Upgrade your laptop without going over the line

Tests reveal the optimal configuration for your laptop.

Adding it up

Overall, we were able to improve our test laptop's performance by more than 30 per cent while extending battery life slightly by picking the right components.

Overall performance

512MB 2,191 2,420
1GB 2,430 2,664
1.5GB 2,455 2,670
2GB 2,474 2,675
3GB 2,503 2,711
4GB 2,520 2,950
Results shown are the overall scores from the author's PC Mark 05 tests. Higher is better.

There are, of course, some caveats for these results. These were not meant to be comprehensive tests using all possible configurations and all possible applications.

In the final analysis, we all use our notebooks differently -- tasks like checking e-mail and writing documents with Microsoft Word, for instance, are not as demanding as editing video or performing complicated simulations. As a result, the right notebook configuration for you will depend both on what you plan to use it for and the size of your budget.

Still, for general use with Windows XP, my tests found that the best balance between performance and battery life was to have 1.5GB or 2GB of system memory. If you're using Vista, which is more resource-intensive, start with at least 2GB and work up from there.

Also, flash storage drives provide better performance and longer battery life than traditional magnetic hard drives do. And, because they have no moving parts, they're more durable. However, they are expensive and currently offer limited storage capacity. That means most users will go with traditional hard drives -- until prices drop and capacities increase.

The bottom line: Many people believe that you can't have both better performance and longer battery life. My tests found that just isn't true. In fact, finding the configuration that provides the best performance often also provides optimal battery life.

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Brian Nadel

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