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Considering a move to a laptop full time, any advice?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 5, 2007 5:39 PM PDT
Question:

Dear members, I'm thinking of phasing out my desktop PC and just going with a laptop for full-time computing at home, on the go, wherever. I have accessories to plug in when I'm at home, including a desktop printer, scanner, external hard disk, cable modem, and speakers with an amp. I know I'll probably need a dock as well, but I'm not sure what else. Is this a good idea? What should I do to prepare for such a transition?

--Submitted by: David B.


Answer voted most helpful by our members:

Each year I see an increasing number of computer users are trading their Desktop computers for Laptop/notebook computers. The shift from Desktop PC?s to Laptops has been sparked primarily by lower priced laptops as well as the convenience of Wireless networks, which are everywhere. I think that as people use their computers more and increase the number of hours that they spend in font of the computer screen, they find the attraction of being able to move their computer around the house or outside almost irresistible. I have to say that I now use my laptop computer about 80% of the time. However, I still use a desktop for things like Video editing, gaming or applications where I need the power or storage capacity of a desktop or the convenience of my dual screen setup.

Even though it may seem like there is no real big difference between a laptop and a Desktop, there are some very distinct pros and cons that you should be aware of. Keep in mind that if your needs are minimal, than some of these differences may not be of any real concern to you.

LAPTOP PROS
1. Portability ? No Contest in this area. If you have a need for mobility, than a laptop is the only way to go. Take it to work, on vacation or to the local coffee shop.

2. Uses Less Space ? Many users find that the reduced amount of space that a laptop takes up on the desk is well worth the switch.

3. Uses less electricity ? A laptop will generally consume less electricity, especially if you happen to be replacing an older desktop that has a traditional CRT monitor.


LAPTOP CONS
1. More Expensive than Desktop ? It may be a little difficult to compare the two but to purchase a laptop with the same power and features as a desktop would cost about twice as much.

2. Not as Powerfull as a desktop ? In general, laptops do not have the same capabilities as the larger desktops. For example: The maximum hard drive available today for a laptop is about 160 gig as compared to about 500gig for a desktop. They tend to use slower, more energy saving processors and components. This may be more of an issue for heavy computer users and gamers.

3. Life Expectancy ? Laptops do not tend to last as long as desktop computers. This could be due to extra bumping, dropping and overheating that normally goes hand in hand with portability. But also, laptops can not be upgraded to the extent that desktop computers can, so they will typically be replaced more often just to keep up with technology changes.

4. More expensive to repair ? When something does go wrong, laptop repairs can cost 2, 3 or even 4 times more than desktop computers. In many cases, if your laptop is out of warranty, it may not even be worth getting it repaired. To give you a few examples: I had to order a new DVD drive for a HP laptop a few weeks ago. The replacement cost for the drive was $239. This same type of drive for a desktop would run about $60. A Standard replacement keyboard for a Dell laptop cost me about $80 and about ? hour to install and test. You can pick up a standard keyboard for a desktop for about $20 and install it yourself. I had to replace the screen on a Sony TR3 last year, Sony charge me $700. If this were a desktop, I could have purchased a new monitor for about $200 and had use of the computer in about 1 hour rather than the 3 weeks it took to send it back to Sony.

5. Limited Upgrades ? Laptops are fairly limited as to what can be upgraded. Yes you can add some extra memory or maybe a new hard drive, but you can forget about upgrading the video card, processor or motherboard. Also upgrades tend to cost more than desktops.

6. Down Time ? If your laptop needs repair, you may be without a computer for several weeks. Laptops are typically built with many custom or proprietary parts. When something goes wrong, the parts usually need to be ordered or the computer may even need to be sent back to the manufacturer for service, leaving you without a computer for several weeks. This is less likely with a desktop computer.

7. Recycled Parts ? The overall value of purchasing a desktop computer is often extended by reusing some of the parts. This is especially true of the monitor. It is very common for people to reuse the monitor or move it to other computers in the house. Nothing much can be reused on a laptop.

PURCHASING A LAPTOP

1. If you decide to go with a laptop, I can not stress enough the importance of picking out a unit that you are comfortable with as well as one that meets your technical needs. You should ask yourself questions such as: Do I like the screen? Am I comfortable with the keyboard? How about the USB ports? Are they in the right places? Unlike a Desktop computer, where if you don?t like the screen, mouse or keyboard, you can easily swap it out for another, you are stuck with what you get with a laptop. Short of purchasing and hooking up an external monitor, if you don?t like the size of the screen or maybe the high-gloss reflective coating that comes on most laptops now, there is not much you can do.

2. Purchase all the accessories that you need or want with the computer instead of waiting to go back later to get them. Laptops models change so fast that the accessory you want may not be available later. It is also often more expensive to purchase add-on items at a later date. So if you really think that you need extra long battery life, order that extended life, 9-cell battery with your computer.

3. Always insist on Recovery/Installation CD?s with your computer. Don?t let anyone tell you that you don?t need them. Believe me when I tell you that 3 years down the road when your hard drive fails and the backup CD?s you created on day one have oxidized and no longer work, you will need those CD?s. If you did not receive any with your computer, you can usually order them for about $10.

4. Windows Vista or XP ? Unfortunately, this is probably not the best time to be purchasing a new computer because Windows Vista is so New and full of problems and you kind of hate to purchase the older XP. If you plan to purchase all new Vista Compatible hardware and software than not a problem, go with Vista. But if you need to integrate some older software and some existing hardware such as an all-in-one printer, you may want to consider ordering your new computer with Windows XP, or holding off until Vista has time to mature. If you are not in a rush, I would suggest waiting 6 months.

