A friend of mine (thank you Gail!) emailed me this morning with this question. I get this question a lot so I figured I’d post it for all to read! Here is what I told her
“XP Pro will cost you more than Vista, but Vista needs more memory and processor horsepower. Windows 7 will be coming out but we probably won’t know until Q2 2010 as to whether there is an advantage to upgrade to it.
Vista on a 64-bit processor is faster
With Vista you will need to be willing to take on the GUI change. Some of your existing hardware (printers, cameras, etc) may need Vista drivers, its not always available for hardware older than 2 years.
Unless you need to network it you can go with Vista Home, but business and ultimate Editions have more commercial and multi-media features and the upgrade paths are more expensive than buying the right edition up front.
Hardware is dependent on the software you are running and how fast you want it to perform. Vista & Office 2007 & Norton 2009 require more memory, and processor horsepower than XP Pro, Office 2003 and Norton 2008.
Decide on your operating system and what you think you will want the OS to be in 4 years.
Decide on weight.
Based on weight you can then decide on display size (the bigger the display the heavier).
Buy a business model not a consumer model (for example for Dell Latitude is the business model) laptop.,
My advise get the laptop with the best processor you can afford. http://www.cpubenchmark.net can be used to compare. Then get to a minimum of 2 GB of RAM, (max it out if you are doing Vista; memory is cheep). Unless you have a lot of large files, music, videos etc, you can keep the hard drive small to reduce the weight. Office 2007 Student Edition if you don’t need Outlook; If you do the Office 2007 edition that has what you need (or you can may consider Google docs as an alternative); getting Office at purchase time is a lot less expensive than buying it separate because you are getting what is called a OEM version (however it is only licensed to the processor you purchased). Get a 3 year Pro warranty that doesn’t require you to mail it in; the additional cost of Pro will save you tons of time and aggravation if you have to get onto the phone with support. Don’t forget Anti-Virus and a data backup solution. We have had poor experience with Sony Vios and other manufacturers that are targeted at multi-media users rather than business.”
Configuring the right machine for you and your future use of it takes a knowledge of the market and experience. The “right” purchase changes all the time. Nearly always you get what you pay for. If you see a “ good deal” chances are there is something in the configuration that makes it that price. If you are a careful shopper and know what to steer away from you can find some great deals out there. Because of all this we offer Purchase Assistance on a fixed or hourly basis to our non-Marathon clients (Marathon clients get it free).