What do you look for in a laptop?

Someone from HP recently asked me what I might look for in future laptops. I’m having a hard time getting my head around what I’d want in the future, because none of the laptop makers are meeting my needs in the present. When I’m looking for a new laptop, I’m generally looking to take as much of my desktop convenience with me as possible. I want to edit video and photos if I need to. I need to check my email and stay connected to all the aspects of my online business. I want to connect to the Internet from anywhere. And of course I want all this in a compact package that doesn’t weigh me down when I have to lug it through an airport terminal.
When I’m spending most of my time on the road, I value portability over everything else. When I’m doing the weekly commute I signed on for last November, I want something that is powerful enough to handle all my video and photo editing needs, without feeling like a boat anchor. I always want something that requires the fewest additional peripherals to get my work done, which means having the right connectors and card reading slots built in.
I loved the Fujitsu Lifebook P1510D tablet PC I used for several months in 2006 primarily for its compact size. As a travel tool for checking email, keeping up on online reading, and writing on the road, something the size of a trade paperback was absolutely perfect. For most of the rest of my computing needs, the Lifebook P1510D came up short. The screen resolution was lacking, the model I had lacked Bluetooth, the processor was a bit underpowered for any kind of video editing. The maximum memory supported was far too low for either photo or video editing. In spite of all those shortcomings, I was very happy traveling with the Lifebook.
When it came time for me to buy a new laptop earlier this year, I had several criteria in mind. I need a laptop with enough power for HD playback and editing. A screen no bigger than 15-inches was top of my list because I want to keep the weight down for all the travelling I do. Core 2 Duo processing power became a must. 4GB of RAM is my current minimum requirement. Ideally I wanted 512MB of dedicated video RAM, but that seemed to be a feature available only in laptops with 17-inch+ screen sizes. I also required a convenient solution for either ATT BroadbandConnect or EVDO, which is another travel must. Nice to have features included things like SD and Compact Flash card slots, FireWire in, a built-in webcam, DVD burning and Bluetooth for syncing my cell phone with my Outlook data.
What I ended up with was a compromise that consisted of getting the power user features I wanted, like BroadbandConnect, 4GB of RAM, 256MB of dedicated Video RAM and a 15-inch screen. Bluetooth and DVD burning are also included in my current laptop, but FireWire and card reading require external gear. I’ve toyed with a Microsoft Lifecam for video conferencing, but I use that so little that it’s hard to say it’s a feature I need.
Am I asking too much by wanting a laptop compact in size while sporting all the features of a desktop replacement? This isn’t an issue of money – my current laptop spec’d out at around $3000 and it still doesn’t do all the things I want. This isn’t an Mac vs. Windows issue – I looked very seriously at getting a MacBook Pro until I realized Apple and ATT BroadbandConnect currently don’t play well together. If you have a laptop, does it do everything you need it to? Or did you end up with a series of compromises? What features would you love to see in a future laptop the next time you’re in the market for a new portable?


  1. Man, you totally missed the ASUS A8J series… Mine is a couple of years old now but it is 14in widescreen, core duo, Geforce 7600 go with 512 MB dedicated vid memory, up to 4 GB of memory, bluetooth, card reader, 5 usb ports, dvi and vga out, built in webcam, firewire, DL DVD burner and it was about $1300.00. I don’t think anyone makes better laptops than ASUS.

  2. You forgot the most important thing, Battery Life. I am sick of laptops that don’t last more than a couple of hours especially editing video etc. I still want absolute minimum weight but I need more battery time!

  3. Like you, I look for a size and weight that works for travel. Wide screen but still able to open on the airplane and see the screen even though the person in front of you has the seat back reclined.
    Long battery life is another
    lots of memory (expandable)
    lots of USB ports
    An internal device to detect wireless mouse so you don’t have to burn a USB for that
    a good set of speakers so I don’t need an external device if I’m playing a movie in my hotel room
    a slide out number keypad would be a great add on (slides out of the right side sort of like a dvd drive)

  4. Why not the best of all worlds, with a portable core (processor, memory and storage (Flash or hard drive), that can be inserted in a variety of system assembies, when I’m at home I want a big screen, separate keyboard and lots of expandability. I’d like to be able to carry the system with me in a PDA sized system that I can stick in a pocket and have at my fingertips. A traditional laptop shell would provide the system I need when traveling.
    I guess this is the “IPOD” laptop with a simple core machine that becomes the “brains” in different configurations (Car audio, External speakers, exercise monitor, etc….)

  5. Love to… dream PCs or laptops, more exactly…
    a) full keyboard size (~ 6″ x 18″);
    b) display same size (~ 19″, ~ 3:1 ratio and not 16:9, ~ 1800×600 pixels minimum – I like some 3600×1200 pixels, 100hz refresh);
    c) you realize that the video card must support the displays…
    d) easily 2 swappable (not necessarily hot) SSDD of 32GB (Solid State Disk Drive; any additional space, external USB…; the BIOS to be able to make an image of first SSDD to second one, no matter the partition type; certainly, higher size will be acceptable);
    e) 2GB RAM on board, one expansion slot for other 2-4GB (dual channel);
    f) HDMI input/output (nice an ATSC_QAM/NTSC/PAL tuner inside);
    g) second display output for external (clone/)independent monitor;
    h) external international AC adapter and a small internal battery pack (replaceable: AA, C, D… size) for about 10 minutes working; external battery pack for 2-4 hours at full computing power – hot swappable (you can have spare…);
    i) 100/1000 LAN, a-n WiFi;
    j) a good processor (core 2 duo / quad);
    k) external DVD (USB…);
    l) a good OS (Vista excluded).
    I forgot to mention, but… the keyboard IS the laptop! And the included display can be amovible to 20-25″ away…
    Do you like it? Remember, this SPECs do not belongs to a future technology, but to an established one (I work last year with motherboards with a socket for swappable SSDD)… I love a Fujitsu or Lenovo laptop like this one! HP, well they are a little traditional, maybe in a few years… Falcon Northwest, maybe…

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