Laptop Computer Buying Guide

Laptop computers have come down in price significantly over the past few years, and compared to their desktop cousins, performance of this tier of mobile devices now rivals their larger counterparts. With the major computer manufacturers are becoming increasingly power-conscious, laptop users can now be power users. Increased competition among computer companies like Dell, HP, Toshiba, and Apple, has forced them to lower prices and offer greater flexibility in design and specifications of laptops. Whether you use your laptop to create music, edit movies, or just to check your e-mail, you can custom order a laptop to suit your specific needs. The latest notebooks are sleek, light and powerful machines that offer high performance on par with desktop computers.  break through notebooks like the macBook Air introduced by Steve jobs at the beginning of the year have taken the industry by storm.  Apple and Intel collaborated to create a thin, efficient chip set to accommodate it's extraordinary thin profile.  Essentially, the newer laptops are being marketed as desktop replacements with built-in Wi-Fi offering greater mobility. Set-up a home wireless network and your laptop stays connected to the Internet as you move from the living room to the kitchen to the bedroom. You are no longer restricted to the study desk to access your favorite celebrity gossip Web sites. So plant yourself on the comfy couch, snack on your finger food and shop on your favorite Internet sites. * Not ready to take the plunge in either direction? Take a deep breath and check out the desktop vs. laptop debate. * Not sure whether your loyalties tilt towards a Mac or a PC? Read this. * For those with a creative bent, PC Tablet Computers allow you to share free-hand drawings and artwork. Tablet computers are also very handy for working in cramped space, such as on an airplane, car, bus, or train. * Space constraints? With the newest netbooks, they're no longer a problem.

How To Get the Best

The best approach is to concentrate on your needs and not get bogged down by the details. Make a list of features that are critical to your everyday and future needs. ! * '''General Productivity''' -- Email, Web, Word Processing ** Look for budget models. ** Get something small and lightweight that you can bring with you wherever you feel like using the computer. The MacBook Air is a favorite around ShopWiki * '''Students''' -- Web, Email, Word Processing, Photos, Music, Movies, Games ** You need a well-rounded machine that can offer a little bit of everything. ** Look for a big hard drive to store all your music and photos. ** Find something small enough to bring with you to class or to tote to a pal's place. ** WiFi is a must-have. * '''Business Use''' -- Web, Microsoft Office, Email Suite ** Wireless networking is essential. ** Portability is key, so look for a notebook with a good battery life and lightweight design. ** Don't worry about extra programs and applications. You want the basics and something with speed. ** Look for a flicker-free, high quality LCD screen to reduce eyestrain. * '''Multimedia Use''' -- Photos, Music, Movies ** You should find the biggest hard drive possible. ** Look for a larger sized screen. ** Invest in some great external speakers to improve the experience. * '''Gaming '''-- Games, Games, Games ** You want speed, speed, and more speed. ** Pay attention to processors and RAM. ** Top-ntotch graphics cards are key.

Types of Laptops

* Mainstream-- Laptops weighing between 5 and 7 pounds with a screen size of 14.1 inches to 15.4 inches diagonally. * Desktop replacement-- Laptops with the full capabilites of a desktop but remains portable. Often heavier than other laptops, they usually have limited battery life. Gaming laptops are an example of a desktop replacement. * Subnotebook-- Laptops that are very small but have almost the same capabilites of a normal mainstream laptop. They typically weigh between 2.2 and 5 pounds and have a screen measuring 10.6 to 14 inches diagonally.  

Pros and Cons


* Portability * Compact * Ability to operate on battery power in case of power outage * Green-- Laptops use less electricity than desktops.


* Durability-- laptops are easy to break and parts are expensive. Often the labor and parts of fixing a problem with a laptop outweigh the cost of buying a new laptop. * Compatibility-- most laptops have their own design for everything. For example, a power adapter on a Toshiba is probably very different from a power adapter on a Sony Vaio. * Space-- laptops usually have smaller hard drives than desktops. * Power-- laptops not as powerful as desktops * Battery-- battery life is often short.

Features to Consider

If at any point in your search you start to feel lost, know that most companies have live chat or phone sales people who are very helpful and informative.  Also make sure you check our the notebook / Laptop manufacturer's web site.  There is plenty of information there to help you decide between models and then return to ShopWiki to find yourself the best deal on that desired notebook.

