Tip #1: Narrow your selection.
With the wide range of notebooks available for families on the go, it’s hard to determine the features and compute power you need. So, ask the two questions to the right and keep the answers in mind as you match the model to the personal preferences of each family member.
In general, mini netbooks are great if you don’t need full notebook functionality. But if you want enough horsepower for gaming, entertainment and running multiple programs and applications at once, step up to a notebook with a dual-core processor and Windows 7, with a minimum of 3GB RAM.
Mini netbooks. For fast and easy Internet access and chats with friends, consider a mini netbook, which only weighs a bit over two pounds. They have near-full-size keyboards for comfort, and screens larger than 11-inches diagonal. Minis are very affordable, so they can also be ideal for younger children who don’t want to be left out.
Ultraportables. For full notebook performance, there are ultraportable models with dual core1 processors. They only weigh about four pounds4 and come with a full-size keyboard, a diagonal screen size of 12- 14-inches and a longer battery life.
Everyday essentials. If the notebook will be used primarily in one place or carried in a bag or backpack, you can step up to a larger 15- 17-inch diagonal screen without adding much weight. That can be great for handling basic computing and media, like HD movies. And, at around six or so pounds, it’s portable enough to watch them virtually anywhere.
High-performance. If extreme gaming and entertainment are important, consider a high-performance notebook with quad processors and great graphic capabilities. At about eight pounds, 4 many have ultrawide HD6 displays as large as 18-inches (diagonal), which can bring an intense level of realism to movies and games. You’ll need to stretch your budget with these models, but they pull double duty for the money: They have the portability of a laptop and the power and screen size of a desktop.
Tip #2: Be battery-wise.
Most notebooks offer standard and extended battery options. If you’re buying for a highly mobile notebook user, consider upgrading to a six- or eight-cell battery. It could cost much more if you need to buy a larger battery later on.
Tip #3: Help protect your personal data.
Virus-protection software can regularly scan your notebook to help protect it from viruses, worms and other malicious code that can put personal data at risk. Look for pre-installed subscriptions you can easily activate and check out economical family packs that can cover multiple laptops.
Sometimes the sites family members visit – and the files they share and download – can put your data at risk. The parental controls within Windows 7 can help you manage how each member uses their notebook.
To help guard against unwanted access to your data, look for notebooks with a fingerprint reader. Since each fingerprint is unique, this can offer more protection than using a password someone may steal. Windows® 7 Ultimate edition includes a data encryption feature that put a virtual ‘lock’ on your files to help keep them private.
It’s a good idea to buy a subscription to LoJack for Laptops, a theft recovery option that can help police track, locate and recover a missing notebook. To help protect your identity and personal information, the software has a remote data delete feature designed to remove data from the notebook.
Tip #4: Plan for backup.
If your data is corrupted or your notebook is lost and you’ve backed up your files onto an external drive, you can retrieve and reload them quickly. A pocket media drive is a very portable, external USB storage device that can make backing up files easy – so you can worry less about losing the data you care about, like family photos and videos. If you buy a docking station for the notebook, look for one with an integrated hard drive for backup.
Windows® 7 offers a ‘set it and forget it’ feature that helps you schedule backups to an external drive or DVD. To back up to a network, you’ll need Windows® 7 Professional or Ultimate editions. You can also access and restore files online with an automatic backup service, which stores your content online in an off-site, security-enhanced facility.
Tip #5: Buy a durable case.
When kids are involved, cases don’t just look good or keep dust off the notebook, they help prevent damage from drops. So, buy one with your purchase to help protect the notebook and the data it holds from day one.
Tip #6: Be proactive about service and support.
Consider an extended warranty for normal hardware problems, and accidental damage for drops, spills and other unexpected events. By adding these services now, you can save a considerable amount, compared to just one repair charge.
If you want coverage from someone who knows the notebook best, ask about support options directly from the manufacturer. The store’s plan may be cheaper, but the savings may not be worth it when you have a problem. Spend a few dollars more for peace of mind and do it at the time of purchase – because you can often get the most coverage and value then.
Tip #7 Understand your connectivity options.
Most laptops offer built-in high-speed wireless (WiFi) and/or Bluetooth wireless technology, with upgrade options for mobile broadband.
Wi-Fi connects mobile devices to a wireless local area network or the Internet at home or at hotspots. Wireless-G or draft Wireless-N cards are just different Wi-Fi connection speeds. ‘N’ is considerably faster, but most of the time the access speed provided by your Internet provider isn’t fast enough to take advantage of it, so you may not notice the difference.
Bluetooth uses radio signals to wirelessly connect with cell phones, headsets or other Bluetooth-ready devices like printers over short distances. It’s a very affordable upgrade when you buy your notebook. Mobile broadband enables you to browse the Internet and get email from further distances (where ever cell phone service is available).
Tip #8: Upgrade your productivity software.
If the notebook will be opening files from work or school, you may want to upgrade to Microsoft® Office Home and Student 2010. It includes many of the programs you may need, including OneNote® 2007 for tablet PCs. Check out the deep software discounts that may be available as add-ons when you buy your notebook.
Tip #9: Go with a webcam.
More and more people are using video instant messaging to connect with friends and family. If a webcam is included with your purchase, upgrade to a higher resolution for better clarity. If not, they can be a great add-on to your purchase.