Stick with familiar Mac when choosing a laptop

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 May, 2000, 12:00am

I want to buy a laptop and don't know where to start. I need something that is light, has a large screen, is user-friendly, dependable, and doesn't offer options I will never use. Most of the time I use a computer as a word processor.

I receive manuscripts by e-mail or floppy (sometimes hard copy) and usually return them by the route they came. I have never needed a CD-Rom.

I work on a Mac Performa 6200 which, although a bit slow, I find straightforward. The only time I run into difficulties is when I am sent material that hasn't been converted to read on a Mac. I am not sure whether this is a major problem for the sender or an oversight. The only other facility I would find useful is to be able to fax.

I use Claris Works on the Mac, which I much prefer to Word, but this may simply be what I am used to. I do a lot of subscripting, superscripting, space checking, keying in of Greek, and these functions I find easier on the Mac.

JAMES DYER Hong Kong Being less familiar with the Macintosh platform, I turned this question over to Mac guru Chris Walton.

If you want to buy a computer so you can learn about computers, buy a Windows machine. If you want to buy a computer so you can get some work done, buy a Mac. You are used to the Mac platform, stick with it. Having said that, Mac laptops have two undeniable shortcomings. Macs tend to emphasise power over size and they lack a floppy drive. Most notebooks don't have built-in floppy drives anymore, they attach by a cable. The same is true with Apple notebooks, but you will have to buy the drive from a third-party vendor. As for compatibility, you won't lose anything with a Mac. There is no issue with e-mail. I suspect the reason you were unable to read some files lies with the file translator that came with your Performa.

The sender was most likely using a word processor version that was much newer than your file translator. If you buy DataVis MacLinkPlus, your ClarisWorks - now AppleWorks version 6 - will read and write far more file formats than Microsoft Word. You will actually have a more versatile set-up so long as you keep your MacLinkPlus up to date.

Apple makes two types of notebook, the iBook and the PowerBook. The traditional-looking PowerBook is more powerful, more expandable and more expensive. The 400MHz model is HK$19,800, the 500MHz model HK$27,600 and the 500MHz model with an 18GB-gigabyte disk is HK$31,399. The iBook is most likely your speed. It is reasonable at HK$12,800, and includes the latest version of AppleWorks and Fax Stf and a built-in modem.

That leaves you to buy a floppy drive and MacLink Plus. The iBook also has a six-hour battery life and you can get a wireless base station that will allow you to dial into the Net without connecting wires.

Larry Campbell is publisher of The opinions expressed in this column are his own. E-mail comments and questions to techtalk Questions to Tech Talk will not be answered personally. Technology Post reserves the right to edit letters.