Buying Guide: Laptops

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Laptops, also known as notebooks, are versatile, portable, come in a range of sizes and boast different levels of features. So, how do you find the laptop that's right for your needs? Just follow our buying guide on notebook computers.

Consider The Size Of Your Laptop

How often are you likely to be carrying your laptop? Are you after a notebook to play games and run graphics-intensive programs like photo editing software? Generally speaking, laptops with more features are less portable.

  • Lightweight and ultra-portable notebooks are a great option for people like students who need to carry them everywhere, as they range from under 2kg up to 4kg
  • Midsize and desktop-replacement laptops offer more features and are better suited to gaming and graphics-intensive programs like video and photo editing. They range from around 3kg to 5kg

Brain Speed – The Faster, The Better

Processors are often referred to as the "brains" of a laptop because they determine how fast your computer functions. The speed of the processor is measured in GHz (gigahertz). It's always safest to go with the fastest you can afford.


The Grunt

RAM (Random Access Memory) helps your processor perform tasks by acting as a temporary storage point.

  • In short, the more RAM you have, the more programs you can keep open at once, and the faster your computer will go
  • Our laptops range between 2GB and 16GB of RAM
  • A graphics (or video) card acts as a separate processor for rendering the images on the screen
  • Graphics cards draw on their own RAM, so the computer's performance is not impeded
  • This is important for graphics-intensive programs, such as games and movies.

Store It In The Hard Drive

HP Pavilion 15-N028TX Laptop

The hard drive is where your computer stores your files. Storage capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB)

  • The more GB, the more files you can fit. If you want to store large files like high-quality photos, movies or music you should aim for a range between 500GB and 3TB
  • A laptop used solely for Internet, email and minimal image storage should get away with 250GB or less

How Long Does The Battery Last?

Typical laptop battery life is between three to five hours. If you're travelling and away from a power source for extended periods of time, then consider laptop computers with a battery life of over five hours.


Connecting Your Laptop To Other Devices

Consider the devices that you want to connect your laptop to. Multiple USB ports are necessities for iPods, digital cameras and external hard drives; also look for FireWire ports.

  • For connecting to monitors and projectors, look for a VGA connection at minimum. Aim for a DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort as well
  • Integrated wireless networking (Wi-Fi) will allow you to connect to a range of different networks without needing any wires or cords

Consider These "Usability" Factors

  • Laptops usually come with a pointing stick or a touch pad instead of a mouse. Make sure that you're comfortable using them
  • Also check that the layout and size of the keyboard is easy to use, and that the screen size suits your needs 
  • If you're planning on working outside, check that there is a matte screen option to reduce glare

If you are switching from PC to Apple, or vice versa, it's important to note that Apple products have different shortcuts and a different look and feel to using them. However, making the switch either way is quite easy.


Match Your Lifestyle

Home and Business: Surf the net, work on multiple documents, watch movies, and manage your family photos and music.

  • Size: Look for a portable laptop under 4kg
  • Memory: Aim for the most memory you can, upwards of 250GB
  • Connectivity: Multiple USB ports, Wi-Fi, Firewire and a DVI or HDMI

Students and Travellers: Store your photos, music and videos, surf the Net and work on graphics-intensive programs, like photo editing.

  • Size: Choose an ultra-portable notebook under 2kg
  • Grunt: Look for a processor of at least 2GHz and 2GB RAM
  • Screen: Look for a matte screen to reduce glare when outdoors

Gamers: You'll need a fast, powerful machine to play your favourite games wherever you are in the world.

  • Size: Choose a larger screen, like a 15.6-inch one
  • Graphics: Add a separate graphics card with at least 1GB RAM
  • Connectivity: HDMI, multiple USB, eSATA, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Simple Laptop Choices

Size: Smaller laptops are easier to carry around. Do you need a big screen?
Battery life: How long will you and your notebook be away from a power source?
Storage: Notebooks with bigger hard drives can store more files, including photos and video.

Apple macbook pro 13.3 2.4GHz 8GB i5 with retina display 

Extras:
Connect it: What devices (cameras etc) do you want to connect? How many ports will you need to connect them all at once?
Graphics cards: A must-do upgrade for gamers and those editing photos.

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