Buying a laptop is not as easy as buying a new pair of jeans. Where important information — such as comfort and quality — can be felt in the fitting room as you strike a few poses in those gorgeous jeans, one has to analyse many aspects of a laptop to find out the same information. “How can a pair of jeans be compared to a laptop?” you may ask. The answer is simple. Just as a pair of good jeans can become a staple in your wardrobe, a good laptop will make your personal/business life complete if it can fulfil the purposes you require from it. Both are very personal items that must offer a first-rate design, worthy comfort and high-quality, all making for a superior experience.
Regrettably, if you are not familiar with the very technical terminology, gathering the information is not so easy because “This laptop comes with a 3.6 GHz Intel Pentium 4, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive, 17 inch monitor — all weighting in at 5.5kgs” means nothing to you. So, not only will we look at points to consider when deciding on a laptop, we will dissect each point to understand what they mean and why they are so important.
The first step, before you even step into an electronic store or begin surfing one online, is to identify what sized laptop you are looking for. This includes the physical dimensions and the weight. Laptops range from less than 1kg to just over 6kgs! If you plan on transporting your laptop around on business trips/to and from varsity, something lighter will much better serve that purpose. If you are looking for a laptop for your home for use in different rooms, a larger “desktop replacement” will be perfect for you. There are different categories of laptops, classified according to weight. Below is some information on the weight, screen size, pros and cons of the different categories to help you differentiate between them.
dell inspiron 3511 i3 11th generation Netbook — less than 1.5kg; 8.9 – 10″ screen; Light, portable, keeps you connected anywhere; Missing features, cramped keyboard
Ultraportable — less than 2kg; 10 – 12″ screen; Portable, easy to conceal; Missing features, slow hard drives
Thin-and-light — 2 – 4kg; 13 – 15″ screen; Light, portable, larger keyboard for comfort; Less features than larger laptops
Mainstream — 3 – 5kg; 14″ screen; Easy everyday use, budget laptops; No remarkable features, average performance
Desktop replacement — > 5kg; 15 – 17″ screen; Large screen, portable, almost all features of desktop PC; Not for extensive travel, must be placed on surface (too heavy on lap)
Once you have decided on what sized laptop will suit your needs, it will be necessary to look at and compare the technical specifications and some general aspects of different models that fit into your size category.
Hard drive — The hard drive is the physical space on the laptop measured in gigabytes. Laptop hard drives range in size from 30GB to 200GB and run at speeds of 4200, 5400 or 7200 rpm. 40GB is a standard size for a laptop and normal processes will not require much more. If, however, you handle large graphics or a large amount of files, you will need 80GB or more! Something to consider is the fact that some laptops have pre-installed software programmes which take up space so double check with the dealer how much space you will actually have for your own personal use. You can always buy an external hard drive if you need more space for storage and media-burning.
RAM — Random Access Memory allows laptop programmes to run quickly and smoothly. There is nothing more irritating than a laptop that takes ages to start up and is slow in general! Adding RAM is an easy way to boost your laptop’s performance. 2GB or more is a recommended RAM size as it will allow for many programmes to run simultaneously and is good for gaming, graphics work, video editing and general speed increase, giving your laptop the flexibility it needs. However, it is important to remember that 32-bit operating systems only recognise up to 3GB of RAM, while you will need a 64-bit system to take full advantage of 4GB or more.
CPU — The Central Processing Unit (i.e. Intel Core 2) is the heart of your laptop and is measured in Megahertz (MHz) or Gigahertz (GHz). It runs your laptop at a certain speed, performing tasks and running calculations. The higher the speed of the processor, the faster it will perform. Many laptops now have “Dual” or “Quad” processors to achieve maximum performance. Unless you will be running intense games, a 2GHz chip is plenty big enough.
Connections — Laptops may be equipped with many ports or very few. It is important to make sure that what you get in your laptop will fulfil your needs. Some connections to look out for include; USB ports (mice, memory sticks), Wi-Fi card (wireless internet), modem (dial up internet connection), VGA ports (monitors, projectors), Bluetooth, FireWire (large video files, data) and specific ports needed to connect specific equipment to your laptop that you are sure to be using.