Suggestions from Walter Mossberg:
Buy plenty of memory, preferably 512 megabytes; get at least a 40-gigabyte hard disk; spring for USB 2.0 ports, slots for memory cards used in cameras and an Ethernet connector.
Laptop buyers also must consider issues that are specific to portable computing. And laptop shopping is much harder than desktop shopping, because laptops vary much more. The very term “laptop” covers a wide array of machines, from hulking desktop replacements to slender traveling companions. Their cost ranges from $700 or so to well over $3,000.
Size and Weight: At the light end are machines weighing just two to four pounds. These svelte models, from companies such as International Business Machines, Sony, Dell and Toshiba, are designed for sheer mobility and usually are purchased to complement a desktop PC. On the heavy end are large, bulky machines that aren’t intended to be mobile at all, unless by mobile you mean moving them between rooms in a house. These models, from most of the major companies, weigh seven pounds or more, and they are really desktop computers in the shape of laptops. They are meant to be a user’s principal computer. In the middle are laptops weighing between four and seven pounds, again from most major brands. These models are sort of swing machines: In many cases, they are replacing desktop computers, but they also can be lugged on airplanes.
Processor: I’d aim for a laptop powered by Intel’s Pentium M chip.
Battery Life: I’d insist on a laptop that can keep running for at least three hours on its standard battery.
Screen and Keyboard: I think a 12-inch to 14-inch screen is just fine if it’s sharp and clear. I believe IBM’s ThinkPads, in all sizes, have the best keyboards, but Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard keyboards are good, too.
Wireless Networking: I wouldn’t pay a penny for a laptop without built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking, even if it’s a big desktop replacement model. Try to get one that supports both the original “b” version of Wi-Fi and the faster “g” version.