Finding the right laptop that suits your needs does require a bit of thought before stumping up the cash.
The size, memory, weight, processor speed and so on are all important factors and different things suit different people. As I’ve said before on this blog, doing the ground work and reading the online reviews is something you should do if you are about to invest in a laptop or any other electronic device for that matter.
Laptops have become more popular and affordable than in previous years and you can buy one starting around £200 or at the other end of the scale you can buy them for over £2000.
Whatever your budget, finding the right one can be a bit of a mine field. Eventhough I advise it, not everyone wants to trawl through review websites at the risk ending up back where they started.
I found the Currys PC World website quite good as they breakdown not only the different types and spec of laptops but also ask what you actually want/need in order to find the right make and model. There are other sites that offer filters to help you make your decision. Paired with reading some of the reviews, this is a good way of choosing the right one.
On the Currys PC World website on the left side of the website under ‘Laptops’ you can filter on ‘Best For’ and select one of the following categories:
Knowing which category your usage falls into is key to this. If you like to browse the internet, scroll through Facebook or Twitter etc then lightweight or Social networking laptops might be the right choice. Chromebooks tend to be designed purely for browsing.
Everyday use is geared toward regular internet browsing, social media, email, using software applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint and some multi-media such as watching video or music streaming.
Big project type laptops are at the higher end of the spectrum and tend to be for graphic design, photography and animation.
Eye catching design is exactly that – if you just want something that looks flashy.
Alternatively, if you are into gaming then perhaps a laptop with a powerful graphics card and memory is the way to go.
Once you've established the type or category of laptop you want, from there you can filter on make or brand. The big hitters are HP, ACER, DELL, LENOVO, ASUS and of course APPLE. There are many others after that but brand is usually based on preference and price usually goes hand in hand with quality. For many years, I have used ACER laptops with no complaints.
Platform or Type
Laptops have evolved especially since tablets and high spec mobile phones have really taken off.
There are generally the following Platforms available:
Windows laptops (comes with the Windows 10 Operating System installed)
2-in-1 laptops (a laptop and a tablet combined)
A bit of a minefield and can be confusing. Here’s a summary of some of the stuff you’ll see in a spec (specification) list. As I always say, if in real doubt consult an expert.
CPU (Central Processing unit)
This is heart and brain or any PC or laptop. The size and power will determine the machine’s performance and price. The higher the gigahertz (GHz), the faster the machine will run. The technology moves on all the time and industry standards range from dual core, quad core, hexa core, octa core and so no. I don’t get too bogged down with all this if I’m honest.
Intel Core i3/i5/i7 - these are the mainstream brand of processor and go up in price as they move up in series from i3 to i7. i5 is popular and can be likened to a reliable 2.0 litre diesel car. i7 is currently the fast sports car of the family.
AMD A, FX, E series – Geared toward lower cost or budget laptops. Still very good and more than suitable for everyday usage.
RAM (Read only Memory) measured in gigabytes, is sometimes confused with storage space (see below). Memory is really about how much data the machine can store in its short-term memory and how quickly is can start up and load applications. 4GB to 8GB is the range.
Measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB), this is how much ‘stuff’ the laptop can hold (documents, photos, video, music etc). Generally, the bigger it is the better but in a world where we now store a lot of our files in cloud based services, storage isn’t the big deal it used to be. That said, it depends on your needs. SSD (solid state drives) are now becoming popular which are more expensive but load quickly.
How portable you need the laptop to be will determine the size you want. The size of a laptop is measured by its screen size.
11 to 12 inch - good for carrying around, in and out of bags. Nice and light
13 to 14 inch – good for carrying around in a decent laptop bag
15 inch – a bit bulky for carrying and weight will be a factor. My old Acer Aspire was 15” and I always found it slightly too big when on my lap. Fine if it’s stays on a desk
This is based on the number of pixels horizontal and vertical on the screen. The bigger the screen, the bigger the resolution. A pixel is basically a ‘dot’ of illumination within a display screen. For multi-media and watching video, then a decent HD quality screen is advisable.
The Operating system (OS) manages the software and hardware on the laptop making sure everything can access the CPU, memory and storage. Windows is the popular choice but there are other options being Apple’s MAC OS and Linux. Since Microsoft dominate the market, Windows is the primary pre-installed OS available on the high street. Again it's down the preference and familiarity.
Don’t forget there are loads of websites out there giving advice on ‘how to choose a laptop’ so don’t just take my word for it if you want to go more in-depth.
Going into a high street store and test driving one then going home to buy the same model cheaper online is not a criminal offence!
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(sales pitch over)