Buyers' Guide for Notebook PCs

Your guide to choosing the best notebook PC for your small or medium business

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

An emerging, but expensive, alternative to traditional hard-disk drives (HDDs) are SSDs. SSD technology for notebooks is based on non-volatile NAND flash-based memory. SSDs are available in a variety of capacities, ranging from 8GB to 512GB, although high capacities are cost prohibitive.

Because NAND flash does not contain moving parts it is inherently more reliable and has a five per cent power advantage over HDDs. PC SSDs typically cost the end user around $2.50 per GB. Over the next 12 months Gartner expects prices to fall making the technology more attractive to the enterprise. Gartner expects 128GB capacities to cost around $200 by 2012. The performance and endurance of SSDs will be critical metrics for enterprise users, given the drastic discrepancy between solutions.

Optical drives

Optical drives are included as a standard in many thin and light desktop replacement configurations. As with other components in notebooks, mobile optical drives tend to be a smaller, thinner form factor than their desktop counterparts, which results in slightly reduced performance.

Another factor with optical drives is the ability to swap them out of systems. This isn’t the case in consumer systems but most corporate systems support the ability to remove the drive.

Increasingly, notebooks will no longer include integrated optical drives. Gartner recommends organisations assess their users’ requirements for optical devices. While some users will need them, many will choose to trade off the convenience of performing backups for a lighter notebook.


The USB is a peripheral bus supported in notebook PCs. USB ports can be used to connect a PC with many peripherals, such as a mouse, keyboard and modem. USB 2.0 is capable of transmitting data at 480 Mbps. Many users recharge peripheral devices, such as smartphones and media players, off the USB port, reducing the number of power supplies carried with USB 2.0.

USB 3.0 is capable of transmitting 5 Gbps and is backward-compatible. It was released in 2008 but has only now become mainstream. Gartner recommends notebooks include at least two integrated USB ports. Desktop replacement systems should feature at least four USB ports.

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