Choosing a laptop the first thing that you should consider is what is going to be your most oft use with it. It is all right to demand for the best in the business, with the best operating system preinstalled, together with the best processor and the maximum amount of RAM and other accessories but over all price is a major factor. While you can have everything in a portable frame, the price can be prohibitive.
The best approach that one can take is to make a list of the features that one needs and accordingly start looking for a machine that has all of them. Let’s cover a few of these requirements:
Form of the machine
Whether you need a replacement for your desktop or need something that this suitable for the purpose of carrying for a presentation, form is a critical factor for consideration. With form comes the question of weight. Take for example the Ultralight Notebooks, such as the Ultra portable Acer Aspire S5, the Dell XPS 13 and the Dell Latitude E6220. These are a few of the Ultra portable models that are currently the market favorites. They are mostly less than 3.5 pounds and as such are easy to carry. However they all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Users preferring a larger more desktop-like model can opt for the Desktop replacement type. These are basically bulkier, with a screen size of around 16 inches and have a weight of more than 6 kilograms. These are sturdy though and offer a larger keyboard which is reminiscent of that of a desktop keyboard. This type is also more powerful and offer users a lot of options in terms of compatibility, ports and working convenience. These are the true desktop replacements and are not ideal for those who love to move around with their laptops a lot.
For a while before the tablets hit the market, Netbooks were ruling the roost in terms of lightweight mobile computing devices. With the advent of tablets and devices such as the iPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, Netbooks have for all possible reasons have been completely written off the market.
A Core problem (pun intended)
About 5 years ago, an average user would have been happy with just the latest processor with a fast clock speed. Not any more. Today it is not only about the speed of the processor but how many cores there are as well. Evidently more cores mean better load bearing capacity. Imagine the cores of a processor as extra pair of hands which can help you do more. You still would not ideally brush your teeth with four hands, the same way as not all the currently available applications do take advantage of more than one core. But there are some resource hungry applications such as 3D games, graphic software which needs huge amount of resources to run. These applications will effectively love the fact that your laptop / notebook have more cores. So in a nutshell, more cores are better. The latest Intel processor is the Core i7. So any laptop or Ultralight notebooks that have this processor can be purchased without any doubts about its performance. They are suitable for a wide range of applications and works without minimum fuss even for some of the most resource hungry applications. But they can also be very expensive and something that you not require for simpler uses. A Core i3 would be a better and more economy option for you if you prefer to use your laptop for emails, spreadsheets, word processor and browsing.
How much RAM or memory your laptop has is an indication of how much you can do with it simultaneously. There is an easy three step rule to this.
Step 1: 1 GB RAM is suitable for doing basic stuff. That means you can run office suite and do browsing, listen to your music collection and watch videos on your laptop.
Step 2: 2 GB is suitable for a bit of gaming (not 3D gaming) and a bit of image editing using older and less resource hungry image editing software. But your laptop will start to stall and give you frustrating moments once you start pushing it towards more advanced applications and games. At that stage you will need to consider Step 3.
Step 3: 4 GB. This is ideally suitable for 3D gaming, advanced image editing software and any other power hungry applications. However there has to be a match-up of RAM and the processor. If you’re willing to use the laptop for advanced gaming and image editing or video editing, then you will need the latest processor together with the maximum amount of RAM.
One more thing to check is how easy is it to install an additional set of RAM if you ever have a need for the same? Also check out whether there are additional slots for plugging in an additional RAM stick. Over the course of the next 2-3 years applications will be become more resource consuming and your laptop will need more power and multi-tasking abilities. It will be very handy if you can plug an additional memory stick and postpone a new laptop purchase for one more year.
There are currently two different types of hard drives available with laptops. First is the old metal box type which has a spinning metal section inside. These are usually tagged as 250 GB @ 7200 RPM. For the dummies RPM means Revolutions per minute. It directly has a relation with how fast the data that is stored inside the hard drive can be accessed. If all things remain the same, a HD with 7200 RPM is better than a HD of only 5400 RPM. This is because data can be accessed faster. For larger files the lag time is very noticeable. However there is one downside to this. A faster RPM HD is more expensive. But when compares the difference in performance a few dollars will not make any difference.
