jessicaw wrote:Anybody have any experience with Solid State Drives? Are they worth the extra money?
Wikipedia suggests that they are AWESOME except that they degrade with usage. I'm unclear as to how quickly this would become a problem...
EDIT: or experience with HYBRID DRIVES? (i just read about this... wow)
If you don't know if a component is worth the extra money, it probably isn't. An exception would be ram, which I would max out (your hardware limitations or 3GB for any Windows OS except Vista 64-bit, whichever is lower).
I'll outline a reasonably powerful setup for boring law student purposes (work, media, minimal gaming). Hopefully if you're a gamer or a graphic designer you already know which components you need to upgrade.
CPU: 2-2.5 ghz core2duo
RAM: 3 gb for anything except vista x64 (perhaps 4-8gb for vista x64, depending on hardware and pocketbook limitations)
OS: your preference is fine. XP has better battery life than vista.
Graphics card: 128-256mb. ati is terrible, but if you're not a gamer you are very unlikely to notice a difference between nvidia and ati.
Hard drive: 80gb absolute bare minimum. 120-160gb (7200rpm) would likely get the job done. if you're downloading a lot of files, hopefully you already know how much extra you need. don't be sucked in my fancy-pants solid state.
Battery: the best you can get, plus a smaller spare (if available).
Wifi: i would go with the new -N standard, but go G if you're cheap and not easily frustrated.
a major brand's system at the higher-end of my range might run $1,700, while one at the lower end might run $700. laptops can be had from $400 to $4,000, but i think my range is where the good value lies.
one more thing to keep in mind: the more juice you have, the faster you're going to drain your battery. this can be mitigated by adjusting your power settings (performance when plugged in vs. on battery), but not completely.