Laptops — Macbooks and Windows


Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist

Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist


Last week we covered the things common to just about all laptops. This week we’ll begin to discuss specific laptop types, Windows, Macbooks, Chromebooks and iPads (no, I don’t intend to discuss Android tablets because I don’t think they’re a reasonable laptop replacement).

I encourage you to read all sections of this column regardless of which type of laptop you think might be for you as I may bring up things you didn’t know or realize about a particular type of laptop and those things might change your opinion as to what you’re interested in. And I might just raise a question or topic that could change your mind entirely.

Windows laptops come in all the forms we discussed last week — traditional clamshells, detachables and 2-in-1s. Most of them come with touch screens and webcams and some come with fingerprint readers. They are priced anywhere from really cheap to phenomenally expensive. But a good laptop for home use should run anywhere from about $400 to $800. If you’re purchasing a new one and you want it to perform adequately well over the course of a few years, get one with a newer Intel processor, at least 8GB of RAM and as large a hard disk as you can manage (at least 256GB), but if you are like me and never delete anything, more is better.

You can always copy less often used files off to an external drive or a cloud service like Google Drive, but many don’t bother (even though we all should — having a second source, or backup, for important files, pictures, licenses, etc. is a very good idea). I would recommend an 11th or 12th generation Intel i3 or i5 processor. More than 8GB RAM is fine, but in my humble opinion 8GB is an absolute minimum. Buy brands like Microsoft or Dell or HP or Lenovo or ASUS or Acer or any of the brand names that are available at sites like Best Buy or Microsoft’s own storefront (https://go.ttot.link/ShopMicrosoft). Yes, Microsoft’s online store sells computers and accessories from many different manufacturers (also called OEMs which is short for Original Equipment Manufacturers). And make sure you try the keyboard and are happy with the weight and size and clarity of the display.

Microsoft Hello (https://go.ttot.link/MicrosoftHello) is available on most, if not all, Windows laptops. You can login with your password or set up Windows Hello so you can login with your face (via the camera), your fingerprint (via the fingerprint reader) or by a short number that you choose, called a PIN. For comparison, some Macbooks and Chromebooks and all iPads provide fingerprint readers to ease sign in. PIN sign in is available on some Chromebooks and all iPads.

Of course, if you purchase a new Windows laptop it’ll be running Windows 11 which, in my opinion, is a nice update from Windows 10. It’s more polished with improvements to the control panel and their included apps. There are tons of apps available, both from the Microsoft Store and from sites all over the Internet. You have your pick of browsers although Microsoft favors their own Edge browser which is based on the Chrome engine. But it’s definitely not Google so if you have a desire to stay away from Google, Edge is there for you. That’s not to mention the other browsers that are a simple download away — Firefox, Brave, Vivaldi, you name it.

Of course, Windows has been around a long time so there are loads of apps available, not only from the Microsoft store but also from independent software developers. When it comes to apps, I’ll ask if you really think you need an app? No, seriously, please think about it. If you’re into serious music or video editing, an app might be what you need. If that’s the case then you need to be reading other articles because that kind of work often requires different or special hardware that is beyond the scope of this column. Windows 11 can run Android apps. Follow https://go.ttot.link/AndroidOn11 if you’re interested. And it’s been able to run Linux for a long time (see https://go.ttot.link/LinuxOn11).

But how many apps are just windows onto the developer’s website? Think you need a Spotify or Instagram app? Bet you can do as much if not more on their website. And if you prefer to have the website appear as though it were an app, most browsers will let you turn the website into a psuedo-app (i.e. the website will appear in your apps list but will really be an instance of your web browser opening on to the website). Chrome and Edge support Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) as well as installing “shortcuts” to websites so they appear in your Start Menu/Desktop. Desktop Firefox does not natively support them but Apple’s Safari does and, oddly enough, so does Firefox for Android.

What is a PWA and a shortcut and why would you want them? A PWA is platform independent. It can run on Windows or Mac or Android. A different version doesn’t have to be created for each platform which lessens the amount of work a developer has to do and makes it easier to install. Since a shortcut is just a link to a website, it too is an easy multi-platform choice.

How do they differ from one another? A PWA can run and do some work without a connection to the Internet, a shortcut cannot. How does it do this? Without getting into a lot of technical detail, a PWA is more than just a link to a website. It is code that is downloaded from the website that can do some amount of work on it own (if you want more detail, see https://go.ttot.link/WhatIsAPWA).

That’s it for this week. As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at [email protected] or just drop me a quick note and say hi! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L. It should be updated shortly after this column appears online.

Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.

Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2022/09/web1_Sumrall-Tony-latest.jpgTony Sumrall Contributing columnist