If you are a night owl and have a preference for working into the dead of the night or a gamer who would rather lay in bed or a comfy recliner instead of an uncomfortable desk, laptops would be your go to device. Several years ago when someone said they needed to buy a computer we envisioned big bulky desktop monitors and towers and while desktop computers are still very much used they do take up space in your home. Nowadays the average household has done away with the clutter for the sleek design and portability of a laptop. Laptops are designed to be moved and taken places - we know you have seen 'writers' typing away and sipping their Frappuccino’s in Starbucks on a late Sunday morning. As these devices are popular you will find that there is a large variety on the market and you can find the standard notebook, the light weight ultra-portable range and the hybrids which are both a notebook and a tablet rolled into one.
While most of us are more concerned with the screen size and outer design of the notebook, there is so much to consider before you make the purchase. Computers have never been a straight forward, one size fits all device. We all have different expectations on what our laptops should be capable of based on what we intend to use them for. Buyers need to consider how often they will be carrying around the laptop, if their use is intended for fast paced business, gaming or simply leisure. Think about how much memory the device offers, the notebooks operating system, battery life and accessories. This buyer’s guide will outline the important aspects that you should consider before purchasing a new notebook.
THE EVERYDAY NOTEBOOK
The everyday note book is for users who intend to use the device for general recreational and professional use. Most standard laptops come with your usual features that allow you to connect your device to a range of external equipment such as a USB port, SD card slot, HDMI outlet and Disk drive. If you intend to purchase a laptop for the simple pleasures of on-line shopping, Microsoft office, social media and general browsing, a standard laptop is all you really need. Most standard issue laptops feature 2 to 4GB of RAM and a processor that is more than adequate for general use. If you intend to use your laptop to watch your favourite TV shows or movies consider purchasing one with a screen larger than 14 inches for a better viewing experience.
THE ULTRA-PORTABLE NOTEBOOK
Ultra-portable laptops are essentially a light weight device with most models weighing in at under 2Kgs, it’s so light you might think you have lost it! Generally ultra-portable laptops are great for general usage and have a battery life that is longer than other models due to the fact that they run on low voltage processors which also means that they won’t heat up underneath as much as a standard or performance notebook. On the downside, due to their slim design you will find that external hardware connections are more limited than that of a standard laptop and their storage space may be considerably smaller too so it is a good idea to invest in an external hard drive if you need more storage. In terms of specs, make sure you assess your needs before purchasing an ultra-portable notebook as you may find that the levels of performance on some models don't compare to the performance of standard and performance laptops.
PERFORMANCE AND GAMING LAPTOPS
Performance and gaming laptops are designed to provide the user with outstanding graphics and quality. There are some performance and gaming laptops that can knock some models of desktop computers right out of the ball park. Most gaming laptops are fitted with a dedicated graphics card and additional memory giving the user a top notch and intense gaming experience. As for the gaming laptop screens you will find most models sport larger screens and have crystal clear picture quality. The processors and power featured in gaming notebooks are essential for smooth game play and it doesn't hurt that the speakers fitted enhance the gaming experience. Some gaming laptops feature more hardware connectivity ports and programmable colour coded keys. Keep in mind that with all of these additional features battery life may drain quicker than a standard laptop which is why these laptops are better kept at home where a power source is readily available.
HYBRID 2-IN-1 DEVICES
Why not have the best of both worlds? There are devices on the market that are a combination of a touch screen tablet and a laptop rolled into one fantastic device. Most of these hybrid devices are designed to run like laptops complete with Windows and have the option to run in a tablet mode. These hybrid computers can be found in two different styles. Some models have detachable keyboards that can be reattached when you need a full on laptop mode. Other models have a flexible key board that can be folded backwards. For more information see our Bing Lee buying guide for 2-in-1 hybrids.
Windows 10 is the new Microsoft operating system. There are more laptops on the market that use Windows rather than other operating systems giving you a wider choice range. Windows 10 is easy to use, a combination of both Windows 7 and Windows 8 and has a personal assistant named Cortana. Cortana can assist you with locating items on your notebook, track packages, assist with calendar management, ask questions, chat to you and even tell you jokes! Simply type into the task bar or if you have a microphone hit the microphone icon and get right to it. Cortana can be personalised to respond to your voice only and you can set her up to respond to you by saying "Hey Cortana".
