Choosing the Right Laptop

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HP Pavilion Notebook
Old-school pens and notepads have become obsolete in today's schools and workplace, as laptops, also known as notebooks, have enticed and converted both students and business individuals alike. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and each is unique from the rest. The decision to purchase a laptop can be quite challenging as all stores are packed with numerous brands, styles and specifications – it's hard enough that most people can't tell their Toshiba from a Sony. With back-to-school season almost here, here are a few tips to keep in mind when buying a laptop.

What are your needs?

Before even beginning to delve into which specific laptop is best suited for your needs, the main question lies in what the primary use of the laptop will be. Students tend to look for something which is small and mobile but powerful nonetheless, while gamers and professional users may look to the notebook as a replacement for a desktop. Being able to understand why you need the laptop is fundamental in being able to decide what type of laptop will best suit your needs.

Let's now try to break your laptop purchase down into several categories to help you decide what you really need.

LCD size

The size of the LCD screen is amongst the most marketable features laptop makers pursue. What size fits your needs? The tiny HP Pavilion starting at 12.1" is amongst the smallest LCD screens available for Windows-based systems. It's tiny compared to the gigantic 17" wide screens offered by Toshiba and many others. For students, mobility being the primary concern, many buyers tend to take the 14" route equipping themselves with a decent but not too large LCD screen. LCD screens play an important role in the weight of the notebook, as the larger the screen the greater the weight affecting that already-heavy school bag.

17" laptops are purely targeted towards professionals and gamers looking to replace their desktop with a smaller and a comparatively compact solution. Do not let the word "smaller" fool you if you don't think moving it will be a problem. 17" laptops can be quite a challenge hustling around from lecture to lecture and on daily commutes.

Processors

Throughout the notebook market, there are several options in regards to different types of processors. Intel, the largest processor maker, produces the Pentium M, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, and the Celeron M. Rival processor maker, AMD, has produced two competitive processors, the Turion 64 and the Turion 64 x2 Dual Core.

The Intel Core 2 Duo is the most superior of Intel chips, offering extremely fast processor speeds and extended battery life, compared to its predecessor, the Core Duo. The Core Duo is slightly cheaper but offers a respective decrease in speed and battery life. The Intel Celeron, which is a lower model of Intel chips, is sold at a relatively low price while still offering adequate speed with low battery life. Celerons are known to perform slower than both the Centrino and the Pentium and are not advisable for the majority of notebook buyers, including students.

AMD, a rising name in the computer world, has recently tied the knot with HP to produce AMD notebooks offering comparative speeds at relatively lower prices. The AMD X2 Turion offers performance comparative to the Core Duo, while offering good battery life and a comparative price. The HP AMD X2 at an average price of $999 is comparable to the Core Duo laptops at an average price of $1000 as well. The Core 2 Duo laptops can range from $1,200 and up, depending on the extra features and LCD size.

Hard drive and RAM

Alongside the processor and the LCD size, every notebook user will need sufficient disk space to be able to save their work. Most notebooks today come with between 80 GB to 120 GB of hard drive space. A notebook that is solely being used for work purposes will find that 80 GB is more than enough storage space, while movie (and Nasheed) addicts will be tempted to pursue the upper end nearing 120GB. The speed of the hard disk is also an issue to be considered. While the normal 5400 rpm drives are enough for the casual user, more avid users would prefer the faster 7200 or 10,000 rpm drives.

RAM (random access memory) is memory that allows the computer to perform its necessary functions while it is running. Multi-tasking and running various programs at once require more RAM. Notebooks today come with at least 512MB of RAM up to 2GB of RAM. The minimum RAM suggested by most experts for steady performance is at least 1GB, while 2GB would be optimal. In most cases, when the video card is "integrated" – meaning it shares the RAM to run graphics on the computer – it is advisable to choose a notebook with more RAM to compensate for the loss. Notebooks today also have easy-access "memory-doors", allowing the user to easily upgrade the RAM in their notebooks.

Extra features

Besides the processor, the memory, the hard drive and the LCD screen, many companies include extra features in the hope of enticing the customers. Some of these features are very useful while others not so much, but it all depends on your needs.

Video cards can be the key to good gaming in notebooks. Gamers prefer dedicated video cards resulting in an increased price, whereby an average student looking to use the computer for surfing, email, movies, and regular schoolwork will be more than satisfied with an integrated video card. Toshiba alongside many other companies recently unveiled "fingerprint technology" on their notebooks, allowing the user to log in with the touch of a finger, saving the password hassle. Apple has powerful receivers for detecting wireless networks and a nifty power cord which pops out if someone trips over it.

But don't forget that with the addition of features, the price on the notebook will start to increase quite drastically!

Author of this article: Abbas Lakha
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