Home' LAPTOP Magazine : November 2011 Contents 5 reasons to toss
your old notebook
It’s time to upgrade to a laptop that’s lighter, faster,
and longer lasting.
by Avram Piltch
Last year. That’s when my father finally gave
up on pfs: Write—the same word-processing
software he’d been using since 1986. If his
old printer hadn’t broken or if the DOS-based
program worked with a modern inkjet printer, he’d
still be typing away in a mouse-less, single-font
program from the Cold War era, because it seemed
good enough to meet his basic document-editing
Unfortunately, far too many consumers are fol-
lowing my father’s example, sticking with three-,
four-, or even five-year-old notebooks because
they don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade.
As a result of this trend, research firm Gartner
projected a tepid 3.8 -percent growth rate in 2011
PC sales (hey, at least they’re growing).
Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal attributes
the decline in sales to both younger consumers
who prefer to buy tablets and smartphones and
older consumers content with their current PCs.
“ For older buyers, today’s PCs are not a particularly
compelling product, so they continue to extend
lifetimes, as PC shops and IT departments repair
rather than replace these systems,” he said in a
If you’re one of those folks who feel content
with a senile system, I ’m here to tell you that you’re
wrong. Here are five reasons why you need a new
notebook this year.
❶ Longer Battery Life: Unless you replaced the
battery, your three- to five-year-old notebook can
hold only a fraction of its original charge. Even
worse, it probably didn’t last that long in the first
place, as mainstream notebooks from 2008 and
earlier offered poor endurance.
Today, you can purchase a notebook that
gets more than 6 hours of juice, such as the HP
Pavilion dm1z, for less than $500. Or you can
get an incredibly long-lasting business system
such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X220 that can go
for more than 20 hours on a charge! Think you
don’t need to stay unplugged that long? Think
again, because even in the office or the living
room, you should never be chained to
❷ Lighter Weight: A few years ago, most ultra-
portable notebooks were too expensive for the
average consumer. That 15-inch clunker from
2007 feels more like a desktop than a laptop
when compared to svelte systems such as the
Apple MacBook Air, Samsung Series 9, or any of
the Ultrabooks (a new class of uber-thin laptops
Intel has been pushing).
With an 11- to 14-inch notebook that weighs
less than 5 pounds—preferably less than 4
pounds—you can completely change your mobile
life and really take your PC everywhere you go.
If you need a desktop-like experience, you’re
better off buying an external monitor ($150 gets
you a 21-inch display) to plug in when you’re at
❸ SSDs/Faster Storage: There’s nothing quite
like the speed of a solid state drive. The faster boot
times, lightning-quick app opens, and improved
responsiveness make a computer with an SSD
seem decades ahead of one without.
Back in 2007–2008, solid state storage was
in its infancy. Even if you could afford a notebook
with SSD, the speeds weren’t always impressive.
The price of moving to SSD is still high, but many
more systems come with SSD options now. Better
still, for around $200, you can upgrade any modern
notebook to SSD yourself. And laptops with Intel’s
2nd Generation Core Series CPUs and chipsets
support SATA 6Gb/s SSDs, which are twice as fast
as the previous generation of drives!
❹ Intelligent Graphics Switching: If your 2008-
era notebook has discrete graphics, it gulps power
like a teenager scarfing down Slurpees. In 2010,
Nvidia released its Optimus technology, which
automatically switches between discrete and
integrated modes to give you the best combina-
tion of performance and power efficiency. With
Optimus, even a gaming-oriented notebook
such as the Alienware M11x can last more than
8 hours on a charge. AMD also recently released
its own automatic graphics switching technology,
though its implementation lacks the fine control
❺ USB 3.0: Even in 2011, many notebooks still
don’t have USB 3.0 ports. However, you’ll need
SuperSpeed USB to attach the current generation
of high-performance backup drives. With transfer
rates more than double those of USB 2.0, USB 3.0
drives such as the Iomega eGo are a must-buy
for anyone with lots of media files.
So even if your old-school computer from 2008
or before lets you perform the basics, it’s time to
up your mobile game with a new notebook. You’ll
experience a new world of power and functionality
you might not even know you needed.
Laptop | November 2011
NeWS & TreNDS
by Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director Avram Piltch guides LAPTOP’s web coverage. He devised several of our real-world benchmarks. Read his semi-monthly
column at www.laptopmag.com/geeksgeek, and follow @geekinchief on Twitter.
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