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Notebook purchasing needn’t be rocket-science‚Ķ

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When consumers make the decision to purchase a new notebook, a number of thoughts probably go through their heads. Key questions relating to what they know about the different notebook providers, what they want to do with that notebook and quite possibly what colour their ideal notebook should be are just a few. But in that hit-list, there is no reference as to what needs to be under the bonnet.

Traditionally, it was the remit of well-informed technology experts to buy PCs and notebooks. They would take their new PC home, open it up, have a tinker inside and then rebuild it. Ultimately, this would be the number one hobby for ‚techies’. They found it easy and enjoyable to review the different technology options that affect a computer’s speed, look and performance. Until recently the PC market was built around technology as a differentiator.

The market today, however, is very different and notebooks, in particular, are now high on the list of a consumer’s ‚must have‚ items. A wide range of home and family uses of the Internet has been one factor that has taken PCs and notebooks from just the ‚techy’ market into private homes. As well as surfing, many consumers are actively engaged in the creation of online content ‚ be it video, music or status updates and posts on social networking sites. Or they edit their own videos and digital photos. There has also been a rise in casual gaming with more and more people using their notebooks for gaming entertainment.

To help to illustrate this shift, in 2000, notebooks made up only 25 per cent of the entire PC market: today the figure is 56 per cent ‚ with the trend growing each year, confirming that notebooks have made it into the mainstream.*

So what does this mean? Well, the potential customer base is certainly no longer restricted to hobby ‚techy’ enthusiasts. Rather, it is people, like you, me or even my mother with no specialist understanding of the technology, who are now buying these must-have accessories. To be completely honest, many consumers just aren’t interested in what’s going on inside their laptops but they do want it to look good and do the job it is bought for. The technology needs to perform our tasks, and everything else ‚ apart from the price ‚ is immaterial. We are a new generation of notebook buyers who want our brand-new laptop to perform those tasks that are important to us, be it quick emailing, speedy Internet browsing or editing our home made videos and pictures.

Today, communications between the industry and consumers tends to be highly technical ‚ almost as if it were still one expert speaking to another. What’s more, the communications, can at times, fail to distinguish at all between the different customer groups. Students are approached with the same messages, motifs and suggestions as housewives, yet students and housewives are likely to perform different ‚duties’ on their laptops so will need different advice as to which notebook is for them. This is when we come to rely on sales people in stores to enlighten us. However, even our local friendly salesmen are often overloaded with information. This makes it hard for them to steer away from the ‚tech spec’ to advise the customer on what notebook they need based on their usage.

That said, buying a notebook will probably never be possible without some emphasis on technology. But the few genuinely important criteria are easy to take on board. Here is a no-nonsense guide to help you ask yourself the right questions:

– Do I want a good-looking laptop? Notebooks come in various colours and with patterned surfaces. The eyes have it when it comes to purchases. This may sound superficial but it can be important. Everyone wants a nice-looking, sleek laptop to carry around.

– Do I want long battery life? If the notebook is regularly being used away from a main power supply, then long battery life is important.

– Is it heavy? When on the move, low weight and compact dimensions pay off.

– Does speed matter? If the notebook is intended to be used to cut videos or play back HD TV, to edit large-size digital photos or handle 3D gaming, then the processor (or CPU for all you ‚techies’) can never be too fast.

– Do I care about graphics? Without a high-performance graphics chip, you can forget about 3D gaming. The ideal is what are called hybrid notebooks, with two on-board graphics chips. Depending on the demands on the machine, the high-performance or the regular chip is selected. Using the regular chip helps extend battery life.

So, what have we learnt about buying your next notebook? Well, the notebook market has changed rather dramatically as have consumer buying habits. This has resulted in more people buying laptops but we must first be clear about what we use it for. Therefore, it is important that you think about what you want from your laptop in order to make the correct decision when purchasing.

The five golden questions you must ALWAYS ask

1. What purpose does the equipment need to satisfy? Am I simply looking to surf the internet and write e-mails?

2. Is editing digital photos important to me? Or even editing my own videos?

3. Does the notebook need to handle the demands of modern 3D games?

4. Does the laptop look good, and how much am i prepared to spend on it?

5. Do I want to be using the equipment a lot whilst on the move? Or will it mainly be at home on the living-room or dining-room table and connected to a power supply?

*Stats taken from from IDC (PC Tracker)

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