The second type of HD is the Solid State Drive. This is increasingly is being used in laptops which are designed to ensure a longer battery life. Solid State HDDs don’t need an additional power to spin any metal device inside them. They are based on semiconductor technology and are the same technology that is used in modern USB flash memory. Ideal for storing and moving data from one location to another they have superior performance and much less power consumption because there are no moving parts. Additionally they generate less heat compared to their HDD counterparts. They are highly resistant to bumps and knock and unlike their mechanical counterparts can resist these small knocks without much fuss. They are also quieter when operating.
But they have a serious limitation and that is the amount of the maximum storage is often limited to 30 GB. This limitation is surely going to decrease fast as the technology around them starts to improve. Currently the Corsair Nova Series 2 30GB 2.5-Inch SATA II Internal SSD is a very popular choice.
There is a third type of hard drive and that is the Hybrid type. It is actually a HDD with a traditional hard drive and then a small portion containing a SSD drive. The Momentus XT from Seagate is one such drive that uses this hybrid technology. It has a 500GB of traditional HDD space and then complimented with a 4GB of SSD. There is software on the SSD which copies the most used files to it and that promise a very fast performance indeed.
Overall a SSD based laptop will be a lot faster while booting the operating system, loading software, transferring files and or accessing them when compared to a standard HDD. They are also the technology of the future and deserve a look in if you’re willing to be experimenting. Additional benefits are the portability that SSD hard drives gives you compared to other hard drives. As these hard drives are better equipped to handle shock and vibration, they are more suitable for the purpose carrying and using while traveling.
Power and Batteries
When buying a laptop take a closer look at the battery. Look for what the specifications says about the number of cells the battery has and mAh that it can produce. You will also need to ask how much backup do you need? If you’re planning to use your laptop for several hours where you have no way to plug the adapter to an electricity source, a powerful battery is imperative. Two things determine the power of a laptop or netbook or Ultraportable laptop’s battery. MAh is the standard for power rating. More mAh means better power supply. Second thing to consider is how many cells there are. If your laptop battery has 4 cells and another one has 9 cells it will last more hours than yours. While there are some batteries which last for more than 12 hours and still some such as the EliteBook laptop from HP which has 9 cells that provides an enormous 32 hours of battery life for the laptop, this may be stretching it too far.
One may only need about 10-12 hours typically something that can see one pull through a regular day at the office without having to carry the extra weight of a laptop adapter. So more cells is what you should be looking at when determining the usability of the laptop. There is a down side to using a laptop with more cells; these are usually heavier than standard batteries. But for a few grams more you can get an enormous amount of backup that can see you through a flight from New York to London and back without ever needing to plug the laptop to the wall.
Another thing to consider is the kind of Hard Drive that is being used inside the laptop. Confused what Hard Drive got to do with battery life? Well a standard Hard Drive has a spinning object inside which needs power to be spinned. That means less amount of juice than one can expect out of the battery. However a Hard Drive made out of solid-state flash memory will last longer as there are no metal spinning parts inside.
What you use your laptop also determines how long the batteries are likely to last. A 9 cell battery with a hefty mAh can last for only a few hours if you constantly play 3D games on it and to surf the Internet using Wi-Fi.
A laptop must have at least 2 USB ports. Although having 3-4 is suitable. It allows you to connect almost everything that you ca think of. A light pen, a mouse, a sound system, a Smartphone adapter plug, a digital camera and so on. Without enough USB ports it is always going to be a game of musical chair when you need to plug something to your laptop. Apart from USB ports you will also need an Ethernet port for connecting your laptop to a local network or a modem or a switch via a RJ45 jack. It should also have an integrated wireless card (preferably an 802.11a/b/g) for connecting to a local or wireless Internet connection. It should also have Bluetooth connectivity for easy file sharing via Bluetooth with a Smartphone.
Use it and then buy
Try and use the laptop before you decide to buy. There are plenty of store where you can use the device to see the performance, startup time, file transferring speeds and general access speeds for data before you can decide whether it is suitable for your needs. Also feel free to check the keyboard and whether it allows you to type at a reasonable speed. Some people can get very frustrated when the keyboard is not comfortable for their needs. Additionally you can also check the trackpad speed and how sensitive it is to your touch. Screen size is also a major factor to consider and one can trade-off large display with portability depending on the need.
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