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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Budget tips for your next laptop

Looking for the best-deal laptop isn't as easy as you might think - unless you know what to do or where to go. So here are a few tips that will help you save up some cash while not scrimping out too much on the specs.

Before we go way too deep into this, here are a few questions you'll want to ask yourself first.

What do you want your laptop to do? Are you just into the social networking sites (Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn, etc.), Email and chatting? Or will you be doing video editing, power gaming (Counter Strike, WoW, etc.)? Or are you the tech savvy businessman who needs to run the latest MS Office version?

How much, exactly, are you willing to spend? Much like in other things, the more you want the more you'll need to spend. If you've answered the first question honestly, then you might have a fairly good idea of what your next laptop will cost you. If you want something that will do just the basics like Emails, Web surfing and chat, then you probably want an off-the-shelf notebook. If you need more power, you might be better off trolling through some Online laptop catalogs (don't worry, I'll give you tips where to look). If you need a business computing machine, then read on because you might just find what you're looking for.

Try a Netbook. If your computing needs are low, or even basic (web b
rowsing, office doc work, and not too much need for heavy-duty graphics or HD video), Netbooks offer a great package for very little money. Mainly equipped with Intel Atom processors and running Windows XP, they're not so great at multitasking, but they'll do the work that most computers handled five years ago with ease. Low-end Netbooks are where the best value's at, with some coming in at under Php21,400, like ACER Aspire One. There's the infamous Asus EeePC, on sale, that started all the netbook buzz a couple of years ago, and it comes in at Php8,999 if you buy it up front with cash.

There are a lot of great deals at Villman's. You might even find an installment plan so that you don't break the bank with your next laptop purchase.

Big on portable, thin-and-light laptops. Apple's MacBook Air came out two years ago and presented itself as the world's thinnest laptop. It's now a lot cheaper than when it was launched. Buying it from the Apple Store would cost you Php85,990. However, there are a number of alternatives to this, just like the MSI X320 at a much affordable price. It comes in at Php40,000 with basically the same specs. And with a supported credit card, you might just get a no-interest deal for it at about Php3,000 per month.

The point is, these very portable laptops are just getting cheaper and cheaper, so look out for some of the best deals around. A little online window shopping won't hurt.

Go for the barebones specs. Unless you really, really need more memory, a larger hard drive, faster processor, or better graphics, you'd do better to look for a laptop that serves you just right. Going for a powerhouse computer that you don't have use for isn't a very intelligent move, especially if you don't plan to stick with your laptop to the last breath. You can live without a built-in Webcam or fingerprint reader. And you don't need a blu-ray drive on it - a DVD drive is just fine. You can always download HD content on your hard drive.

It's important to remember that unless you need something on your laptop, it's better to not have it at all. This rule will definitely save you thousands of pesos.

A good processor will pay off. One thing you can't replace is the main CPU, and spending a little more for the config you feel will run your software best is a good bet, because it means a laptop that will last a few more years before an upgrade. A standard Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which should be your default choice, can be found in most laptops starting at around Php12,000.

The new 13-inch MacBook Pros, while not super-cheap, have decent processors and above-average integrated graphics (in the form the Ncidia's GeForce 9400) graphics that will last you through several rounds of OS changes and updates. Or, you could even go with the white MacBook, which costs Php13,000 less and offers similar specs but has a shorter battery life.

More tips. Just remember that buying from a company's official website is often cheaper that going to a retail store and buying from a distributor. If you don't have a credit card, or if you're not very comfortable with shopping online, go through online product catalogs. Here are a few places to start with:

And one final tip. With all the advice you've gotten above, hopefully you've narrowed down your choices. When you make the final choice (before buying the laptop of course) take a little time reading about laptops. There are loads of reviews floating around on the Web. Look into CNET's Laptop Reviews section. Search for your choice of notebook and see what both users and editors say about the product. You might also come across alternatives there.

Happy hunting!

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