How to pick a laptop ? With so many options out there, trying to find the right laptop that meets your needs can get confusing fast. However, by doing a little planning and consideration of your needs, you can quickly eliminate the vast majority of laptops from your search and focus on finding the one that suits your habits and budget perfectly.
1. Determining the needs
First thing is think the main purpose of your laptop. It will determine the type of laptop you are looking for. There are some common main use of a laptop :
• Doing school/office work – Mostly use the computer for word processing, search, spreadsheets, and other professional and academic tasks.
• Playing games – Playing the latest and greatest games and still perform for other tasks as well.
• Internet browsing – Primarily using the computer to access websites, email, streaming video, and social media.
• Media production – Use the computer as a workstation to record music, edit video, or manipulate images.
And do not forget the advantages and disadvantages of having a laptop. These are some pros and cons of a laptop.
• Laptop is portable. Laptops are only getting lighter and thinner and can take easily with you.
• Laptops can perform more and more tasks that desktops can. There are very few programs these days that a desktop can run that a laptop cannot.
• Laptops can save a lot of space. It just needs a little desk space.
• A laptop is limited by the battery. Eventually, it will need to be plugged in to the AC power.
• The portability makes them easily lost or stolen by criminals.
• Laptops cannot be upgraded like a desktop can. This means that they become obsolete quicker than a desktop computer and eventually, your laptop lagging behind.
• Laptops get heated very quickly if you are using it heavily.
• Laptops are factory-built and you cannot build it yourself. However, you still can upgrade the memory and storage by yourself.
Also set a budget for your new laptop. It will be helpful for you if you have a budget before start looking for a laptop. By doing so, you will be more focus when looking for a laptop.
2. Choosing the O/S
Determine the operating system that you want to choose. Operating system is the interface and structure of your laptop and usually have installed already in your laptop. There are 4 main O/S and you’re better to understand your options.
Windows is the most common and widely-used O/S. It can be installed and will work on virtually any computer, from the cheapest laptops in the store to the most expensive. It can also be installed onto Mac laptop.
Windows is compatible with the most software. And it is also compatible and work well with Microsoft Office, which is de facto standard in word processing and spreadsheets. It is also compatible with most of games. Windows has the largest game library of any operating system.
However, Windows is much more susceptible to viruses than other operating systems. This isn’t to say that it’s not secure; it just means that you will need to practice good habits while online.
• Mac OS X
Mac OS X is designed for use with Mac hardware. OS X is only available on MacBooks. It cannot be installed onto non-Mac laptop. This is the main competitor of Windows.
By using this O/S, Mac computer can integrate seamlessly with iOS devices, so you can manage your apps and media natively and easily.
Mac computers are also recommended to do media editing. The video and image editing software on a Mac is unrivaled, and most musicians also use Macs for recording and production.
These days, there is much same software on a Mac OS that you will find on Windows. However, although there are more and more software options on Mac, there is still a lack of compatibility for a lot of key programs. The biggest drawback is OS X’s lack of game selection compared to Windows.
Mac OS X is less prone to viruses. This operating system is more secure than Windows, due both to architectural and population differences between the two operating systems. There are still threats if you use a Mac, just not as many.
Linux is a free operating system that comes in a variety of flavors, or “distributions”. These include Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and more. You can install Linux onto Mac or Windows laptop. Linux and many of the programs compatible with it are open-source and free. They are free to try out before installing. It is one of the most secure operating systems since everything requires express consent of the user. There are very few viruses that target Linux machines.
The biggest drawback to Linux is the lack of compatibility between it and other operating systems. The gaming library on Linux is also quite limited compared to Windows, though more and more games are releasing Linux versions.
Linux is difficult to learn. That being said, Linux does require a bit more time invested getting used to navigating and manipulating files. Graphical front-end have been develop by most distributions and it is easier to transition from Windows or Mac now.
Linux is a default O/S. It is not installed on most laptops available in stores. It will need to be installed later alongside or replacing your default operating system.
ChromeOS is used for Google’s Chromium-based operating system. ChromeOS is only available on specific Chromebooks, though you can get Chromium for any system.
It is designed for laptops that are consistently connected to the internet, and can only run special web apps.
Since ChromeOS is essentially just a web browser, it is lightweight and fast. All the apps are installed inside the web browser, so the most functions of it need internet connection. Because Chromebooks rely on Google Drive for file storage, most have very limited onboard storage
You can only use apps that have been designed for ChromeOS on the Chromebook. This means that your software options will be very limited. Google Drive provides a decent Office alternative, but you can forget installing games or programs like Photoshop.
ChromeOS is best for heavy Google users. If the majority of your computer work takes place inside the Google ecosystem, then a Chromebook may be your most affordable and attractive option.
Most Chromebooks are very inexpensive, ranging from $200-$250 USD. The exception to this is Google’s Chromebox, which starts at $825 USD.
3. Deciding on a Model
There are four main types of laptops: Netbook, Traditional, 2-in-1 Laptop, and Desktop Replacement. However, it does not match if you are choosing a Mac laptop.
Netbook is the smallest laptop and it is very suitable for heavy travelers. It is easy and perfect to be packed in your carry-on or purse because it is small and lightweight, usually a couple pounds.
Netbook has the small screen and keyboard, so typing on a netbook will take some getting used to, especially if you are accustomed to using a standard laptop.
