Do I really need to 'supersize' my new laptop?

I am heading overseas shortly, and have just sold my PC in anticipation of getting a new laptop.

I’m not a high demand user - I have an iPod and a digital camera, but otherwise really just want to be able to surf the Internet, create word docs/spreadsheets and maybe watch DVDs.

I was looking at notebooks from HP/Compaq and Dell using Intel Celeron M processor, 256MB RAM etc, which seemed about ballpark for me.

But people at work have been telling me I need to get a Pentium M processor, and a min of 512MB RAM, separate graphics card etc. This adds another NZ$500 -800 to the price.

My question is, will I really notice the difference given what I am planning to use it for?

Also interested in opinions of PC user going to MAC - I have not used Apple before (other than in the early 80s!), are there any major advantages/disadvantages?

Thanks for any advice.

My first instinct says no. None of the applications you mention are very processor or RAM-intensive, and I’m guessing a few extra seconds opening ITunes or MS Word or whatever isn’t really going to bother you. Your internet browsing performance is basically a function of your connection speed as opposed to your processor or RAM.

Might want to consider a larger harddrive if you’re going to be storing a great deal of music and/or pictures.

DVD watching might be a bit of a problem on a slower machine, but I’m not sure.

I only have experince on the PC side, so I can’t make any recommendations on the PC vs Mac front, although I’m seriously considering getting a Mac for my next computer.

IMHO, 512MB of RAM is going to significantly improve your performace, moreso on a cheap laptop than on a desktop due to how slow the HD is. Anything else you can really take it or leave it.

I’d choose more RAM over less. But I’d also buy said memory cheap on my own. It’s about the only easy upgrade to do to a laptop computer (well, larger hard drive is easy too, and I agree with jweb on shelling the money out on that if you do for anything). 512 will help with the overly-elaborate cutesy GUI of Windows if you go PC, and it couldn’t hurt for Macs either. It will improve performance to have more memory, but it’s not a backbreaker.

Pentium M is better than Celeron M, but probably not noticeably for your purposes. Don’t sweat it much.

Graphics card? Phooey for your purposes. If you’re gaming with the laptop, yes. If you’re using some high-tech CAD or Matlab or some other specialized technical software, yeah. If you’re just surfing the web, word processing, and a little DVD viewing, you’re fine with the onboard.

I really don’t have anything to say about Macs, good or bad. I just don’t use them, except in a pinch.

I use Macs all day, although not as a PC to Mac convert. I’ve been on them since '86. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d recommend you switch, but I can answer questions if you have them.

I switched from a PC to a Mac a few years ago and don’t regret it a bit. If you mainly use your computer for the things you indicated, a Mac would be fine (you can use iTunes, Office, etc.). Plus, they have the advantage of lasting a long time. I’ve had my iBook since early '02 and almost nothing’s gone wrong with it.

The major disadvantage is that Macs cost a lot more. You’ll pay less for a fast PC than you will a mid-level Mac.

Macs are Macs. If you buy a Mac instead of a PC, you’ve got a Mac :slight_smile:

I’m typing this from a vintage 1998 “WallStreet” PowerBook. This computer has existed for almost a third of Apple Computer Inc’s total lifetime. I am not short on cash and could have upgraded to a newer computer if I felt it necessary (and it is, finally, getting to that point) but I don’t really have many complaints as a software developer.

Yesterday I did something phenomenally stupid and hosed a significant portion of the resources of OS X using a low-level 3rd-party hack that chose to die in mid-process. I could still boot but had no Finder. So I switched to booting from another volume using a simple Preferences Pane (equivalent to a doohickey in a PC’s Control Panel) and came up from a totally different volume, restored from backup, and despite some fingernail-chewing (because I’m nervous about deleting all files from my startup volume) it worked flawlessly.

We don’t have viruses or spyware. We are virus- and spyware-deficient over here in Mac-land.

I can run Windows 2000 or XP in emulation (Virtual PC) if I have to, but what’s far far easier is running NT 4.0 SP 6 in emulation. And you might be surprised at how much of current Windows software will actually run just fine under NT. WinNT Server just flies in emulation. And I’m on a vintage '98 PowerBook laptop upgraded to a G4/500, not exactly cutting-edge CPU here. A modern PowerBook can probably run XP at tolerable speeds. And if you get a PC virus you just throw away the virtual hard drive file and restore from backup.

It’s a laptop, not the most upgrade-tolerant of computer configurations, but in addition to upgrading the CPU via daughercard, I’ve added USB (via CardBus), FireWire (via CardBus), and can drive an external monitor as “extended Desktop” (yet again via CardBus but I’ve only got 2 slots so I only get 2 out of 3); upgraded the RAM to 512 MB; upgraded the HD several times, currently running a very fast 60 gig 7200 Hitachi; and I’m running the latest Apple operating system (“Panther”) on it. That should give you an idea of the practical longevity you get from a Mac. The Mac you buy today could easily still be your primary computer, to your satisfaction, 5 or more years later.

Ultimately, though, they are just computers, and if you prefer a PC and don’t hanker for the MacOS there are some solidly built, no-compromises, significantly impressive PCs out there. The brand that strikes me as closest to the PC equivalent of an Apple Mac is Alienware. I myself am totally a MacOS person but if I ever wanted a PC to really use and rely upon in some situation, those Alienware boxes and laptops don’t look like compromises. In the cheaper vein, Dells seem decently built but after you buy them anecdotal info indicates you might be pretty much on your own. And even with that, they cut corners compared to Alienware or Apple.

If you’ve got a taste for Unix, go with Mac. It’s all Unix under the hood. X11, command line standards, roll your own from source code, etc. Mac is BSD tree Unix with a proprietary GUI but an X11 to handle nonproprietary Unix GUI apps.