How to Buy a Laptop

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Are you in the market for a new laptop? What should you be looking for and considering? Here are some tips sent in by a community member to help you with your decision.

  • Build Quality. The build quality of the laptop is more important then you might think. Not only are poorly built laptops more likely to break down, but they are more likely to have overheating problems, and therefore run slower. If your laptop is going to be leaving the house several times a week, build quality is more important then it is not going to leave the house Look closely at the laptops in stores and read reviews online.
  • Keyboard. Similar to build quality, look at the quality of the keyboard. This is especially important if you will be doing a lot of typing. A poorly constructed keyboard will become very frustrated to type on.
  • Mobility vs. Screen size. If the laptop is rarely going to leave the house(Ex: when you go on vacation) then you a laptop with a 15-17 inch screen size is probably appropriate. However, if you are going to be taking the laptop to school or a café on a regular basis, you probably want something more mobile, in the 12-14 inch range. Although you should look at the actual weight of the machine, not just the screen size.
  • Specifications. I would recommend everyone stay away from Celeron, Sempron, Core Solo and Turion(single core) processors. You might think you don’t need more than a single core processor if your only doing basic tasks and surfing the web, but you might be surprised how draining seemingly simple tasks can be when you have several opened at the same time. Further, budget dual core laptops are only slightly more expensive then the above mentioned processors. I have read a lot of conflicting information on the hierarchy of processors, so maybe Chris can get into that more then I will hear. I went with a Core 2 duo, because generally people thought they had the best performance, better battery life, and fewest overheating problems. Turion processors are the best of the AMD line. Athlon X2 and Pentium Dual Core are considered budget dual core laptops. Keep in mind though even among the same line of processors(such as Core 2 duo) there can be a substantial difference in performance between the laptops. This is especially true if you are using a Windows Vista machine, which is most of the machines on the market right now. Don’t worry too much about memory, as it can be cheaply upgraded, and is very easy to upgrade. Just make sure the laptop is upgradeable. If you play video games and/or do video/photo editing. I got a laptop with an integrated video card since I don’t do any of those activities. Don’t really know much about video cards, maybe Chris can speak more to that.
  • Features. Does the laptop have a built in memory card reader for your type of digital camera? Does it have a built in web cam? A built in microphone? Aplenty USB Ports? How loud do the speakers get? One of the most important features I was looking for was battery life. Does the computer come with a 4 cell, 6 cell, 9 cell, or 12 cell battery? If it comes with a 4 or 6 cell battery, can you buy a better battery at a reasonable price?
  • Bonus Tip! Look for good deals, the smart shopper can pay hundreds less. Check out sites like tagjag.com for good bargains, but keep in mind that these sites tend to tell you that a laptop price at a certain store is the “best they could find”, but that doesn’t mean that particular laptop is actually a good deal compared to others on the market.

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