There are so many laptops on the market today, how on earth do you make sure you get the right one for you?
After all, someone who’s looking for a laptop to surf the web, send emails, create a PowerPoint presentation, edit spread sheets or create Word documents will need a different machine from someone looking to create complex multimedia files and digital films. You also have to consider whether you need to plug in peripherals, how portable it needs to be, how long a battery life you need…
Of course, it’s worth chucking in the disclaimer that there is no single laptop perfect for every situation. So, here’s a few things you might want to consider before getting completely confused and simply plumping for the one that’s the nicest colour.
If you need to lug your laptop about, its size and weight will be crucial factors.
It is worth remembering that if you want something light and portable, you’ll probably have to compromise on screen size. A laptop with a 15 inch screen is easier to work with, but it will be heavier. A good compromise is a 13.3 inch screen.
As a rule, go for the best battery life you can afford. If you are a heavy user, you might manage 3 hours tops from a battery (varies model to model). But light users might be able to extend that to anything up to 9 hours (again, this is dependent on model).
For students, battery life is critical as there is nothing more annoying than running out of juice halfway through a lecture. Plus, it’s always worth remembering that after a year or so use, your battery life will shorten.
Number of ports
If you need to connect a number of peripherals to your laptop, make sure you buy a model with a sufficient number of USB ports. Most now come equipped with built-in memory card readers, so look out for laptops that offer xD compatibility as well as the usual SD and Memory Stick support.
You might think no one is going to want to pinch your laptop, but it happens. Therefore, you would be wise to find one with a Kensington-type device. You can also use services such as SmartWater and Selectamark to make your laptop less attractive to light-fingered types.
This is where most people get confused.
As a rule of thumb, if you are going to be using your laptop mainly for Word, surfing and email, 2GB RAM will suffice. But if you’re going to be doing more intensive tasks, 4GB of RAM will be needed.
When it comes to processors, get the fastest one you can afford. The Intel Core i5 and i7 will offer sufficient power for video editing and CAD applications. For basic tasks, the Intel Core i3 and most AMD Athlon processors are fine.
Most laptops come with an integrated graphics chip that are normally fine for school and general use.
When it comes to storage, again buy as much as your budget will allow. But this isn’t too much of an issue as it is easy to buy an external hard disk later if you find you need extra storage.
Generally, the bigger the screen the easier it will be to use. The last thing you want is to be peering at a tiny screen all day. A 13.3 inch screen is OK for general usage, but a 15 inch screen is better for desktop publishing and video editing.
Again, this will come down to personal preference and desired portability of the laptop.
Support and warranty
Everything else we’ve mentioned so far concerns the usability of the laptop. This one, however, is possibly the most important aspect.
The cost of repairing a laptop can be quite high, so if it is for a student (who, let’s face it, tend to be quite hard wearing on machines) it might be worth going for a 3 year warranty.
When deciding what support option to go for, just think about how inconvenient it would be for you if you had to be without your laptop for a week or more while it was being fixed.
When it comes down to choosing your laptop, your final decision will have to be based on all these factors. You must always consider what is right for you now, and how you might use it in the future.
Although they are constantly coming down in price, buying a laptop is quite an investment for most people so it’s important to make sure you get it right.