The Telecommuter: Laptop
A telecommuter works remotely, usually from home, so his or her laptop must be powerful enough to serve as a makeshift satellite office. A machine with a split personality is thus required, which comes loaded with enough features to serve as a desktop alternative, yet remains portable enough to transport easily when necessary. (Although the telecommuter may not travel a lot, something that can be carried comfortably for those occasional trips to the office is required.) The Fujitsu LifeBook N7010 meets all of the telecommuter’s needs, and has some fancy extra touches to boot. The main screen is a large 16-inch crystal-view LCD, but there’s also a handy four-inch touch screen allowing for easy multi-tasking by keeping information like slide shows, CD/DVD controls, or application shortcuts visible and accessible at all times. Plus, there’s a built-in Webcam (which is great for virtual meetings and Web conferences).
The Telecommuter: Extras
By plugging your laptop into a docking station, you’ll instantly have access to the attached full-size monitor and keyboard, plus all your other peripherals. No more wasting valuable time plugging and unplugging a dozen wires. As a bonus, docking stations have several USB ports, which when combined with those available on your laptop, give you a total of perhaps six or eight USB ports when the laptop is docked. Unless you’re unwaveringly loyal to one brand of computer, look for a universal docking station, such as this Kensington wireless model, rather than one designed for use with a specific brand.
To keep your home office fully functional, you need to be able to do basic office tasks like printing and faxing and an all-in-one machine can let you do that, even if space is at a premium. A good choice is Canon’s Pixma MX700. It even has a 1.8-inch color LCD display that lets you view photos before printing them.
The Data Protector: Laptop
If your top priority is keeping data secure, you need to protect your machine and its contents from security threats as well as from accident-prone users or other calamities. The rugged-and-reliable Panasonic Toughbook 30 is mobile-broadband and GPS capable, has a workhorse Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and is designed to perform well even in harsh environments. From a security/durability standpoint, the vendor-specified annual failure rate is in the low single digits and Panasonic says it can still function after being dropped up to three feet or less. It also has a sealed all-weather design and comes with an 80 GB shock-mounted removable hard drive in a stainless steel case and optional built-in SmartCard and fingerprint readers.
The Data Protector: Extras
Prevent your machine (and the data it contains) from falling into the wrong hands with a laptop lock, like this one from Kensington. It has a six-foot carbon-tempered steel cable, a T-bar lock for a secure grip, and 10,000 personalized combinations. IronKey flash drives are FIPS 140-2, Level 2 validated, meaning they meet the highest levels of compliance with government-security regulations. IronKey devices are available in 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, and 8 GB storage capacities and include USB AutoRun anti-worm malware protection.
The Work-At-Home Parent: Laptop
The work-at-home parent needs something that will make his or her life easier while keeping up with an on-the-go schedule. A working parent also needs the portability to be able to throw the device in a tote (or even a diaper bag) and run out the door to the next appointment or a child’s play date. Ample storage space to keep work-related files and materials (plus family photos and videos) in one safe place is a nice extra bonus. The Toshiba Satellite U405-S2856 meets all of these needs. It has a reliable Intel Core 2 Duo processor, good memory speed, and a roomy hard drive in a manageable 4.5-pound package.
The Work-At-Home Parent: Extras
Toshiba’s 400 GB USB 2.0 portable external hard drive is USB powered and includes an internal shock sensor and ramp-loading technology to keep the drive safe and your data mobile.
Need a digital camera? Ideal for an on-the-go parent, the Canon PowerShot A570IS, with 7.1 megapixel resolution, is a great choice for work-related needs. However, it also does double duty as a perfect family camera, thanks to its image-stabilizer technology and 2.5-inch LCD screen. Working parents often have tight budgets, so you’ll be happy to know that this is Canon’s most affordable A-series digital camera.
The Fashionista: Laptop
Today’s fashionista doesn’t only follow trends when it comes to shoes, bags, and couture labels. Always cutting-edge and looking for the next big thing, the fashionista wants the most advanced gadgets before anyone else has them. When looking for a laptop PC, this user needs portability (to keep up on trends the moment they begin), wireless Internet (to locate the hottest new club), and a sleek, cool design. Voodoo’s Envy 133 meets all of these criteria and offers a cool extra: a power adapter with a built-in Ethernet jack. Designer handbags often aren’t intended to carry a lot of weight, so this stylish machine puts a powerful Intel Core 2 Duo processor in a light three-pound package. Plus, with the Envy’s Instant-On capability, the impatient fashionista can be online with amazing speed.
