Buying a new laptop is something that I would consider a fairly major purchase. To start with, I would like to state that I have actually worked for a retail company that purchases and sells everything that has to do with computers, and being a salesman, I would like to contribute my knowledge to properly purchasing a new laptop. This especially applies to those who are buying a new laptop for the first time or buying a computer for the first time.
Step 1 – Define your goal, and figure out your requirements
Hopefully, that title does not scare you. Basically, the first question I ask someone when they are purchasing a laptop is: What are you going to be using it for? Generally, responses are quite simple: I need it for work, or my daughter is going to school, or I am a gamer and want to play the latest and greatest games out there. This is when you should consider answering that question yourself. However, before you do that, there is one question that you must answer for yourself, and that is: Are you or someone that uses your laptop, ever going to play new 3D games on it?
If your answer is:
NO: If your answer is no, then you have narrowed your selection of laptops down by about 25% – 40% (Depending on where you are buying them from). An important thing to keep in mind is that, if you are not playing games on it, you do not want a “dedicated graphics card” on the laptop, because you will never use it for what you are doing. The dedicated graphics card is a costly piece of material and it will not speed your laptop up for word processing, or the internet, or even your video editing.
YES: If you answered “yes” to the fact that you would play new 3D games, then you absolutely need a laptop that has a “dedicated graphics card” in it. When you talk to your sales representative make certain they know you will be playing games on it, and that the card itself has 128Mb of video ram or more. Another point that you MUST watch out for, is that many laptops have an “onboard graphics card”. Do not get stuck with an onboard graphics card, if you intend on having a gaming laptop. The quality of games will be considered horrible, and you will wish you re-read this article. As of writing this article, the more expensive, and thus better cards are GeForce 7600 Go, or 8600 cards, or some of ATI’s Radeon X1700 or better. You will have to discuss with your representative your budget, and how fast you want your games to run.
Now that you have figured out whether or not you will be gaming on your laptop, you must consider the other software you will be using, and what kind of processing power, and memory you will want on your laptop. To make things easy I would suggest reading the software requirements of the programs you will be running, to get an idea of what you will need to run that software.
Step 2 – Identifying your wants
This could almost be the final step, if not for some last minute notes. This step is very straightforward. You must decide for yourself how fast you want your machine to be. This is a critical step because as soon as you purchase your laptop, you cannot change anything inside of it! The one exception is the memory, and that can always be upgraded. A general rule is, the more you pay, the more you get. Below, I will list in order of importance, the general components of the laptop that you are interested in:
1) CPU – This will determine how fast your machine launches programs and runs ( You will want at least a dual-core unless you cannot afford it ). Look for Pentium Core2 chips, or AMD’s X2 type chips. Ask your product rep for a range of processors, and more information or guidance if you need.
2) Memory (RAM) – This is where all your programs store their temporary information. So, like our brains, the larger the amount of ram, the more programs you can have running, or you can launch larger programs. *Note: If you skimp on this item, you will sacrifice a lot of performance (1 Gigabyte is generally the minimum, 2 Gigabytes will be the recommended).
3) Hard drive – This part is where you store your files for the long term. Accounting books and music files are all stored on the hard drive. The larger it is, the more files you can cram into it. The performance of your laptop is not affected by the size of the drive, and generally not by the speed of the drive. Hard drives will range from 80 Gb – 200 Gb (Sometimes more).
Generally, those are the three most important components you will need to look at in all the laptops. Now I wish to share with you some final notes.
3) Final notes, and considerations
a) If the laptop you are considering purchasing is going to be over $1200, I would greatly consider buying a “Total care warranty”. This will run for 20% – 30% of the laptop price but will cover any drops, wear, split liquids, etc. for 2-3 years. This is definitely worth considering, as I have seen many laptops with cracked screens, and to replace the screen, you are looking at $800 with labor and parts at least.
b) Brands do not matter a whole lot. Most, if not all laptops are manufactured by a global electronics company, that fills orders for many of the major brands you will see. So do not judge based on brand name, and do not judge based on looks. You will hear many people tell you that “such and such a brand is no good” and some brands will be praised. To each their own, good luck shopping!