A few days ago we published our advice and recommendations when buying a desktop computer. Today, we come back with a guide whose idea is similar, but this time we will focus on your new laptop.
Being more closed, buying a laptop is a task that the main concern seems much simpler. We will not have to choose all the components but select a good configuration from the hundreds that the different manufacturers have available. Even so, the possibilities are very broad, so it is always good to follow some indications. So, let dive into the real shopping guide for laptops.
Table of Contents
- 1 Hardware on a Laptop
- 2 Choosing a Laptop: When is Size Critical?
- 3 Before you start … do you really need a laptop?
- 4 The Laptop’s Microprocessor
- 5 Graphics card
- 6 RAM
- 7 HDD
- 8 Others Things to Consider
- 9 Tips for Buying a Laptop: Conclusions
Hardware on a Laptop
As we have already mentioned, the “good” of a laptop is that they are usually closed configurations that we cannot customize at our whim. I quoted it with question marks since it has advantages and disadvantages.
The positive thing is that we will not have to eat our heads when choosing exactly each and every one of the components. It is much more complex to choose the laptop model, because of its size, design and functionality that we intend to have on it. The negative thing is that we cannot personalization is as wide as we can find on a desktop computer, and we will be limited by what the manufacturers want to offer us in their catalogues.
Leaving aside the size which we will deal with later, the most important components to choose from are the following:
- Graphics card
- RAM Memory, and
- HDD (Hard Disk Drive).
Although a fundamental aspect is a size, model and manufacturer.
Choosing a Laptop: When is Size Critical?
In this century, the size of a laptop is possibly the most important thing to choose a good device. A few years ago everything was 14 and 15 inches, but today we find a multitude of possible sizes, each of which has various configurations.
I would divide the sizes into three sets:
- From 12 to 14 inches: from my point of view the best, most comfortable and most efficient. They have true processors whose power is more than enough for the tasks we can perform on a computer. They are small, light and very comfortable, and also have very high autonomy.
- 15 inches: this is the standard size for a laptop which is the most common model today. From my point of view, they are too big to have a computer that we want to move frequently.
- 16 to 18 inches: we talk about computers that we call laptops because they have a battery, but they are transportable due to their enormous size. In this range, we will find real beasts in terms of power but sacrifice the duration of the battery. Although they are usually very expensive, they can be a good option for the user who wants a normal desktop computer and that is only going to move it in very rear occasions.
Before you start … do you really need a laptop?
Laptops are fashionable, and this is why there is a great confusion as to the power of a laptop compared to that of a desktop computer.
A laptop is much less powerful than a desktop computer in all respects.
If you are looking for a powerful machine to play or run professional applications, then a desktop computer is your solution. Take a look at the respective shopping guide if you finally choose this option.
In general, a laptop is much more expensive than a desktop if we talk in terms of performance/price. In other words, we can buy two computers, one desktop and another laptop for the same price, but the desktop will always be much more powerful than the laptop. That is, if you are looking for power, then run away from the notebooks and go to a table. They also have other advantages, such as maximum personalization or the possibility of expansion in the future, which is very limited in laptops.
There are also many people to whom a laptop can come in handy rather than a desktop computer. A laptop is much smaller and compact, and above all, it does not have as many cables. However, if your purpose of buying a computer is to surf the Internet and nothing more, then a laptop can be a great solution, it will occupy a fairly small space and without always annoying wiring of a desktop computer.
The Laptop’s Microprocessor
We enter with the pure hardware of a laptop, and we will start with the key piece of every computer: the microprocessor.
Although there are laptop processors from the two major manufacturers, Intel and AMD, only one of them is dominating this part of the market.
Intel has some great products which are higher than that of AMD. In addition, its latest processors of the Core i family are just released in the market and are the most interesting item.
The Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 are excellent processors, which follow the manufacturing process of 32 nanometers and integrate GPU on the same chip in most cases. However, we will talk about the GPU and graphics capabilities later.
We can choose the microprocessor of our laptop depending on three categories:
- Intel Core i3for computers in which we do not need an excessive power. A Core i3 works perfectly with the more conventional tasks: browsing the Internet, office packages and even certain video games. Of course, we do not demand much because it is a range of processors which is intended to maintain a low consumption (which will equal a long autonomy) along with a decent, but not outstanding power.
- Intel Core i5 is for computers where we want to have more power, including enough for video games, video editing or even professional applications. They are really good and an interesting option for something more for advanced users.
- High ranges of Intel Core i7for laptops whose users are totally demanding with their device. In other words, if what you want is the most powerful laptop on the market, then your processor will have to be a Core i7.
In any case, the market and the manufacturers themselves only offer certain models of processors according to the size of the laptop:
- Intel Core i3 for laptops over 13 inches.
- Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 for laptops over 15 inches.
- Intel Core i5 or i7 for laptops over 17 inches.
In a nutshell: you will not find a 12, 13 or 14-inch computer with an Intel Core i7 processor, or an 18.3-inch machine with an Intel Core i3.
Many will wonder why we have not talked about AMD. The reason is very simple: in AMD laptop CPU’s it is far below Intel in all aspects.
There are a few laptop models that use AMD processors, although they are quite a few compared to the huge majority of the use of Intel models. Are AMD’s chips on the laptop for anything? Although my recommendation would be to go for an Intel processor, one of AMD can be very valid if what we are looking for is not a great power.
