Notebooks: CNET Editors' Buying Guide
The CNET editors' guide to notebooks clues you in to what you need to know, from finding the type of notebook that fits your lifestyle to all of the latest trends.
1. What kind of notebook is right for me?
To choose the right notebook--one with the right set of features at the right price--you'll need to figure out how you'll want to use your machine. Match your needs to one of these user profiles to get started.
  Home user
Home users are increasingly turning to notebooks as their primary PCs; they like that laptops can offer similar performance and features to those of a desktop PC and can be easily moved from room to room. Though of course almost any notebook will do for typical home use, there are two types of notebooks most suitable for home users: midsize notebooks, which tend to be budget-friendly, and desktop replacements, which are usually packed with features.
 KEY FEATURES:
AMD Turion 64, AMD Turion 64 X2, Intel Core Duo, or Intel Core 2 Duo
At least 1GB of memory
Large hard drive for storing digital photos and video
14.1-inch display or larger
Fixed or swappable DVD burner
Wired and wireless networking
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium or Apple Mac OS X
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  Student
Students and others on a tight budget should look for a laptop that delivers the most bang for the buck. In particular, students need a notebook that is small and light enough to lug back and forth across campus but rugged enough to withstand bouncing around in a backpack.
 KEY FEATURES:
AMD Turion 64, AMD Turion 64 X2, Intel Core Duo, or Intel Core 2 Duo
At least 1GB of memory
Big hard drive to hold all those MP3s
DVD burner for backups and class projects
Wired and wireless networking for network-equipped classrooms and dorm rooms
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium or Apple Mac OS X
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  Frequent flier
If you spend a lot of time on the road, size and weight are the two most critical factors in choosing a new notebook--even if it means sacrificing a little on performance and features. The smallest and lightest notebooks, ultraportables, weigh less than four pounds and are no thicker than a spiral-bound notebook.
 KEY FEATURES:
AMD Turion 64, AMD Turion 64 X2, Intel Core Solo, or Intel Core Duo
At least 1GB of memory
A 13.3-inch display or smaller
Wired and wireless networking
Extended battery for those cross-country flights
Media slice or external CD-RW/DVD drive
Port replicator for the desk
Microsoft Windows Vista Business
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  Business power user
If you rely on the same notebook at work, at home, and on the road, you need a well-balanced system. And it has to deliver the performance to keep up with a wide range of applications. A thin-and-light is just the ticket.
 KEY FEATURES:
AMD Turion 64 X2 or Intel Core 2 Duo
At least 1GB of memory, preferably 2GB for Windows Vista
Midsize hard drive
A 14-inch or 15.4-inch display
Dual-layer DVD burner
Wired and wireless networking
Extra battery
Microsoft Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Ultimate
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  Multimedia author or gamer
If you demand more from a notebook, you'll need a true desktop replacement. Whether you're designing a Web site, editing home movies, or mowing down aliens, your notebook will demand a powerful processor, plenty of memory, great graphics, and a healthy hard drive.
 KEY FEATURES:
AMD Turion 64 X2, Intel Core 2 Duo, or Intel Core 2 Extreme
2GB or more of memory
A 15.4-inch display or larger
Advanced graphics card with 256MB or 512MB of its own memory or dual SLI graphics
The largest and fastest hard drive available
Dual-layer DVD burner, possibly HD-DVD or Blu-Ray compatible
Multimedia connectors, such as S-Video, HDMI, FireWire, S/PDIF
External keyboard and mouse
Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate, or Apple Mac OS X
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