Buying guide: A laptop for the busy exec : New gizmos, Gadgets gazette Blog

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Buying guide: A laptop for the busy exec

Prashant Bharadwaj is a senior executive with a multinational with an itinerary that could include two to three different cities in a single day. Needless to say, he spends a considerable amount of his time collecting air miles, and even visas on his passport.

His days are defined by high-profile meetings, presentations, analysis reports and an insane amount of electronic communication, whether in the form of emails or video conferences.

When he gets the time, he unwinds with Pink Floyd, Clapton and Alan Parsons. And he is a big fan of old black and white movies, Scorsese, Guy Ritchie and Tarantino.

Given the nature of his work and his basic entertainment needs, the 37-year-old needs a laptop that is powerful enough to get the job done, is sturdy — yet lightweight — and has looks that adds to his aura of a power player, especially when he's out and about meeting international counterparts.

What Prashant needs

A mid-range processor: Prashant often multitasks with several programs open at the same time. He also needs to make sure that his laptop doesn't stutter and choke when he is crunching figures on an obscenely large Excel worksheet, or accessing his company's myriad databases from its extranet.

Almost any modern processor can handle this kind of workload. But just to be on the safe side, it is advised that he picks a laptop that has (at least) the Core i3-2310M processor. This number cruncher belongs to the latest range of Intel chips called Sandy Bridge that are a perfect foil for modern workloads. All Sandy Bridge processors are numbered with a prefix of i3, i5 or i7 followed by four digits starting with 2xxx.

RAM: More RAM means better multitasking, whether its spreadsheet calculation or watching HD movies. While 2GB may prove sufficient for Prashant, it is better if he picks a laptop with at least 3GB RAM.

Hard disk: Prashant will mostly store office documents on his laptop. They don't take much space and any laptop with over 160GB will be fine for his needs. A notebook with a solid state drive (Flash-based memory) is not a necessity – but if it exists, it can significantly improve boot or application launch time, helping him work more efficiently. Of course, if he wants to store movies and music on his laptop, a 320GB drive would be advisable.

Lightweight: Weight is the most important factor for the travelling exec. He needs a device that's light to carry about. This limit means that Prashant will have to buy a laptop that has a screen size of not more than 14 inches. Bigger screens mean more weight. He should also avoid a laptop with very small screen, because that could hamper his productivity (and his movie experience). Ideally, the business notebook he picks up should have a screen size of at least 13.3 inches, and weigh-in at around 2kgs.

Sturdy and stylish chassis: Prashant will use his laptop outdoors a lot. Besides, he will also need to maneuver it about quite a bit at airports, what with the security checks and all. His laptop will therefore require a sturdy chassis. Ideally, Prashant should look for laptops with an aluminum or magnesium alloy chassis. They are not only more durable than those made of plastic, but also look stylish. Features such as a shockresistant hard drive or a spill-resistant keyboard will help.

Battery life: A travelling executive needs a laptop with dependable battery life. Ideally, notebooks give between five to six hours on a single charge. Prashant should consider upgrading to a nine-cell battery (if the standard issue is 6 cell), or an extra battery pack for his travel needs.

Special features : Since the executive will constantly be dealing with data that is sensitive and crucial to his company, he should consider a laptop that has added security features such as a fingerprint reader and options to encrypt data. On the operating system front, he should settle for Windows 7 Professional edition.

How much will it all cost: Good business laptops don't come cheap. Yet, if Prashant is looking for a budget purchase, he could consider something like the Dell Vostro 3350 that costs somewhere around Rs 38,000. If cost is not a factor, he could consider Lenovo's robust ThinkPad series, or perhaps the MacBook Pro 13.3" or Dell Latitude E6420 that cost around Rs 70,000. If he can spend over Rs 1,00,000, he can even consider laptops like those belonging to the Samsung 9 Series.

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