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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Laptop Lessons

Once you have a projector figured out you need something to project. I'm going to talk about laptops in this post, but you could just as easily get a desktop if you are going to build the projection system in.

First up, I'm going to skip the Mac vs. PC debate. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. Macs are very easy to use and their Keynote presentation software produces some pretty results with minimal effort. PC's are ubiquitous - In the US they have about 95% of the market share. Odds are pretty good that you've used a PC and people on your team are familiar with PC's. For this post I'm going to discuss PC laptops (because that's what I know best). If a Mac person wants to provide a guest post I would love it. You can e-mail it to me (wood-dot-jt-at-gmail-dot-com), that would be super cool.

Alright, on to the good stuff. What you need in a projection laptop is a system that won't slow down. In order to achieve this you will need two things - powerful hardware and minimal bloat in the software. Now I could tell you all about what's latest and greatest in the hardware right now, but that will be dated information before I click 'publish post' so I'll give some principles.

  • Get as much RAM as you can afford. Too little RAM is one of the worst things that can happen on a presentation computer.
  • Get the best video card you can afford (all laptops now-a-days have dual monitor output, but if you're getting a desktop, this is a must have). More and more presentation software is using the power of the graphics card. You won't be sorry you got this.
  • Get a big hard drive, but make sure it's fast. Big is good, but when you have to load files you want to get them quickly (especially video that needs to play smoothly) - right now hard drives come in speeds of revolutions per minute (rpm). Usually the higher the rpm the faster the data gets to you. Skip over the 5,400 rpm for at least a 7,200 rpm or even a 10,000 rpm if you can find it.
    • Note: solid state hard drives don't have an rpm number because they have no moving parts. This is good for durability and speed, but right now you will pay a lot more money per gigabyte, so I would avoid them until the price drops more.
  • Make sure that you match your display on the laptop to the display on the projector. If you decide on a widescreen projector get a widescreen laptop (and vice versa). Especially remember to set them to the same aspect ratio when you decide to project or things will look all squished and/or stretched.
Any other thoughts? What problems have you faced when buying or using a laptop? What's your favorite?

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