Laptop Buying Guide
1. What is inside a Computer/Laptop
When buying an Everyday Laptops, notebook or hybrid laptop there are a few things to consider. Each have advantages and disadvantages with different prices, shapes, sizes and Operating Systems (OS). The value is dependent on the processing power, memory and storage. It is always good to understand what you need in a laptop before making an informed decision.
Below are the three things to look at when on the market for a new laptop.
a) (CPU) Central Processing Unit
The Processor or CPU is the brain of the computer. The performance of a computer is measured according to the CPU’s speed, number of cores and cache memory. When looking at a CPU on the specifications pages it is accompanied by a Core number and a GHz rating. The number of cores will generally boost the speeds, the higher the GHz’s the faster the Processor is. Common CPUs are the Intel i3, i5 and i7, i7 being the most powerful of the 3. The i3 is good for basic web searching and simple software use. The i5 is the next step up also good for the basic things but able to handle a little more advanced software quite easily. The i7 is the top end built for gaming advanced software use such as video editing and more power hungry programs.
b) (GPU) Graphics Card
Graphics cards are uncommon in many laptops as the CPU is handling a lot of the graphics these days. However, the names to be on the lookout for are NVIDIA and AMD. Modern day GPU’s are quite good for the people looking to do some gaming on their laptops. You will need to do some research about the Graphics Cards on the laptops, and understand that they are not going to be as powerful as those on desktop computers. Ram on the GPU is some of the time specified and one of the things to look for when buying a laptop. If you are looking to do some gaming or advanced software use a GPU might be something to consider. However, if you are using basic programs or just web searching there is no need for this additional expense.
Ram is a form of memory that allows programs to store data on it to be ready to use at a moment’s notice. HDD’s and SSD’s are the storage drives of the computer however are very slow. Ram is the bridge between the storage and the CPU and GPU. The more RAM you have, generally measured in gigabytes (GB) the more the laptop can prepare when using programs on the computer. A quick example would be when playing a 3D game or working on editing a video, all the different things the program needs would take a long time to get to the screen for you to use without RAM. The RAM storage gives the programs/software the videos and 3D objects quickly so the computer can run quicker. Basic computer use such as word processors and web searching does not require much RAM, 4-8GB of RAM will be more than enough for those uses. If you are gaming or using advanced software 16GB and higher will be the best as the reserves of memory will always come in handy.
c) (RAM) Random Access Memory
SSD stands for Solid State Drive and HDD stand for Hard Disk Drive. These are both forms of storage drives and like ram and are measured in gigabytes (GB), SSDs are offer better computer performance, they have no moving parts inside so and are able to recall information quicker, increasing the overall computer speed and boot up speed. HDDs are a more traditional drives for storing data, the advantage of HDDs are that they can hold far more data and are usually the cheaper option. With moving parts HDD’s are far less reliable when a laptop is moved, no such problems with SSDs. How much should you be looking for? It depends on what you want to keep on the computer, if you are going to save hundreds of photos, videos or music files more memory would be better, 1TB of data will be more than enough space, if you are will be saving only the occasional things and basic word docs then 128GB should be more than enough for you to save all you need. Remember that 1,000GB is 1TB so the 128GB is not the best in size compared to the latest in data storage capacity.
d) (SSD/HDD) Storage
e) (OS) Operating System
Operating system is what the laptops is running on the hardware such as Windows OS and Apple OS X. Apple offers its own operating system to most other laptops that run Windows. This is a personal preference as both offer excellent user experiences. The two are different in many ways, most noticeably is not all software is supported on both. Some software is exclusive to Mac and PC but there are always alternatives on the market. Picking one is personal preference, I would take in to consideration what you will use the computer for, there is no right or wrong answer with an operating system. It’s all about what you like the look of.
There are four ways of breaking up the types of laptops, the most common are the ones below. So please take a good look at each one to get a better understanding of what will suit your requirements best.
2. Types of Laptops
a) Everyday Laptops
If you don’t work on specialist software the everyday laptop is might be ideal for you. Usually contains everything you will need for media purposes such as optical drives (DVD/CD), HDMI connections and USB ports.
Everyday laptops are on the lower end of specifications with about 4GB of RAM and a Core i3 or i4 processor, perfect for using Microsoft Office and media. The screen sizes are generally quite large around 15” to allow for viewing your media. Once again on the media the everyday laptop usually comes with a HDMI or DVI port to let you connect to a TV or projector to enhance the experience.
b) Lightweight Laptop/ Ultrabooks
At less than 2kg with a smaller screen the ultra-portable light weight laptops are perfect for the student or traveling worker who needs the small form factor for easy travel. They often referred to as Ultrabooks and generally are very low powered as the processors need to run cooler in such a small form factor. The lightweight nature of these laptops are met with limitations such as memory usually between 128BGB and 256GB. This should not be a draw back as the capabilities of the laptop are generally for basic use and the memory is easily expandable with an external hard drive.
c) 2-in-1 Laptop (Convertible Laptop)
Both a Laptop and Tablet, 2-in-1 Laptops are a great hybrid offering functionality and flexibility. All hybrid laptops are touch screens with the bulk of the features and hardware inside the screen. The removable screen/keyboard allows the best of both worlds as the laptop/tablet offers the different features and flexibility. Prices vary with the RAM and Processing power being on the lower end. You will need to pay a premium to get the best i7 processor and 16+GBs of RAM. The benefits and capabilities are endless with Windows 10 as there are both Laptop and Tablet features built directly to the operating system.
As the title suggests Performance & Gaming laptops are on the higher end of the market. Containing high end components, graphics cards and in some cases 4K UHD screens, these laptops are built to handle anything. With Core i7 processors, 2-4GB graphics cards, 16-32GB of RAM the capabilities in gaming and HD video editing are extremely smooth. This coupled with multiple USB 3, HDMI, DVI and eSATA ports allows the best experience you are able to have on a portable device.
d) Performance & Gaming Laptop
Laptops always need that extra thing to personalise the style of use you are going for. Some of the things to consider are Peripherals, Cases and additional Storage.
With a wireless mouse and keyboards, graphics tablets, laptop stands and more you can recreate the desktop user experience quite easily. These are some of the extra’s you can use to amplify the experience.
Cases and Covers can reflect your personal style while also protecting your laptop. Having a good case can protect your investment in the laptop. Don’t buy a laptop and cheap out on the case, it could be the one thing between a safe laptop and tragic damage.
c) External Storage
Some laptops come with limited storage and the need for additional memory is unavoidable. For a laptop with a small amount of space and even one with lots of space an external Hard Drive might be something to consider. These come in many different memory sizes and can hold over 10 times more than some of the lower end laptops. This is also an excellent way to backup data, images and precious memories. External Storage is an excellent investment as you can carry all of the things precious to you that are usually on a computer in the palm of your hand.