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How to Buy a Laptop


Price

Setting a budget should be your first step. While laptop prices have dropped dramatically in recent months, laptops can still cost almost twice as much as a comparable desktop.

Most laptops run between $1000-$1800, depending on the speed and features you get.

Portability

Just how much portability you need can greatly affect the type of laptop you choose. Do you frequently travel, or will you only occasionally transport it between a few points? Generally, the more you travel, the lighter the laptop should be. While a few pounds may not seem like much, over time, the extra weight can take its toll. Before you go out and buy the lightest laptop you can find, you should consider a few more factors.

Screen size

The size of the screen will directly affect the size and price of the laptop. Screens typically range from 14”-17” and are very thin. Because of the process and materials used, the LCD screen of a laptop can be costly to replace. For this reason I always suggest an accidental damage plan that LCD replacement if the laptop gets damaged.

Speed/Power

While laptops have come a long way, most cannot compete with a top of the line desktop. Many manufacturers use a special version of desktop processors, like the Pentium M processor. While it drains less power and increases battery life, it costs you speed. The smaller the laptop, the more likely it will use one of these modified chipsets. They tend to work well for basic office applications, but for power users or hardcore gamers they don’t even come close to a desktop model.

Expandability/Memory

With a laptop, there is limited ability to expand. To save space, most laptop functions are built onto the motherboard, which gives limited memory expansion slots, usually only two. Initially get as much memory as you can or you may later spend more to remove the old chips and replace them with bigger ones. The basic user should have at least 256M of memory, while the power user should strongly consider 512M-1G or memory.

Extras like infrared, WiFi (802.11b & 802.11g) and Bluetooth should be considered. WiFi is valuable if you frequently travel or would like to work in various rooms of your house. Infrared and Bluetooth allow you to communicate wirelessly to other devices. In each case, make sure they can be turned off to preserve battery life.

While not directly related to your purchase of a laptop, you may want to consider a port replicator if you will use the laptop in set spots. Connecting your laptop to the replicator allows you to use things like a full-sized monitor, full-sized keyboard, mouse and USB devices.

Battery Life

Battery life can be a major consideration for the average laptop user. Batteries can last between 2-5 hours depending on usage, screen brightness, processor power consumption, peripheral usage, etc. Lithium batteries tend to last the longest overall, but the manufacturer should list average battery life in the laptop specifications.

Good luck

While this is far from an all-inclusive guide, it should get you started down the right path in choosing your laptop.

 


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