terminal. So think about buying an extended warranty (providing a replacement while yours is being repaired), and insure the laptop on your homeowners or business policy.

Buy it with a credit card. If there is a problem, you have more clout when your credit card provider gets involved in your dispute. If buying online or over the phone, verify taxes and shipping charges (which should be $25 to $30). Also ask about restocking fees, which can be as high as 20 percent if you return the notebook.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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