One of the first posts I wrote for this blog talked about the new HP laptop I had purchased (an HP dv9000t), and the advantages of the widescreen computer. However, as I have used the machine since then, and in looking at netbooks over the last couple of months, I realized that I had not set my priorities right when I had bought it. This is something that everyone shopping for a laptop should do.
In essence, what I bought was a desktop replacement machine, when what I really needed was something more portable to enable me to work from anywhere. The machine is great. It has a 17″ widescreen and a keyboard with a conventional numeric keypad, which is terrific for my bankruptcy practice, where I am constantly entering numeric data. It had lots of RAM, a roomy hard drive, a good video board, and a fast processor. However, when I said in that post that it was “a better portable office than machines with smaller, conventional screens,” I must say I was wrong.
A portable office has to be portable, and lugging around a heavier, bulkier machine just makes it more difficult. If you are just going back and forth from office to home, this may well not be a big deal; but if you are traveling by air or trying to be more productive during downtime in court, a smaller lighter screen would be much more practical.
As for netbooks, although they are far more portable, I would not necessarily recommend them as a primary laptop. Although they are great for web access, e-mail, and short term keyboard usage, real work needs to be done on a larger screen and a bigger, more comfortable keyboard. Look for a machine with a 12-14 inch screen to keep the weight and bulkiness down. Also consider how much work you are going to do away from a power outlet, as batteries with longer lives are bigger and heavier.
Just get what you need. Avoid the hype for features such as larger hard drives, more than 3 gigs of RAM, or video boards. Get a good, fast dual core CPU. Also, whatever you do, wait for Windows 7 to come out. Most of what I am reading about it is that it is a big improvement over Vista and does not have the heavy hardware resource demands. Even Ubuntu Linux fans like Sam Glover over at the Lawyerist are saying it is worthwhile.
Lawyers need to work from anywhere in order to be more productive and more competitive. This means portability. If you want the laptop to be your primary machine, consider a docking station. This will give you the portability, along with the larger screen and more conventional keyboard and mouse that you are used to in the office. In this way, you get the best of both!