Tablets may have taken a huge bite out of the laptop market, but some people still need a good old-fashioned portable computer with a decent-sized screen, a full keyboard, the ability to run a standard operating system and plenty of storage room. Fortunately, you still have plenty of models to choose from.
Traditional laptops, once tipping the scales at seven or eight pounds of shoulder-separating weight, are now much sleeker than before. The tiny, cramped netbooks (circa 2009) have given way to bigger netbooks/ultrabooks, with screens and keyboards at a more usable size. Heavy has gotten lighter and smaller has gotten bigger. So what’s the difference now between an ultrabook and a regular laptop — and which one do you need?
A few bullet points:
- These slimmed-down computers are usually lighter in weight than regular laptops.
- They’re meant to be online with plenty of access to cloud storage, so ultrabooks often use solid-state hard drives. These are fast and sturdy — but have less capacity than a standard hard drive for the same price.
- Ultrabooks typically have longer battery life between charges, thanks to fewer moving parts and energy-efficient mobile processors.
- Depending on the model you get, ultrabooks can be somewhat cheaper than a full laptop.
- A standard laptop typically offers more storage space than an ultrabook, thanks to a wider use of mechanical hard drives and more configuration options.
- Many laptops still offer a built-in optical drive for CDs and DVDs.
- Notebooks are usually more upgradeable for memory, replacement batteries, and so on.
- If you’re into serious gaming, you can find plenty of notebooks with high-end graphics cards and processors.
As with any device purchase, if you’re shopping around, make a list of all the stuff you need to do, want to do and where you want to do it. Then compare the available models out there until you find a machine that meets your needs.
Some things to consider as you peruse product pages or wander the aisles at Best Buy:
- If you want to do hardcore gaming or a lot of video editing, perhaps something more robust than an ultrabook is in order here.
- Sure, solid-state hard drives start up super fast, pop open your applications in a flash and often survive drops better than mechanical hard drives, but they can be expensive and not exactly swimming in space.
- If you travel a lot, need maximum battery life and already have a sturdy desktop or laptop at home, maybe the lightweight ultrabook is what you need.
- Sometimes, you can compromise with add-ons. If you really want an ultrabook but still want to rip CDs for your music library, you can buy an external optical drive for less than $80. Got a small solid-state drive? An inexpensive USB external can add a few terabytes.
- Batteries: Does the computer have a sealed battery or can you easily swap it out yourself with a replacement?
- Does the computer only do WiFi, or do you have Ethernet, 3G or 4G connectivity options?
Now, all you need is a great pre- or post-holiday sale. A gift card would be totally great, too.