Laptop Buying Guide: How to Choose a New Notebook

Special Needs, Special Laptops

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Laptop Buying Guide: How to Choose a New Notebook

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Sometimes a regular laptop isn't the right choice. If you frequently work in harsh environments, or if you want to use a stylus or your fingertips to interact with your PC, a ruggedized laptop or a tablet PC might be just the thing.

Ruggedized Laptops

Dell Latitude E6400 XFR ruggedized laptop
Semi-ruggedized (also called business-ruggedized) notebooks and fully rugged­ized laptops can take a licking. Models in the former category are good for klutzy corporate types, but they're otherwise typical business machines, with glossy screens and high-end CPUs. (For more on work-oriented portables, see "How to Buy a Business Laptop.") Meanwhile, fully ruggedized laptops are built for outdoor use, in environments ranging from construction sites to battlefields. Such systems offer matte screens for outdoor viewing, and they can withstand blasts of water, sand, and other things that would make most computers cringe. (The Dell Latitude E6400 XFR is said to stop bullets.) Be warned, though: These laptops don't come cheap.

Tablet PCs

Fujitsu LifeBook U820 tablet PC
The most common form of this hybrid portable serves two purposes: In one mode, it looks and behaves like a normal laptop. With a twist, however, it becomes a fully functional touchscreen tablet. (For more about one of the latest tablets, see our review of the Fujitsu LifeBook U820.) Bear in mind that any tablet PC you buy should be comfortable to carry in one hand. Make certain it has a well-built hinge, too--when you use your tablet on a plane, train, or automobile, the screen's hinge is subject to shaking, making it tough for you to see the text on the screen.

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