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May 02

What to look for in a laptop – Laptop buying guide 2012


What do I want to look for in a laptop

It’s new laptop time so I’ve been doing my homework. The aim is to get the fastest and most powerful laptop for my money, and my budget is £500. Boy, do I wish I had paid more attention to The Gadget Show now!

One of my main frustrations with my existing laptop is its speed. The processor is not bad – a 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, but the laptop itself is pretty old. What’s more, my research has uncovered that my 2 Gigabytes (GB) of memory (or RAM) is inadequate. In order to run the operating system efficiently, which in the case of my laptop is Mac OS X, a minimum of 4GB RAM is necessary. This explains a lot!

So lets look at what we need.

Laptop Memory – I want to be able to multitask

In modern laptops, the RAM can be one of the main components affecting the speed at which your computer runs. This can be explained by thinking of it as similar to our own memory. We can perform a task much quicker if we are able to get the knowledge we require for it from our own memory rather than us having to look it up. The memory of a computer is similar. It is a temporary store for data from the hard disk, such as the operating system and other applications that you have running.

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is able to access data from this temporary store and this is much faster than if it were to continually gain its instructions from the hard disk. The more programs you have running and the larger these programs are, the more RAM you will need to keep things running smoothly. It follows that the larger the RAM, the better – particularly if you like to have many tasks running at once, as I do – so this is going to be my main focus for my new laptop.

 

Laptop Processor – How fast do I want my laptops engine to be

New laptop processorThe CPU is the next component that I am keen on getting right as again, this can have a significant effect on speed. A good processor will allow you to switch effortlessly between tasks and will also enable heavy duty tasks such as graphics and video editing. Most processors these days are more than adequate for basic computing tasks, but for these more heavy duty tasks, there are processors with exceptional processing power.

The 2nd generation Intel® Core™ processor seems to be the industry leader and I think an Intel® Core™ i3 should be sufficient for my requirements. This is separated from earlier chips by so called ‘Hyper-Threading’. All this means is that it can perform double the number of tasks at once as its predecessors could. Be aware that there are two different speeds for the i3 chip and this may account for slight differences in prices, although the difference experienced by most computer users will be negligible. The i5 and i7 have ‘turbo boost’ technology for even higher speed and performance and are recommended for video editing and gaming. If I can go as high as an i5 for my money, I know that I will have more than adequate processing power.


Hard drive – Storing all that data on my new laptop

Laptop hard drive 2.5The hard drive is the storage space required. Other than my applications, I tend not to store many large files on my computer as I regularly transfer them on to my external hard drive, so I don’t need masses of storage space. This is where I feel I can compromise in order to get more processing power and RAM for my money. Upon recommendation however, I would not go below 250GB and ideally will be looking for around 500GB in order to ensure I have more than adequate. Look for the SSD or Solid State Hard Drive as this is faster than older versions, which means your programs will load quicker and it is less likely to crash.

 

I dont want my laptop to feel like a lead weight so lightweight please!

a lightweight laptop

The final important factor for me is the laptop’s weight. When comparing weights, make sure you are comparing like for like and that it includes the battery as this is usually the heaviest part. Be aware that a lighter laptop may have a shorter battery life, as it may have a smaller battery. Check the battery life if this is an important factor for you when deciding. My research reveals that average sized laptops are around 2.5 kg.

Other features you need to look for when considering the price is whether or not an operating system is installed and if so, which one; any warranties that are included in the price; whether it has an integrated camera if you are likely to be using your laptop for communication; screen size; make and model; reputation of the store from which you are buying the laptop; whether or not it is refurbished – and if you still are unable to decide, I recommend you select the one you like the look of!Any Extras?

Laptop buying guide laptop 1

My Results

For my £500 budget, I have found a Toshiba 15.6” screen, with 650GB storage, an Intel® Core™ i3-2330 / 2.2 GHz, 2.5 kg, 6 GB of RAM, integrated camera and Windows 7 installed. With a discounted price of £349.97, I get all this and more with £150 change from my budget and I’m a happy laptop buyer.

 

Author Bio

Linda Firth writes for www.lovemyvouchers.co.uk – home of the UK’s best discount codes and deals.