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June 11, 2010

Welcome to the first Ask Ben Anything column!

For those of you who didn’t see my intro post, here’s the deal – send your PC buying questions to [email protected], find me on Twitter, or leave a question in the comments of one of my posts, and I’ll pick a few each month to answer publicly. I’ll always look to answer questions.

Before I get started, thank you to the dozens of readers who wrote in! I’m sorry that I’m not able to answer every question directly, because there were some really great questions about PCs and Windows that came through.

Hey Ben, looking to get a good school laptop for my 12 year old. He’s not a huge gamer but does want something that can handle some games.

– Greg M. (via face-to-face chat at Bellevue Square Mall)

The last two offer machines that I covered – the Toshiba e205 and the Sony VAIO EB, are exactly the kind of machine you should be looking for.  Each one is a reasonable size and weight (14” and 15” respectively) has a Core i5 processor, big, bright screen, and reasonable graphics power.  And you can get them each for under $1000.  You might also check out the 14” Samsung R480, which you can get with high-end specs like a Blu-Ray drive and a Core i5 processor.

I just took a new job and will be doing a lot of international travel. Need something small and fast. No gaming for me so I’m not too concerned with graphics power.

– Jeff O. (via email)

Right now I am in love with the Asus UL series. They’re thin, light, and you can get them in 13” (the UL30vt), 14” (UL80vt) or 15” (UL50). Each has a big hard drive – up to 500GB, 4GB of memory, an HD screen, and a Core2Duo ULV processor. What really stands out for me is the fact that the UL line has switchable graphics (NVIDIA GeForce G 210M discrete graphics for better performance, Intel HD Integrated graphics for better battery life), and gets 10+ hours of battery life. And you can get them for around $600! If you’re in the market for a high-end machine, the Sony VAIO Z is one of the most powerful 13” ultrathins out there, and you can get it with killer options like 512GB of SSD storage and Blu-Ray. And of course, if you’re traveling on a budget and aren’t doing a lot of heavy typing, there are tons of great netbooks that might work. I like the Gateway LT210, the Sony VAIO W (which I just posted on a few days ago), the HP Mini Vivienne Tam, (another one I reviewed), and the Asus eeePC Karim Rashid Edition, which you can get in hot pink or coffee brown.

So I’m in the market for a new (home) laptop – and I’m looking for something that’s light (~5 pounds or less), thin (1” or less), has awesome battery life (>4 hours), and looks as cool as a MacBook Pro. I’ve boiled it down to three competitors: Dell’s Adamo, HP’s Envy or a new MacBook Pro (running Windows 7 naturally!)

– Mark A. (via email)

First off, if you’re going to run Windows 7, then you should buy a Windows 7 PC! We work with our OEMs constantly to make sure that their hardware works great with our software.  And of course, you can always get more for your money with a PC at any size or price point.

In terms of PC choices, I like both the Adamo and the Envy line, so it really depends what you’re looking for. The Envy series is much more media-friendly and they sport powerful discrete graphics and a brilliant screen (as I’ve said before, its one of my favorites). The Adamo is geared towards mobile professionals and features a huge SSD and great battery life. Think about what you want to do, and make the call based on that – they’re both good boxes and are comparably priced.

If you like the Adamo you should also check out the Dell Vostro v13. It’s the same chassis as the Adamo, but with more moderate specs (i.e., no SSD), so you can get it loaded up for about $1000, about half price of a top-of-the-line Adamo.

Thanks again to everyone who wrote in a PC question. Keep ‘em coming!