PLANNING THE SWITCH

You need to plan your migration to any new computer regardless of the type of computer or operating system you plan to purchase. NOTE: I personally do not recommend using any of the migration software packages that are available that claim to move everything from your old computer to your new one.

1. Inventory Current Software and Hardware ? You will want to make a list of all the hardware and software that you currently use. Write down every program that you use and include any new items that you might like to have. Pull together all the original installation CD?s and License numbers to make sure you are not missing anything. If you will be throwing out your old computer, you may be able to reuse some of the software, but that will depend on the software and licenses.

2. Compatibility Issues - If you are moving to a new Operating system, you will need to check each item in your inventory list for compatibility with the new system. You can find this information online and may need to download new drivers or versions or even have to purchase some new software. For Vista, you could download and run the Vista Compatibility Wizard on your old computer just to get some ideas, but don?t rely 100% on the wizard results, I have found that it misses many problems, but it is a good starting point.

3. Personal Data ? Go through your Inventory List from above and make a notation as to what data you want to save as well as its location. If you do not know exactly where the data is stored, that is ok for now, but just note that there is data from that program, so you don?t forget. Your list may look something like this:

Word 2003 OK with WinXP C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents
Excel 2003 OK with WinXP C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents
PowerPoint OK with WinXP C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Documents
Favorites OK with WinXP C:\Documents and Settings\User\Favorites
Outlook OK with WinXP C:\Doc?\User\Local Settings\Application Data\...
Quicken OK with WinXP C:\Doc?\User\My Documents\Quicken\...
iTunes OK with WinXP C:\Doc?\User\My Documents\My Music\itunes
Turbo Tax OK with WinXP Not sure

4. How to Move Data ? There are several ways to move your data from your old computer to a new one. You can do it all manually or with some assistance. I have found that the Windows Files and Settings Transfer Wizard does a nice job for when you are moving from Win98, ME, 2000 or XP to a new XP computer. Windows Vista also has a similar tool. You can use any of the following methods to transfer data regardless of which way you are planning to move the data.
a. Network Connection ? If you have a home network and you are familiar with setting up file sharing, you can transfer your data over the network.
b. CD/DVD ? If your old computer has a CD or DVD burner, you could burn all of your data to that.
c. USB Network Cable ? Belkin and other companies make a USB data transfer cable that allows you to transfer files from one computer to another.
d. USB Hard Drive ? Transfer your data to the USB Drive and then to your new computer.
e. Flash Drive ? A flash/thumb drive will work as long as you don?t have enormous amounts of data.
f. Install Old Drive into USB Enclosure - For about $29 you can pick up a USB enclosure that will turn your old drive into a USB drive allowing you to read it from any other computer.

Regardless of which method you decide to use, I would take this opportunity to go through your files and clean out some of the junk that has been collecting before moving your data over to your new computer.


OTHER EXTRAS and ACCESSORIES

Even though you can purchase a laptop for under $700 these days, the extras can almost double that price. Software, Security Suites, Docks and extended warrantees can really add up. Here is a list of items that you may want to consider:

1. Office Suite ? Most everyone needs at least a word processor and in many cases Excel and PowerPoint. Depending on your needs you can expect to spend between $149 and $500 for an Office Suite. Don?t forget to check out Student/Teacher versions which if you qualify can save you several hundred dollars. If you are not picky, there are some great alternative to Microsoft Office such as Corel?s office Suite which included Word Perfect or even FREE versions such as Open Office.

2. Security Software ? You will need some form of Security Software. You will probably receive a free trial of Norton or McAfee that you will have to pay for in a month or so to continue coverage. Depending on your Internet Service provider, they may offer some free software.

3. Laptop Case ? If you are going to be traveling with your laptop, you will need a sturdy carrying case. Try to find something that has some protective cushioning to protect the laptop in the event that you drop it.

4. Docking Station ? Some laptop models have a connector on the bottom or back that is designed to plug into a specific docking station. If you plan to use your laptop as a replacement for a desktop, you may want to take advantage of this feature and have a full size monitor, Speakers, keyboard and mouse attached to the dock. You can usually accomplish this same effect without a dock, but you will plugging and unplugging all kinds of cables each time you want to take your laptop with you. With the dock, you simply push one button and away you go. NOTE: Don?t confuse a port replicator, which some companies call a universal Dock, with an actual docking station.

5. Keyboard and Mouse ? Many users prefer using a regular size keyboard and mouse or at least prefer to use a mouse rather than the touch pad. You can easily install either of these in a wired or wireless version.

6. Laptop Lock ? If you will be traveling a lot or using your computer in locations that are less than desirable, then you may want to consider an laptop lock or alarm.

7. Power Supply- Depending on your needs, you may want to consider purchasing a second power supply or maybe even a car cord to be able to plug your laptop into a standard cigarette lighter. Having an extra power cord makes it just that much easier to pick up and run with your laptop.

8. Laptop Cooling Pad ? Other than dropping your laptop, a common killer of laptops is overheating. For about $29, you can purchase a cooling pad that goes under your laptop when it is being used at your desk. This is especially useful if you typically leave your computer on all the time.

