Fed users want light, speedy and long-lasting notebooks -
- By Bill Murray
- Sep 15, 1997
Federal notebook users want faster processors, longer-lasting batteries and less weight
to tote on the road, according to an exclusive survey of 127 GCN readers who routinely use
As for favorite brands, Toshiba American Information Systems Inc. topped the list.
Twenty-two percent of respondents said they carry Toshiba notebooks.
Although 16.5 percent identified their notebooks as Pentiums without specifying a
manufacturer, nearly 14 percent said they have IBM Corp. portables, and 11 percent have
Dell Computer Corp. notebooks.
A third of the notebooks contain Intel 486 processors. Another 31 percent are Pentiums,
and 10.4 percent are 386s. That likely explains why 13 percent of the respondents
identified a slow processor as what they liked least about their notebooks.
To meet the demand for more power, notebook vendors now are selling 166-MHz Pentium MMX
and 150-MHz Pentium notebooks. Federal buyers will find 200-MHz Pentium MMX notebooks on
the market in coming months.
One 286 notebook user said poor battery life--40 minutes--is a serious drawback.
Overall, 22.4 percent complained about short battery life, and 15 percent said their
notebooks are too heavy.
An additional 11 percent called the notebooks' keyboard size too small.
Although fed users shouldn't look for strong advances in lithium-ion battery life
anytime soon, vendors such as Digital Equipment Corp., IBM and Toshiba are doing something
They all sell full-featured portables that weigh less than 6 pounds.
But even a 6-pound computer is heavy if you have to carry it for any length of time.
One user complained that what he liked least about his 6-pound notebook was that
"with all accessories, it weighs 10 pounds."
More than 44 percent of respondents cited portability as their favorite feature.
Another 14.7 percent liked light weight, and 9.5 percent mentioned color screens. About 68
percent of the respondents reported that they have active-matrix screens. General
reliability was the favorite feature for 7.4 percent of the users.
The priorities run counter to many notebook vendors' marketing pitches, which plug
multimedia features and computing power. Notebook makers often place a lower importance on
battery life and light weight.
Almost three-quarters of respondents said they use their notebooks primarily for
travel. Only 6.7 percent said they relied on them for field use; 4.5 percent used
notebooks mostly for presentations.
Dell and other vendors have targeted the mobile presenter as the key notebook user, but
it appears that few federal users consider presentations a primary function.
Fifty-one percent of readers said they bought their notebooks on the open market; 35.5
percent bought through General Services Administration schedule contracts. Only 6.2
percent said they used their IMPAC credit cards to buy a notebook.
The survey indicates that GCN readers have not junked their desktop systems for
notebooks in the office.
When asked which they use more, 93 percent said they use their desktop systems more.
But as notebooks gain in memory, multimedia features and processing speed, the number of
federal users who buy desktop replacement notebooks with docking stations likely will
force this figure downward.
Almost all of the notebook users reported using Microsoft Corp. operating systems. More
than 63 percent had Microsoft Windows 95, and 34 percent reported using Windows 3.x. Less
than 4 percent had Windows NT, and only three readers reported using Apple Macintosh
The survey also appeared to verify what vendors contend: Notebook supply constraints
have eased this year.
Almost 70 percent of respondents said they received their notebooks within a month of