What to look for when buying a new laptop


POSTED: Monday, October 06, 2008

It seems that every 12 to 18 months or so, we get queries from folks regarding new laptop specifications or features.

This is not surprising, as manufacturers continually improve their products to stay ahead of the competition. While there are a select few for whom money is no object, nearly everyone is looking for a good product at a reasonable price.

With that in mind, here are a few tips:

» Most folks know by now that the processor is the heart of the computer.

There are basically two processor manufacturers, Intel and AMD. AMD is a viable and lower-cost option but Intel owns the lions' share of the market.

There has, however, been some confusion in the market with respect to Intel processors. We believe that the “;Core 2 Duo”; brand is best for most folks. The Core 2 Duo is part of the newest family of processors from Intel.

Although just a few short years ago this would have been akin to cats and dogs getting along together, Apple Macintoshes are powered by Intel processors. In fact, Apple currently uses the latest offerings from Intel. So as crazy as this may sound, you can refer to Mac specs when looking for Windows-based laptops. Whatever processor the newest Macs are using is a good choice for our Windows-based laptop.

» Memory is also an important consideration, especially with Vista. You need at least 2 gigabytes and this is not an area to scrimp on. Many laptops have stock models available with 3 or 4 gigs of RAM for about a couple hundred bucks more than the 2-gig models.

» Another item to pay attention to is cache memory. You want to be looking for “;L2 memory cache.”; Cache memory is used to store frequently used data. Newer processors typically have at least 1 megabyte of L2 cache.

» Hard drives are so big nowadays that most folks don't need to be concerned too much about them. The smallest drive you can get is about 80 gigs, which should be plenty for just about everyone.

» As far as pricing goes, locally the big box stores are hard to beat. They also afford you the advantage of being able to actually put your hands on the gear before buying.

You might be able to find better pricing online, even with shipping costs, but you might not be able to physically check out the unit. The best deals can be had with educational discounts, but you must be a student, an educator or, in some cases, an employee of an educational institution to qualify.