This piece started as a “10 Laptops to buy” type-piece, but laptops are dynamic in the sense that you could want an entertainment laptop, a multi-function laptop, a highly portable laptop, a business laptop, etc. and it is hard to decide what is better across categories for different needs. Therefore, we compiled a list of 10 things you should look after you figure out what type of laptop you want.
1. Hard Drive
The size for your hard drive really depends on what you are storing (that’s what she said!). If you have tons of digital media at your disposal, then perhaps a 500GB-1TB hard drive is what you should seek. On the other hand, if all you have is program files, music, and documents, then maybe something smaller will suffice like a 125GB hard drive. But of equal importance is the type of hard drive. Solid State Discs are starting to come down in price even though they are still relatively expensive, but they last longer, have no moveable parts, stay cool, and have fast transfer rates. Another example, such as a SATA II Hard Drive, would allow for around 3GB/sec transfer speeds and a SATA III Hard Drive would get more than double the SATA II. So, pending on your needs there are options that you should explore instead of just blindly selecting.
For memory, I look for laptops that have extra expansion slots in the event I wish to increase my laptop’s memory. As my base, however, I wouldn’t purchase a laptop with any less than 2GB of memory. Today you will see laptops with 3GB, 4GB, 6GB, or even 8GB of memory either provided already or available to upgrade at your leisure. Luckily, most stock laptops today come with a chunk of memory from the get-go and you will also likely have the ability to upgrade. But if you see a computer with only 1GB of memory or less, prepare yourself for a more frustrating experience in comparison to a computer that has more memory.
For me, anything over 6 pounds is too much weight for a laptop. There is no reason that you should be lugging around a hunk of metal and plastic when the sole purpose of the laptop is mobility and portability. Most of the laptops that have a 15 inch screen or less will be under my 6 pound benchmark, but if you are in the market for a big screened media laptop, then it will likely go above 6 pounds. Just think about the bag you use to carry your laptop and if your travels will have you wishing that you were transporting less weight.
4. Battery Life
This part is essential. With a decent battery life, you can take your laptop wherever you go and you won’t have to worry about charging. Laptops with below 4-5 hours of battery life seem useless to me since the actual battery “decays” over time, that is that it loses its ceiling battery life the more it is charged and drained over and over again. Initially having 4 hours of battery life will eventually become 3 and a half and then down to 3 hours before you realize it. However, there are ways you can get crafty to put less strain on your battery (for example, getting a solid state hard drive or keeping the brightness of your screen down, etc.).
Although seemingly unimportant, the warranty of your laptop may be the most vital aspect of your laptop purchase. For example, if you are acquiring a refurbished computer, you are likely going to see a 30-90 day warranty. If you think about it, the computer was refurbished because there was something wrong with it (it could have been something benign or extremely malignant), and getting a one month to three month warranty does not secure your laptop for long. If you are purchasing a new laptop, most warranties are around 1 year and they may even cover accidental damage (water spills or even dropping the laptop). For business laptops, you may see a warranty of up to 3 years. So when looking at laptops, be sure to find out what the warranty is and what it covers. The longer the warranty and the more coverage it provides the better.
6. Processor (CPU)
We live in a world where computers are offering multiple cored processors that go into the dozens. Nowadays, I wouldn’t purchase a laptop that isn’t at least dual cored, but understand that the clocking speed is of true importance. If the laptop you are looking for is dual-cored, but doesn’t have a good enough clocking speed, then the “dual-coreness” will be practically useless. Understand that just because the laptop is dual-cored, does not mean that it is twice as fast. Most dual-cored laptops are only about 50% faster than their single cored counterpart. Either way, I would specifically look for a clocking speed of no less than 1.6 GHz which will be common among most laptops today.
Ports are extremely necessary with the amount of gadgets that are computer connected capable and the more ports the better (cough, cough, Macbook Air). To start, multiple USB ports are a must and if you can get your hands on at least one USB 3.0 port and the rest USB 2.0, then you will be in good shape. Other ports that you should look for include HDMI and VGA. With a VGA cable you can hookup your laptop with a computer monitor, especially if your laptop screen is small, for your viewing pleasure. With an HDMI port, you can hook-up with your HDTV and watch HD movies/videos with great clarity. Also, look for SD/MicroSD ports as it will likely make uploading your digital camera photos or anything else easier when stored on an SD card.
I see some laptops out there that have only a 0.3 megapixel camera and I think that with skype/gchat/whatever video conferencing program you fancy, you should at least have a semi-decent camera so that your friend or even business associate isn’t seeing you all pixelated when in a video chat. So if you want a laptop with a camera, make sure it has at least a 1 megapixel camera. Otherwise, just purchase a USB attached camera. Other things to consider are the touch-mouse pad and the keyboard. Presently, more and more touchpads are being made multi-touch, meaning that you can use more than one finger to give commands like zoom in/out, scrolling, etc. With the keyboard, personally, I like the chicklet keyboards that have the raised, individuals keys, but if you prefer something that boasts ergonomics then go with that.
9. Optical drive
Sometimes, it may not even be necessary to have an internal CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive. But if you plan on using CD’s, DVD’s, or even Blu-ray Discs to use or burn you should look into the drives that are offered with your laptop. It is possible to get an external drive where it is attached via USB and functions just like it would if it were inside the laptop. Understand though that if you do not need one of these drives, it may be best to just leave them out and keep the laptop’s weight down because online storage and USB storage has trumped the world of CD/DVD storage.
Lastly, the brand should carry some weight. Up and coming brands will have a tendency to be cheaper and provide more with their computers than the leading brands simply because they have something to prove against the market and those other larger companies. Style is also inherent with the brand that you choose, so if you are looking for a particular style, certain brands may carry that setup while others might not. Brands also carry with them similar warranties and as a result, special attention should be made when choosing a particular brand.