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If you are a busy executive, generally on the move but needs to constantly refer to your office documents and reply to e-mails, then you positively need a notebook (or a laptop).
Your desktop PC is more convenient with a larger keyboard, wider screen and has a more powerful processor. But you cannot carry it with you.
The good news is that laptop prices have fallen to even below Rs 30,000. However, souped-up laptops could even cost Rs 200,000. So, what should you look out for when buying a laptop?
It's advisable to go for a branded laptop (anyway, there is hardly an assembly market in India). Brands available in India include HP-Compaq, Dell, Lenovo, LG, Sony, ACI, Acer, Zenith, Asus, Toshiba and HCL.
Decide on a budget and scout for laptops within that range. Do remember that you can get high-end laptops (with high configurations) but at lower prices simply because the brand does not command a premium price. It does make sense to explore these laptops if the after-sales service is good.
That decided, you will come across names like Intel Celeron M Processor (basic), Intel Centrino Mobile Technology with Core Solo processor (mid-range) and Duo Mobile Technology with Core Duo (mid-range) and Core 2 Duo processors (high-end).
AMD (the other major chip player) offers Turion 64 (mid-range) and Sempron processors (basic). Apple die-hards can opt for the high-end PowerPC G4. However, regardless of what kind of processor you decide on, you should get at least 1.6GHz of processing speed (this is generally not specified in advertisements).
4. Memory and Video card
You can never have enough memory (especially with memory-hogging operating systems like Vista round the corner). However, for basic laptops, the bare minimum should be 512MB. High-end users should consider 1GB and above.
Basic laptops come with an integrated graphics card that shares memory with the system chipset (mostly an Intel and in some cases from ATI / Nvidia). High-end laptops will also feature dedicated graphics cards from Nvidia or ATI.
5. Hard drive
A 60GB 4,200rpm is the basic capacity you get in most of the latest laptops.
Ideally, if you plan to carry music and video on your system, consider 80GB and more. And look for the latest SATA drives with 5,400rpm at least.
6. Optical drive
Basic laptop users may do with a CD-DVD combo drive. However, high-end users must get one with DVD/CDRW combo drive. The RW stands for read and write and will enable you burn CDs and watch DVDs.
7. Screen size
Depending on the type of work you do, you will want to make sure your screen fits the job. Graphics and spreadsheet tasks call for larger (wider) screens while e-mail requires very little space.
The minimum you will require is a 12-inch display. High-end users (who want to have the convenience of a wider screen and larger keyboard, similar to their PC) should go for a 15- to 17-inch screen.
Ah! Here's the tricky part. If you are mobile, you need a lighter laptop. But lighter laptops with smaller screens (to reduce the weight) come in the ultra-portable category and are expensive - generally Rs 90,000 and above. However, anything from 1.5-3 kg is good enough.
They should last forever, shouldn't they? Alas, laptop batteries do not last as long as they should. For basic laptops, a single Lithium-ion primary battery should at least last 2 years.
You will at least need an Ethernet LAN connection and integrated wireless (preferably 802.11a/b/g - Wi-Fi) card.
11. Final check
Check for Bluetooth connectivity - it will enable you to wirelessly transfer data to other devices for up to 30 feet. High-end laptops feature advanced audio and video connections, such as digital media card readers, S-video outs for connecting to a TV, a DVI port for connecting to digital LCD monitors and a FireWire port for capturing and editing digital video.
Have a bare minimum of two USB 2.0 ports and a VGA connector besides a PCMCIA slot (for modems, network adaptors, memory cards, etc). Besides, a cradle (docking station) for your notebook will give you the comfort of a PC at work and laptop on the move.
You can opt for a universal connector for a physical security lock, named after the company Kensington that invented the feature. Ensure that your operating system is Windows XP (latest version) and not Linux. Upgrading to Windows can set you back a couple of thousands. Also, a decent laptop bag will help reduce laptop deterioration.
And last, but not the least, read your warranty information carefully before you make a purchase.
THE TOP LAPTOP-BUYING MISTAKES
You’ve probably owned a few notebooks, you know what features you like, and you’ve likely experienced the good and the bad that come along with choosing a machine. For instance, the inconvenient hassle of toting around a 17-inch behemoth or the inevitable letdown that goes along with streaming Netflix movies to an 11-inch screen. Fortunately, there is a bevy of suitable options depending on your lifestyle and desires, so long as you know what you’re doing. And remember, there are exceptions to every rule.
