Here's a brief rundown on how to buy a laptop. Published on Triond and Bukisa.
|How to Buy a Laptop
by Steven R. Struthers
The Competition: Vast and Good
In the late 80s and early 90s, laptops resembled a small suitcase, had poky processors, and super-short battery life, if they had a battery at all. Yes, they were portable, but hardly something that could sit comfortably in your lap. Back then, only a handful of companies were making laptops. Today, there are dozens offering a myriad of choices, from tiny netbooks to desktop-replacement models sporting 17” screens. And while today’s mainstream laptop has vastly more processing power than its 1990 predecessor, in real dollars it’s considerably cheaper, too. In short, the competition is vast, and it’s good.
All that choice can make buying a laptop a bit confusing. Here’s a short guide that will help you breeze through the selection process, and avoid making a bad buy.
Narrowing the Field
Are you a gamer who needs the ultimate in power? A road-warrior needing maximum portability and good overall capability? A casual user wanting to surf the net, pay bills, and send e-mail from virtually anywhere? A student on a tight budget? Who you are and what you want to do with a laptop will determine which one is right for you.
List the ‘must-have’ features, and ones you can live without. Go online and check out reviews of laptops. Make note of highly-rated models and their features. If they meet your needs, put them on your list of machines to be considered. Don’t forget to consider your budget.
What to Look For
Look for models that offer the best balance of capability and price. Rapid changes in technology tend to make computers rapidly obsolete, so expect a lifespan of three to four years, after which substantial maintenance and repair will be needed. By then, you may want to upgrade anyway.
Portability is important. If you’re frequently mobile, lugging around a heavy laptop will quickly become tiring. Then again, if you hardly ever need to leave your office with a laptop, and don’t move from room to room often, size and weight is less of an issue.
A good laptop will have at least two USB ports, a VGA-out port, and battery life of three hours or more. In this age of wireless connectivity, WiFi and Bluetooth are standard, as is a decent amount of memory. Three gigabytes of RAM is ideal for Vista-powered machines, while 250 gigabytes of hard drive space is reasonable. Processors should be dual-core at a minimum, and offer multi-thread processing.
Test Driving and Tire-Kicking
Visit local computer stores that have laptops on your shortlist. Check out the keyboards of each. Are they roomy and comfortable to type on? Are the displays bright, readable, and easy on the eyes?
Hold one of your chosen laptops in your hands for a while. Is it too heavy, or just right? Does it feel sturdy? Does the case or screen flex with only slight pressure? Turn it off and on. Does it boot quickly? Try accessing the internet. Do web pages load quickly? Compare the laptops you’ve examined, and note your impressions.
Examine the warranty and the technical support that is offered. Sometimes manufacturers skimp on these items to cut costs. After a few real-world encounters, and consulting your notes, one or two contenders should be at the top of your list. The winner will be the one you like best, after all other factors have been considered.
Ways to Save Money on a Laptop
Cheap laptops are tempting, but have many trade-offs: limited processing power, skimpy memory and storage capacity. They tend to be less durable and fail more frequently. If you can live with these limitations, they might be a good choice.
Netbooks are small and light, and can be credible alternatives. However, their tiny keyboards and displays can make typing long documents a chore, if not impractical.
Used laptops can be a good buy, especially for students. Before venturing out to buy one, check reviews of older models. Look for newer models that are not more than one or two years old. An extended warranty may be worth buying, if one is available. Be careful; a really good used laptop can cost as much as a new mainstream model with a full warranty.
New or used, IBM, Toshiba, and HP laptops are often good bets.
2010’s Best Choices
Gaming: Alienware M17x, $1799
Graphics: Apple MacBook Pro, $2299
All-around Performance: Samsung Q430-11, $799
Netbook: ASUS Eee PC 1201N, $499
Budget: Acer Aspire 5740, $550
Computer Shopper: Top Five Gaming Laptops http://computershopper.com/laptops/gaming-laptops/top-5-gaming-laptops
Cnet.com: Best 5 Laptops http://reviews.cnet.com/2733-3121_7-574-1. Html
Cnet.com: Best Mainstream Laptops http://reviews.cnet.com/best-mainstream-laptops/
Laptop Mag: 10 Recommended Budget Laptops http://www.laptopmag.com/buying-guide/laptops/budget-laptop- picks.aspx
PCMag.com: The Best Mainstream and Ultraportable Laptops
About the Author: Steven R. Struthers has been writing professionally since 1992. His articles appear on eHow, as well as business newsletters and intranet sites. Struthers also regularly creates and edits custom business correspondence. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Western Ontario.