Choosing the Right Laptop for Your Needs

12/04/2011 15:03

First thing to do when buying any laptop is to check it's specifications. These should be listed with the item being bought, but if they aren't, search the name of the laptop and model number in a search engine such as Google or Yahoo! and find the manufacturers website or a information page. Depending on what you want to do with your laptop, you will need to find the right features to suit you. Below is an overview of what to look for.

The processor

The most important part of any computer is the processor, and can be the biggest factor involved when it comes to cost. Depending on what you need your laptop for will depend on which processor to choose. Any processor above 1GHz will be enough to do the basics on a computer. This amount of power will allow you to view media like pictures and videos, create documents or browse the internet. Even the most basic of laptops, as well as netbooks, nowadays have a processor over 1GHz; so if you are looking for no more than the basics then any modern laptop will do. Processors such as the Intel Atom and Intel Celeron are some of the cheapest around, so look for these when buying a basic laptop. These processors will handle most applications, but performance will vary.

For more power-consuming tasks, such as image manipulation, viewing high-definition content and play basic games, a mid-range processor above 2Ghz is preferable. A processor such as the AMD Athlon II or Intel Core 2 Duo will be sufficient for workloads such as these. One thing to note is that a lot of processors such as these is that they feature multiple cores. These processors, for instance, have 2 cores each; so if you see a dual-core processor rated at 1.6Ghz for example, this will be the speed of one core.

For the most demanding, power-intensive applications, a high-end processor such as the Intel i7 or the AMD Phenom II x4 will be able to fly through pretty much all applications. These are amongst the most expensive chips on the market, so only get a laptop with one of these if you intended to use only the most demanding applications, such as 3D high-definition gaming, video editing and CAD design. Like the mid-range processors, these have multiple cores but usually come with four instead of two. This ensures seamless multitasking as well, so if you use a lot of applications at once the processor can delegate it's power evenly.

RAM or Random Access Memory

Put simply, the more memory your laptop has, the greater the number of applications it can handle. This also affects the laptops overall speed as the processor is only capable of processing what is in the memory at any given time. If you have a few windows open, such as an internet browser and a media player, any memory over 1GB will suffice. If you intend to use lots of applcations at once, consider a 2GB module. If you want to multitask the more demanding applications available, consider buying a laptop with 4GB of memory.

The graphics card

The type of graphics card you need depends on whether or not you will be carrying out graphically-intense tasks or for basic use. Most laptops come with integrated graphics chips onboard, such as the Intel GMA 4500, meaning the graphics chip is built onto the motherboard and uses the laptops RAM memory to function. This also means that memory is diverted from other applications, however this isn't noticeable when doing simple tasks. If you wish to use your laptop for gaming or high-def content look for a laptop with dedicated (discrete) graphics. A dedicated graphics card, such as the ATI Radeon or nVidia GeForce, has it's own memory so will not eat into your RAM. Like with RAM, the more memory a graphics card has the more calculations it is able to accomplish.


Be sure to check for any extra features you may need to use, as all laptops have their own configuration. As standard, modern laptops come with built-in wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) so you can use it anywhere in your home our out in hotspots. Still, be sure to check. Also, if you want to burn DVDs or Blu-Ray discs, make sure these are in the specifications. Most laptop hard drives are easy to replace and can be done at some, so if you wish to upgrade in the future this is possible.

Don't forget

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The internet is home to thousands of online laptop sellers. Use search engines to check for the cheapest prices for the particular laptop you are after. Make sure you buy somewhere secure, preferably using an online merchant such as PayPal that offers buyer protection. eBay can be a treasure trove of bargains, so it may be worth checking on there too to see if your particular laptop is for sale.