Tech Tuesdays: BUYING A LAPTOP 101

By Mike Robinson

Whether you’re concerned with megahertz, gigabytes or battery life, buying a laptop nowadays can be a confusing, if not overwhelming experience. The simple guidelines below will help you understand the basics before you buy your next laptop computer.

Laptops are categorized into four main groups:

Netbook laptops: Small and compact with a 10" or smaller LCD screen. Perfect for surfing the Web, handling emails, word processing, etc.

Ultra-mobile laptops: Thin and light with a 12" or 13" LCD screen and extended battery life. Ideal choice for people do a lot of traveling while they work.

Mainstream laptops: The most common category, with a 14" to 17" LCD screen and lots of power. Still portable, though heavier than the ultra-mobile laptops.

Desktop replacement: Replaces the desktop computer and features a 17"+ LCD screen. Fully capable of handling your HD video, gaming, media needs and more.

To help guide you toward the buying decision that you’ll be most satisfied with, take some time to review your long-term requirements before you determine which category will best complement your lifestyle and work needs.

Once you have narrowed down your category, you need to consider the speed, feeds and other preferences you require. These are factors that will drive the cost up or down.

CPU (Intel or AMD Processor) will usually drive the price of the laptop more than any other component. Today’s technology provides consumers with a vast array of performance options to choose from. For basic computing, users will be satisfied with more entry-level technologies, while the power user will always want the best. It really comes down to how future-proof you want your purchase to be. Unless you really need cutting-edge performance, a good rule of thumb is not to buy the most expensive product on the shelf, but something in the middle—a decision that will give you the best bang for your buck. Your laptop computer’s productive lifespan should last between two and four years.

Memory is another “how much do I need” question to be considered. With today’s systems, 3 GB or more is the standard. Windows 7 will run optimally on 2 GB or 3 GB; as a rule, the more the better. For netbooks, 1 GB is the standard for most, if not all current models.

Hard drive capacity in GB (gigabytes) is a measure of how much data your computer can manage. The good news—today’s laptop computers feature larger drives (320 GB or more) and prices that have decreased significantly.

Connections (USB, HDMI, etc.) are also a common consideration among most models. Some will feature more USB ports than others, while others will offer HD video output. Again, the choice hinges on your current needs, as well as what you may need a year from now.

Ultimately, selecting the category (directly tied to screen size) that best suits your needs will be your first decision. Your choices that follow will depend on your performance needs and budget.

To learn more information, the computer consultant at any STAPLES store in Canada will be happy to help.


Mike Robinson is a Purchasing Manager specializing in Computer Hardware for Staples Canada.

By Adam

May 04, 2010