How to choose a laptop: A buyers guide

Black Laptop in front of world map

The day will come when the computer or mobile device you are using to read this article will need to be replaced. Either it will become faulty and unreliable or it will just be too old and slow to be of use anymore as new software and apps no longer run on it. There are many choices of computer you could go for but while tablets are popular we still feel that laptops are the best all around option for your computing needs, but how to choose a laptop?

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a laptop but we have broken it down into these things to consider.

  1. Price – Unless you won the lottery then the price of notebook computers will be an important factor in how to choose a laptop. Thankfully prices have dropped a lot in recent years and even low-end budget laptops at $200 will do a decent job for the average computer user, so if budget is your main concern then you can still get a branded laptop that will be good for years.
  2. Operating system – A few years ago the choice of operating system on a laptop was pretty much limited to Microsoft Windows unless you installed your own OS. But now the choice has opened up a lot more, Google has its Chromebooks, Apple Mac laptops more popular you can now choose a laptop with Android or Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Elementary OS.
  3. Consumer or creator – What you are going to use your laptop for will influence how you choose a laptop. If you are mainly going to use your laptop for consuming content created by others such as watching online videos, social media and surfing the internet then a low-end budget laptop would be sufficient. If you would like to use your laptop more for content creation such as digital photos or HD video editing then you are going to want to spend more on your laptop to get one with a more RAM and a faster CPU and perhaps a larger hard disk.
  4. Gaming – PC games still have the cutting edge even over even the latest consoles such as the PS4 or XboxOne. Unfortunately to run the latest PC games at the highest graphical settings on a laptop your going to need a pretty high specification notebook and this is going to cost a fair few pennies. So you need to weigh up how much gaming you would likely be doing compared to the extra costs. If you don’t choose a high end gaming laptop and go for a budget model that doesn’t mean you can’t play games on it but you maybe restricted to older or more basic games rather than the latest 3D titles.
  5. Specification – Unless you’re a tech geek you will probably find all the specs and technical details a bit baffling when it comes to choosing a laptop. but let us break it down a bit.
    RAM or memory dictates how many programs, apps or games you can run at anyone time. For even a budget laptop generally 2GB would be the minimum you will find and this should be enough to be able to have an email program running and web browser open with a few websites in their own tabs or for watching online videos from services such as Netflix without it slowing down your laptop. I would advise it would be better to pay a little extra and choose laptops with 4GB RAM which would give you a bit more to play with, that is unless you want to do HD video editing or Photoshop high-resolution images where the more memory the better. RAM is not to be confused with hard drive storage which is where you will store all your files on your chosen laptop. Two technologies exist in storage; SSD (solid state drives) and HDD (hard disk drives). The main difference between the 2 is how they store your files. SSD have no moving parts and are faster at reading and writing files than HDD and are less prone to failure but are more expensive because of this. The storage capacity of a laptop will be given in either gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB) with 1TB equal to 1000GB. If you choose a budget laptop you may find the storage as small as a 32GB SSD but what will that equate to in real terms? Well what you need to remember is that you would actually lose some of the storage capacity to the operating system and depending on the OS that could be up to 8GB! But generally speaking expect the OS to take a couple of GB. So what can you store on the remaining space? Well 1GB of space will be enough to store about 1 hour of HD videos, 300 high-resolution photos or 20 albums of MP3 music so even a 32GB has quite a lot of storage space. There are also other options to store files such as saving them to the cloud using free services such as dropbox or Google drive. Or if you don’t trust uploading them to the internet then for about $10 you can get a USB memory stick with 16GB of storage that you can carry around in your pocket.
    One final thing to think about when you consider how to choose a laptop is the CPU or processor. The CPU in your laptop is the brain that controls how fast is can do it calculations. CPU speed is measured in gigahertz (Ghz) and generally speaking the bigger the number the faster the laptop will be. Unfortunately it isn’t that simple as that as there are other things to consider such as the number of cores in the CPU. Cores inside a processor act as their own mini CPU being able to do calculations independently of its neighbour. This should result in a more fluid experience when running several programs at once. Therefore if you plan to choose a laptop to multitask and have several apps open at the same time a 1.8ghz quad core processor could feel faster than a 2ghz dual core CPU. The minefield that is picking the right processor when choosing a laptop is probably best to be looked at fully in another article as even the biggest manufacturer of CPUs in laptops – Intel- offer several different processor options to choose from. You have the low end Celeron CPU found in budget laptops up to the super fast i7 processor from gaming laptops.

So there is a lot to consider when you consider how to choose a laptop. And that is before you take into account your personal preference on colour and appearance or even the brand of laptop. One extra piece of advise is that if your aren’t sure which laptop to choose before you buy then purchase from a store that offers you the option to return if for a refund it doesn’t meet your needs.