The Fashionista: Extras
The true trend-setter wants a laptop that looks totally unique and that’s where laptop skins can allow you to add your own personal style. These skins--such as the ones from LapSchticks--come in lots of styles, including retro designs and animal prints. You can even create a skin from your own design or photo. What’s the point of having a trendy laptop if you’re just going to stuff it inside a boring old bag? J’Tote specializes in laptop bags that are both fashionable and functional. The company’s Alannah bag, for example, is a limited-edition style combining purple suede with a bold floral fabric.
The Budget-Minded User: Laptops
For the budget-conscious home-based business owner who doesn’t want to sacrifice performance to get a good deal, Xavier Lanier, publisher of Notebooks.com suggests a Dell Vostro 1510. The base package is priced at around $500 (plus another few hundred if you want the Productivity Package or the XP and Security Package). Thinner and lighter than some of Dell’s previous small-business laptops, the Vostro 1510 offers a super-powered antenna, which is designed to eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) dropped signals with both Bluetooth and WiFi. You won’t lack connectivity with this machine, as it offers four USB ports, jacks for microphones and headphones, an Ethernet port, media card readers, and more. Users who do a lot of photo or video editing (or enjoy online gaming in their downtime) will probably want to upgrade to the optional Nvidia 8400M graphics card. Don’t like Windows Vista? Add another $99 to the bottom line for Windows XP.
The Budget-Minded User: Extras
If you can’t afford to spend a lot on office equipment, an affordable all-in-one printer is the most cost-efficient solution. A good choice is Lexmark’s X6650, which is a four-in-one (print, copy, scan, and fax) machine with built-in WiFi and slots for memory cards and flash drives. Best of all, it costs around $100.
Need a Webcam for video conferences or virtual meetings? For less than $50, you can get the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000, which provides good picture quality, even in low light. Its bendable rubber stand makes it easy to position on or near your laptop, and it’s available in several color choices.
The Frequent Traveler: Laptop
For the road warrior, mobility and accessibility are key. Grayson Ashley, author of “Computers to Go,” recommends an iPhone for total lightweight portability if you just need e-mail access and Web surfing capabilities. But most likely you need a little more than that, and laptops don’t get much lighter than the Fujitsu LifeBook U820 mini-notebook, which weighs in at a mere 1.3 pounds. With Windows Vista, touch screen capability, and a long battery life, it’s a great choice for the mobile professional who needs to pack light without sacrificing important functions and features. As a bonus, the built-in Garmin Mobile PC navigation system allows this laptop to do double-duty as a GPS system that will keep you from getting lost, no matter where you wander. The optional Bluetooth feature lets you easily transfer data back and forth to your PDA, cell phone, and other gadgets. The fingerprint sensor keeps your data secure while you travel, and the built-in Webcam lets you maintain face time with colleagues and clients.
The Frequent Traveler: Extras
No matter where you roam, you need access to an online network in order to stay in the loop. This Linksys Wireless-G network adapter with a WiFi finder allows you to see available networks anywhere you go. Unsure if you’re in a hotspot? This adapter lets you check for wireless availability before you even turn your laptop on.
For the traveler who hates airport delays, ScanFast offers checkpoint-friendly laptop cases that help travelers zip through airport luggage checks more quickly. The cases are specially designed to allow airport screeners to X-ray a laptop while it is still in the bag.
The Distracted Writer: Laptop
Professionals who do a lot of writing and want to minimize distractions might want to check out the AlphaSmart Neo. It doesn’t have Internet accessibility, but that’s exactly why some people love it. With no Internet or e-mail distractions, it’s easier to concentrate on writing. It features a full-size keyboard, weighs less than two pounds, and can run up to 700 hours on just three AA batteries. You can take your Neo everywhere, and when inspiration strikes, it has an instant on/off feature (no boot up time). Once you return home, use the USB cord to upload your work to a regular computer for more editing. The newest model, Neo 2, even has wireless connectivity to allow for cable-free printing.
The Distracted Writer: Extras
There are several accessories designed specifically for the Neo. First, there’s the keyguard, which allows users to rest their hands without worrying about inadvertently pressing any keys. There’s also the Neo stand, which is a transparent, angled stand that allows you to place the Neo in a slanted position for more comfortable typing. Finally, the portfolio case is a faux-leather bag designed to safely transport the Neo, with enough room for other essentials such as business cards and documents.