A guide to Buying a Laptop - UK Hardware Information

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What should I be looking for When Buying a Laptop?

Shopping for a Laptop

By Meryl K. Evans 

Shopping for a laptop is overwhelming because of the numerous choices. No one can tell you what you need or don't need, except maybe your spouse, parent, kid, local geek, or know-it-all who knows you. But it's still good to know a few things about buying a laptop. An educated customer is a happy customer, right?

Most important question when starting this research: do you need a laptop? If you need a combo desktop / laptop, you can get a laptop with a docking station.

A common question is whether or not to get one with wireless.

The question to you -- are you going to use it? Will you have places to wirelessly connect with? Remember, when you have a wireless laptop, it has to connect to a hub or Wi-Fi (like Starbucks or a cell phone). Some hotels are starting to set up wireless and others requiring plugging in. If you buy a laptop without wireless and change your mind, you can add it later with a card. Only difference is it won't be built-in. Not a big deal. Mine is not built-in.

FYI: Most laptops come with a 10/100 Ethernet NIC built-in.

For me, I have a cheap dial-up account with a national service. Good thing because I used it in the hospital. Not every place has wireless or free wireless (Starbucks isn't free, or at least, not all locations from what I understand). So before I travel, I look up the service's local numbers of where I am going so I'll have them.

As for what model -- you'll get different answers from everyone. People love and hate Dells. Love and hate IBMs. What makes Dell different is that you can pick and choose what items you want on your laptop. IBM has a good reputation. Of course, Macs are nice, if you want to go the Apple way. Buying a refurbished laptop is cool. We have two of them in our house and we're happy with 'em. Saved a bit of money, too.

Screen. Picking the right screen is based on graphical need. I got a nice wide one, but my laptop be heavy, dude. I don't travel much, so weight isn't an issue. When I do travel, the weight of the laptop isn't a big deal because I benefit from the video memory more than the weight.

The video card is built into the motherboard, just like a lot of desktops. What you have to watch with a laptop is make sure you get the video you want. If you are going to use graphic intensive programs, then go for more video memory. In the past laptops were not geared toward graphic intense applications. Then the DVD came along and changed that.

A screen is not as replaceable to interchangeable like a harddrive, a wireless card, or a DVD drive. I invest more in the screen so it lasts longer since everything else can be upgraded or replaced.

How often do you plan to lug it around? Believe me. No matter how light the laptop feels, it's a bag of bricks when you've walked with it all day at a conference. That's why I have a backpack case for my laptop. Much easier for long treks with the laptop. So weight didn't get a priority with me.

A laptop is useless without an operating system and software. Before we get into details. There is a snag. If you are buying from a major reseller (IBM, Dell, HP, Compaq, etc.) It is going to come with an operating system, whether you like it or not. This is due to their licencing agreements with Microsoft. If this is not an issue, here are the considerations.

Do you want it to come with it or do you have licensed software you can load on it? When buying a computer with the operating system and bonus software, remember you don't get books or separate CDs loaded with the applications. Some companies provide CDs for using when you have to reformat a computer and these programs will load back up. Some people don't like this and prefer to buy the applications separately.

This is a suggested process for shopping for a laptop:

  • Decide what you must have and write those down.
  • Search for products that have these things.
  • Search for and read reviews on the finalists.
  • Narrow down the list as much as possible (one to three items) to the ones you will be happy with buying.
  • Comparison shop for the best offer.


About The Author

Meryl K. Evans is the Content Maven behind meryl's notes, eNewsletter Journal, and The Remediator Security Digest. She is also a PC Today columnist and a tour guide at InformIT. She is geared to tackle your editing, writing, content, and process needs. The native Texan resides in Plano, Texas, a heartbeat north of Dallas, and doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat or cowboy boots.

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