9. Extra Battery or Extended Life Battery ? If you spend a lot of time on the road and battery life is major concern to you, some models offer the ability to add a second battery or to replace the original battery with a longer life version. For example, when you order a Dell Laptop you have a choice between a 6-cell standard battery or the 9-cell longer life battery.

10. Wireless Options ? Many more options are starting to surface for Wireless connectivity. Besides Standard WiFi and Bluetooth, one major option that you should be aware of is the built-in Cell phone data cards. More and more models are offering data cards for connecting to the internet through the cell phone network. These plans tend to run about $59.99 per month but if you travel a lot and need constant connectivity without having to go searching for the nearest WiFi hotspot, this is a great way to go. You can purchase the cards that plug into the external PCMCIA slot on virtually any laptop or get the built-in version on select models only. I have seen them available on some Sony and Dell models. Dell lets you choose between either Verizon or Cingular (at the time of order) and I think Sony only offers the Cingular service.

11. Warrantees ? All laptops come with some form of factory warrantee and all suppliers would love to sell you one of their extended plans. Personally I do not normally recommend purchasing any additional warrantees on a laptop priced less than $1000. But that may be just me. Keep in mind that once a laptop is out of warrantee the minimum repair cost can easily be $200 and more. If you do decide to purchase an extended warrantee, make sure you totally understand exactly what it is you are getting. What is covered? Who will fix it? Will it have to be sent out? How long will I be without my computer? Does it cover accidental damage? What is covered under the normal warrantee?

Good Luck with whatever you decide.

Dana
Wayland Computer

--Submitted by: Dana (CNET member: waytron)

If you have any advice or recommendations for David, let's hear them. Click on the "Reply" link to post. Thanks!
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If you put a desktop's tower under the desk
by HomerRamone / April 6, 2007 8:56 AM PDT

(like you may be doing with a subwoofer) a flat screen and keyboard take up less space than a laptop, so why don't you wirelessly connect the laptop and use it anywhere else convenient?

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Answer for David B.
by millercave / April 6, 2007 9:10 AM PDT

You can do what ever you want,but for me I have both decktop and
laptop,and I like them both; sometimes I like to work on my Decktop,
and sometimes I like to work on my Laptop ; it give me the feeling
that I can control as much work on both computers as I want to,
and beside when your a computer ( FREAK ) well anything goes.
Luc

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good plan so far
by Chinookman / April 6, 2007 9:16 AM PDT

So far you have listed many positive steps for reliability and a back up of your data.
External hard drives (maybe two for you file management and back up?)
docking system for ergonomic comfort
you have speakers, office peripherals
recommend a full system/data image of you laptop hd up to date and then maybe consider a lo-jack for you laptop. It will be open to the risk of damage,theft,etc.
Consider possible performance upgrades so your machine can stay up w/ your app install demands. I.E. video card, 2gig memory and then ...enjoy...

C-man

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Desktop Replacement
by drjoebdavis / April 6, 2007 9:23 AM PDT

David,

My suggestion is that you first avoid the compact notebooks with the little screens. They may be attractive for traveling, but the eyestrain will kill you.

I have a HP Pavilion DV9000Z and it makes a wonderful desktop replacement. First, it has a 17-inch screen, and you can set the resolution to lower than the default. (Most all the notebooks have widescreens, which means that you don't have as much top to bottom as you're used to and not as much total area as on a conventional aspect ratio screen, although they are the right ratio for movies.) The DV9000Z (and other Pavilion 17-inch notebooks) also has a normal numeric keypad and a good size keyboard. (I once got a Toshiba in numeric mode and took forever to recover to normal operation.)

You'll likely have Windows Vista by default, so you want at least 1 MB of RAM. The HD capacity depends on your needs. Vista is annoying in some respects but you learn to adapt.

The Pavilion does not have a parallel printer connection, so you need a USB printer, which you may already have, and the Pavilion has 4 USB ports. If you go with it, you will have a plethora of ports so may not need a docking station.

If you keep your eyes open, you can find decent rebates on the Pavilion.

Even if you decide on another brand, I strongly urge the 17-inch screen and numeric keypad.

Joe D.

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David B .... moving from desktop to laptop
by Watzman / April 6, 2007 9:32 AM PDT

David,

Really, you don't need a whole lot. Not that many laptops offer a true "docking station" these days, unless you get a high-end business model. Since almost everything has gone to USB, what used to be a "docking station" with a true "[PCI] bus interface" to the motherboard chipset has pretty much given way to so-called "docking stations" that are mostly USB hubs, although some of them do have the "legacy ports" that are no longer present in laptops. This includes PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, serial and parallel ports, although the manner in which these are implemented (especially serial and parallel ports) is such that they won't work with all software and devices that might use them.

Another concern here is that some devices --- and I mean USB devices --- won't work with USB ports on USB hubs; they require connection directly to a "root hub" on the motherboard or directly on a PCI expansion bus. I know that many USB printers (especially HP) fall into this category, but so do some other devices. Also, while they may work on a hub, things like external hard drives that are really bandwidth sensitive may be seriously degraded operating through an external hub rather than being connected directly to a motherboard USB port. The problem is that many laptops only have 2 or 3 motherboard USB ports, and if you have devices that don't like connections via a USB hub, you can run out of motherboard USB ports rather quickly.

