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Laptop Reviews and Buying Guide:

Laptops are the new desktop computers with bigger screens, more portability, improved features, and cheaper prices. PC laptops have come down in price so much that you can get a pretty good quality laptop computer for less than $1000. I recently purchased a Dell laptop for around $1200 with the intention of slowly eliminating my desktop PC at home. I travel here and there, but not extensively enough to justify an expensive or high end laptop at this point. With wireless Internet access almost everywhere you go, laptops allow you get online almost 24/7. Which laptops are rated the highest? Keep reading below to find out.

One thing that everyone can agree on is that technology within the computer industry changes so fast it's nearly impossible to keep up with it. While the desktop PC industry has become stagnant over the last few years, the laptop market has taken off as affordable and features have come into play. The slimmer the model and the more lightweight it is means the price will be high. The cheaper models are still great deals but have less bells and whistles. Apple laptops are considered the gems of this industry with innovative designs and very little worries of viruses or spyware since those problems are mainly associated with the PC market. Screen size has always been the drawing card for laptops, but the larger the screen probably means the bulkier the machine as well. The newer Dell I bought for my home has a 17-inch screen and is meant to replace my desktop but certainly wouldn't make a great full-time travel laptop. Business saavy travelers are looking for the 14.1 inch or even the 15.4 inch laptops with features to boot. Some of the 13.3 inch slim laptops are impressive, but I prefer a screen size a touch larger so you can actually view things ok. Another important feature to consider is battery life which can differ dramatically from laptop to laptop. The Apple MacBooks have the most impressive battery life with close to 5 hours of life. Most will give you between 2 and 3 hours of battery life without needing a recharging. Laptop repairs can mean invaluable downtime and few brands scored well in this area per Consumer Reports latest survey. Apple was the worst with 23% of their laptops needing some repairs done while Lenovo (IBM) rated the best with roughly 1 in 5 laptops needing work done on them. Which brands are the best? The top laptop manufacturers are Apple, Lenovo, Dell, Sony, HP, Toshiba, Gateway, Compaq, and Acer. Prices vary alot depending on screen size, weight, and features so shop wisely. Experts suggest getting a list together of what you are looking for (i.e. - 120 GB hard drive, DVD drive, 2 GB RAM, Wireless capability) and do some comparison shopping on the websites for these manufacturers. We scoured the top PC magazines and online websites like CNET to get the latest ratings on laptops and put some of our combined results down below. Keep in mind that as technology changes so does the idea of what the "best laptop" is.

Best Laptop:

The laptops that combined the performance and portability factors the best are the Dell Inspiron 1420 with a 14..1 inch screen and the Apple MacBook Pro with a 15.4 inch screen. The big difference is that the Apple is twice as much as the Dell ($2000 versus $1000). Both of these performance laptops scored well in categories like speed when it came to running applications or playing games. They both run on the Core 2 Duo chip from Intel. Apple has a better reputation for tech support which people seem to like these days. Dell offers some features that Apple doesn't. Apple laptops have less problems related to spyware and viruses which is another plus Battery life is close, but Apple outdoes the Dell laptop by about 1/2 hour. Both weigh about 5.5 pounds. If price is a consideration, we say the Dell is the superior machine.

Cheap Laptop:

Budget laptops can be found much easier than just a few years ago. One thing that seems prevalent with cheap laptops is that the companies offering them have suspect tech support. Toshiba leads the list with a few models including the Toshiba Satellite A215-S4697 ($600) which gets decent ratings and their Satellite M205-S3217 for $810 is another discounted laptop compared to the competition. Dell offers their Inspiron 1521 ($840) with the Turion processor and a slighly longer battery life. Tech support at Dell is better than that with Tosbiba so you have to weigh the difference in price versus perhaps having to get a problem solved later on. Personally, I know computers don't always work perfectly, so I would go with the Dell for support alone.

Work/Travel Laptop:

Looking for that slim laptop that is lightweight and powerful enough to run your work applications while traveling on an airplane. Experts say the Toshiba Satellite U305-S5077 ($900) with a Pentium Dual-Core processor could be the ticket. With a 13.3 inch screen and less than 5 lbs the Toshiba laptop is great for travel. The cheap pricetag will save you almost $700 if you choose to go with the Sony VAIO VGN-SZ440. I love the look of the Sony laptops, but with a 40% savings on price, I would forego the Sony and buy the Toshiba. Apple offers a 13-inch MacBook for $1300 which is priced roughly in between the Toshiba and the Sony. Apple is slowly gaining share in the laptop industry as more people become familiar with and like their products.

Laptop Tech Support:

In a recent survey by Consumer Reports magazine the truth came out about tech support for computer manufacturers. I don't think anyone was shocked to see Apple right at the top of the list and Dell and Lenovo fairly far behind in 2nd and 3rd place. Compaq brought up the rear with a less than 50% satisfaction rating and Gateway wasn't much better. I have called Dell several times for issues and usually had an answer within 10 minutes. Friends of mine had bought cheaper Gateway computers only to spend hours online trying to solve hardware or software failures which is on fun.

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