Choosing the right laptop can be a breeze if you know what to look for. As you begin your research, keep these five important considerations in mind:
Operating System Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OS are two of the most popular operating systems. Since Windows runs on most PC laptops, this platform offers the widest selection of manufacturers and models.
The Mac OS runs on Apple’s MacBook computers, and is known for its stability, as well as being less vulnerable to viruses and malware than its PC counterpart. The Mac OS can also run Windows emulation software, enabling users to work with Windows applications on their Macs. However, Macs generally have a higher price tag compared to PCs with similar features.
Another operating system that is gaining traction is Google Chrome OS. Google Chrome OS is designed to work exclusively with web applications and is featured exclusively on systems from Google’s manufacturing partners such as Samsung and Acer.
Display, Size and Weight Laptops can be categorized according to their size and weight. Netbooks typically weigh 3 lbs. or less and have screens from 6” to 10”, but their compact size equates to less processing power. These devices are designed to serve as a highly portable complement to your primary PC. However, since tablets have become more popular for this purpose, netbooks have become less so.
Ultraportables, which include Ultrabooks™, typically offer more processor power and RAM than tablets and netbooks. These laptops weigh in at about 3 to 4.5 lbs. and feature screen sizes ranging from 11” to 14”. Models with displays at the high end of this range must be ultra-thin to be considered ultraportable.
All-purpose laptops encompass the largest selection. These models feature screen sizes from 14” to 17” and typically weigh more than 4.5 lbs. All-purpose laptops offer the best of both worlds in that they are large and powerful enough for everyday computing, yet portable enough to carry around.
Desktop replacements have 17” to 18” screens and weigh from 8 to 12 lbs. These models provide the high-performance features and large display size of a desktop computer, as well as mobility when needed.
Processor The CPU (central processing unit) runs the operating system, as well as all software applications. For email, word processing and casual web surfing, a processor speed between 1 and 1.5GHz should suffice, while video editing and gaming may require between 2 and 2.5 GHz or more. In addition, a processor with more cores will be faster, and better at multitasking, e.g., editing photos while listening to music. Most midsize laptops have dual-core CPUs, while quad-core CPUs are common for desktop replacements.
Internal Storage Space and Random Access Memory (RAM) Hard disk drives (HDDs) provide internal storage space to save programs and files, such as documents, photos and videos. HDDs come in a range of sizes, but remember that you can always get additional space with an external hard drive, or via online and cloud storage solutions.
Solid state drives (SSDs) represent some of the latest internal storage technology. While SSDs are pricier than traditional hard disk drives, they are faster and offer more durability as they have no moving parts. But keep in mind that SDDs are typically less than 256GB in size, whereas HDDs can be as large as 1TB (terabyte) or more.
Random access memory (RAM) is another important consideration. RAM can be thought of as the computer’s active working memory, as opposed to hard disk storage space. Computers with more RAM can process more information simultaneously, resulting in enhanced system performance. 4GB of RAM is typical for most laptops. If you find you need more, you can usually purchase and install additional RAM at a later date.
Ports and Connectivity Look for a laptop with at least 2 USB ports, which are used to connect to stand-alone devices such as keyboards, printers and external hard drives. If you want to play high-definition video and multi-channel audio over a single cable, you’ll need an HDMI port. You may also want a DVD drive, either built-in or external, if you plan to burn CDs/DVDs and install software from these discs. Blu-ray drives are also an option in many new laptops.
For connecting to the Internet, most new laptops include a built-in wireless Internet card. If you plan to use the Internet in places where Wi-Fi isn’t available, a built-in mobile broadband card will provide high-speed 4G or 3G wireless Internet access wherever you go, but a mobile service plan will be required. Many laptops also offer Bluetooth connectivity, for connecting and sharing with other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as wireless mice, keyboards and headsets.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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