Beyond that, the matter of whether or not a laptop will meet your needs depends on what you needs are, and your preferences. Most desktops today have 19" screens with 1280x1024 resolution (sometimes higher, sometimes "widescreen"), while most laptops are now 14" to 17" "widescreen" models with lower resolutions. So the screen and the keyboard are really two very major considerations for anyone moving from a desktop to a laptop as their primary (non-traveling) computer. Two other major concerns are the video system and the hard drive. Laptop video systems are never, not even close to the equal of what you CAN get (for a lot of money) in a desktop, but they are entirely adequate for most non-gaming and non-CAD applications. And laptop hard drives are both smaller and slower (a lot smaller and a lot smaller) than desktop hard drives. For example, a 160GB 5400rpm laptop hard drive is a "high end" laptop drive, but on a desktop there are 500GB 7200 rpm drives available that will cost less than that laptop drive (and their seek speed and performance is a lot faster as well). So if size and speed (or the ability to have more than a single internal drive) matter, it's a strike against moving to a laptop as your only computer. But, again, the products available on laptops are still entirely adequate for most users.

If these limitations are not in conflict with your needs, then a laptop may well suit all of your needs. As far as what accessories to get, you will need a good case for the laptop and the travel accessories. I'd also get a 2nd AC power supply for the laptop, and an "auto/air" power supply for use in a car and/or airplane. I'd get a wireless optical mouse made for laptops, one that stores it's "receiver" in the mouse itself (logitech and Microsoft both make them). I'd also get a pair of Ethernet cables (straight through and "crossover"), and a travel USB hub with a power supply (get one that has a switching power supply so that it's small and lightweight while still supplying at least 2 amps). If the laptop doesn't have a flash memory card reader, a USB reader that will read all formats is small and inexpensive. And that probably covers most of the things that you will need.

If you are going to be traveling with the laptop, give some thought to data loss and security, which are more important considerations than on a fixed desktop. You need to be FAR more aggressive about backups when you have only one computer, a laptop, that you travel with. Consider that if it's lost, stolen or damaged you don't have a computer to fall back on. And consider the consequences if it's stolen ... you will probably have credit card numbers, passwords, userIDs, social security numbers, date of birth, tax returns and other personal data on the laptop. From an identity theft perspective, the risk in case of loss is substantial. Also, laptop drives (both hard drives and optical drives) are not as reliable as their desktop counterparts. Two things to consider in this regard are an extended warranty (in particular one that includes accidental damage coverage) and an insurance policy that explicitly covers the laptop (your homeowners policy might do this, perhaps with a low-cost rider, but check with your insurance agent).

[Personally, although it's more expensive, I still like having a desktop "primary" computer and a laptop as well, as a 2nd computer, for traveling.]

Hope that this helps,
Regards,
Barry Watzman

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Re: Security
by kjim9 / April 15, 2007 8:37 AM PDT

Windows Vista Ultimate comes with the ability to encrypt the filesystem so that the information on the disk isn't usable to anyone who steals the computer. Admittedly governments and large companies may have the ability to decrypt the information. Ubuntu 6.10 also supports encrypted filesystems. I am not sure about Mac O/S. The submission didn't mention what O/S you would be using.
Jim K

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Depends on the type of peripherals you have now.
by mjd420nova / April 6, 2007 9:45 AM PDT

If you've got a lot of those items on USB, then you could be sitting pretty. Most laptops don't have a lot of slots to put other devices but a USB port and a multiport hub would give you access to use all the items you want, not neccesarily all at once, but they would be usable. Cable modems, printers, scanners, card readers external video cards and sound cards are all available with USB inputs. That way you could have it all and this would even apply to keyboards, web cameras and all.

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No Dock, no anything other then USB
by techtype / April 6, 2007 9:49 AM PDT

David

There are some constraints with Laptops. They usually do not have the same amount of hard drive space as Desktops. Audio and graphs are usually limited to what comes with the Laptop. Usually also Laptops are not amendable to play action games on them (sure we can play Solitaire on them, even Hearts in multi-player mode). The connections are just too slow for multi-player games. Why do I say this? Because anything you get will have to be USB for the Laptop, which isn't all bad.

Other then the limitations that been mentioned above then by all means buy a Laptop. But here is what I would do to avoid the need for a dock. I would in the future make any purchase USB compatible. There are adapters that can make most if not all of your serial and parallel peripherals USB compatible. What I would do is get a USB multi-port extension this way the expense of a dock is not needed. Depending on how new the peripherals are they should be USB equipped or have provisions for a USB connection.

By the way if you do not have to get rid of the old Desktop, use that as back up to the laptop.

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Making The Transition From Desktop to Notebook Computer
by lewisedge / April 6, 2007 10:12 AM PDT

Having made that transition several years ago, I never looked back or regretted my decision. If you plan ahead, you'll probably never need to connect anything but a power cord and perhaps a mouse to your notebook computer after you make the transition. In my opinion "docking" your computer is not necessary. My notebook computer can reliably print, scan, FAX and access other network drives both in my home office and in my company office either wirelessly or by plugging in a single CAT5 cable.

First: Your cable modem should be connected to a Wi-Fi router, not directly to your computer. This gives you a hardware firewall, a simple network and extra protection from hackers. I happen to like the Linksys Wireless G Broadband Router with SRX200 - WRT54GX2 because it is reliable, easy to set up and has superior range, but other brands should work okay. Encrypt your Wi-Fi and you'll have a fast, secure wireless connection as long as your computer is within range of your router.

