The Square Circle’s guide to the perfect notebook

I’ve been researching on this topic for over 3yrs now…and although “research” is probably not the right word for it, it always intrigues me when people ask on choosing their perfect notebook.

I’ve tried to write this in plain English and leave out the geek-talk as much as possible but kindly excuse if there’s terminology in here that’s over the moon.

This list is by no means complete, but here’s a few simple things to keep in mind buying your next notebook.

a) First things first: Go do your homework

This is about as basic as it gets, and ultimately boils down to just answering two questions:

  1. What am I going to use it for?
  2. And where am I going to use it?

Half the laptops in the world are bought by people who don’t know what they want. Don’t end up paying good money for great features that you don’t really need.

For instance, if you’re just looking to play games and surf the net, yes you need a good graphics card and a large screen…but do you really need that biometric fingerprint reader, backlit keyboard and advanced hard-drive shock protection?

And if it’s just going to be sitting on your desk all the time, who cares about 5hour battery backup.
Here’s another tip: If it really is only going to sit on your desk all day…does it really need to come in pretty colors on the back of the lid where no one will ever see it?

Of course, if you’re planning on running around with it all over, and use it on trains, airplanes and maybe even in your bathroom, it does help to keep it light while eyeing for maxing out the battery.

A couple of years ago when a colleague of mine asked me to look out for a ‘good’ notebook for her, I put together the best configuration I could think of…only to be told later that all she was looking for was “something light-weight with a nice screen and pink colored”.

Lesson to learn: Do your own homework, not someone else’s.

b) You really don’t need a huge hard-disk

Yes, and I may be the only person on earth actually saying it, but it really is true.

One, it helps keeps the clutter down:
When you know you don’t have infinite storage, you’ll start cutting down on the junk you have on it – those lame forwarded emails and the stupid bundles of trial and freeware that you’d never need. There’s nothing worse than a high performance notebook bloated up with trialware.

Two, and more importantly, it encourages you to store more important (and permanent) data on an external drive so that when you laptop crashes (which will happen one day) you don’t lose everything.
I should know…I’ve been a victim of this. Twice.

And here’s an added bonus: When you have a copy of your important data elsewhere, makes it easier to carry it around to say, another computer or even another country.

c) There’s no such thing as a Future-Proof laptop

Let me get this to you straight: No matter what you buy, regardless of whether it has the greatest configuration on earth right now, it WILL get outdated…and sooner than you think.

It’s simply not worth spending that much on a laptop.

So don’t waste your money on specs that you think you ‘might’ need down the line.
I found this out the hard way when I bought my first notebook and spent extras on the highest RAM available at the time, so that it could run memory-intensive applications and OSes like Vista and stuff later on.

Less than three years later, my 1GB of RAM seems almost laughable; and most certainly cannot do most of what I have hoped for.

Moral of the story: If you’re a guy who hardly ever watches movies, you definitely do not need a Blu-Ray drive even if it’s the hottest thing there is right now. Who knows, a year down the line they might become as commonplace as camera-phones are now.

Get the specifications you do need, not what you might need.

d) It helps to have inside information

I know a friend who works for a major computer manufacturer, and because his job is selling computers, I dare say he knows a thing or two about laptops and how they are priced.

And he’s also told me inside stuff on their brand that I’d never have otherwise known. Obviously, I can’t write what he said or who he works for…but I’ll just say this: don’t believe everything you read on computer websites.
I leave the rest to your imagination.

e) Stick to the basics

Unless you’re getting a Mac or clever enough to work with Linux, I guess it is safe to say the rest of us are stuck with Windows Vista for the time being.
And since you will probably end up paying for it, might as well make the most of it.

I, for one, prefer Vista Home Basic because it offers a cleaner, more simpler and leaner interface than say, Aero.
Also, the only extras Home Premium provides (apart from 3D flip and all the glitter) are the Media Center and connectivity/maintenance tools I know most people never use.

