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Buying a laptop? 9 things you must know

Last updated on: November 25, 2011 07:15 IST

Buying a laptop? 9 things you must know

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Anil Gupta, Am22Tech.com

Depending on your usage, here are nine things you must know before buying a laptop.

I see a lot of questions being asked by people on what all features/hardware configurations to look for while buying a new laptop.

On the basis of my experience, I have divided the requirements in three categories based on the usage pattern:

Low usage

Internet access for checking e-mails, websites, paying utility bills, online shopping, facebook, twitter etc. Basically using the laptop for internet access.

Medium usage

Writing simple code if you are developer, using internet to watch movies, web chatting, video conferencing etc.

High usage

Watching high definition movies, heavy downloading of applications, playing HD games, making movies etc.

CPU-Processor

Low usage: The main working unit or the engine of your device is the CPU. A moderate ATOM (2 GHz) processor in netbooks and a 1-2 GHz (Dual core would be great) in tablets would be a good option.

Medium usage: Consider the i3 (intel processors). The same speed and configurationi processors are also available from other companies like AMD and may cost you less than Intel.

High usage: A high speed processor is required. The latest is the i7 (from Intel) and anything less than this would be a compromise with the quality that you are looking at.

Courtesy: Am22Tech.com



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RAM

Low usage: One of the most important factor is RAM (random access memory). It plays a major role in defining the speed at which your system performs tasks. A notebook/tablet should at least have 1 GB of RAM. More than this is better.

Medium usage: Although 2GB would solve the purpose, having 3GB would make the experience better.

High usage: Get a good 8GB RAM installed in your laptop to get the best experience when you play high definition games. You should not get even a small flicker of screen!



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Screen size

Low usage: People normally prefer a smaller screen for low usage. For example, initially we saw netbooks and now we have iPad or eReader (Kindle) or tablets. They are good enough for internet usage and easy to carry.

Medium usage: I would say a 14" screen would be a good option for moderate usage. Neither too small nor too big, easy to carry and serves your purpose.

High usage: Maximum size screen is what you should look for. A 17" (if possible) or a 15" screen should be good enough. If you are movie buff or a big game player, you may also like to buy a separate bigger monitor or possibly connect your laptop with the bigger LCD TV screen to enjoy.



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Weight

Low usage: Look for a lighter one. As low as possible. I would prefer a tablet (iPad or similar) instead of a netbook or a laptop. Tablets are easier to carry and manage.

Medium usage: A 2.5 kg to 3 kg should be the ideal weight. Anything above it is a strict no.

High usage: Well, as the screen size increases, the weight too. I think you have to ignore this if you want a real good and big laptop. But don't worry, even if it is bigger in volume/size, manufacturers keep the weight attribute in mind while designing the laptop and would keep it at minimum.



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Battery Life/Stand-by time

You would need a good battery back up no matter which type of user you are. Standard batteries that are fitted into laptops have the stand-by time of approximately 2.5 hours initially and it goes down with time.

The total life span is also about 2-3 years depending onyour usage pattern. After that, the batteries get dead and need a replacement.

Tablet users may have limited options as far as extended batteries are concerned but the normal laptops have 9 cell extended batteries available in market that can even double up the stand-by time from 2.5 hours to 4 hours approximately.

Extended batteries are available for tablets too but they generally spoil the look and feel of the system. But, if you are the one who is always on the go without a charging option, you should opt in for an extended battery.

Manufacturers do write the details of battery stand-by time, but it is always better to read the real user's reviews online before finalising the laptop model and manufacturer.



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Web cam

Low usage: Almost all netbooks/tablets come with this basic feature these days. If it does not have it, you should not buy it. A good web cam would be a 3MP one. There is no upper limit though!

Medium usage: Again, a web cam should be available. You can even buy it separately if it does not have it. This is on need basis. Pre-installed web-cam's do have the limitation that you can't move it easily without moving the whole laptop while video chatting.

On the other hand, the external web cam can easily be placed as per your choice to point to extended family member if required :).

I would go with a 3MP web cam to serve my purpose.

High usage: Prefer a high megapixel web cam somewhere around 5MP.



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USB ports

Most tablets have the Micro USB option and netbooks have USB 2.0 or 3.0. micro USB can be connected to standard size USB via USB cable.

Look for a new version of USB, that is, USB 3.0. The earlier one was USB 2.0. USB 3.0 has better performance and is going to be the standard soon. It has the capacity to transfer the data at much higher speed (5Gbps -- gigabits per second); than the old USB 2.0 (480Mbps; 1,000 Mbps equals 1Gbps). It is advisable to invest in at least one USB 3.0 port on your new laptop along with USB 2.0 ports.

If you only have the option of getting either all USB 3.0 or all USB 2.0, I would say invest in USB 3.0 as it supports USB 2.0 hardware too (at 2.0 speed) but makes you future compatible.



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Bluetooth

Hmm... This gain a standard requirement in a netbook/notebook/tablet. You would need it to transfer pcitures/videos between your mobile, printer or any other device. Having a Bluetooth saves you from hassles of inserting a USB cord to share data in case it is small is size. More and heavy file sharing is recommended over USB.

I remember I bought an Acer laptop sometime ago in a deal ($365) and it did not feature Bluetooth and regret it now. For every small file/photo sharing, I have to insert those creepy cables!



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Operating system -- Windows/Linux/IOS/Other

Low usage: Well, you should consider going for Apple's iOS if you have the budget. In fact, if you buy an Apple product (iPad or Macintosh notebooks), you don't have any other option than iOS. It is simply incredible and amazing as far as user interface experience is concerned.

Medium usage: Can opt for windows (Vista/windows 7) or iOS (if buying Apple). The other good options would a FREE linux version (Ubuntu). Windows 7 is the latest offering and is much faster than vista as far as performance is concerned. Windows 8 is scheduled to arrive soon in market too with screen touch capabilities.

Using Ubuntu would certainly bring down the cost of your laptop as it is FREE. It is a pretty good operating system with graphical interface same as windows.

One more point to consider is that operating system in case of windows) comes preloaded on your laptop. And this OS does not have a CD/DVD in case something corrupts in your OS. You only have the option of reinstalling it using the manufacturers online facilties. So, sometimes, people do prefer to buy the OS separately to get the CD/DVD.

High usage: A high end OS like iOS (Apple) or windows 7 is recommended to fulfill your needs.



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