Notebooks, the portable equivalent of your personal computer seem to be gaining in popularity lately. Years ago they used to come at a pretty hefty price tag and would only be affordable for those businesses or individuals that couldn’t do without a computer when traveling or working on location. Notebooks can be had from a number of respectable manufacturers today at price tags starting off at a mere $1000. Does that money buy you a notebook that’s equivalent to a $1000 desktop machine? Not really, but we can see a growing trend towards having a notebook as a valid desktop replacement, not in the $1000 price range though, but somewhere around $2500 depending on what your needs are.
One thing that is obvious is the fact that the compact nature of a notebook doesn’t lend itself too much flexibility when it comes down to swapping out system components. Many of us, and especially those that use their computers for a living such as programmers, animators, video editors etc. generally upgrade their system on a regular basis. Unlike most gamers and some enthusiasts they don’t do this to get a higher frame rate in the latest 3D game or to be positively sure they have an edge over the other players online. No, these people simply do this to increases their productivity, for example, a higher processor clockspeed speeds up compiling programs, rendering 3D images as well as image manipulation and thus they can get the job done in less time and we all know time-is-money.
Fig 1. Notebook of the desktop-replacement variety, featuring a semi-full-size keyboard and 14.1" TFT.
But can it really be a valid desktop replacement, or as some claim, a portable workstation? Keeping in mind that the majority of these notebooks will be used running off of their batteries, the trade-off will be either lower performance and extended battery life or minimum battery life and top performance. Having a notebook with a processor running at 1GHz and a 15” TFT screen might give you bragging rights, but if you only use it to type up some documents during a transatlantic flight or preparing some presentation you’re better off with something simpler. The more MHz and the bigger the screen the quicker you’ll be running out of batteries due to the high power drain of both the processor and TFT screen.
In reality most notebooks offer a compromise, you usually have the option of selecting a higher clockspeed processor or bigger screen, but thereby cutting into your battery life. As with a desktop system it depends on the user whether a 1GHz processor is more important than having, for example, 3-hours of battery life. In a desktop system we’re usually able to configure components such as harddisk capacity, memory, processor type and clockspeed and type of videocard ourselves. With a notebook we’re usually stuck with a basic configuration that can be ‘upgraded’ prior to your purchase with a faster processor, a higher capacity harddisk or more memory, if you need anything else you’ll be quickly running out of options.