So unless you’re a sucker for eye-candy, you’re better off without all this trash hogging your resources.
But no matter which version you eventually get, do the logical thing first and get rid off all those stupid extras and trialware you’ll never need.

f) Warranties do matter

If you’re one of those people who looked at the “Extended 3year Complete Cover” and decided it was for children, think again.

Accidents do happen: it could fall off your desk, the motherboard might decide to die, or you just might spill coffee on the keyboard.
It can happen to anyone.

And the worst thing about notebooks is, for the most part there’s nothing inside that you can fix yourself (as opposed to desktops), so you’re left at the mercy of those service centers and their prohibitively expensive costs.
Here’s where warranties, especially extended warranties, help because most problems start approximately a year after you get it.

Yes, it is a bit of an initial investment, but in the long run it pays for itself.

Ultimately, its what you get done "on" your notebook that counts...and not what you need to get done "for" it.
And a few wise decisions, go a long way in achieving that.


Rayees Ahamed said...

very comprehensive dude ...

Many of my friends usually go after looks.. Believe me , all those pretty looking lappies in the market suffer from heating problem. Many cant work on the lappy over their laps. While the really cooler ones are not cool in looks, those cool in looks are not in price :).

Aersh said...

wow... this was certainly useful especially since i'll be buying a new laptop soon. i've saved this writing of yours to use it whn i but it!!!!

nd abt my story - dat george thingy... no comments from me...*wink*wink*

-=A.R.N.=- said...


But on the other side, most people are happy with a cool-looking notebook.

Thx...and lemme know if you need'advice' on laptops as well.
And regarding George, the fact that he's universally despicable is well known.

Lena said...

thats some sensible article.. good one, guess might be help for some people.. But i DO need largeeeeeeee hard-drive :D

i always have some 1-2 gb left from my 120 :D and then got to clean and clean and clean and i so feel sad when i need to clean :( :P

PS: am shifting to Please do add the new link to your blogroll :)

A wo(a)ndering mind said...

awesome! very useful! I have always wanted a checklist like this. Something somebody else prepared since I am incapable of doign it. Thank you I am sure it will come int handy.

btw. I tagged you a long time ago

-=A.R.N.=- said...


Thx for letting me know.
I think The Colors Magazine is quite lovely! Did you do that yourself? Really pretty!

And abt your HDD, sorry but I must disagree
you probably need a lot of storage - not a large disk.
Its always better to have your data elsewhere.
Believe me when i say its a miserable feeling when your disk dies on you.

-=A.R.N.=- said...


Thx! But you're incapable of making a list like this?? C'mon...
you can probably make a better one than me.

And abt the tag thing...yeah, I will get to it within the next few posts.

Darshan Chande said...

I have closed comments on my blog because from now on I will only write posts which are comprehensible only for intelligent and philosophic readers which are in sheer minority in our blogosphere.

And, I am no more a part of you-comment-i-follow thing.

-=A.R.N.=- said...

Sorry to hear that.

Cva said...

Good post! One of my friend needed help in buying a laptop. I just told him Intel core Duo, 4Gigs Ram, Video card with 128 Meg Ram, 120 Gig HDD with 7200 RPM(Though it produces more heat), Bluetooth and wifi card.

But Honestly after reading your post. I rethink to change the cofig, but its too late. Anyways your post will do lot of change here on in suggesting somebody.
I am thinking of getting another laptop, waiting for windows 7 to release.

-=A.R.N.=- said...


Hmm...I guess you don't get a 120GB drive anymore? The smallest I see these days are at least 160gigs.
Here's a config I'd like, in case someone else might be interested...what'd you think:
T8300 processor
160-2500GB HDD
3-4GB DDR3
256-512MB Nvidia
...the plus or minus depending on usage.

Lena said...

ummm... yaa we can say i need a lot of storage, just am too laze to copy the data onto some cds :D

as for the Colors Magazine.. yup, i did it myself :) Thanks!