Second: Then buy only printers and scanners that have a CAT5 network connection. Plug it (or them) into your router and assign them fixed IP addresses. Some decent combination color inkjet printer, scanner, copier, FAX models sell for as little as $150. Monochrome laser models don't cost a lot more. If it is not convenient to locate your router where you want to use your printer(s), scanner(s), etc. get a Netgear Wireless Print Server 54 Mbps w/ 4 Port Switch - WGPS606 and you can put your peripherals anywhere within Wi-Fi range of your router.

Third: Following the instructions that came with your hardware, install the software and drivers on your notebook computer that allow you to use all of your peripherals on your network. That's about it! When you want good sound, you can always plug external speakers into the headphone jack of your notebook computer and enjoy. Having the freedom to use your computer and all of your peripherals wirelessly is enormously convenient and emancipating.

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I made "the jump" back in 2004 and never looked back
by markmorto / April 6, 2007 10:37 AM PDT

David:
With the recent advances in laptop quality, power - including decent graphic card options - and ever increasing LCD sizes, there is little difference between desktops and laptops. Power users will tell you that your upgrade options are limited, and this is largely true, but if you "bulk up" with a decent system to start with, it will most likely never effect your computing experience. The benefit that laptops provide is the reason they were invented in the first place: portability. Packing for a trip is as easy as closing the lid and popping it in a case. For someone like myself that used to pack up my desktop to go on "working vacations", laptops totally rock - I'm never turning back.

First off, determine what your needs are. If you're a gamer, a decent size hard drive, LCD, and graphics processor with dedicated memory are mandatory. If you use your computer for email, Ebay, and shopping Craig's List, save some cash and get a basic system, which will have you playing the decent games of yesterday for many years to come (check out the Home of the Underdogs online). If you're dog fits into your pocket, and the coffee shop is your second home, an ultralight could be perfect for you. The one drawback is that laptops seldom hold their value, so buying the "right one" for you that meets your needs a year from now is a good guideline to go buy - this will ensure you get your money's worth!

Then there's the whole Mac vs. PC thing. I'll leave this up to you, as I have no idea what applications you have in your stable or your experience and needs. Both platforms are completely viable, sleek looking, yada, yada.

For the record, I'm one of those power users that used to upgrade my PC pretty much on a whim - it never seemed like there was enough power for me. So when I made the switch in 2004, most of my family/friends thought something was wrong - "What's Mark going to do in his spare time now?" Ironically, that's the very reason I decided to switch - to see if there was life after computers. I'm happy to say there is. I say go for it - and never look back!

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Lap top & other body parts
by gwkeeler / April 6, 2007 11:09 AM PDT

Hi David,
A lot depends on how much you use your computer, how automatic you are, and the kinds of tasks you perform. If you're planning to spend a lot of time on a laptop, I'd suggest seeing if your chiropractor has a high-use plan. It's just about impossible to set up a laptop so that both your hands/arms and head/eyes are in an ergonomic position. If you're a touch typist and do nothing but key in documents, you're probably OK, since you won't need to watch the screen, and when you're proof reading you can raise the machine with your hands off the keyboard. Same for watching DVDs; you won't need to have your hands on the keyboard much, so position the screen at eye level. If you're doing desktop publishing, editing photos or movies, playing interactive games, working on spreadsheets, you've got a challenge in setting yourself up to reduce the chance of injury. You could use an external keyboard and/or monitor. Your eyes might appreciate a larger screen.

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About ergonomics
by teach920 / April 13, 2007 11:40 PM PDT

As an anatomy professor and health care professional I have to repectfully disagree here. A laptop used properly (IN THE LAP) is far more ergonomically correct and anatomically friendly than most desktops. Virtually NO ONE keeps their chair high enough and their monitor screen and keyboard low enough, causing excessive cervical curvature which results in numerous cervical disc and cervical plexus issues requiring chiropractic, pharmaceutical and surgical interventions. Couple this with bad desk chair ergonomics and legs in a static, dependent position for hours on end and things just get worse with lumbar problems, phlebitis and lower limb neuropathy.

What are the anatomical advantages of the laptop? You can work in a natural, restful position in a comfortable well-padded chair or sofa or even bed: neck straight or bent slightly in the best direction (down), lower back relaxed (reduced lordosis), legs propped up for better circulation, elbows at a more relaxed angle, shoulders dropped rather than hunched up , wrists straight rather than cocked and resting on palm rests rather than air, eye muscle strain reduced because we are designed to look DOWN, not up. Our only "natural" spinal curvature is the thoracic curve .. a notebook helps you return your spine to the C-curve you were born with! You can also change positions frequently to minimize any anatomical stress.

Note that you lose all of those advantages if you use your laptop with a docking station on a desk with a monitor and mouse rather than in your LAP where it belongs!

What are the disadvantages? Less ergonomic laptop keyboards may promote lateral wrist flexion ... this can be uncomfortable but does not promote carpal tunnel syndrome like the cocked-upward wrist position does. Buy the laptop with generous palm rests and the best keyboard that fits YOU (and that isn't necessarily full-sized; as a woman with small hands a full-sized desktop keyboard is an uncomfortable "stretch" for me while my notebook keyboard is just right). Try to get that in combination with the best quality high resolution monitor that you can to minimize eye-strain and the lightest weight possible to minimize shoulder problems from carrying your laptop (another whole anatomical issue if you are a "road warrior" like me). Choose a laptop that fits YOU in terms of pointing device or devices, get a good lap desk and a wireless mouse if you prefer. Then go totally wireless with peripherals ... it's so easy!

Then be aware that this is going to cost you more up front and in terms of replacement costs every few years (but well-taken-care-of laptops have substantial resale value, or you can give them to some school, teacher or kid going off to college and be a HERO).

