Shopping for a laptop
Aug 13, 2012 / 5:00 am
If you’re thinking about getting a laptop, there are a few things you’ll need to know. If you haven’t bought a laptop in years, you’ll be surprised how much more power and performance you get for not a lot more money. Here’s a guide to help you decide what to buy.
First things first
You want as big a hard drive and as much RAM as you can afford. The hard drive is the storage area of your computer. It’s where Windows, your programs, and all your files are permanently stored. I recommend at least a 500 GB hard drive.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is temporary storage to speed things up while your computer is on. You should be looking for at least 4 GB.
The operating system is the software that manages all your hardware and makes your programs run. Don’t settle for anything less than Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
The processor acts as the brains of the computer, handling all the calculations required to make the hardware and software work together. Get the fastest processor you can. Intel i5 series are excellent and affordable. The i3 is a bit slower; the i7 blazing fast. You might save a little money with an AMD instead of an Intel processor, but still go for the fastest you can afford.
What are you doing with a laptop?
If you are going to travel around the world with it, size and weight might be important factors. They are less important if you're just going to move it around the house.
If you plan on watching movies or TV on your laptop, get a good video card. Sound cards in laptops are all kind of terrible. Figure on getting either a USB headset or USB speakers or both.
How does the keyboard work for you?
The keyboard on any computer is a personal thing, and that’s even more of a factor than usual in a laptop because it’s built in! If you work a lot with numbers you might want a laptop that has the number pad on the right side of the keyboard.
Also, not all keys on laptops are the same size. If you have large fingers or if you’re a touch typist, you might not be happy with half-size keys. I encourage my customers to touch as many laptop keyboards as they can while shopping for a laptop. Some keyboards just feel right; some feel wrong.
What kind of screen do you like?
Some people like a glossy screen, others like matte. Some people want a “warm” look and others can’t stand that. Get a screen that you are comfortable with.
What else do you need and what will it cost?
If you plan on using your laptop as your primary computer, or if you plan on using it a lot, get a wireless keyboard. You will cramp your hands and ruin your shoulders and neck if you try to use the built in keyboard and touchpad for hours at a time. No matter what, get a wireless mouse. All touchpads are crap, and wireless mice (mouses?) are inexpensive.
Get a good carrying case. Seriously. Do not throw your computer in a shopping bag or a purse.
Do you already have a wireless router? One useful thing about owning a laptop is being able to take it from one room to another in your own place. If you are going to do that, you’ll need a wireless router.
Do you need Office, or some other program? Is that included with your new computer? Do you require (or just really, really WANT) a program? Make sure you have it and that it will run on your new version of Windows.
If you have an older printer/scanner/whatever, you should check to see if it will work with Windows 7.
For crying out loud get a surge protector and use it. And make sure you have some airflow. (http://rlis.com/columns/column353.htm)
But wait…there’s more
If you have questions or comments, please email me at email@example.com. I have an abbreviated version of this information here: http://ge.tt/4mdy47I/v/0?c. If you’d like to see what’s inside a laptop, have a look at this site: http://www.laptopparts101.com/. And if you need help setting up your laptop or transferring your files, I hope you’ll give me a call!
Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!
Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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