Thinking of buying a laptop? They can be a great asset, whether you need to take your computer to class or just want to replace your current computer and save some desk space while you're at it. Our laptop buying guide will show you what to look for when picking the perfect portable computer.
This guide doesn't recommend specific machines, but it does show you what general categories to look at, along with what features you might need.
First, decide which operating system you'd like on your new laptop. The operating system, or OS for short, is the underlying software that the entire machine runs on. The applications you use--like your web browser, photo editing tool, or favourite game--all run on top of the OS itself.
We could write an entire laptop buying guide just to compare OS features, but we'll give you the short version here.
• Windows 8--Windows laptops are some of the most popular laptops, giving you the most compatibility with the most programs. You're probably familiar with Windows from using it at work or school. New laptops come with Windows 8, which has a tablet-like interface. But don't worry, the Windows you know and love is still in there--after all, this is a laptop guide, not a tablet guide.
• Mac OS X--The Mac OS is available on high-quality and relatively expensive Apple MacBooks. They start at around £800, but you can end up spending around £2,000 on the latest MacBook. The most recent Mac OS takes many cues from Apple's popular iPhones and iPads. A service called iCloud will sync much of your data between your iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, including apps like iMessage, allowing you to respond to chat messages on both your iDevice and your MacBook.
• Chrome OS--The Chrome OS is designed for the web, which means that Chromebooks are light, portable and can get you to your favourite websites quickly. They’re built for the cloud, so instead of storing your files and other data locally on the machine, you’ll primarily be accessing it over the internet. If you already like the Chrome web browser, you’ll feel right at home on a Chromebook. They’re affordable, simple to maintain as they automatically update and you don’t need anti-virus. Chromebooks are designed for web-based usage, which means that you cannot install programs in the traditional sense. You need to access them over an internet connection through your browser.
Laptops come in many different sizes. This makes it easier to find one that's just right for you. In general, size and power tend to go together. The most powerful laptops are very large, and the smallest, lightest laptops are not as powerful.
• 11 to 13-inch laptops--These laptops are ultra-portable, ideal for students and others who move around a lot and prefer to keep their computers with them at all times.
• 14 to 16-inch laptops--These laptops represent the general use range. They're small enough to pick up and take with you, but have enough power to do pretty much everything you want to do.
• 17-inch laptops and larger--The biggest laptops are considered desktop computer replacements. They are as powerful as they come, suited for video games and other heavy lifting tasks such as video editing. They tend to be too heavy and their battery life too short for convenient portability.
RAM stands for Random Access Memory, but it is also known as 'on-board' memory. RAM is a form of data storage that is used for processing and storing the data that the computer is currently working with. If you don't have enough RAM, your computer will run slowly. To run most applications and tasks efficiently you will need at least 2GB of RAM.
Your computer's processor does most of the actual computing work. The processor determines how many things your computer can do at one time, and how fast it will do those things.
• Cores--The more cores your processor has, the more computing functions it can handle at the same time. As the number of cores is the largest factor in your processor's performance, a dual-core processor should really be your starting point.
• Speed--In the early days of computers, processor speed was all that mattered. These days, clock speed is also an important consideration. Measured in gigahertz (GHz), your processor's clock speed determines how quickly the processor can move tasks through its cores. When selecting a processor, first choose the one with more cores. If two processors have the same number of cores, the one with the higher clock speed is superior. In general, 2.5 GHz will provide ample speed. If you crave even more power, look around the 3.5 GHz or greater spectrum.
• Integrated Graphics--Processors with integrated graphics give you stronger video processing without the need for a separate video card.When you compare processors, you'll find that not everyone benefits from integrated graphics. If you use your computer only for e-mail, web browsing, and even watching films, integrated graphics get the job done excellently. Video games and graphic editing, however, require separate video cards that are more powerful and specially designed to process intensive graphics.
