I am currently looking for a notebook to replace my desktop. I am in no rush
to buy it, although it would be nice to have it now. My desktop is a little
sluggish, but it still does everything I need it to do. I was wondering what
your thoughts are about waiting for Windows Vista to come out vs. buying a
notebook now. Also, if I do buy a system now, approximately how much would I
need to spend to get a system that will transition smoothly to Vista when it
In many ways, it really depends on how long you’re willing to wait. As we
all know from direct experience, once you purchase a computer – any computer –
a newer/better/faster/sexier model comes out just moments later.
Adding Windows Vista to the mix makes things even more difficult.
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Between the time I got this question, and the time I’m writing this answer,
the press is once again full of rumors that Windows Vista is slipping yet
again. The current “official” release date is the beginning of 2007, if I’m not
mistaken, but the press has that date moving out further.
Personally, I don’t know who to believe. Having been there, I know that
shipping software of huge scope and complexity is incredibly difficult, and
predicting when it will be done is even more so.
All that is my lead up to say simply this: don’t wait for Vista. Unless
there is something specific in the operating system that you need to
have, the ship date is simply too unreliable to make plans around.
Even after Vista ships, my advice to the average user will, in fact, be to
avoid it. Let the pioneers and tech folk experience the upgrade and inevitable
problems first. Once those get ironed out (I’d say three months after release
or so), then if you’re interested and so inclined, go for it.
Given the current schedule, with that padding, that takes you out about a
year from when this is being written.
If you need a new laptop, get a new laptop. You’ll have a year’s worth of
increased productivity under your belt with a faster machine before you need to
think of Vista.
Unfortunately, there’s no real way to put a dollar amount on what a good
laptop will be. There are too many variables. However, when selecting a new
laptop, I would look for (in order of priority):
1 gigabyte of RAM to start, but make sure that the machine can be expanded
to 2, or perhaps even 4, gigabytes. This is perhaps the single thing that will
extend the useful life of that laptop through operating system, and other
I typically choose the highend processor, minus one. Meaning that if the
current top of the line processor is a 3.2 gigahertz dual core Intel, then I’d
look one step down (probably a 3gz). The cost/performance tradeoff for that
last little bit of performance is, to me at least, not worth it.
Make sure that the video adapter supports advanced 3D hardware. This is
about the only Vista-specific item I’d throw in the mix – my understanding is
that the Vista UI will take advantage of graphics accelerators when present to
present either a richer, or faster, UI. Normally, these types of adapters have
been targeted at gaming systems, but they’re making their way onto laptops of
late as well.
It’s actually difficult not to get enough disk space these days, hard disks
have become so huge. But make sure you’re starting at the 100gigabyte and up
range, and if you can, select a drive at a higher rotational speed (say, 7200
versus 5400 RPM). The faster rotation translates into a faster transfer of data
on and off of the hard disk.
This eWeek.com article: Will Your PC Run
Windows Vista? addresses the issue in a little more depth, and also spends
a lot of time on the graphics card issue. It’s important to note that the
article is also 9 months old – an eon in Windows development time – and
Microsoft actually hasn’t released “minimum hardware requirements’ for Vista.
The bottom line is that many things could change before release.
In my opinion, that’s just more justification for not waiting, and just
getting a fundamentally good, but expandable, machine now.