Plenty to choose from among today’s portables
When it comes to buying a laptop, you’ll be like a kid in a candy shop with so many different models, brands, sizes and features available. Buyers have a choice of business laptops, desktop replacements, ultraportables, netbooks, gaming laptops, and even a new category of “value laptops” to choose from, so it’s no wonder that people can do with some help when it comes to choosing the right kind of laptop to suit their needs.
Features to look for
First of all, ask yourself, what kind of laptop do you need? Will you be mostly using it in the office? If so, then a business or a desktop replacement laptop would be best. Are you a student? Then you may find that a netbook or an ultraportable is more to your liking, as they can be easily carried from place to place. If you want to play games on your laptop, then the only way to go is with a specialist gaming machine.
In any case, you’ll want a machine that can perform to a reasonable high standard, which means you should be looking for a minimum of 2 GB RAM (though 4 GB is much better), a 120 GB hard drive, and an Intel or AMD dual-core processor to give you all the processing power you need. Anything less than the above specs could lead to reduced performance when trying to use some of the more recent types of software.
Another big consideration is the battery. If you’re planning on spending lots of time travelling or sitting in coffee shops with your laptop, then a long battery life is essential. The only way to go is Lithium Ion batteries, and at the very least you should go for a Single Lithium Ion battery with max cells in its base model – which should give you around 4 hours of battery life, provided you aren’t watching DVDs or running 10 programs at once!
You’ll also want to make sure the laptop comes with a decent number of USB ports (at least 3), and an NVIDIA or ATI graphics card if you’re planning to watch lots of YouTube or play games.
As for the screen and sound capabilities, there really is little difference between most laptops these days. The best advice here is if you can try before you buy, then all the better, but in any case the quality should be fine. Screen size is simply a matter of personal preference – bigger is nice, but at the same time it’s also less portable.
For wireless networking (so you can connect to the internet), look for the following: a built-in 802.11 G wireless card (industry standard these days), or the more advanced Built-in 802.11 G/N, which offers more range and faster throughput speeds. Bluetooth is nice but not entirely necessary, a matter of personal preference.
HP is often touted as the most reliable, long lasting brand, and is good for business/professional users as its machines pack lots of power, a long battery life and are known to be long lasting. Apple is another serious contender, though it’s also more expensive – but there’s nothing to compare with the power and sleek design of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. Sony Vaio also produces some good models, and their prices are now much more competitive than they were just a couple of years ago.
Toshiba, Lenovo, Samsung and Asus also produce high quality machines, while in our personal experience, Dell and Acer should be avoided as these tend to experience more problems than the other brands.
Laptop prices can vary enormously depending on the size, brand and features, but the following will give you a rough idea:
Apple – $1,000 to $2,000
Sony Vaio – $800 to $2,000
Other general purpose models: $600 to $1,500
Netbooks and value brands: $400 to $1,200
Where to buy?
Official manufacturer’s sites can be a little more expensive, so the best place would be to search at specialist online marketplaces such as CompUSA, which offers a good range of models and accessories, or BuyNow, which has both new and second hand models.