Is it worth it? Absolutely, not just for the increased portability but you will be doing your body a tremendous favor, especially as you age ... take it from someone who spends 12 hours a day on average on her computer, making a living as well as for entertainment. I literally hate any time I have to spend on my desktop at work.

What kind of laptop am I working on? Nothing but Thinkpads for this girl, with bells and whistles (UXGA, etc.) for their reliability, durability, service, light weight and legendary keyboard and pointing devices. Presently on my third in over eight years, and my first and second are still running after having passed through my daughter's hands while in college and grad school and served her well also.

For the sake of everyone's bodies and insurance premiums, think about the position you place yours in for hours on end at your computer ... and in my book in your lap is by far the best for you!

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Docking Station Required Option For True Desktop Replacement
by westrajc / April 6, 2007 11:20 AM PDT

I've used both desktops, laptops and a combination of the two for fifteen years. My original experiments with using a laptop as my only workstation, found me quickly frustrated by plugging and unplugging my various peripherals.

I found my laptop as a desktop replacement sweet spot, when I got my first Dell Latitude CPX-H (PIII) + C-Dock docking station combination. It allowed me to simply slide my laptop into the docking station and have all my peripherals, like keyboard, printer, camera, etc. without touching a single cable!

My second Laptop + Docking station combo was a Dell Latitude C640 (P4) with a C-DockII docking station. This combination provided the added bennefits of having two PCI card slots that were filled with ATI VGA Wonder card and a four port USB card, allowing me to do without a USB hub and watch & capture TV/Video content.

There is NO Way I would recommend getting a laptop, that I planned on using as a desktop replacement, without a docking station. I now use a HP/Compaq TC4200 with a docking station and two external 20" LCD monitors, connected to a Radeon X800, Dual DVI PCI/E video adapter. This setup also includes a Microsoft wireless ergo keyboard and laser mouse.

The combination of a Tablet PC w/ docking station offers me the best of all three worlds; Tablet Mobile, Laptop Mobile and Docked Desktop Replacement. I wouldn't use anything else!

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Dropping Desktop
by Bryan_1953 / April 6, 2007 11:41 AM PDT

Don't do it! Laptops are not designed to take the everyday wear and tear the desktop takes. I tried it just as you are planning. My hard drive quit on me within 4 months. Laptops may be better today for 24/7 but I will stick with desktop for GPs at home.

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LIFE SPAN
by RHAB / April 13, 2007 2:35 PM PDT
In reply to: Dropping Desktop

I was in a shop when a person came in with some important INFO. on the lap top. He wanted the INFO to be made where he could get to it. He & I were shocked when he was told it would cost around $1,500.oo to get it out. After the man left in a huff, the lap top was less than a year old, I asked the repair person why it was so expensive. he said it was because lap top are too hard to open & work on. I am 71 Ys old & the first IBM compatable was an I.B.M. computer. It was great. It had two ZUSE fasteners in the front. All you had to do to work on it or clean it was to loosen the ZUSE fasteners & pull the drawer out. When I.B.M. stopped production the did not keep their patents up so that opened the door for the I.B.M. compatablies. The ffirst compute I had was an APPLE & the only place you could buy one was @ RADIO SHACK & we had to do our own programming. They had a class to go to to learn it. It was too tough for me so I still do not do much on computers. This is when BILL GATES came into the picture. REX

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PERFICT laptop
by LaptopLover46 / May 16, 2007 8:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Dropping Desktop

Try All of the brands out there to find the PERFICT laptop. Like the Sager NP9750 17? wide screen dual core, 2 hour battery life- I can?t waitto get my hands on one those! And by the way, I recommend you just dive in and go all laptop- you will love it!

P.S. Don't Go For Vista- Yet...

LaptopLover46 Happy

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Wireless
by jsinsky / April 6, 2007 11:46 AM PDT

You didn't mention a wireless system. In addition to the primary printer (a color laser), I have an $89 laser with a wireless printserver in the kitchen so I can get documents without going upstairs to the office.

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VS....vs....Laptop-->Desktop,,
by castingRod47 / April 6, 2007 12:09 PM PDT

I don't think there is any INFO that the LapTop is a TOP-performer..
How-ever I can say that my Desktop will run for three days/rendering DV-avi into MPEG2..the Monitor might get a little WARM-->Hot..but the Power Supply..
Even my first Dimension 2350..w/200-watt PSU and a P4 1.8 GHz..seldom even "flinched"..the lost properties were the RAM(133MHz)..today I use a P4(400MHz)RAM-the PSU..ain't even HUFFIN' or puffin'..
..
So far from my window shopping/the Minimum FSB Speed is 500MHz for the use of your MP3-Player..
I do mainly Video(DVD)..and use an 800MHz FSB..
..
I did go Laptop--/window shopping yesterday..on MSN.com..
and even found refurbished or USED-models at $$195.00//
some really nice stuff at $$800.00//
ACER seems to be really kickin' out the deals..even a year ago an ACER was in the really GOOD-Deal purchase...
..
Some TOSHIBA---the Panasonic TOUGH Book...
then the DELL units..
come along at good prices Re-Furbished..
which has me finding a place to go..since the LapTop would be a Luxury for me as a Digital Photographer..
..
I already have an LCD(7-inch)Screen and I'm looking for a Portable-DVD-Player..
This is fairly my option for the uses of a LapTop..since my Digital Photography needs the(portable)Screen-only..
This 7-inch LCD cost me about 279.00 dollars..and I still need a portable player..small..compact..like/12v./DC-voltage..
......................................................................
LapTOPS..as being really tough on the job..
Is in the product line of the Panasonic TOUGH Books..
but then the price differance is more than $$1000.00/
over the simple innovation of a portable PC..
..
I myself rely on the DeskTop..since my running time does go into the DAYS..
A LapTop..will NOT.

