Laptop Buying Guide
In days of yore the first stop for cheap laptop hunters used to be the high streets and malls, however this strategy is nigh on useless if you haven’t already formed an opinion and researched the specs you really need…..Why? Because then you leave yourself open to one of the most dangerous predators in the laptop jungle – the oily sales assistant. These folks often display a remarkable talent for over-selling. Indeed, 3 minutes after sidling up to you and asking innocuously – “Can I help you sir/madam”, you could be standing outside the store clutching a smoldering MasterCard, a Josh Groban DVD deal sweetener in your back pocket, and the latest 3-grand multimedia monster stuffed under your arm.
What Kind of Laptop User Are You?
That’s fine if cheesy baritone crooners and cutting edge quad-core gaming are on your wish list, but useless if you were just looking to run Excel and play Manic Miner on a ZX Spectrum 48k emulator. That’s not to say stores have no part to play in the deal hunting process, but in my humble opinion they’re certainly not the first port of call. First visit sites like Laptopical.com – read up on reviews and guides and find out what you really need and what to look out for. Then it’s off to do some comparison shopping to find the best laptop deals out there. Just for the sake of generalizing, Laptopical has put together a few guidelines depending on what you plan to do with your laptop.
Most home users use their computer for all kinds of tasks – in addition to surfing the web, paying the bills and writing a few emails, the laptop will most likely be used for pure entertainment purposes; ripping CDs to beef up that iTunes library, playing some casual games, or hooking it up to a TV for watching movies might be some of the stuff you’ll want to use it for. To simplify: You need a versatile laptop with plenty of hard drive space, a reasonably fast processor and a fair amount of RAM. If you’re at all into gaming, a dedicated graphics card from Nvidia or ATI is a must.
A tight budget doesn’t rule out getting a laptop anymore. A few years ago you had to pay twice as much for a laptop as a similarly equipped desktop PC, but that has all changed. In all fairness, you still get more bang for your buck with a desktop, but it’s not half as convenient. A small and cheap netbook like the Asus EEE could be an option, as they’re easy to lug around between lectures and whatnot, but keep in mind that they’re not suited for anything heavier than basic tasks like web surfing and word processing. Alternatively, you can get a budget mainstream laptop with more horsepower and skimp on the portability.
Portability is one of the main reasons to get a laptop, but regardless they come in all shapes and sizes, including huge desktop replacement models. What defines an ultraportable laptop is of course its size and weight; the screen should be no larger than 13.3 inches and the weight no more than four pounds. Thin-and-light laptops are usually not as powerful as larger ones because of the cramped space and limited cooling options. However, if you travel a lot it’s easily worth the tradeoff, and even the smallest laptops can handle most work-related tasks you need it for.
If your work only involves basic office tasks, such as editing spreadsheets and keeping up with the company correspondence, it’s safe to say you don’t need a super fast laptop with the latest gaming graphics card. There are lots of options for small and large businesses – from really cheap, low-end laptops with just the basics, up to powerful workstations with professional grade video cards. When you have assessed what you need, it’s also important that the laptops have a solid and durable build quality and that the manufacturer provides the right amount of long-term support.
The single most important requirement in a gaming laptop is the dedicated graphics card, and if you’re really serious about gaming on your laptop it needs to be a powerful one. Because of the heat they generate, you normally only find these in larger, 15 or 17-inch laptops. Laptops dedicated to gaming are very powerful and tend to drain the battery fast and be very pricey, and it’s quite a niche market because of it. Nevertheless, if you want to see your LAN party buddies green with envy, this is what you want.
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By: Henrik Stigell