Buying a New Laptop – What to Know, and What to Look For
It’s that time of year again. The summer is winding to a close Sinple and that means colder weather, leaves changing their color and schools everywhere are about to open their doors. One thing that a lot of parents (and students) are dreading is that school’s are beginning to require their students own laptops to use in their classes. But fear not, for I have compiled a guide that will make buying the right laptop much easier for you. And if you’re not going to school this fall, this guide should still assist you in your quest for a business or personal laptop for yourself or someone in need this holiday season.
Why are you buying a new Laptop?
Maybe you’re one of the parents looking to find a laptop for their child to take to school this year, or perhaps you’re looking for a system that will give you a new edge at the office. The reason you are buying your laptop is going to determine what you’re going to need out of the new system. If your laptop is going to be using Computer Animated Design software for example, you’re going to want a more powerful processor than if you’re merely using it for Word Processing or Internet based research. Are you a hardcore gamer? Do you like editing photos or creating videos? Are you a musician looking to get some better exposure? It may be best for you to jot down every possible scenario you could see yourself using the laptop before you read the next section of the guide, to be sure you’re getting everything you need out of the system.
Laptops come in all shapes and sizes.
Size does matter.
This is a feature that a lot of people overlook when buying a laptop, but the size and physical features of the laptop are arguably one of the most important. Where the processor, amount of ram, and hard drive can be upgraded and replaced as needed, features like the size of the laptop, the placement of its various input/output ports and it’s weight are all things that you’re realistically going to be stuck with after your purchase it. Some things to ask yourself are:
- How large of a screen am I going to need?
- Am I going to be carrying this laptop around a lot?
- How many peripherals are going to be attached to the laptop?
- Am I going to miss not having the NUMPAD on my keyboard?
The size of the screen is going to directly affect the size of the laptop, so this question is important. If you are buying this laptop to edit photos, create videos, play games or watch movies and television then you’ll likely want a large screen. Keep in mind that large screen laptops are heavier, and therefor if you’re going to be crossing a large campus on a daily basis you’ll need to consider that as well. The number of peripherals you’ll be attaching to the laptop also helps narrow down what you’ll be using it for. The most important consideration is the number of USB ports you’ll have, as most accessories and devices connect to a laptop using these ports. A printer that isn’t wireless, a drawing tablet, a wired or wireless mouse and a USB storage drive are all examples of devices that connect via USB. If you intend on connecting your laptop up to a monitor at any given time you’ll want to consider the Output connection on the laptop as well. Finally, one of the most overlooked features of a laptop is the presence or absence of the NUMPAD on the keyboard. The NUMPAD is the 16 button portion beside your arrow keys that sort of resembles a telephone. Though, it is possible to purchase a USB powered external NUMPAD for a laptop, if you’re used to having one, it’s best to have it attached to the laptop itself.
What makes a good Laptop?
Now that you have an idea about what you want your laptop to look like on the outside, it’s time to consider what you’d like to see on the inside. If you’re buying this laptop merely to use programs like Microsoft Office, an internet browser and iTunes then you’re not going to need a whole lot of power from your system. Laptops on the retail market these days come equipped with Windows 7 as an operating system, and unlike their Vista counterparts a couple years back will come designed to handle running the operating system smoothly. That being said, a good benchmark to set for your system will be 4GB of RAM; preferably DDR3, A quality dual core processor (avoid the Intel Celeron series for example), and then a hard drive based off how much you plan to store on your computer. Typically hard drives from 250 – 500GB are the most commonly found on lower to mid ranged laptops, and that should be more than sufficient storage space.
If your plan is to use more intensive programs, such as Graphic Design software, Music editing software, or anything else that will create an intensive load on your system you’ll want to take a closer look at your Processor. A processor that boasts dynamic performance enhancement, such as the Multithreading feature offered in the Intel i series of processors are a good choice for this. The cores of the i3-i7 processors are designed to divide tasks up into threads within each processing core, allowing your system to think it has more cores to work with, the end result being that it can force a little extra power out of your system in a pinch. Another handy feature to watch for is the size of your L2 and L3 cache. The larger the cache, the more your system is able to do without slowing itself down to access more distant memory sources, and that means quicker response times to whatever you need to access.