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Simplifying Real Estate Agent Laptop Purchases

In my real estate agent desktop buying guide article, I wrote that “purchasing a new desktop computer can be a confusing experience”. Unfortunately, purchasing a laptop computer is an even more confusing task for the average real estate agent.The added confusion is brought about by the numerous incarnations of laptops available. From tablet PC to ultra-portables to huge desktop replacements, each style of laptop fulfills a different need. This means that there is no perfect laptop for everyone. Look to the matrix below for things to consider when choosing which laptop form-factor to buy.

Component Selection
Buying a laptop computer requires you to pull out your crystal ball and look into the future. Upgrading a laptop is difficult, costly and sometimes impossible. Buy more computer than you need today to allow your laptop to meet your needs for 3 or more years in the future.

Processor
The Intel Core 2 Duo processor is the way to go. Intel’s mobile processors are faster and more energy efficient (think battery life) than the competing AMD chips.

If available, look for Core 2 Duo processors running on an 800Mhz front-side bus (FSB). These processors cost a bit more, but their inclusion of tomorrow’s technology will extend the usable lifespan of your laptop.

Operating System
For real estate agents, Windows Home Premium will most likely meet your needs. This Home Premium includes all of the multimedia functionality that you will need in your daily marketing efforts.

If features like integrated backup, remote access and data encryption interest you, look to Vista Ultimate.

For a comparison of the Windows Vista versions, see Microsoft’s website.

Display
The size of the display is directly connected to the size of the machine, but there are several choices that you need to consider outside of size when choosing a laptop display.

Glossy or Matte Finish?
The glossy finishes look impressive. Colors tend to be very rich and vibrant. There is a huge drawback to these displays, the glossy finish is very reflective making them difficult to use in well lit environments. Unless you tend to work in the dark, go for a matte finish.

LED lit displays are starting to hit the market. These displays are brighter, thinner, last longer and use less power. The only downside of this technology is the current premium price.

Video Card
Windows Vista needs video power to run smoothly. When purchasing a laptop, buy the most powerful video card option offered, whether from nVidia or ATI. Integrated video cards just don’t cut it.

Memory
Nothing will make you dislike the Vista operating system more than not having enough RAM to run it properly. 2GB of RAM seems to be the sweet spot for best performance.

Hard Drive
Buy the most capacity that you can afford. The extra space is cheap and you will invariably need it at some point.

If speed is more important than storage capacity, consider a 7200 RPM hard drive.

Optical Drive
Blu-Ray and HD-DVD drives are still too expensive to recommend. Go for a DVD-RW drive and consider a Lightscribe model to add a bit of flare to your discs.

Wireless Card
All laptops should have a wireless card to allow you to connect to the internet at home, the office and other hotspots wirelessly. While the new 802.11N standard has yet to be ratified, the latest draft is showing a lot of promise and they are backward compatible with the “B” and “G” standards. Buy a laptop with an 802.11N wireless card to enjoy faster, stronger wireless connections in the future.

Mobile Broadband
While a wireless card will give you limited mobile connectivity, a cell phone based broadband connection will truly make you a mobile real estate agent. Many laptops offer multiple provider options for mobile broadband integration. This integration is very convenient, but it does tie you to a cell phone provider. Add-on cards, like the one recommended in our real estate technology holiday gift buying guide, will offer more flexibility to change providers at a later date.

Bluetooth
Uses for a Bluetooth connection are increasing as more Bluetooth-enabled products hit the market. With an integrated Bluetooth card, you can use:

  • your smartphone as a modem
  • wireless headphones to listen to music or movies
  • VOIP services (Skype) with a wireless headset
  • a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

Battery
This is a no-brainer. Buy the high capacity battery. It may add weight to your laptop, but the added time away from a power outlet is worth it.

Sound
I have never been concerned with sound card options in a laptop. For what a real estate agent uses a laptop computer for, the integrated option will meet your needs.

Webcam
I have seen real estate agents send video emails originated from their webcams. Webcams are also handy for keeping in touch with distant friends and family.

Docking Station
I love my docking station. When I get to the office, I simply connect my laptop and I instantly have a full keyboard and mouse, a huge LCD monitor, Internet connection, printer connection and the battery charges. It makes my portable laptop into a desktop computer. This is perfect for real estate agents who use a laptop as a primary computer.

If you want a docking station, you need to make sure that the laptop you choose has a dedicated docking station connection. Otherwise, you are forced to use a USB-connecting model and those products are junk. Look at HP Pavilion or Dell Latitude laptops for quality docking station options.

About Chad A. Johnson

Chad A. Johnson is the President/COO of Agent Evolution, a social media education and WordPress web design firm. Through his multiple roles at Agent Evolution, Chad stays on top of the latest in WordPress development and business operations technology. Allow him to share WordPress tweaks, cloud computing services, and much more through his MTO posts.