Weight and Portability

Some level of portability is important to you if you are considering getting a laptop, but ask yourself: does your laptop really need to tag along with you everywhere? If you are a road warrior, you want something light weight and a slim, but if you only carry it around occasionally, look for a laptop that doubles as a desktop as performance might be more worthwhile to you than portability. * SIZE -- The range of laptop displays is 8"-17". ** 8"-12" is better suited for travelling. ** 14"-17" is a good desktop replacement. * WEIGHT -- Generally, a smaller display correlates with a lighter weight, but this isn't always the case. Check the specs of the specific model to be sure. ** 2 lbs - 4 lbs. is ideal weight for the travelling laptop. ** 4 lbs - 9 lbs. majority of the desktop replacement notebooks weigh more since they pack the performance punch of faster chipsets, larger hard drives and super sized RAM. ** Keep in mind that the weight of the laptop itself is not the only weight you carry. Power cords, travel mice, and external drives can weigh down even the most svelte notebook computer.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

* Large amounts of RAM are important if you use a number of applications simultaneously -- 512 MB of RAM is minimal especially if you plan to run Microsoft Vista and 1 GB of RAM or higher will have you jumping for joy while playing high speed and intense video games. * The basics of RAM are covered in the computer specs guide.

Chip Speed (CPU)

* The Pentium M by Intel is a mobile computer processor with efficient power consumption, but lacks integrated wireless capabilities. On the other hand, the Intel Centrino is the Pentium M processor with built-in wireless functions. * If you want modest speeds, wireless and efficient battery use, think Centrino. If you want a heavier, battery draining yet fast machine, think Mobile Pentium 4. * Apple has also jumped on board the Intel chipset train and future models will come with the familiar Intel Inside logo. Look for the Intel-based Apple laptops. * For the basics of CPUs, check out the computer specs guide.

WiFi/Bluetooth Compatibility

* Wi-Fi hotspots are multiplying rapidly across the United States. To improve the lifecyle and value of your laptop it makes sense to invest in a notebook that comes with built in Wi-Fi capabilities. * If your notebook does not have a built-in wireless card, make sure it has the correct PC card slot to support an external wireless card. This will give you the option to add a wireless card in the future if you opt not to get one right away. * Especially handy for students and travelers -- many campuses, airports, and hotels are adding wireless Internet access to common areas. * Bluetooth is a great feature to have built in to your laptop, which comes standard on all MacBooks. It is becoming more and more common these days as Bluetooth devices are flooding the market. ** Wireless devices with Bluetooth can easily be paired to transfer data or pictures between devices. ** Many wireless mice and keyboards are now Bluetooth enabled allowing a direct connection with your computer without the use of a port. * Intel Centrino technology is a chipset by Intel which supports wireless capabilities. It also helps conserve battery life, which is drained by continuous wireless Internet usage.

Battery Life

* The majority of the laptop battery is used by the processor, the screen, wireless networking cards, drives such as the hard drive, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM, and other peripherals. * Most models claim to provide up to 6 hours of wireless free productivity. Realize that most provide around half or less as the battery begins to age. * Most laptop batteries are lithium-ion cell (aka. Li-ion), which holds roughly twice the capacity of the older nickel-cadmium battery. Lithium-ion technology can hold a lot of power, but its exotic materials make it expensive. * If you know that you'll be on the go without an electrical outlet, look for a model that has excellent battery life and lots of power-saving options. * Keep in mind that certain activities, like watching a DVD, eat up a lot of battery life. * Many companies sell spare batteries for their laptops. If you travel a lot or plan to watch a lot of personal in-flight movies, you should buy one. * Sony VAIO laptop are acclaimed for their long-lasting batteries.


* Laptop warranties can be tricky. Always read and re-read the fine print (emphasis added). Understand and know before you buy your laptop what kind of repair service you are entitled to under the warranty. * Majority of laptop warranties cover hardware problems, such as defective keyboards, monitor problems, issues with internal components not resulting from owner misuse. * The laptop warranty generally covers the parts and labor for repairs. * Be careful, as opening the case or breaking a seal can lead to void a warranty. Also, the warranty doesn't cover theft, damage or breakage caused by the owner. * Most warranties have 1 year terms with the option to extend available for additional fees. It is always a good idea to purchase an extended warranty at the time of purchase from the vendor.

Refurbished Computers

International Resources

For this resource in your home country, please see: ! FR: Ordinateur portable
DE: PC Laptops
ES: Ordenadores portátiles