Going out to buy a laptop can be a bewildering experience. There are so many to choose from, while model numbers tend to be on the confusing side.
It goes without saying that you should buy from a reputable retailer, ideally on a credit card for added protection. Also do look to see what kind of warranty you’re getting too.
Here’s our definitive guide to buying a new laptop to suit your needs.
Choose a budget
The first thing to decide is how much you want to spend. Whatever your budget is, you’ll most likely have to compromise on some feature or other – so to avoid spending more than you want to, pick what you can afford and stick to it.
For general computing, we recommend £400 as a decent guide, but there are plenty of bargains for cheaper prices. Equally, don’t just chuck money at the problem. Get something that really does suit what you’re looking for. The harsh reality is that more money doesn’t equal future-proofing; any laptop you buy will last you a good few years.
Try it out
If you can, try out your chosen laptop. It’s unlikely the shop will have the same model that you might have seen online, but it may well have a laptop from the same series. Trying out is more for look, feel and comfort rather than performance – you’ll never get a good idea about this in the shop.
Pay special attention to the trackpad, mouse buttons and keyboard. These can often feel cheap, but they’re extremely important.
The other thing you’ll be able to get from seeing a laptop in the flesh is finding out how bulky it is. Bulk is no problem if it’s for home, but you don’t want to have something that’s too heavy if you’re going to be carrying it around every day.
The unfortunate thing is that you’ll pay a premium for lighter laptops – often called ultraportables. If you’re going to carry it around, 2 to 2.5Kg should be the maximum you’re looking for.
The screen of your chosen laptop needs to be big enough for what you need to do. We’d recommend a 15 or 17-inch laptop for work or entertainment (watching online video or DVDs). For portability, we’d recommend a 13-inch screen or less. If your laptop is primarily for home use, we’d recommend looking for a glossy screen – these are a lot better for watching
Windows 7 is the operating system you should be looking for when buying a PC, though there is an alternative in the form of Apple’s Mac OS X available only on Apple machines. We recommended Windows 7 Home Premium for home use.
Deciding which processor to buy can be a confusing task. The most popular processors are the Intel Core i3 and i5 but AMD Vision processors are also great value. Higher performance laptops will have the Intel Core i7 processor. Budget machines may have the Intel Celeron processor – these are OK for really basic tasks and web browsing but aren’t recommended.
You’ll need to get a big enough hard drive for your needs – this is measured in Gigabytes (GB). As a rough guide, 250GB is enough space for over 60,000 songs or high-res photos and is an ideal amount. Bigger capacities are available though, with 320GB and 500GB popular sizes.
Memory is important – the more memory, the more tasks you can run. We recommend at least 2GB, though many laptops are now shipping with 4GB.
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