abstracted from “A Notebook Buyer’s Guide” by Antone Gonsalves Technology & Learning, October 2002 http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/2002/10/update1.html

Purchasing laptop computers for use in a school environment can present a challenge. The gaggle of options available sometimes can make for an impossible choice. In this article, the author runs over those components that are most suited for school use.

• Speed. Most important is the processor or central processing unit (CPU). The author suggests 700 MHz or higher for classroom use. Also, a minimum of 128MB of memory is essential—although 256MB, he says, is best. And a 10GB hard drive will do. But the author recommends stretching for 20GB, if possible.

• Monitor. The author recommends screens 14 inches or larger so that graphics and text can be viewed comfortably at the standard Windows resolution of 1,024 pixels by 768 pixels.

• Drives. The author warns that it would be a mistake to purchase anything less than a CD-R/RW drive, which empowers machines to read CD-ROMs, burn CD-Rs and CD-Ws, and eliminates the need for an added floppy disk drive.

• Battery. Batteries normally will last less time than a company will admit, the author says. Power-saving features such as dimmed screens, slowed CPUs, and reduced internet connectivity will help with a pack’s longevity. But in standard usage, don’t expect the battery to last too long.

• Internet connectivity. Almost all notebooks are equipped with standard 56Kbps modems, the author said. Ethernet cards also are coming standard these days. And if wireless networking is planned, look for machines with built-in antennas.

• Weight. School technology purchasers must decide whether it’s ease of portability they desire or functionality and speed that are most important. Machines that weigh between 2.5 and four pounds lack the power and processing speeds of the more expensive notebooks, which can run as heavy as eight pounds, the author says.