Are you planning to buy a laptop? They all seem the same. How do you know that it is “the one”? Merely swooning on one does not mean that it is the laptop for you. Simply picking up the most expensive or the cheapest laptop in the store would be too impulsive. I suggest you take a second look.
First, let’s identify its purpose. What is it for? Will you be needing the laptop to work on documents, sheets, and presentations? Do you intend to develop a program? Will you be playing games on it? How about running movies and series on its display? Will you be creating or editing photos and videos?
Aside from the purpose and the price, below are some things that you might want to consider.
Size (and Weight)
Programmers and editors prefer a big and wide display because the minute details can be easily zoomed in and be viewed well (look at the big picture!).
Laptop screen sizes are measured diagonally and are usually in inches. Screens range from small (10 inches) to large (17 inches). Expect a bulkier ensemble for bigger displays.
Do you need the numeric keypad? You can easily access special characters just by holding your press on a (or combination of) control key(s) while you dial the number sequence on the numeric keypad. This section may also function as your navigation keys and alternate mouse. If you would be working with numbers, this would be very convenient.
The “Fn” key allows an additional function for similarly highlighted keys. This feature is necessary for restricted keyboard layouts (for example, without the numeric keypad).
You might also want to run your fingers across the keyboard and check for the comfortable placement of keys (especially the control keys and modifier keys). Can your fingers easily reach them? Can you type with ease?
Check for the availability, number, and type of USB ports. How many ports do you need? Will you need to connect a flash drive, a charger, or an adapter?
For Type-A USB ports, the quickest way to distinguish the different generations (1.0, 2.0, and 3.0) would be the color of the plastic strip. The USB 1.0 shows a white plastic color, while USB 2.0 is black, and the USB 3.0 (3.1 Genx) is blue.
USB-C is now replacing Type-A on laptops and Type-B on other devices. We can expect to see this type of port on the new laptops.
If you would need more USB ports, you may consider buying an adapter or connecting a hub.
Will you be using your laptop for presentations? Do you intend to connect the laptop to the projector and similar devices? Inspect the sides of the laptop for the availability of these multimedia ports: VGA, HDMI, DVI, and/or DisplayPort.
A regular user can do away with at least 200 GB. A video editor would require way more storage for scratch disks. You may use external hard drives for your archives.
Suggested RAM size is 4GB. Your Operating System may be running comfortably with 2GB, but you still have other programs you need to run. Do consider availing higher RAM for gaming, programming, and editing. You may also ask the technician if the RAM can be (later) upgraded.
Select a microprocessor that falls in any late generation of the Intel Core i5 series or AMD A8 series. AMD is efficient with gaming, while Intel is preferred for editing and programming.
Most laptops come with a single audio combo jack for headset use. While they do exist, it is quite difficult to find a laptop that has two audio jacks (separate for microphone and headphones). A recorder or an editor may find audio adapters handy.
Touchpad or Trackball
Which pointing device are you familiar with, touchpad (trackpad) or trackball? In most touchpad laptops, wider palm rest areas are evident. A trackball, on the other hand, usually rests in the middle of the keyboard; thus, you can expect a more compact laptop layout.
Touchpads now have multi-touch and swipe capabilities. Some have scroll lock functions, too.
If you want to enjoy extensive use of the trackball, there are accessories available in the market. Some mouse accessories have trackballs, too. Old school!
Aside from the keyboard layout, you might also want to consider the placement and spacing of the ports. It can get crowded, and the ports might not be able to accommodate the necessary devices at the same time.
Identify also the location of the built-in microphone and speakers.
You might also want to check for the presence of:
- Optical Drive
- Card Reader
- Web camera
- Touch capability
Try its hinge. How far back can it bend? Some units can be laid flat, some can even extend beyond that. 2-in-1 hybrid laptops have screens that can be detached.
I did not include any specifications for OS and battery life. Most laptops have an OS installed (which you could change later). Batteries typically run for 1-6 hours when unplugged.
Do include in your budget the laptop accessories such as adapters, cables, headset, extension wire, mouse, and whatever abovementioned component you missed. Again, you may ask the available technician for the possibility of an upgrade. Do not forget to find a good bag, too!
If you still can wait, prepare for Black Friday! Electronics Sale is at its lowest on Friday after Thanksgiving! The sale usually runs for a week. If you would, don’t miss it!