In the age of the Internet, mobility and speed can add up to a critical competitive advantage. Add to that fact the necessity of having information at one\'s fingertips at all times and from all places, and the importance of a good notebook computer can hardly be overemphasised. It\'s no surprise, then, that notebook PCs have become the one indispensable tool for many information junkies.
The first portable computers were clunky and had poorly-lit monochrome displays, little memory, and relied on a floppy drive as opposed to a hard drive. But the latest high-end models are not only smaller - they\'re also often as well equipped as most desktop models.
But "high-end" notebooks, according to Mark Thorne, business notebook product manager with Dell Europe, are defined differently by different people. "High-end is defined either according to performance, according to the price performance ratios, or based upon the size weight relationship," says Thorne.
U.S.-based Dell produces and configures some of the most popular portable computers on the market today. Dell\'s secret to success is the degree to which it allows consumers to customise portable PCs to meet their needs. Users can log in to Dell\'s web site to put together the portable of their dreams. The basic Dell model Inspiron 5000 targets private users with high performance demands, as well as business users in small and medium-sized companies.
The Inspiron 5000 is equipped with an Intel Pentium III processor of up to 650 MHz. The chip comes with Intel\'s new Speed Step technology, which lets the CPU know whether the computer is connected to an outlet or a battery. The model also comes with a choice of two 15-inch displays with resolutions of up to 1,400 by 1,050 pixels. The hard drive comes in sizes between six and 18 gigabytes (GB). The cheapest Inspiron 5000 model is priced at around 1,800 dollars, with any extras costing more. "If the term high-end is used to characterise the price performance ratio, the Inspiron 5000 is a high-end notebook," says Thorne.
Toshiba, another perennial favourite among notebook enthusiasts, recently released its Tecra 8100 series, which also utilises the new Intel Pentium III Speed Step processor, running at 700 MHz. The Tecra comes equipped standard with 128 MB of RAM, a 12 GB hard drive, and a six-speed DVD drive. The model also ships with a 14.1 inch TFT display and an internal V.90 modem.
Toshiba\'s computer is designed elegantly in silver. Priced 2,600 dollars onwards, the Tecra 8100 may be out of the price range of many home users, but it\'s priced perfectly for the small office or business user.
Apple\'s Power book is also aimed at the professional market. According to Apple, the computer, which weighs in at only 2.8 kilograms, can serve as a complete amateur film studio as well as a traditional notebook.
"Movie makers can edit their videos while shooting," says Apple\'s Georg Albrecht. "All you need to do is connect a DV camcorder or an external hard drive to the Power book." The Apple software Final Cut can then be used for editing and cutting videos. Apple is positioning its Power book to fill the market niche for creative applications, as Apple has with its desktop computers and the desktop publishing sector. "We are targeting customers who are doing mobile business and need a powerful computer," Albrecht says. The Power book is priced from 2,500 dollars.
Computer expert Henning Withoeft advises potential notebook owners to determine what the portable\'s main function will be before purchasing. "To use standard office applications such as word processing or spread sheets, a standard model is sufficient," says Withoeft, who edits a technical publication.
"To run more time-consuming applications on the road, powerful batteries are important," Withoeft adds. Information provided by manufacturers about battery life is not always reliable, the expert says. If possible, customers should arrange for a trial period with the vendor. "With the more expensive models this is possible, and many vendors will do it," says Withoeft. "Another possibility is a rental contract, with payments counted toward the final purchase."