• Brands--The two most popular processor manufacturers are AMD and Intel. Chances are you've already owned a PC with a processor made by one of these two companies. You could spend days researching the differences between AMD and Intel processors, but the real decision comes down to price. Both processors will perform most everyday tasks perfectly well, with the equivalent AMD chip being cheaper, which normally helps lower the overall cost of the laptop. However, if you’re serious about audio and video editing, it’s worth investing in a model with the quieter Intel chip.
Next on the laptop buying guide we show you which additional features you need on your laptop and which you don't.
• Touchscreen--Many Windows 8 laptops come with touchscreens, and some even transform into tablets. The new Windows 8 start screen and many Windows 8 gestures are more comfortable to use on a touchscreen, but if those features aren't interesting to you, you can save money by looking for models without a touchscreen.
• Solid state drive--Most new computers come with traditional hard disk drives that offer enormous amounts of storage. If you're looking for the speediest storage, get a solid state drive. These drives are smaller but much faster, allowing your computer to turn on in mere seconds. This laptop buying guide recommends solid state drives if you can afford them; they are generally more expensive than their hard drive counterparts.
• DVD or Blu-Ray drive--Do you want a DVD or Blu-ray drive? Newer laptops dispense with these drives in order to be smaller and lighter. You probably won't need a disk drive for software, which you can get via download from a large number of app stores, including Amazon, but we recommend getting a disk drive if you plan to watch DVDs on your laptop.
• Graphics card--If you plan to play video games on your laptop, make sure it has a dedicated video card. Facebook games will run fine without one, but anything more serious (be it World of Warcraft or The Sims) will need more power to run smoothly. Avoid anything that says "integrated graphics". Instead, look for graphics by ATI or Nvidia, the top two graphics card makers. It is important to note that unlike with a desktop computer, you cannot upgrade a laptop's graphics card later. Be sure your laptop has a dedicated graphics card if you think you'll want it later.
• USB and other ports--Be sure to count how many USB and other ports are on the laptop. You'll need USB ports to connect a separate mouse, memory sticks, smartphones and many other computer accessories, such as printers and scanners. You may also want an SD card slot to more easily transfer your camera photos, or an HDMI port to connect your laptop to an HDTV.
• Battery life--If you plan to use your laptop while you're out and about, be sure to look at how long the battery is rated to last. Many big, powerful laptops last only for a couple of hours on a single battery charge, while some smaller laptops can last over seven hours on a full charge.
Once you've looked at all of these considerations, you should be well on your way to finding a laptop that's a great fit for you. Do you want a small, light laptop so you can work from a coffee shop? Maybe you want a powerful gaming laptop that you can also watch DVDs on. While shopping, be sure to check back with this laptop buying guide and our other computer buying guides if you have any questions.
Now that you know what kind of computer you need and the features you’re looking for, shop from our full selection of:
1.Lenovo G50 15.6-inch Notebook (Intel Celeron N2840 2.58 GHz,…
2.ASUS X551MAV-BING-SX1017B 15.6-Inch Notebook (Intel Celeron…
3.Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (Intel Dual Core i5 2.5GHz, 4GB…
4.Toshiba CB30-B-104 13-Inch Chromebook (Intel Celeron 2.16…
5.Apple MacBook Air 13" 1.6Ghz DC i5 4Gb 128GB SSD
A netbook is simpler and cheaper, and made specifically for Internet use. If you have more demanding requirements, such as editing photos, you will need a laptop.
You may want a high-quality video card if you frequently play 3D games on your laptop. You might also require one if you want to edit high-quality images.
Yes, almost everything is possible with a laptop, even watching TV. All you need is a DVB-T receiver, which is easy to connect via the USB port on the computer.
You will require only two cores to run normal programs. Of course, you should also consider how long you want to be at the forefront in technology. Although you may not need four cores today, you might need them in the future. You should consider this when purchasing a laptop.
You will need 1920 x 1080 pixels to play HD movies in full resolution.
This means that your laptop does not allow you to go online wirelessly. But fear not, you can get a USB wireless stick and upgrade your laptop so that it will connect to the Internet without the need for a cable.
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