Laptop Buying Guide, Page 3


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Keyboard and Touchpad Check

ASUS F555LA-AB31 (image from Amazon)


You can have the most impressive specs on your laptop, but if your hardware feels cheap and doesn’t provide decent ergonomics, then you can’t enjoy the machine to its full capacity. Before you decide on purchasing the laptop, make sure you get a good feel of how the keyboard and touchpad works. Does the keyboard have a good feedback when you press its buttons? Are the spaces between keys enough? Is the touchpad responsive and smooth to operate? Or does it feel jumpy? Does it satisfy your clicks? Does it have multi-touch function? Can you zoom into pages and documents easily and select text with ease? These are just some of the many questions you need to answer. Best way to do this is by reading reviews and checking the laptops before you actually get them.

 

If you’re shopping for a touchscreen laptop, such as Windows 8.1 notebook, then make sure the touchpad works well. Apple and Lenovo are the best brands for this feature.

Know the Specs


Tech specs like graphics card, RAM, CPU and hard drive can confuse regular computer users, even notebook aficionados. They may seem jargons listed on a table, but there’s nothing you need to worry. The most basic question you need to answer is how you are going to use your portable computer. Of course, if you’re looking to do intensive computing tasks such as HD video editing or 3D gaming, then you need a laptop with more extensive specs.

 

Here are some of the components you should keep your eye on.

 

CPU

AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile laptop CPU (image from Amazon)


Affordable laptops in the market today are usually equipped with AMD E series processors or Intel Pentium/Celeron CPUs. But these CPUs usually struggle to accommodate serious productivity, media and gaming tasks, but they can be more than enough for web surfing, social networking, email, writing documents, making slide presentations, and other basic computing tasks. If you opt for a laptop with an Intel Core series processor, make sure you choose the 4th generation Core or commonly known as “Haswell” to get the best combo of performance and battery life. Haswell CPUs starts with a 4, ie. Intel Core i5-4200U.

 

Unless you’re simply looking for a secondary computer to back up your desktop, don’t settle for a laptop less than Intel Core i3 CPU or AMD A Series. If you’re going to spend $500 for a laptop, then opt for a model with at least Intel Core i5, as they can provide good performance. For heavy gamers and power users, the Core i7 is the best way to go, preferably the quad-core chip.

 

RAM

Corsair Apple Certified 16 GB DDR3 Laptop Memory (image from Amazon)


When it comes to computer memory (RAM), even the cheapest laptops can have 4GB these days, so don’t settle for anything less. If you can find a portable computer with 8GB RAM, then you have a better memory to do high-end applications and heavy multi-tasking.

 

Hard Drive/SSD

Seagate 1TB Laptop Gaming SSHD (image from Amazon)


Faster hard drives are more important than larger ones. It is always a better idea to go for SSD (Solid State Drive) over a hard drive, as SSD provides two to three times the speed than its mechanical counterpart. SSD however, is available in lower capacities (128/256GB) and usually more expensive.

If you can’t afford to have that limited capacity, then go for a 200-rpm hard drive over a 5,400-rpm unit. This will let you store several movies and games to your 320GB hard drive. A 500GB and 750GB drive isn’t very expensive either though.

 

Flash Cache

When paired with traditional a hard drive, Ultrabooks and other laptops with 8, 16 or even 32GB flash cache can boost performance. While this will not make your computer any faster than a SSD would, flash cache can help boost load and boot time of your computer, allowing you to keep all your data on a larger hard drive.

 

Display

13.3-inch MacBook Pro (image from Amazon)


The idea of display is simple, the more pixels it has, the more content it can fit on your screen, which leads to sharper images. This makes multitasking, viewing web pages, playing games and watching videos better. Budget laptops are around 1366 x 768-pixel resolutions. Laptops with higher pixel count are at 1600 x 900, 1920 x 1080 or higher. The goal is to get the highest resolution your budget can get. Portable computers with Full HD panels (1920 x 1080) usually cost more than $150 compared to a regular display.

 

Touch Screen

Dell Inspiron 17 500 Touch (image from Amazon)


Windows 8 offers more fun and immersive interface, but if your laptop doesn’t offer rotatable and touchscreen display, you should stay with Windows 7. Though you can get a laptop for around $500 these days, the difference in price with similarly configured system without the touchscreen capability is just around $100 to $150. Also, touchscreen system adds weight and makes your computer consume more power compared to non-touch counterparts.

 

Graphics Chip

Integrated graphics card works fine for basic computing tasks such as web surfing, watching videos, and playing games. However, discrete graphics processor such as those from AMD and Nvidia can make a huge difference when playing demanding games. The processor will have its dedicated video memory, while the GPU helps accelerate video playback for better video streaming quality and video editing.

 

Like in CPUs, there are high-end and low-end graphics card. AMD and Nvidia have a list of their low-end to high-end graphics chip. Generally, regular workstations and gaming laptops are equipped with the best GPUs, including dual graphics card for most expensive models.

 

DVD/Blu-ray Drives

Not all laptops come these days come with DVD drive and Blu-ray drives, as a matter of fact, fewer and fewer portable computer come with optical drives today. This is because most the things you need for your computer are available online for download. Also, movies, music, games and other software programs can be downloaded. Unless you want to watch movies in Blu-ray often, save your bag some pounds and skip the optical drives.


In Page 4, we will talk about the difference between a hybrid and traditional laptops, and which one you should choose.

Page 4



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