new laptop?

Hi, I know a lot of this has been done before, but I can’t search and I have a couple of questions I don’t remember going by, so here goes: I’m looking into new laptops (PCs) and I see some specs for reasonable prices. What I don’t really know anything about is the processors. What’s the difference between an AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual Core and an Intel Centrino Duo Processor? And what about brands of computers? Gateway, SONY, HP, Toshiba? And I never expected to see better prices in a Best Buy catalog than on NewEgg. Is that because that site is best for parts/building your own?

Anyway, I could probably find answers to some of this in various places online, but I thought I’d ask about software at the same time. I know the dope is a good one-stop answer location. I’ve been using AVG and Spybot Search and Destroy. Any other recommendations for virus/spyware software?

The reason I’m getting this laptop is to take it to Japan with me. I’ll be teaching English there for at least a year. Does anyone know where to find a text-converter for a PC? My gf’s Mac has a great one where you can type romanji and it converts to kanji and hiragana automatically. I was wondering if there was anything like that for the PC.

Once I get over there, I’ve been told that Yahoo Broadband is a pretty good option for a highspeed connection. I’ve also been looking at Skype or Vonage as my phone. Anyone had any experience with any of these companies?

Anyway, thanks for all the help.

Hey Bell. FYI, it’s hard to answer a gazillion questions at once so you might want to try to limit it to one or two important ones per post. And if you have a lot of notebook questions specifically, try instead.

Difference between processors: Between those two, it doesn’t matter a whole lot for the average home user. There might be slight differences in battery life, but that’s about it. Go for whichever laptop offers the best value.

Brands: Differences in customer service, warranties, prices, sizes, accessories/features, appearances, etc. Functionally, they all work pretty much the same… kinda like cars. Any notebook would be able to do the same basic tasks, so the manufacturers compete on secondary things. You might want to consider Apple too – the latest generation can run both Mac and Windows.

Anti-virus: Those two are good. There’s also Zonealarm if you want an all-in-one solution (but it costs money).

Japanese: There has to be. Don’t know of one offhand… but once you get to Japan, somebody there’s bound to know. Also, Japan is way ahead of the USA in terms of laptops and consumer tech in general, so you might want to wait until you get there to buy the notebook. It’ll be more expensive, generally, but the notebooks are more advanced / lighter / faster / smaller / “cooler” / whatever and you’ll be able to get local tech support. On the other hand, if all you need is a barebones notebook for basic office and Internet stuff, you might be more comfortable sticking with American companies, who’ll at least you give you everything in English.

Not sure about Yahoo in particular in Japan, but their broadband connections overall are generally ahead of what we Americans have to live with. You want fast Internet, you’ll find it. Skype should work just great if you need to call people back here, as should Vonage as long as they’re not involved in more legal issues at the moment.