Recently, for the first time in the history of the home computer's life in the mainstream, new desktop sales have been outpaced by their portable counterparts, laptops. There are very good reasons for this fundamental change in the purchasing habits of the computer consumer base at large, which will be briefly addressed here. Even five years ago, it was difficult to find a laptop which could deliver both the computing power necessary for everyday tasks while at the same time balancing that functionality with things like an appropriately long battery life and true portability. Today, screens are bigger and brighter than ever, while at the same time batteries last longer and users have more space than ever in which to store their files.
Consider this; a laptop of today rivals in its abilities even high end desktops of a few years ago, and even surpasses them in some respects. For these reasons, it is easier today to find a laptop computer which will fulfill the average user's needs than ever before, but that doesn't mean that one won't benefit from understanding a little bit more about what's available. Also important is to understand which needs one has as a user so that one doesn't pay for something they don't need, while at the same time meeting their own requirements.
The first thing an individual will probably notice about modern laptops when browsing around the local electronics store is the surprisingly wide array of sizes available. Some have screens as wide as 17" or more, while others take up a much smaller footprint down to 8 inches and occasionally even less. Generally speaking, there is a tradeoff between portability and power. Users who want to significantly lighten their load can expect, along with a smaller screen, reduced capability to execute high powered applications such as video editing and 3d gaming. If one has trouble reading small screens, they may take issue with what some would consider the cramped layout of the smaller devices.
Processing power determines how fast calculations can be run by any given computer, and what could be considered to be a caveat of the laptop form factor is that in almost every case, the processor is not upgradeable so that component isn't something that should be skimped on. Laptop memory, called RAM, is however upgradeable, so don't worry if your budget only permits you a limited amount. It's also one of the most user friendly and easy to accomplish upgrades one can do; a simple online search using the model of the laptop will give you the information needed. Hard drive space is the last important common component which should be evaluated. How much space is on a given hard drive determines how much data a given computer will be able to hold, such as pictures, music, documents, and video. Users working with large files may want to go large with this one, although it too is upgradeable later on down the line should the user's needs change.
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Using these basic principles as guidance, in addition to determining whichever non standard features are desirable (such as wireless headset capability for telecommuting workers, etc.), the prospective laptop buyer should have no problem finding an affordable mobile computer that is right for them and will effectively meet their needs.