Read This Before You Buy A Laptop

Looking to buy a laptop? Congratulations! So, do you want a thin-and-light notebook, a mainstream notebook, an ultra portable notebook, or a business notebook? And do you want that in a Dell, a Gateway, an IBM, a Sony, or a Toshiba, to name just a few of your options?

Confused yet? It really can be overwhelming. But buying a laptop doesn’t have to mean learning a whole new language. It just means that you have to know what your needs are and what kinds of equipment is best suited to meeting those needs. Ask yourself the following two questions:

1. How am I going to use this machine?

The demands you anticipate placing on a machine will dictate how much memory you need, processor speed, display size, and the size of your hard drive. It also matters how much wear and tear you think you’re going to put on your laptop. For example, are you going to be schlepping it from college room to coffee shop, or are you mostly going to be using it at home, as a replacement for a desktop machine? Are you going to be storing lots of digital music files or photos or other multimedia that will eat up huge amounts of hard drive space? Do you need wireless capability and lots of peripherals, like CD-RW drives or DVD drives? Are you going to be doing graphics work or watching a lot of video on your laptop, such that a powerful, rapid processor and a large and high-resolution screen are important to you?

2. How do I find the laptop that will do what I want?

Thinner is not always better; but then, less is sometimes more. In the laptop jungle, searching out the perfect machine can be a challenge. It might help to look at the different models of laptop and see what features each one has to offer.

* Ultraportables
These machines are thin, small, and light—typically not more than four pounds. What they don’t have going for them is a lot of processing power or the bells and whistles of bigger systems: they don’t have internal CD or DVD drives, they have smallish hard drives, and they have displays of 12 inches or smaller. A good choice for someone on the go a lot who doesn’t demand a lot of their system, but performance lags behind other laptop models.

* Thin-and-lights
Perfect for business travelers, these laptops have powerful internal processors, 14-inch displays, and wireless networking capability, plus a combo CD-RW/DVD drive. They have lots of memory and roomy hard drives. Trade-off: they weigh a bit more (four to six pounds) and they cost quite a bit more.

* Mainstream notebooks
Basically, these laptops are desktop computers that can do a little travel. At six to eight pounds, they come with a 14-inch or larger display and more than enough basic power, in terms of processing speed, memory, and hard drive space.

* Desktop replacements
The name says it all: these laptops think they’re desktops. They have 15-inch to 17-inch monitors, more than big enough for gaming or creating home movies. They have the fastest processors, the largest hard drives, and the most memory of any other laptop available. And they weigh at least seven pounds.

Knowing at least some of the terminology should help you carry on intelligent conversations with laptop salespeople. And remember: because technology changes so fast, you’ll never have to be stuck with a dud laptop for more than two years!

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