For many consumers, buying a new laptop is an intimidating experience. There are numerous options to choose from, and it is nearly impossible for the average person to keep up with all the technological advances. So in order to help you make that perfect laptop purchase, this primer includes essential laptop-buying advice.
It used to be good advice to buy as much laptop as you could possibly afford, but that isn’t the case anymore. In fact, for the average consumer, modern high-end systems are simply overkill, and there are $800 laptops on the market that are extremely powerful and advanced enough to remain useful for the next three years and beyond.
The Big Picture
Nevertheless, don’t cheap out. Treat your laptop purchase as an investment. Many consumers buy a laptop with the next 2-3 years in mind, but if you make a wise decision, you can get much more out of your purchase.
CPU power is important but also translates into heat and battery usage. So the goal here is to buy only enough CPU to meet your needs. For the average consumer, any dual-core processor will do, for now and the foreseeable future. Keep in mind that clock speed simply isn’t that important these days, and that four or more cores and features like hyper-threading are only advantageous if you’re doing serious number crunching or large image manipulation.
Drive choice is crucial. Today, we have two primary options: HDD, which is a mechanical hard drive, and SDD, which is a solid-state drive. SDDs are expensive, but they have a dramatic effect on performance, and are well worth it. If you choose a HDD, avoid drives that are slower than 7200 rpms or use multiple platters. Regardless, of drive type, bigger is better. For optimal performance, you want to maintain at least 10-15% free space, preferably more.
Memory is relatively cheap, but isn’t as important as you might think. Most users will have more than enough with 2 GB, which is the default in most laptop configurations. Gamers should consider upgrading to 4 GB, but even they will only get minimal benefit beyond that. Those who do heavy lifting in software like Photoshop may consider 8 GB.
Graphics Card vs. On-Board Graphics
Most laptop motherboards include on-board graphics, and these have advances features, such as HDMI-out. This is good enough for most laptop users. If you plan to play games on your computer, then you may want to consider a dedicated GPU. However, keep in mind that a GPU considerably increases cost and heat and decreases battery life.
The common laptop screen size is 13.3 inches. The “right” size depends on how you’ll use the laptop. If you need portability, 13.3 inches is perfect. If the laptop is a desktop replacement, then buy as large as you can afford.
So there you have, hopefully you’ll have a better idea of what you need when you go laptop shopping.
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