Five Things to Consider When Buying A Laptop-4
Choosing an operating system (OS) -- essentially the tech term for Windows, Mac OSX, or Linux -- for your laptop can be a tough decision. Macs are sexy and cool, but can you run all the applications you need on them? Windows is the industry standard, but can be a security nightmare, and Vista is bloated and slow. Then there is the dark horse Linux, which is quick on its feet and infinitely customizable, but could give non-geeks migraines if anything stops working as Linux is known for being difficult to use.
Windows: The wealth of applications available for Windows makes it very alluring, but the wealth of viruses and spyware that target the OS can make it terrifying. Windows is the operating system for games, most of the most popular titles, 'Halo,' 'Bioshock,' and 'Crysis' aren't available on Mac or Linux. uTorrent (the best BitTorrent client out there in our subjective opinion) is also Windows only but the software gap between Windows and OS X has all but disappeared outside of the gaming world. If you've decided you need access to the most applications and hardware then you've still got to decide between Vista or XP. If you're planning on picking up one of those low-power ultra-portables, or a more budget conscious PC with limited resources, opt for XP, which is faster than Vista and much easier on your battery. The average user should be fine with Vista Home Premium. While XP may have it's benefits, Vista is the way of the future, and hoping on board now will save you some trouble when Microsoft stops supporting XP in a couple of years.
Mac OSX: After years of being overshadowed by Windows-based computers, notebooks (iBooks and MacBooks) that use the Mac OSX (also known as Leopard, in its latest incarnation) are gaining more acceptance. Third-party developers are building a substantial library of software to supplement the already impressive stable of Mac-exclusive applications, such as iTunes, iLife, and Garage Band, that are shipped with every Mac. Macs excel at creative tasks, such as music creation, photo editing, and video production. They're also more or less free of the viruses and spyware that plague Windows users (though it's a matter of debate whether this security will last or not). Sadly, you'll still encounter some compatibility issues with peripherals, such as printers, cell phones, back-up drives, and 3G wireless broadband cards (also, known as WAN cards, more on that later). And unless you're in publishing or graphic design, the corporate world doesn't appear to be embracing Macs any time soon.
Linux: If you're adventurous, or a tinkerer, you can always opt for Linux. Linux comes in many flavors called distributions. Dell sells PCs with the Ubuntu Linux distribution -- which is the Linux operating system plus a collection of useful software programs -- pre-installed. Ubuntu features useful apps including a Web browser, as well as presentation, document, spreadsheet, and instant-messaging software, and is the particular brand we would recommend, as it is the most user friendly and has one of the largest libraries of available software. Linux has many of the same pros (near invulnerability to viruses and spyware) and cons (lack of games and compatibility issues) as Mac OS X, but has an incredible library of solid free software like Tomboy, a note-taking application, Photoshop replacement GIMP, and the Open Office suite. These aren't perfect programs, by any means, but they certainly get the job done, and on the cheap (meaning, free). Plus, opting for a Linux-based laptop lets you take a stand against Steve Jobs and/or Bill Gates. The downside is that even basic troubleshooting may be a bit much for the novice computer user. Dell will sell technical support, and there is a large community of users out there who are very willing to help you solve your problems if you visit the Ubuntu forums, however solving issues in Linux can often involve complex command line operations or editing cryptic text files buried in hard to find places. If you have to ask what those terms mean, then you probably shouldn't be getting Linux.