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PC Advisor's ultimate guide to buying a laptop

From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered

There's a huge array of choice when it comes to laptops, but with everything from netbooks and ultraportables to machines suitable for gaming and those designed to withstand use in rural locations, which should you choose. We've put together the ultimate laptop guide to help you decide.

Ultraslim

It's funny, but ultraslim laptops are defined more by what they do without than by what's included. To thin the machines down to their positively anorexic profiles, some laptop designers have cut out as much bone and muscle as fat, potentially reducing the system's usefulness on the road.

Still, because of their razor-thin profiles, these are the executive status symbols of our time. When you're carrying a beauty like the Apple MacBook Air and the Dell Adamo, those making do with a lesser model can only look on with PC envy.

Rather than the tiny screens and cramped keyboards offered by UMPCs and netbooks, this class delivers grown-up displays of 12.1 to 13.4in and full-size (or close to it) keyboards. With low-voltage processors, which consume less energy than most CPUs, they have just enough power for most everyday tasks.

This type of machine is really meant for reviewing the work of others, doing some web work, pounding out hundreds of emails a day and occasionally giving a presentation.

With jaw-dropping looks and the fastest processor in its class, the MacBook Air is the laptop to beat in this category. But it offers less than meets the eye because some of its parts - like its battery and hard drive - can't be easily upgraded or swapped.

Plus, it lacks an optical drive and has just one USB port, and connecting to a wired network or an external monitor (other than Apple's own monitors that support the Mini DisplayPort connector) requires an adaptor. This makes it less than road-ready.

Rather than a hard drive, ultraslims can be fitted with a 32, 64, or 128GB SSD for saving files; models with a 256GB SSD should be available later this year. This solid state storage is much less fragile than a hard drive and can increase an ultraslim system's performance, but it can also add £500 or more to the system's already pricey bottom line.

Ultraslims at a glance

Target audience: Made for executives on the go, these systems are as thin as laptops get these days.

Pros: Thin is in with this class of system, which easily slips into and out of a bag.

Cons: No DVD drive on some; limited ports, storage space and RAM upgradeability may reduce their useful life; and they can be very expensive.

Typical size / weight: 300x228x1 0r 2mmin /1kg

Screen size: 12.1 to 13.4in

CPU / RAM: 1.2 to 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo / 1 to 4GB

Storage: 120GB HDD or 64 to 128GB SSD.

Ports and connections: 1 to 2 USB ports; VGA, DisplayPort or Mini DisplayPort; audio; sometimes Ethernet; some require an adaptor for Ethernet or VGA.

Price range: £1,300 to £2,400.

Examples: Apple MacBook Air, Dell Adamo.

Buying tips: An external DVD is a natural add-on for a super-slim system that lacks an internal one.

NEXT PAGE: thin and light

  1. From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered
  2. Ultramobile PCs
  3. Netbooks
  4. Ultraslim
  5. Thin and light
  6. Tablet PCs
  7. Rugged PCs
  8. Budget laptops
  9. Mainstream
  10. Entertainment machines
  11. Gaming machines
  12. Mobile workstations



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