All I Want for Xmas (Laptop Edition)

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This week is as good a time as any--just before Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Consumerpocolypse Tuesday--to look back at a year's worth of laptops. In fact, we've got a huge laptop holiday gift guide feature that I encourage you to check out. In the meantime, though, I threw out an innocent-enough question to the Internets (Facebook, Twitter, TwitBook...whatever!) this past week: "What are you looking for in a new laptop?"

You wouldn't believe (or maybe you would) some of the answers I got from folks. Here, in no particular order, is a sampling--with some of my snark thrown in for good measure. (Note: Messages from Twitter were expanded from 140-characterese.)

What Are You Looking for in a New Laptop?

"In no particular order: Battery life, portability, and performance are most important to me. If you're not going Mac make sure to get a PC with Windows 7."
--Adam Z.

"Price is most important--I want some bang for my buck."

"Boot time matters most. I'm saving for a HP Mini 311, the Nvidia ION looks pretty cool as a netbook platform."

"My optimal laptop: An Intel Core i7 CPU, discrete graphics card, long battery life, A 7200rpm Hard disk drive. And I want it all for under $1000."

DARREN: A Core i7 laptop with that many bells and whistles? If you can find that for under a grand, I'll buy two! But, yeah, everyone wants to get the most for their money. Me? I find myself gravitating towards the ultraslim category that hosts machines like the Toshiba Satellite T135-S1310SH, and I still have a soft spot for the soon-to-be-shelved HP Pavilion dv2.

"Combo of how loud the fan is and how hot it gets. I don't want to get burned, but don't want to hear Xbox 360-level noise coming from my lap."

"Heat matters. I don't want it frying my lap when I'm on BART [San Francisco public transit]."

"The laptop better not burn a hole through my lap and/or desk.
-- Tara R .

DARREN: Y'know, a lot of people take heat for granted on laptops. Some of the worst offenders I've seen would pass heat through the keyboard or blow it through the bottom. That's great for surviving a Buffalo winter, but not so great for the hardware. Safety tip: don't leave your laptop on a bed, carpet or any plush surface that could potentially block the heat vents.

"Two things matter to me: How it feels (if I'm gonna do a lot of typing, it's gotta be comfortable) and how it handles (I hate waiting)."

"The size and feel of the keyboard is what is most important to me. I have to 'fox-test' it, because I am a touch typist."

DARREN: No matter how many specs you think a device hits for you, don't just hop online and buy the first laptop deal you can find. You need to hop into a car and head to the local electronics store first. Try to test drive your potential future PC. If it doesn't feel comfortable, why waste your money?

"Weight, then battery life are the most important things to me."

"If we're talking a general laptop: RAM; If it's a netbook: battery life."

DARREN: If battery life is what matters most to you, think small--really small. Netbooks and ultraportables are probably going to be your best bets when it comes to going mobile. I've seen netbooks and ultraportables last as long as 10 hours in PC WorldBench 6 tests (like Toshiba's NB205). Something to keep in mind: The advertised battery life you'll see on store shelves can often be misleading. Look for the fine print that describes how battery life is actually tested. Or, you could trust our real-world tests, which show that laptops rarely last as long as promised. Just saying.

"What color is the case, and can it fit in a FedEx mailer? Seriously, though, I need a monster machine with good battery life, a high-resolution screen (at least 1920x1080 capable), the latest CPU and GPU (needs to drive two displays), plenty of USB ports, HDMI out/VGA out, and true portability."
--Michael J. M.

"These days, the most important thing to me is the graphics card. There are a lot of really powerful laptops out there that completely suck at running anything that even looks like a game."
--Trent W.

"Now with Flash 10.1, the GPU matters even more. Those with netbooks and economic notebooks wanting HD goodness in Hulu and YouTube will need a GPU or else they'll be watching a slide show."

--Sean P. [Disclaimer: This is an Nvidia dude. Fair point, though --Darren]

DARREN: Yep, power is another huge concern, but what's surprising is that a good amount of power is now finding its way into smaller form factors. Oh, sure, you can still drop over three grand on some monster machine, but a good amount of juice is showing up in machines measuring 15 inches and under. Oh, yeah, and of course, I got a few responses from the peanut gallery.

"Can I play Dragon Age on it?"
--James H.

"That it's a Mac."
--Amy S.

"That it has that neat little apple on it."
--Brandon B.

"Will it make me coffee in the morning?"
--Amber B.

Now it's your turn! Tell me what you look for in a new laptop. Hit the comment box below or send e-mail to PC World with "ATTN: Darren (All I want for the holidays is a new laptop.)" in the subject line.

Need even more nerdity? Follow PC World Senior Writer Darren Gladstone on Twitter (gizmogladstone) for more ramblings on all things tech (and games).

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