Laptop buying advice

People are always asking me about these cheap laptops they see advertised. I thought I’d write down my advice so I can just refer people here.

A laptop is bad thing to cut corners on. You are pretty much stuck with what you buy for the life of the machine.

Celerons are slow — try to stay away from them. The cost you pay in speed in frustation may be greater than the discount. Think long term here people.

Pentium M = Centrino. Same processor, different motherboard.

WiFi cards are basically comparable. The Dell card works just as well as the Intel one. That said, my Centrino laptop works flawlessly.

256MB RAM is not enough. Do not even consider running Windows XP on less than 512MB, especially with integrated video!

Add $50-$100 to get a decent amount of RAM if you buy from Crucial and install yourself. Otherwise add double those costs (Dell cut the system cost to the bone, they are going to ream you on upgrades).

RAM is really easy to install – you can do it yourself. Alternatively, the dinner you make/buy for a geek to install it is less than the cost DELL will charge you (roughly 100% of the unit cost) — and a geek gets a nutritious meal. Win-Win.

I would stay away from hard drives under 40 GB … in this day and age, that’s just too small. I have a 20 GB iPod that is 3 years old. Think about it.