How to Buy a Laptop

This article explains the best way to go about purchasing a new laptop.

Netbook or Notebook?

First of all, I’m sure the possibility of buying a netbook has crossed your mind. We strongly recommend against it. There was a time that netbooks were so much cheaper than larger laptops that it was worth putting up with all their issues. This no longer applies – full sized laptops are now priced at a level that makes them a better solution than a netback no matter what your budget is. I’m sure a quick google search of “why netbooks suck” will be enough to talk you out of this useless laptop alternative.

Size

You are buying a laptop because it is a portable computer. If you really only see yourself using it at a desk, then buy a desktop. You pay a huge premium for the portability of a laptop. On average, if you were to spend the same amount of money on a desktop, the computer you could afford would be 3 times as fast (or 3 times better) than a similarly priced laptop.

Maybe you think that you want a portable computer, but you will still be using it at a desk quite often. If this is the case, you might be tempted to get a laptop with a very large screen (in the range of 15″ to 17″.) People who buy 17″ laptops are invariably disappointed. A bigger screen almost always means a heavier, noisier, hotter computer. A 15.4″ screen is as large a laptop as you would ever want. We recommend smaller: Either 13.3″, 14″ or 12″. These are the three best sizes of laptop. If you end up using your laptop at a desk most of the time, you should go buy an external monitor.

NOTE: In most cases a larger screen DOES NOT mean you can see more – how much you can see on your screen is limited by the screen’s pixels or resolution and most manufacturers use the same resolution in all of their screen sizes (typically 1280×800.) A larger screen offers fewer benefits than you might expect.

Price

There are basically 2 schools of thought on how much you should pay for a laptop. You can either buy a cheap one and replace it in exactly 2 years, or buy an expensive one and keep it for 4 years. When the laptop performance was shooting up every month, it was a better idea to stick to cheap ones and replace them often. Today however (and for the past year or so) laptop performance as been comparatively stagnant. Most of the time, the big factor in replacing your laptop is the release of a new version of Windows that would run too slowly on your old computer. For the first time in Microsoft history they released a version of windows that was less physically demanding on your computer than their last release. Windows 7 runs better on almost all computers than Windows Vista. This demonstrates that it is no longer that important to constantly upgrade the performance (RAM, CPU, Videocard) or your laptop. We recommend purchasing more expensive laptop and keeping it for a longer period of time. That said, if you do not need a top of the line machine, go with a cheaper one – there is no rule that says you HAVE to replace it in 2 years.

Options

If you want an expensive laptop go with one of the following: Macbook Pro, Lenovo Thinkpad T400, Lenovo Thinkpad X200, Dell Studio XPS, Dell Latitude.

If you want a cheaper laptop, go with one of these: HP Pavilion, Acer Aspire, Dell Inspiron, Gateway.

Hope that helps! Feel free to post comments or questions about your laptop purchasing experience.