If you’re a real estate professional who’s often on the go, you need a professional grade computer you can take anywhere. Here’s what to look for when you’re ready to purchase your next business laptop.
First, make some basic decisions:
How Will You Use It? Will this computer mostly sit on your desk at home? Or will you be a true road warrior, taking your computer to the office, using it to do presentations in clients’ homes, and running slide shows at open houses? If it’s the latter (and we hope it is), then you’ll need something powerful and well constructed, yet lightweight and easy to carry. (A computer that never leaves the office can be bigger with a larger screen.)
Netbook or Notebook? Small, inexpensive netbooks are growing in popularity. They’re great as a second computer or perhaps for short outings where all you’ll be doing is checking e-mail. But you probably shouldn’t select a netbook as your primary business machine. Their computing power is limited and their screens and keyboards are often too small to do any real work.
Windows or Mac? Apple computers are also growing in popularity, and for good reason. They’re well designed, they perform beautifully, and Apple support is exceptional. The drawbacks: they tend to be more expensive than Windows-based computers and you’ll need to learn your way around the Mac environment (although Apple gives you lots of help with this).
Perhaps most important, however, is that some software can’t run on the Mac. Before buying one, you’d need to be certain that you could still access your local MLS and any software or products offered by your board, that you could still access any proprietary programs offered by your broker, and that you could still use any special software you’ve purchased on your own. (Top Producer 8i, for example, requires a Windows operating system.)
There are ways to get around some of these issues, but if you’re not especially tech-savvy, you probably should stick to Windows for your work-related computer.
Next, go shopping.
You’ll probably find the best deals on the Internet. The Internet lets you do comparison shopping and can even allow you to select a custom-designed computer that includes the exact components you want. But you should probably “test drive” a computer before purchasing one on the Internet. Visit stores that sell computers and try some out.
Decide what size screen works for you. The larger screens have higher resolutions, but keep in mind that they also make the computer heavier. If you’re going to be carrying your computer around, you’ll need to balance the size of the display with the weight of the machine. Look for a screen size of 13”-14” and a total weight of less than 4-5 pounds or less. (Yes, there will be netbooks with smaller screens and lower weights, but as we’ve already noted, they’re generally not designed for full-time professional use.)
Also, try to tell whether the screen will work for you in other settings; in the store they all look good, but you may need to be able to use your computer in your car where the light is bright, or in some other less than perfect environment.
Pay attention to the keyboards and mice. Look for keyboards that feel comfortable and that fit your hands. Also, some computers have a trackpad for navigation and some have a mouse pointing stick. Try both and decide which one you prefer.
Once you’ve had the opportunity to touch and feel a few machines, you’re ready to make your purchase. In our next post on this topic we’ll help you understand the technical aspect of the computer (e.g., what’s a CPU, the memory, how much memory do I need, etc.) so you can purchase the machine that’s right for you.