Welcome to this report on buying a Computer – Laptop Edition. This is meant to help people decide which computer to buy.
Buying a computer can be a complicated process. This guide tells you how to identify the good computers from the bad ones, and includes a couple examples that I encountered.
How am I going to use this?
First start out by asking yourself, what am I going to use this computer for? That question may have an effect on how you answer these questions.
If you will be designing graphics, or running graphic-intense programs, then you may want or require a larger screen. In that case, you will want a high-resolution screen, and a decent graphics card.
If you will be running very demanding programs, then you’ll need lots of RAM and a high CPU clock speed. If you have a system that’s fast, then your computer will need a good fan to keep your laptop cool. My mom’s laptop runs hot VERY quickly. I’m using it right now, but it’s irritating to have such a hot object in my lap. The fan in this one is so quiet I often worry if there isn’t one at all or that the one that is there is broken or something.
Priorities you need to consider:
Screen Size / Video Card
Drives (CD/DVD/HDD) Keyboard/Touchpad
The CPU is the vital core of the computer. It performs math functions (which is basically all that a computer does).
A 3 GHz Processor Core performs approx. 3 Billion CPS (Clock Cycles per Second), meaning that 3 Billion impulses of electricity go through the processor each second.
It is important to have a fast processor no matter what type of applications you run, because Processors are constantly being made better, and you don’t want your computer to become out of date as soon as you get it!
Processors are probably the most expensive item in a computer.
My Recommendation: The Intel Core 2 Duo
I’ve always been an Intel fan, and simply think their processors are the best. If you want value for your money, go with this one. Try and get one that’s at least 2.5 GHz.
Go with something that’s above 533 MHz, and get 1 or 2 GB. 1 is great. 2 is excellent.
DO NOT GET 512 MB – here’s why – if you get 512 MB, you won’t have any extra DIMM slots left because they don’t give you one 512 MB DIMM – they give you 2 crappy 256 MB DIMMs, so you won’t have any slots left to upgrade to. You want to leave the option of upgrading your laptop’s RAM – it’s just about the only thing you can easily upgrade in a laptop.
Get either integrated or a basic ATI or nVidia. A graphics card can enable you to play 3D and other graphics-intensive games, and watch movies. The better your graphics card is, then when you are playing games or watching video the video will not be choppy or redraw often. If you’re going to play games a graphics card is indispensable.
Screen size in a laptop is debated, but I think that anything larger than a 17 inch screen is outrageous and stupid. Screens on laptops are meant to be small and portable, because laptops are meant to be small and portable. An exception to this is a ‘Desktop Replacement’ Laptop, which has a larger screen, larger hard drive, better graphics card etc. Get a screen that has a resolution of XGA or better, that is either 15 inch or 17 inch if you’re like any one else. Your screen should also be widescreen.
Hard Drive / Storage Options
I recommend that you get at least a Hard Drive with 80 GB, that spins at 5400 RPM because of the immense size that Digital Photos, Music and Videos take up these days.
A 160 GB Hard Drive that spins at either 5400 RPM or 7200 RPM is fine for just about anyone. However, if you know that you will be storing extremely large files, then go with something better (talk to the salesperson about your needs). If your hard drive spins faster, then you will be able to access files faster, and may notice the difference.
Keyboard and Touchpad
In order for you to have an enjoyable and relaxing computer experience, your computer needs to be easy to use. If you have a frustrating touchpad that just won’t move your cursor, or a keyboard that hurts your hands, here is the section for you!
Always ask to test out the computer before you buy it. If you find the computer irritating, ask the salesperson whether there is a way to adjust the settings for the touchpad.
The keyboard is the primary input device for the computer. It has existed long before the mouse did. About 10 years ago, a mouse was considered optional or unnecessary. Keyboards need to be good on a laptop. Test them out and you don’t like them, or find yourself reaching for keys that aren’t there, consider a different laptop.
Optical Drives (CD/DVD)
Get one that burns CDs and DVDs. Try and get a combo drive or one that burns DVDs and CDs, because DVDs are the new backup standard. DVDs are about 6x the size of CDs. If those DVDs are dual-layer, they can offer up to 8 GB of storage space, and they are only worth a couple of cents! Now, with the new Blu-Ray and HD-DVD standards coming out, you can store up to around 30 GB, and if those discs are dual-layer, then it can be up to 60 GB or more! Optical Drives are a great way to make your own home movies, if you have a Camcorder (see Zee Camera Plan – Camcorder Edition for help on buying one of those). You can ‘Capture’ information off of your DV camera and store it on your hard drive, and then with those raw video files, you can use a program like Adobe Premier Pro, or Roxio (this is a great option) to edit and put in a menu and special effects for your movie. Then using your DVD/CD Combo Drive you can burn a DVD that you can watch on any DVD player (including your computer and your TV). You can also backup your Hard Drive on DVDs if you have a Optical Drive that can burn DVDs.
Hopefully this guide has helped you decide which computer to get!
A PDF will soon be available of this document. I’ll post when it is ready.