Sunday, 18 November 2007

The laptop doesn't matter anymore

I'm asked with increasing regularity for buying advice on personal laptops, which I suppose happens to anyone who "works with computers" (which most of us nowadays, right?).

Being in an IT support role for a school, I probably come across four or five different types of laptop computer every day, each with different screens, keyboard layouts and trackpads. Which do I prefer? The clean ones!

Other than that, I'm finding that it really doesn't matter about too much else. The technical specification of the machine, the size, shape and weight all seem to be almost irrelevant, as long as the machine is responsive.

Even budget-level laptops are now feature-complete and uncompromising, which means I can do whatever I need to regardless of the machine I use. More importantly, almost all my productive and creative work has, for at least the past six months, been conducted though a web browser, so even the software configuration has become largely irrelevant, as long as a web browser is available.

So what do I recommend to anyone buying a new laptop? Consider the form factor. Choose the machine which just seems to look right, and go for sensible mouse buttons. If you write, pay attention to the keyboard layout, particularly with the INSERT, DEL, HOME and END keys. And make sure the ENTER key is large enough; the iconic MacBook Pro has a nasty, thin ENTER key, and the whole keyboard has a cheap, rattling feel.

Other than that, don't worry. It'll work, and it'll do the job. But if you'll be playing games just buy a desktop instead, or a console. Laptop gaming performance generally sucks.

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