Value notebook upgrades

For a while now I’ve been looking at upgrading my notebook to a newer model, but have been having problems self-justifying it to myself. This may sound odd, but my existing notebook, while 2 years old now, is a 2GHz Pentium 4 with 15″ TFT. Sure, it doesn’t have built in Wifi or Bluetooth, but I have the dongles for that. A year ago I upgraded the then 40GB 4200rpm drive to a 60GB 7200rpm laptop drive and that made a big difference. Big enough that I now have a simple test benchmark to use in a store… click Acrobat Reader and see how long it takes to load. It’s a subjective test, but I know that my notebook actually loads things quicker than most you can buy today.

It’s odd, but notebook size/weight/power hasn’t really changed a great deal in the last 2 years. You can now buy 3GHz machines, but how much faster is that going to make Microsoft Word run? Are they any more lightweight? Not really. Some are but the screens are so small as to be unusable. Do the batteries run longer? A little. Is the screen any more readable? Nope. So really notebooks haven’t really moved forward in 2 years. Amazing for an industry that once had so much forward momentum.

Recently though I’d noticed mine struggling when running lots of programs, so again started looking at alternatives. Did I buy a new notebook? Not at all. This time I choose to max out my RAM to 1GB from the 512MB I had previously. This has made as big a difference as upgrading the hard drive, especially when I leave lots of programs running, and I think it will extend the useful life by another year.

Who knows, by then perhaps something truely revolutionary will have changed in notebook technology and it will finally be time to upgrade? While we now have 64bit notebook processors from AMD, we need a reason to have to have one, which means the world is really waiting for the next version of Microsoft Windows, currently codenamed Longhorn. Until then, spend a modest $60-$120 and get yourself a nice leap in performance.

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