It can be a devastating task to pick out a computer with all of the new technology floating around out there. With touch screen devices, Windows 7, 8, android, and iOS devices always flowing through the market, it’s hard to know what to choose, when to choose it, and what you should be paying to get it. In this article, I will include several of my personal opinions about various designs and models to help you choose the laptop more suited to your needs.
First and foremost: The most important thing to consider when buying a laptop, especially if you are unsure of what you’re after, is to check the return policy. If there’s a chance you may need to return the product, local stores always are easier than online. While I wouldn’t always recommend Best Buy as a go-to for all things electronic related, they do have excellent return policies – And they have removed the restocking fee as of 2010, so no need to worry about losing money if you do decide to make a return.
What do you plan to use this laptop for? Gaming? School or basic daily use? Business? Picture editing? Basic word processing?
If you intend to use this laptop for gaming, or for anything 3D like digital design, photoshop, or intensive video editing, you are going to want a more powerful laptop, preferably one with a dedicated graphics processing unit. Most of your average laptops contain a GPU that is shared with the Central processing unit, and uses system memory to pull resources to display graphics. While this is very budget-friendly, and works for most every-day users, it does very little justice to those who want to see true 3D rendering power. A system used for these purposes will typically also demand more RAM, in today’s world, 6-8 GB will be fine for gaming, and for VERY intense video and photo editing, even more may be necessary.
If you only plan to use the laptop for school, basic daily use, or as a word processor, you can probably do with a machine that is much less powerful (and not even notice that it’s slower than the first one). A dual core may even suit your needs just fine. I personally would recommend the Core i3 by Intel, or a AMD quad core for these users, as they are quite powerful, but also don’t use much battery, and are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Basic everyday users will not need nearly as much RAM either, 4 GB may do just fine on a laptop running Windows 7 or 8, even less if you feel the urge to use XP or a Linux distribution.
As far as cosmetics go, I like to look for a few things right away. First of all, if I can pick up the laptop and hold it (in a store) I like to check:
-Keyboard: is it solid? Flex? Is it something you could comfortably work on all day? Do you need backlighting?
-Touchpad: Is it finicky? Does it have scrolling features to make it easy to browse while not carrying a mouse?
-Display and hinge assembly: Does the display wobble in the hinge? Does the picture look crisp and clear? When in a bright environment, does the screen get bright enough to see the picture clearly?
-Fan placement: Where is the air intake? Does it have any fans? Where is the air output? Is it blowing out a good deal of air?
-Structure: Does the unit feel solid as a whole? Does it show pesky fingerprints easily? Do I feel the design will be easily flawed?
-Optical drive: does it have one? CD/DVD burner? Reader? Will I need this feature?
-USB 2.0/3.0: Does it have at least 3-4 USB slots? Does it have 3.0 slots for future use?
-Warranty: Does it have one? How limited is it? Is there an accidental damage protection plan available? Is this something I need?
After I have answered all of those questions, if I am still happy, I will go into looking up reviews. Positive reviews are valuable, negative reviews even more so. Read a little of both. If the negative reviews are not very informative, and there are many positive, I would assume the laptop is fine. If there are lots of thoroughly explained negative reviews, keep looking for something else.
As far as brands go, I tend to really like HP, ASUS, Lenovo, and Sony VAIO laptops. I have simply had the best of luck with them. ASUS and Lenovo seem to just make quality products all around. HP and Sony both make some great laptops, but beware of their lower, cheap laptops. Some have flaws – read the reviews. Dell and other companies make great products as well, but I do not feel as secure with them as I do the previously mentioned companies.
As far as the whole Tablet, Netbook, Laptop, Ultrabook race goes, I still prefer my traditional laptop. While they are getting smaller, Laptops still offer all of the features that I prefer to have. Ultrabooks have a very high price rate for what you get – They are sleek and attractive, but many do not have RJ45 (Internet) ports or optical (CD/DVD) drives. These are two very big let-downs for me with Ultrabooks. Tablets are a great device for those who like entertainment value in their mobile devices, but I do not find them to offer nearly the productivity value that a laptop brings to the table.Sort of the same story with Netbooks – While they’re great for browsing the web and maybe typing word documents (if you can handle the tiny keyboards), they’re not powerful enough to do much else.
As far as pricing goes – Just shop around. Prices on laptops are subject to such change that it isn’t worth noting here. The key is to read lots of reviews, and just know what you are after. There is no reason why a day-to-day user should have to spend over 600$ on a new laptop. There is no reason why your average gamer should have to spend over $1000 on a powerful laptop.
Good luck, and questions are always responded to!