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IBM all the way
by rungsunklinkaeo / April 13, 2007 11:06 AM PDT

If the money is available, I would go with a Thinkpad T60 series with the advanced dock. Using the advanced dock, you can permanantly attach your accessories using the many connections on it including a mouse, LCD and external HDD. Additionally, you also have the ability to install a HDD in the dock itself to give you an extra drive while at your desk and more importantly, the ability to install a low profile graphics card to power your home system rather than the integrated on the laptop. I have this setup in my office with 19 inch LCD and a low profile Leadtech GeForce 7600GS card. Works great.

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Laptop Drag Around
by cylockholmes / April 6, 2007 12:34 PM PDT

Since you already have the one computer, I would keep it.
Then by yourself a laptop and some good file syncing software.
That way you always have a backup.

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Why Create More Work & Frustration?
by westrajc / April 6, 2007 12:48 PM PDT
In reply to: Laptop Drag Around

I've tried this. It doesn't work very well.

Most people have enough trouble remembering to synch their PDA every day, much less a laptop & a desktop. Why create more work & frustration for yourself?

Not only does synching add more work, keeping two computers up to date with the same versions of software, patches & updates adds even more work/cost to the equation!

Sell the desktop to someone who will give you a decent price for it or donate it with a "value" that yields the best net return. Take the "proceeds" and put them towards your laptop purchase or the purchase of new peripherals, like a wireless multifunction printer, wireless ergo keyboard & mouse, larger LCD monitor, etc.

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Do you use windows xp?
by ellis feigenbaum / April 20, 2007 12:13 PM PDT

Windows xp has a backup utility that can be set to run incrementally every day.
On proffesional and MCE it installs with the operating system, on Home edition its slightly more complicated , you need to install it from the msi on the disk, however once its done it works the same as on pro/mce.
this is a non user intervention job, just set it up once as a daily task and your done- i backup to an external hard drive every day this way and it works fine.

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Laptop addons
by maddogthegreat / April 6, 2007 12:40 PM PDT

Don't waste money on a docking station. Get a USB printer/scanner, a USB external backup drive, and a POWERED USB hub. Plug everything into the hub and when you need to leave home, just power everything off and unplug the hub.

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USB Connections Don't Provide As Much Peripheral Expansion
by westrajc / April 6, 2007 12:55 PM PDT
In reply to: Laptop addons

The USB strategy will work, but it doesn't provide as rich or user friendly a platform. A true docking station (not just a port replicator) has the potential to provide one or more expansion card slots, Ethernet port, DVI video connection, etc.

In addition, a typical docking station will offer a monitor stand option that provides a convenient place to put a larger LCD or even conventional monitor. The docking station also provides its own power source! This means you don't have to constantly mess with plugging in your portable power source under the desk and into the laptop, when you're using it at home/work.

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Portable Computer
by hrabetin / April 6, 2007 12:46 PM PDT

This is only going to be a partial answer but look at what he manufacturers are offering for docking stations. I purchased a HP pavilion zd model several years ago. HP offered some devices that put the computer and screen up at a 45 degree angle, too high for my available computer desk, didn't look good either. Had more than enough outputs though. You can get some pigtails at computer stores that use one outlet for additional keyboard and mouse. Same goes for USB. Don't know if there are any third party docking stations.

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Have Laptop, Will Travel
by purposed / April 6, 2007 12:52 PM PDT

David, I did this for a time about 10 years ago. As to what kind of success you will have, my answer is "it depends". What it depends on is what your real computing needs are. I mention a few examples below.

First, I will point out that if you do much computing in any particular location, I think you will need at minimum a decent monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Not all laptops have docking stations available, but for those exceptions, the only difference is having to insert three plugs each time you dock. Furthermore, docking stations are sometimes unreliable, so that plugging separate ports is preferable.

You absolutely will find that the performance of a laptop is below that of a deskside, especially for disk-intensive work.

In addition, if "where ever" you go includes work, and if you have to be part of a domain or workgroup there, then your home network (if any) will prove a challenge. For workgroups, you can just make all your systems at home have the same workgroup name as your machine needs at work. But, if you are on a domain at work, then you will face a significant challenge solving your networking problems at home.

We are approaching a time when all/many systems will be able to boot from a flash memory. Carrying that around could be much simpler than taking the entire laptop.

Obviously, if your activities involve nomadic authoring, including work in many out-of-the-way places, a laptop-only solution may be the best.

Because I became involved in some pretty heavy-duty simulation work, I soon gave up trying to laptop everything.

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Save Space and Time

Your question is a good one David. I klunked around with dual PCs for a long time (A tower and a Laptop) until my last pair gave up on me. So I had to ask myself, "Is it practical to spend the cash on two separate computers when one good one can do the job of both?".

I finally decided that I should spend the money on one really kick butt laptop that would fill all of my needs both mobile and at home. It's worked out great!!!

