Notebook PC users put a premium on durability

Notebook PC users put a premium on durability

Federal respondents say a road-worthy unit is their top priority, but battery life is a close second

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

When you take a notebook computer on the road, it's likely to get banged around.


In a GCN survey, federal buyers reported that Dell notebook PCs rank as their top portable choice. They also identified improvements they would like notebook vendors to make.


That's why durability is such a big deal for the federal employees GCN surveyed about notebook brands and qualities'they rated durability No. 1 among the attributes they look for in a notebook PC.

Take, for instance, users we talked with about notebook PCs from Dell Computer Corp., the top-rated brand in the survey.

At the U.S. Sentencing Commission in Washington, information systems manager Joyce Bouwkamp has been taking her Dell Inspiron 7500 on business trips for more than a year. She finds it holds up well under the stress of travel conditions.

But a Dell Latitude CP user we talked with had an experience that raised his concerns about his notebook's toughness.

'The latch broke within my first few days [of using it], so I would say it should be more durable,' said John Collura, a senior electrical engineer at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Md.



Users who tote notebooks from Gateway Inc., the No. 2 brand overall in the survey, gave their machines the top rating in the durability category, beating out notebooks from Dell and from Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. and IBM Corp., the No. 3 and No. 4 brands overall.

Trailing the pack

In market share, however, Gateway lagged behind, with only 9 percent of the users surveyed. Dell held a big edge, with 31 percent of the survey sample, followed by Toshiba with 19 percent and IBM with 12 percent.

Aside from durability, battery life was the next biggest issue for users of all the top-rated brands in the survey.

'The battery life isn't all that great,' Dell user Bouwkamp said. 'But I tend to use it where I can plug it in. I don't use it much when I'm flying on airplanes and stuff.'

NSA's Collura said the battery life of his Latitude isn't much of a problem'except on long plane flights.''I go overseas a lot, and I like to use it on the plane, but I just don't have enough [running] time because of the battery life,' he said.



Wish list

Here are some other comments from users of the survey's top-rated brands:

Dell: 'The video display is excellent,' said an IRS systems administrator in Los Angeles who uses a Latitude notebook. 'But it should weigh less.'

An IRS Inspiron user in Seattle offered this wish list: 'I'd like to retain the processing power but have it be smaller with an increase in battery life.'

Gateway: A Nuclear Regulatory Commission systems analyst said this about her Gateway 2500: 'It needs to have greater speed and larger screen size.'

At Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, a computer specialist praised the quality of his Gateway Solo's screen. 'Its display is great,' he said.

Toshiba: An Army Corps of Engineers development officer in Washington liked his Toshiba Satellite's built-in floppy disk and CD-ROM slots but added, 'It needs to be lighter in weight and have a longer battery life.'

At the Naval Supply Systems Command in Pennsylvania, a program manager who uses a Toshiba Tecra 8000 also liked the notebook's
display quality but said the machine gets hot.
It needs a cool-down device.'

IBM: At a Transportation Department office in San Francisco, a ThinkPad user liked his notebook's compact size but wanted more processing punch.

And at a Justice Department office in Seattle, another ThinkPad user was concerned that her notebook wasn't rugged enough.



















































































Survey results
OverallDurabilityBattery lifeDisplay size or typeProcessing powerBuilt in CD-ROM driveWeightHard drive sizeIntegrated networking capability
Dell Computer Corp.71
79
69868672
66

76

79
Gateway Inc.6289565667445678
56

PriceSizeBuilt-in floppy disk drivePC Card devicesInternal modemBuilt-in pointing deviceMultimedia capabilitiesKeyboardDocking hardware
Dell Computer Corp.
66
79
66
756762
54

79

54
Gateway Inc.89
78
67
67

56

56
56
56

33
























































































Survey results
OverallDurabilityBattery lifeDisplay size or typeProcessing powerBuilt in CD-ROM driveWeightHard drive sizeIntegrated networking capability
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.
54

78

50

67

67

50

56
78
39
IBM Corp.
50

73

27

45

64

55

45

64

27

PriceSizeBuilt-in floppy disk drivePC Card devicesInternal modemBuilt-in pointing deviceMultimedia capabilitiesKeyboardDocking hardware
Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.
39

78

39

61

56

44

44

39

39
IBM Corp.
64

64

55

36

45

55

45

55

30



The GCN Reader Survey is designed to give federal buyers detailed quantitative data on specific computer and communications products, as graded on a scale of 100 by federal users.'The survey also measures the relative importance of product attributes in selection of those products.

This survey on notebook computers was part of a telephone survey of 100 federal readers of GCN who on their subscription application forms identified themselves as buyers and users of notebooks.

The products in the survey were chosen because they represent the bulk of such brands used in government. This report lists results only for those brands for which there were at least nine users. The overall rating for each company was developed by averaging all individual attribute scores.'Top scores are in red.

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