If you haven't gone shopping for a new computer in a while, the laptop ads may strike you as a tad confusing with phrases such as "2GB RAM, 8GB SSD, Level II cache," etc. Fortunately, a little information is all you need to make sense of today's laptop jargon. Here are the basic features you're going to want to pay attention to:
Processor. There are many different processors on the market which can make it difficult to find the one that’s right for you. You want to look for amazing performance like that found in the Intel® Core™ processor family. If you already have a laptop or desktop and are looking for an ultra small laptop called a netbook, you’ll want to look into a system with the Intel® Atom™ processor inside.
Screen size. There are many different shapes and sizes in today’s laptops. You can choose a tablet-size computer with a screen that’s as small as five inches wide or a desktop replacement laptop with a giant 20-inch screen that’s perfect for playing DVDs, editing photos and videos, or even gaming. The key to making a decision is determining what exactly you expect to do with this new laptop once you get it home.
Battery life. Just a few years ago, if your laptop battery lasted two hours, you were doing well. These days with amazing advances in processor technology, operating systems, and battery technology, some laptops can run as long as eight hours or more before needing to recharge. Be sure to look at a system that will last as long as you need before recharging.
RAM. Think of RAM (random access memory) as a way to measure your laptop's intelligence. You may be able to squeak by with 512 MB of RAM if you’re going to be primarily doing email and surfing the Web, but most computer users will want at least 1 GB or more to run several applications at once. If you can’t afford as much RAM as you would like, you can usually upgrade your RAM down the road.
CD/DVD drive. A good laptop can act as an entertainment center as well as a business tool. Some disc drives will simply read CD-ROMs while others allow you to record CDs and DVDs, too. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate in portability, like you get in a netbook, a CD and DVD option is not generally an option.
Storage space. The more storage space you have on your laptop, the better. Though 160 GB means you can load nearly 40,000 songs on your laptop, an internal drive can fill up quickly in just a year or two. Storage space comes in two varieties today—hard drives and solid-state drives (SSD). Though hard drives currently dominate the computer world, solid-state drives are gaining popularity. With no moving parts, an SSD generates little heat, wastes less energy, and can take more punishment than a traditional hard drive. Unfortunately, SSDs tend to cost a bit more, but prices are gradually coming down.
One nice thing about hard drives is that you can always buy an external hard drive later down the road to increase your storage capacity as you need to. External hard drives are also nice to back up your information in case your internal hard drive goes bad.
Ethernet port. Most if not all current laptop models contain an Ethernet port, which allows you to connect your computer to a DSL modem and networks that you typically find in a business environment.
WiFi. If your new laptop is WiFi enabled, that means it can use wireless hot spots at coffee shops, libraries, and other public areas, using them to access the Web. More and more businesses and public areas allow you to connect to hotspots free of charge, so you can stay connected almost anywhere these days. Additionally, if you choose to purchase your next laptop with wireless capability, you could choose to set up your own home network so you can be online throughout your house.
Pre-loaded software and license agreements
It's easy to find a laptop or netbook at a bargain price, but those cost savings could be eaten up by software license agreements. Many inexpensive computers come with trial versions of popular software packages, but the trial typically lasts 60 days or less. To continue using the product after the trial period ends, you need to buy the software.
When shopping around for a new laptop, make sure to ask the clerk what software packages come with the computer and which merely are trial versions.
Written by: Steven Bryan