In graphics cards, the thing is complicated with respect to the desktop computers. In them, full sovereignty is for ATi, whereas here it is much more difficult. ATi 5000 Series and NVidia GT300 are already in the market, although the option of ATi is much more majority and is more easy on the market.
Which one to choose? First, we have to consider the need for a good graphics card in a laptop.
My opinion is resounding and radical: the graphics cards in laptops are totally dispensable, and with an integrated we will have more than enough, saving a few exceptions that will depend on the use that the user is going to give.
If you want a laptop to play or to work on 3D rendering, then you will have to opt for a good GPU. Otherwise, if you are a normal user that plays with your console or your desktop, or you work on the desktop with 3DMax or Autocad and use the laptop to read the mail and edit text, then with an integrated graphic you will have the power to spare.
I do not need a big power, I want an integrated GPU
You have it all: the GPU of Intel Core processors is excellent. With it, you can perform 90% of the tasks in an efficient and totally fluid way, including high definition content playback (yes, 1080p too) and even some well-configured video games.
I need lots of power, I want a dedicated GPU
You complicate things. First, ATi or NVidia?
It must be acknowledged that both manufacturers are at par, offering functionality and excellent performance for a laptop. In favour of NVidia, native compatibility with CUDA and PhysX, while ATi (though it was taken over by AMD in 2006) has more affordable prices.
An important aspect is that the numbering is kept depending on the name of the model. Understanding this is as simple as saying that the ATi 5870 is more powerful than the 5850, which in turn is more efficient than the 5650, and this better than the 5450. In NVidia, a similar thing happens.
However, the main problem comes when we try to tackle an ATi product with an NVidia product, which is rarely given in a single laptop model (for example, a Dell Inspiron 15 only allows you to choose between ATi or NVidia graphics, but not between the two at the same time).
At this point, the answer is much more complex than it seems, and it would be necessary to treat each case individually. In a very general way, the following three ranges could be differentiated.
- ATi 5450 and NVidia 310Mare low ranges, more powerful than an integrated one but that from my point of view are not worth it.
- ATi 5650 and NVidia 330M, average ranges more than worthy and you can do almost everything you throw at it. They are really good, and there are laptops that use them for more or less affordable prices.
- ATi 5870 and NVidia 360M, with them you get the most power in a laptop. If you want to play with the highest quality, it should be your choice.
Although in reality each of these three points, in turn, encompass many other models, it is a valid generalization to understand from a quick glance how the panorama of graphics on laptops.
Also, it is necessary to comment that it is complicated to find notebooks of 13 inches with dedicated graphics, although some exist if we go to very high ranges. In larger sizes, it is much simpler, although we will also have difficulty finding a 15-inch with a 5870 or a 360M, two high-end graphics that for example, are almost limited to use in computers 17 inches or more. For this, we had said it before that choosing the size is fundamental so that we can have a greater range of possibilities in the different components.
We have it easy because the laptops usually include as standard as 4 GB of RAM.
Do you need more? With the current operating systems and applications, we have, no. In fact, 2 GB is enough for the vast majority of tasks. We could expand to 6 or 8 GB, but the price that the manufacturers ask is too high for an amount of memory that we are not going to take advantage of at all. Though, you can get it done in Alaba international market or in computer village in Ikeja.
In the selection of hard drive, something related happens to what we said about RAM. Except for a few exceptions laptops usually have a single hard drive, so choosing the hard drive on a laptop depends on two unique variables:
- Capacity: how much do we need? 500 GB is quite a common figure to find, although some models offer more and some less. Think about whether you really need such a high capacity.
- Turning speed: generally we will find discs of 4,200 or 5,400 rpm, although in some cases we can have 7,200 rpm. Keep in mind that the faster we get a higher performance, but the energy consumption is higher and our battery will last less.
One point to keep in mind is SSD. These units are beginning to become increasingly important, although manufacturers still do not use them or allow their configuration more than in a few models. For now, we will not go into more detail, but in the near future, it will play a key role in our laptops.
Others Things to Consider
Some other components that are not so fundamental but that can be partially taken into consideration:
- Connectivity: generally all laptops include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so we should not worry about these aspects. In addition, we can look for equipment with eSATAor USB 3.0.
- Battery: The most usual is to find laptops with a battery of 3 or 6 cells. Additionally, we can buy a 9, larger but with a much longer duration. If you need a maximum autonomy is an option to take into account.
- Manufacturer: is a fundamental choice. We have to choose a manufacturer that we are comfortable with, and we also know with good results, whether by acquaintance or analysis by the network. We all have our favourites.
- Guarantee: Virtually all stores offer additional and safe guarantees, beyond the two years that the manufacturer is obliged to give by law. Give it a thought, although I am not very supportive of this and I consider that with a little care any laptop can have a much longer life.
Tips for Buying a Laptop: Conclusions
We now complete our tips and recommendations to buy your new laptop with some general details:
- Think about what type of laptop you want, depending on the use you have in mind: small or large, that is the basis, and then choose the rest of components.
- The latest Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 processors are outstanding compared to the rest of the market. I consider it the best option.
- Grab a nice laptop and good design. If you can, try it first to check the comfort of the keyboard and how it behaves.
- A good case or briefcase is essential. I particularly like neoprene sleeves.
However, each laptop should fit the needs of its user, as with virtually any gadget. We must keep in mind that there is no perfect laptop for everyone.
As always, the comments are open to any suggestions or additional advice that you want to offer.