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Windows 7 Mobile Computing Office : Our Choice

Net Communities, the publishers of, is in the middle of massive transition that will see our staff being offered the choice of keeping their desktops or moving to a more flexible laptop.

As described by the first part of this article, this will entail a number of changes both in the way our staff work and in the very fabric of our information infrastructure.

Central to the move is the adoption of Windows 7 Professional which uses all the latest technologies currently available on the market and although Windows XP was an option on the table, the fact that we don't have legacy applications means that we're not tied to the 10-year old OS.

As part of the move we've chosen to acquire a number of Dell Vostro 3500NB laptops, which fit our budget and requirement. The model number N0535001 in particular caught our eye because of its rather incredible value for money.

It is based around Intel's latest Arrandable Core i3-330M processor. This dual core processor runs at 2.13GHz and packs 6MB L2 Cache. Also in the package is 3GB DDR3 memory, a 250GB hard disk drive while the graphics is build on the processor die itself.

A note about the hard disk drive. Dell chose to ship a 7200RPM version rather than a more mundane 5400RPM model.

While this will noticeably improve your computer's performance, it may also have an impact on the battery life. The hard drive is also protected by a Free Fall Sensor which minimises the risk of data loss during a drop.

The rest of the configuration is pretty standard. A 8x DVD writer, Wireless B/G, a 6-cell 56Whr Li/Ion battery, a 15.6-inch 1366x768 WLED screen, a HDMI port, four USB ports, an 8-in1-1 card reader and a 2-megapixel integrated webcam.

We've also chosen to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional, add Office 2007 Basic, which can be updated until the end of September to Office 2010 Home And Business - which adds Outlook 2010 as well as extend the warranty to three year ProSupport for End Users and Next Business Day On-Site Service.

All in all, the package costs £605.10 excluding VAT and delivery. However, this can be reduced by applying a 10 percent voucher that removes an additional £60.51 from the total and taking advantage of Dell's free delivery, which is available for a limited period.

The final price for our laptop is £544.59 excluding VAT. Note that you may or may not decide to include an additional insurance policy called Complete Cover which provide you with cover against theft and accidental damage. You can find more about this product here (opens in new tab) and here (opens in new tab).

Because our staff will be working both indoors and outside and will want to keep the same level of flexibility that dual screen monitors currently offers to them, we were on the look out for a solution that offers a stress-free alternative to our existing "desktop PC + two monitor" setup.

Since the laptop already offers one screen, the solution was to get a USB monitor like the Samsung LD220 model which is part of the Lapfit family and comes with some surprising characteristics given that it costs (opens in new tab) only £113.

It is a full HD screen - that 2.07 megapixel worth of data - with a diagonal size of 21.5-inch. It comes with both VGA and USB input and even packs a USB hub. The lack of stand, in the traditional sense, might put off some users but I personally found it more ergonomic to look down on a screen (as you'd do on a laptop) rather than having to maintain your eye-level horizontally and thereby strain your neck.

You only need to connect one USB cable to your computer to enable the monitor. We also chose to have a separate USB keyboard and mouse that replace the input peripherals of the laptop's when users are in the office.

Finally, the last piece of the puzzle and possibly the most important is the installation of Carbonite Pro (opens in new tab) which seamlessly backs up your content in the background to remote servers, consuming only minimal computer resources although it might require wireless internet access. Best of all, it costs only $120 per year for up to 20GB worth of data, which is less than most of its competitors, especially given that there's no license fees.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.