The lowdown on power notebook PC

What are they? A power notebook PC has a fast processor balanced with an appropriate chip set, at least 512M of SDRAM, at least one magnetic hard drive, a CD-RW/DVD combo drive or better, a V.90/92 modem, an Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet interface and wireless capability. Some have 16- or 17-inch displays; most come standard with a 15-inch or slightly larger XGA or SXGA screen.

How much do they cost? Bargain power units can go for less than $2,000. A fully equipped system can cost $4,000 or more.

When do I need one? If you want a notebook that can serve as a fully equipped desktop alternative and is somewhat portable, then a power notebook is for you. If toting around a large bag filled with a 10-pound computer and other accessories is too much, go light and settle for less power and fewer options.

Must-know info? Wireless capability is a must, particularly 802.11g, which is fast and backward-compatible with 802.11b. If you are buying notebooks en masse for your agency, it's a good idea to stick with one vendor. This will make it easier to mix and match system components and accessories, which will save money in the long run.

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