- Questions to ask yourself
- Desktop PC or notebook?
- How important is mobility?
- What will I be using the notebook for?
- How much do I need to spend?
- Specialised portable computers?
- Ultraportable notebooks
- Tablet PCs
- Palm/hand top computers
- Ruggedised portables
- Processor and chipset
- Intel versus AMD
- Intel notebook processors
- AMD mobile processors
- Other key components
- Questions to ask the retailer
- The market
As with desktop computers, ATI and NVIDIA continue to go head-to-head in the portable graphics stakes, with performance and special features.
Some of your choices in graphics controllers include: NVIDIA (www.nvidia.com/page/mobile.html)
- GeForce 8700M GT (high-end enthusiast)
- GeForce 8600M GT (medium-high end/multimedia)
- GeForce 8600M GS (multimedia)
- GeForce Go 7600 (multimedia)
- GeForce 8400M GT (light and portable)
- GeForce 8400M GS (light and portable)
- GeForce 8400M G (light and portable)
- GeForce Go 7400 (light and portable)
- GeForce Go 7300 (light and portable)
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 and HD 2600 XT
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600
- ATI Mobility Radeon X2500
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2400 and HD 2400 XT
- ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2300
- ATI Mobility Radeon X2300
Whether they're inside a desktop PC or a notebook computer, RAM chips play the critical role of keeping the CPU efficiently fed with data or instructions from programs on the hard drive. How well the chips perform this role results in the difference between a CPU that misses computing cycles and moves like a steam locomotive and a CPU that speeds along like a bullet train.
There are three types of RAM available in notebooks: SDRAM (Synchronous Dynamic RAM) which is rarely used anymore on new notebooks in favour of DDR SDRAM (Double Date Rate SDRAM) and DDR2 SDRAM.
DDR2 SDRAM is now the default standard, even for value-orientated notebooks and offers a 60 per cent increase in peak memory bandwidth and power benefits over DDR SDRAM.
As with all computers, more memory is better. On all budgets, you should set 1GB as the absolute minimum, while 2GB configurations are fast becoming the standard on many vendor-specified configurations. Currently most notebooks have the maximum RAM limit of around 4GB, but be sure to check as some less expensive or smaller models can max out at 1GB.
Upgrading the memory of your notebook is a great way to achieve better performance and in some cases you can install it yourself! However, be sure to check if this voids your warranty first and also determine how many memory slots you have free so you can work out the combination of memory modules that's best for your machine and budget.