Choosing the perfect notebook for Windows 7

These quick tips can help you avoid buyer's remorse

Picking a laptop can be a complicated ordeal that amounts to balancing features against portability against price -- and with Windows 7 on the way, the choice gets tricker. Here are some tips for purchasing a notebook computer that will work well with Windows 7.

  • You'll need a notebook with a 64-bit processor to guarantee compatibility with the 64-bit version of Windows 7, which will be the preferred version of the OS. Choosing an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU pretty much guarantees that Windows 7 will run fine. All Core 2 Duo processors support 64-bit applications, and even the slowest of the current batch (the T7200) clocks in at 2.0GHz, which is plenty fast enough for Windows 7.
  • Windows 7 is very visual and offers a lot of eye candy, from the ability to play HD content to showing fancy desktop themes with active content. Because of this, most users will want at least a 14.1-in. display that offers 720p compatibility, meaning WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution.
  • With RAM, more is always better -- 2GB is a good starting point, 4GB is better.
  • For most users, integrated graphics will offer more than enough performance for the visual elements of Windows 7 and associated applications; however, gamers should consider a notebook with a discrete graphics card, which offers improved 3D performance.
  • You'll also want a large hard drive -- 250GB or more -- with a rotational speed of at least 5400 rpm. (7200 rpm will be a little faster, but may not be worth the increased price for most users.)
  • An internal optical drive that offers DVD compatibility helps to turn the notebook into a portable movie theater, always a plus for travelers.
  • When it comes to overall travel weight, buyers will need to consider how much traveling they are going to do with the notebook and how much they are willing to spend -- lighter notebooks are usually more expensive.

Keeping these simple guidelines in mind, there are dozens of notebooks that will fit the bill. If you must buy now, look for a model that includes a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it ships.

Frank J. Ohlhorst is a technology professional specializing in products and services analysis. He writes for several technology publications.

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