CPU, RAM & STORAGE
Some of us buyers find ourselves nodding in agreement when computer specifications are being talked about without any idea of what they actually mean. Storage seems relatively straight forward but what about CPU and RAM? Here's the low-down on all you need to know.
CPU stands for Central Processing Unit also known as the processor is basically the brains within the computer. The power of the processor indicates the computers complexity, how fast you can work on the computer and how many programs you can run at once. You will find that the processor is measured by its cores, cache memory and its speed. Most models of notebook have either Intel® or AMD processors.
Intel's Pentium® and Celeron® are your basic budget processors that are most suited to people who intend to use the laptop for simple tasks like browse the net and send emails. Core M is a processor designed for ultra slim notebooks, Core i3 is usually found in mid-range laptops intended for general use, Core i5 processors are found in mid - high range laptops intended for business and student workers and lastly the Core i7 is the top of the range found in performance and gaming laptops that require a high speed processor.
AMD processors come in a FX, A and E series. The E series is much like Pentium® and Celeron® being the budget processor. The A series starts with the A4 which is most suited to general use to the A10 that has the speed and graphics performance required for gaming. The FX processor is the top of the range designed for heavy performance.
RAM stands for Random access memory and you will find that it is measured in gigabytes. For general use you will need a minimum of 2GB RAM and a minimum of 4GB for business use. The majority of laptops on the market have 2-8GB of RAM but there are models with up to 32GB and some models that will allow you to expand the amount of RAM if you need to. Keep in mind that the more RAM offered the more costly the laptop will be. Essentially the more RAM the notebook has, the more programs can be run by the processor.
This is the hard drive or solid state drive (SSD) of your computer which dictates how much data you can store. You will find that the drives are measured in gigabytes. Hard drives are cheaper and offer lots of storage space but they will contribute to the overall weight and thickness of the device while on the other hand a solid state drives are thinner and are much speedier but are limited on storage capacity. Hard drives create heat and noise while SSD's are virtually noiseless and generate less heat making them the better option for the ultra slim notebooks. Before purchasing a laptop consider your storage requirements and keep in mind that if you need additional storage space you can purchase an external hard drive.
SIZE AND DISPLAY
Computer specs can be quite impressive but you need to think about how often you plan on carrying the laptop around with you. Notebook display sizes are measured in inches and the larger the screen, the larger the laptop and the more of a burden it can be carry around every day. Screens that are 12 inch and under are sleek, light weight and thin. Easy to carry around. 13 - 14 inch displays are still very portable but with a larger screen size. 15 inch displays are the most common size of notebook on the market. This size can be a burden to constantly carry around with you so keep that in mind. 16 inch and over displays are essentially the size of notebook you would intend to leave at your desk or somewhere else at home. Most laptops of this size have systems with a higher processor power designed for business and gaming. This screen size is great for watching TV shows and movies too.
There's no point in having an overly large screen with low resolution picture quality. Everyone wants sharp and defined picture with excellent contrast regardless of if you are using the notebook for gaming, business or watching films. Notebook resolution is measured in pixels and to get that outstanding picture quality you will need to look at models with high pixel numbers. Laptops that have a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080, also known as full HD or 1080p are higher end and can be costly. Most common laptops have a screen resolution of around 1366 x 768pixels. If you are considering purchasing a 2-in-1 hybrid make sure to look for one with an anti -reflective screen layer which will enable you to use it outdoors in sunny conditions.
While notebooks are fabulous all on their own there are accessories that you can purchase to make their use more comfortable.
Peripherals - For some tasks you may find it easier to use a wireless mouse, keyboard or laptop stand. Laptops are not limited on the way you use them so you can recreate the desktop feeling whenever you want it.
Cases and covers - If you are planning on taking your laptop around with you rather than leaving it in the home or office, cases and covers offer protection in case of accidental damage and impact while making it easier to carry around the device.
External storage - USB flash drives and external hard drives are easy to use and provide you with additional storage space. Most external hard drives are portable and like USB flash drives can be taken anywhere so that you can transfer data to other devices.
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