Netbook doesn’t have very powerful components, so it only can run basic program such as MS Office. It is not suitable for playing games. However, it has much longer battery compare to other laptops.
This is the standard size laptop, the most common and the most varied. This type is suitable for a wide range of situations, and available in a wide range of configurations.
Traditional laptops have a variety of screen sizes; the most common is 14”-15”. They have larger keyboards and trackpads which make them more comfort for used. This type is larger and harder than netbook, so it cannot be carried in small bags. However, traditional laptop has limited battery since it has a more powerful machine than netbook.
2-in-1 laptops are the newest style of laptops. They share characteristics of both tablets and laptops and have a unique on the screen. Their screen can be rotated, folded, or slide behind the keyboards. Even, some of them can be detached from their keyboards. Since they can be used as tablet, all of them have touch screens.
2-in-1 laptops are usually smaller than traditional laptop and because of that, they are commonly less powerful than the traditional one.
• Desktop Replacement
Desktop Replacement Laptops are the largest and heaviest laptops, and also the most powerful and the most expensive. Well, this type is really not suitable for travel.
They are able to run most of the programs at the same levels of efficiency as a desktop computer.
This type has a large screen and keyboard, so users can more easily use. But, due to the increased power, desktop replacements have the worst battery life. So, this laptop usually always plugged in to the AC power.
Well, definitely this type is really not suitable for travel.
However, there is also Rugged Laptop. This laptop is designed for those whose their jobs or lifestyle, puts your laptop at risk of getting damaged. If you think about durability, you may want to look at this option. This includes steel construction and laptops specifically designed to withstand punishment.
Because of its durability, rugged laptops are usually bulkier, heavier, and much more expensive than regular laptops, and thus are seldom seen in regular consumer use. They are usually sold to organizations such as, military, police, medical emergency and fire fighters, rather than individuals, and are rarely marketed via retail channels.
At last, do not forget to keep in style. Since you may use your laptops in public area and people will see it, then, even if not the primary, do not forget your style appearance.
4. Checking Specifications
Make sure to check carefully at the specifications of every laptop you consider to purchase. Every laptop is different; two models mean two different hardwares inside and different ability they have, although they come with the same price. These are some points for you to check :
Check the CPU speed. CPU is the part that run bulk of the process in laptop. CPU speed will determine the speed of you work. Day by day, the softwares provided are more complicated and need more CPU speed to process, so avoid the older processors like Celeron, Atom, Pentium, C-, or E-Series processors.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the part where the computer stores the data for multiple programs at once. See how much RAM comes installed, and how much RAM the laptop can support. The more RAM you have, the better your computer will be able to multitask. Today, 4 to 8 GB of RAM is standard for regular laptop; however netbook will likely have less, while desktop replacements might have significantly more.
Most of laptops come with integrated graphics cards, which are good for simple games, however usually not able to handle the new big releases. A dedicated card will provide more power for a higher cost and less battery life. But, most of laptops did not allow to change the graphic cards.
Check the storage space. Listed storage space doesn’t count the space that taken by the operating system and bundled programs. So, 250 GB of storage may only have 210 GB of storage free due to the 40 GB used by operating system and bundled programs.
Most laptops allow you to upgrade the hard drive later, though you will need to reinstall the operating system when you do so.
Today, there is SSD which is becoming standard and is preferable due to increased access speed and extended battery life. They are more expensive than standard hard drives for less storage. However, SSDs are often smaller than standard drives, meaning you may need an external drive to store all of your media files.
Make sure that the laptop you choose has enough USB ports for all your external devices. The more devices you have, the more important the ports are.
And if you want to connect your laptop to TV or projector, make sure that it has HDMI or VGA port.
• Optical Drives
Today, many laptops come without optical drive to save space. This helps the battery life and cut down on the size, but later you will need an external optical drive to burn discs. Some laptops now come with Blu-ray drives, which can read and write standard DVDs as well as read Blu-ray discs, which can contain much more information or HD movies.
• Screen Resolution
1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 is preferable for the clearest picture, though smaller laptops may not be able to attain this. A higher resolution will result in a clearer picture, especially if you plan to watch movies or play games. A higher resolution also means that the screen can display more, which means your viewable area will be larger.
Also check how the laptop looks in direct sunlight. Cheap screens are often very difficult to see in direct sunlight.
5. Buying the Laptop
Do your research and make sure to read reviews online for the laptops that you are considering. Don’t let a sales rep talk you into something you don’t need.
Do some test before you buy. Try to find a way to test your desired laptop before you buy. If you want to purchase via online, find whether a local retailer has a demo model to try before you buy. Ask your friends if they have the same laptop you are considering.
Check the warranty. Computer parts fail, and do so fairly often. Having a solid warranty is very important for laptops, especially the more expensive ones. Make sure the warranty is a manufacturer warranty, and that they do a good job with their warranty work.
• Used or Refurbished
Understand the risk of buying used or refurbished. Buying used can save you a lot of money, but you may end up with a very subpar product. AS laptops get older, they start to experience significant performance decreases. Used laptops often no longer quality for manufacturer warranties, and may people sell their laptops because they’re fed up with how they’re performing.
If you are buying a refurbished model, ensure that the refurbishment comes with a very strong warranty.