You mentioned that you have lots of peripherals to augment a laptop at home and that's great. I've gone completely wireless in my home and cut down on lot's of unneeded wires. My keyboard, mouse, internet connection and printer all operate wirelessly. You didn't mention if you had a nice monitor at home. I would consider this a must since you can configure your laptop to operate with the display closed and put much less strain on your laptops voltage demands. It's true you can get a big screen laptop, but it will last longer and operate more efficiently with an external monitor at home.

You also mentioned a docking station. It's a nice accessory if they make one for your laptop. But you should also know that you would do quite well simply with a device with multiple USB connections for most of the peripherals you mentioned. When I'm ready to go mobile, it takes me about 30 seconds to shut down, pull wires, and slip my lappie into its carrying case. The same holds true when I return home.

My setup has been operating flawlessly for over a year now and I highly recommend it.

Good Luck on your decision.

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Laptop or Not?? That is the question.

Sure, A laptop is a great idea to do your work @ and from Home, it comes with buildt in speakers, dvd/CD Writer, etc. I just feel that Laptops are not upgradeable. So if a year or 3 down the line you wish to have a faster "Computer", it would mean you have to either increase you phyiscal memory size on the laptop, or purchase a new one. Think wisely.

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Be forewarned...
by b_in_austin / April 6, 2007 1:32 PM PDT

While it sounds like a good idea, and it may be in many cases (the mobility is really nice), the transition to a laptop can cause you some grief.

Since many of the peripherals you speak of aren't wireless or networked, you will want a dock so that you can easily "plug in" when you return your laptop to your office desktop. An alternative would be to invest in networked peripherals (printers, scanners, hard disks, etc. all come in network ready versions) and thus make it even easier to move around yet still be connected to everything. In such a case, you really don't need a docking station, just a place to plugin and recharge your batteries.

Still, with all this new cool mobility whether using networked devices or a dock, there is a downside that isn't obvious. It is my experience that because of the way laptops are designed and manufactured, your ability to expand them are greatly limited. In particular, video and audio components are fixed in the laptop and the drivers "must" come from the laptop manufacturer as opposed to the audio or video chip manufacturer. This is primarily due to the way the audio and video chips are "installed" and supported in the laptops.

This doesn't seem like a problem and in many cases, isn't. However, if you have plans to play games and other video/audio intensive applications, you must beware that many times, these software packages/gamms require newer software (updates to DirectX) or newer video/audio processors. Frequently, these packages and their requisite upgrades/updates require new drivers for your existing video & audio components. Most of the PC laptop manufacturers stop releasing drivers for these components after a couple of years - just when you will need them most.

If the new game you want requires a faster or "memory-full" graphics processor, you won't be able to play it without upgrading your entire laptop to a new model.

Another issue comes with minor repair functions. Most laptops are a single "replaceable unit". This is manufacturer-speak for if there is some problem with the laptop, you usually have to send the whole thing back for repairs. In some cases, you can add/replace memory without a full return.

In others, you might be able to replace the hard drive. But in many cases, you just have to ship the whole thing back. Some of these are for silly things such as replacing a keycap on your keyboard. Most of the manufacturers will not send you a single keycap or a scissor hinge. You will be forced to find one yourself on the open market or scrounge one off some old, discarded laptop found for scrap - sort of the high tech version of going to the junk yard for hard to find car parts.

In the case of most desktop computers, you usually have the option to replace components, insert new or upgrade cards, replace/add memory, attach a new/different keyboard, and adapt to new peripherals and interconnects as they are introduced. The laptop just isn't that flexible.

In my home, I have both desktops and laptops. We get the freedom of mobility yet don't have to sacrifice for those applications and services that need the flexibility that a desktop computer provides.

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What to do about transitioning from Desktop to Laptop...
by agm4 / April 6, 2007 1:37 PM PDT

I have hardly even used a laptop, so I can only give you general advice, having a fair amout of knowledge about computers, operating systems, and software, both through daily use and experimentation.

I also have had 1.5 years of formal training in Computers and Operating Systems. Of course, the time setting was the '80s; and we learned CP/M, MSDOS, and rudimentary Unix (IBM JCL) on various types of Personal Computers, as well as IBM 360's, using excruciatingly ancient mechanical keyboards to enter our jobs, and huge network line printers to receive the results of the compile. There was no CRT to see output on.

I have since gained a fair acumen (sic) in software as well as PC and Mac hardware.

So I believe I can put forth a few valid suggestions with confidence.

First, do nothing until you have made a firm decision to leave the Desktop behind. Then, ask yourself this question:
"Do I want to be able to do the same things with my Laptop while away from the house that I would do while I am at the house?"
Another question to ask:
"How easily can my peripherials at home be used while away from home?"
If you are like most folks, you would take a thoughtful inventory of all your devices one-by-one, and ask that question in relation to each device.
If your answer on any one device is "difficult (even "moderately difficult") to use away from home", you must decide to replace that device either with another more portable device, or with third-party devices, such as wireless networks, and the devices attached to those networks.

You will find that many hotels and motels include basic wireless networking (~1.5mbps) as an option (sometimes it's a gratuity) when procuring a room. So remaining in contact with your "people" will usually be an easy thing when awasy from the house. Even the local coffee shop will many times have either free (lower speed) wireless connections, or higher-speed connections for a premium.

Finally, do a little research on the Internet. It will pay you dividends in the end, in time, frustration and money saved, as well as gained knowledge of the direction the world is taking because of the Computer revolution.

I'm sure someone much more knowledgeable will offer better advice in this thread.

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