Is your computer only a Monday-through-Friday office companion, or do you tend to your machine with a level of attention usually reserved for vintage sports cars? Whether you associate a computer with work, play, self-expression, or a little bit of all three, you should choose a laptop that matches your personal expectations. Take this quiz to find your computer personality.
1. What do you plan to use your laptop for?
a. Design, social networking, downloading music and movies—everything short of breathing.
b. Emailing, writing for work or class, uploading photos—a nice balance of work and play.
c. Word processing, spreadsheets, book-keeping, making PowerPoint presentations—all business, all the time.
2. When I'm using my laptop, it's usually…
a. On my desk at home.
b. Perched on my lap, either around my house, at work, a café--out and about.
c. At my desk at work, in my morning meeting, while I commute, in the airport—my laptop knows no bounds.
3. How fast do you need it to be?
a. I run complex programs that won't work unless my computer is fast—I feel the need for speed.
b. I don't like slow computers, but I don't need "Umbrella" to download in tenths of a second.
c. I don't care if it takes fifteen minutes for YouTube to load, as long as my email works. Slow and steady wins the race.
4. Do you typically use many applications at once?
a. I work in Adobe CS, check Facebook, chat on AIM, play a DVD and browse my music library all while downloading the most recent episode of The Office.
b. I'll sometimes be watching a movie, surfing the web and sending emails all at once.
c. I run Outlook, Word and Excel for work, while also checking my fantasy team.
5. Once you're done checking your email in the morning, what do you do?
a. Tweak the latest version of my website.
b. Update my MP3 player and upload last weekend's photos before getting back to work.
c. Save my presentation for my afternoon meeting, and then pack it up to head to the office.
6. Do you usually hook up a lot of external peripherals to your laptop?
a. I use a wireless mouse and keyboard, external hard drive, camcorder, audio recorder, wall projector, and printer.
b. I use an external hard drive, an USB cord to sync my phone and MP3 player and headphones for when I listen to music or watch a movie.
c. Maybe an external hard drive and a printer, but not much else.
7. What do you do with images from your digital camera?
a. Spend hours airbrushing blemishes, tweaking red eyes, and brightening the color.
b. Upload them as they are and set up a screensaver slideshow.
c. I still prefer my disposable camera.
8. Would you consider yourself a gamer?
a. I haven't seen the sun since July because my World of Warcraft ranking has been slipping, plus I have to make sure my Sim-child gets into a good college.
b. I occasionally dabble in a Call of Duty LAN party every once in a while.
c. Minesweeper is right up my alley.
9. If there was a long stretch where you were separated from your laptop, what's the first thing you'd do once you were reunited?
a. Hunker down with the numerous projects I'd been working on, download the hottest apps and programs on the market, and make sure all my software is updated and functioning properly.
b. Check my Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages to make sure I didn't miss anything important in my social circle, go through my email, then maybe chat with some of my Internet friends to get up to speed.
c. Turn it on to make sure it still works, and then neglect it until I absolutely have to do something for work.
10. Imagine your laptop was a person in your life. Who would it be and why?
a. My boss—constantly reminding me of important deadlines and driving me to work hard on my many projects.
b. My spouse—a steady source of companionship and joy throughout my day.
c. My dentist—I dread visiting and never enjoy my time there, and often leave with a toothache.
If you answered mostly As, you are the most highly evolved species of laptop. Whether you're a gamer or a graphic designer, you'll need a souped-up machine with optimal power, portability, and versatility. A Core Duo processor and 2GB of RAM will maintain your machine's speed and battery life as you run multiple applications. Opt for a super-sized hard drive (120GB, 7200rpm) to accommodate your multi-megabyte files. Gamers need advanced 3D graphic chips, along with 512MB of dedicated graphics memory.
Geek-up your notebook with more built-in hardware, like a rewritable DVD drive and Bluetooth technology. Wireless broadband access, either built-in or through an access device, will keep you from being tethered to Wi-Fi hotspots. Stick with a 15.4-inch screen or wider, allowing you to view spreadsheets and movies with ease. And upgrade to at least six USB ports so you can connect more of the latest peripherals.
If you answered mostly Bs, you like to mix business with pleasure. You aren't an obsessive tech geek, but you want the flexibility to watch Family Guy while checking your email and updating your Facebook profile.
For work, you'll be doing the basics: email, word processing, spread sheets, and Power Point. But, for fun, you'll also be downloading music and storing digital photos. Permanent data, such as pictures, mp3s, and documents, are stored on the hard drive. The more you plan to download, the more hard drive space you need. You need at least an 80 GB hard drive, and one with at least 7200 rpm will perform better.
The computer stores the programs it is running right now in its RAM, or random access memory. In order to run multiple programs at once, quickly—say, a DVD, a music player, and the ESPN.com homepage—you need something with at least 1GB of RAM. A built-in wireless antenna and an Ethernet port will connect you to high-speed internet. Be sure to get something with plenty of USB ports for your speakers, flash drive, and a mouse. For entertainment, get a CD/DVD drive and at least a 14.1 inch screen.
Since you selected mostly Cs, you're all work and no play. Your main concerns should be portability, security, and durability.
It's much easier to travel with a smaller, lighter machine, and a 13.3-inch widescreen will fit nicely in your carry-on and on a tray table. A shock-mounted or solid-state hard drive (SSD) will give your information some extra protection, and a spill-resistant keyboard is also important. And you'll definitely want a fingerprint reader – a security scanner built into the palm rest that allows you to enter multiple passwords with the swipe of a finger.
If business takes you on the road, make sure you can use an extended battery and that your notebook is equipped with 802.11 agn Wi-Fi. Frequent travelers should look for EVDO or HSDPA options—mobile broadband connections that don't require internet hotspots. Bluetooth technology will let you sync the laptop with your smartphone and also let you use a wireless mouse, but you'll also want some USB slots to accommodate an external optical drive or hard drive, as well. Look for 1-2GB of RAM and a 60-80GB hard drive, but keep in mind that more memory will mean more weight.