Here’s our list of the five most common laptop buying mistakes, so you can leave all potential regrets at the door. While you’re at it, check out our guide on how to buy a laptop and our PC parts buying guide, along with our top picks for the Best Laptops.
Buying the cheapest available model:
The cheapest computer may be easy on your wallet, but it probably won’t have all the features you need, and chances are that it lacks the longevity you want.
Let’s say you’re deciding between a dual-core and quad-core processor: You want to run multiple applications at once, but you choose the dual-core processor because it’s, well, a little less expensive. Now you have a system that’s not as powerful as your needs demand, and that problem will plague you until it’s time to buy again.
Related: Why your next laptop should have a quad-core processor
Rather than jumping for the lowest price, it’s best to find the laptop that will actually serve your needs. A good way to begin your search is to know exactly what you need. Make a list of essential must-have features. Then cross-check that list with spec sheets.
Paying too much:
Don’t buy more laptop than you can afford. Chances are good that if a laptop strains your budget, it has something that you don’t need. The top-of-the-line Macbook Pro from Apple costs $2,500. Realistically, that’s more computer than most people need — and the least expensive Pro is only $1,300. That’s over a thousand dollars that you may be tempted to spend just because something is shiner and has higher numbers, but not because you need it. Don’t let marketing fool you into paying too much.
The good news is there are more options than ever on the market these days. Hybrid tablets have begun to come into their own, ultrabooks are falling in price, and it’s generally a good time to look for laptops.
Forgetting the laptop’s purpose:
Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in perusing laptops. All the shiny ads and fun little features can distract you from the real question: Why are you buying a laptop? If you want a great cloud-computing machine for school and work, you will be better off with a Chromebook, not a gaming laptop – no matter how powerful the processor is.
So when the time comes to step up to the counter, remember what you are a getting a laptop for. Do you need one for work? What is your profession and what do you spend the most time doing on a laptop? Do you need one for school? What are you studying? Is this for home use? Is it taking the place of a desktop, or complementing one? These questions are key to a smart purchase.
Ignoring ports and compatibility:
Not all laptops include the ports you depend on. Need a card reader? How about three USB ports? You might be out of luck. The current ultrabook trend is sending ports into extinction. Do you use Apple products? Then a Thunderbolt 2 port may be a necessity to get things done. Do you have an older external hard drive with USB 2.0 ports? The newer USB 3.0 ports on laptops may not work for you. Take stock of the ports you need – including what protocol they use – then double-check your laptop options.
Opting for the highest available resolution:
A device boasting a 4K display is certainly worth more than a cursory glance, but its not always the right choice given may laptops have yet to properly master scaling anything over 200 pixels per inch. High-resolution laptops often display smaller menus because Windows render dimensions in pixel size. More pixels on the screen reduces the size of everything, including fonts, icons, and other key aspects of the visual display.
Battery life is also negatively impacted by a high resolution because a brighter backlight is needed to drive all those pixels. Models designed from the ground up for a pixel dense panel, like the MacBook Pro with Retina, can still manage long life, but many 4K notebooks have lackluster endurance. Dropping down to 1080p can provide an extra hour (or two) of life away from a socket.
laptop trackpad interface:
It should probably go without saying, but always ensure to give the laptop you’re considering on buying a proper test before purchasing it. Most everyday laptops are available for testing at big, brick-and-mortar retail stores such as Apple, Best Buy, and the Microsoft Store, allowing you to fiddle with the trackpad, keyboard, software interface, and other components that substantially differ from model to model.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of features absent from the spec sheet, such as the touchpad’s responsiveness or the visibility of a glossy screen in daylight, so trying your desired laptop within its element guarantees you a better idea of what you’re buying. You don’t necessarily have to purchase the laptop in the retail store, but you should at least get some hands-on experience before making a final decision.
Size matters, especially when it comes to a laptop. Whereas a bigger display allows for a more expansive and often better viewing experience, it also cuts into the portability factor. A laptop’s size often determines the size of the keyboard and trackpad, meaning you’ll likely be cramped when opting for a laptop measuring less than 13 inches.
That said, it’s best to consider how you’ve used laptops in the past, whether your own or one belonging to someone else. A smaller ultrabook may be a viable option for frequent travels, but for those looking for a standard laptop, you’ll probably want to opt for one with a 13.3 or 14-inch screen. If you rarely leave your home with your system consider a 15.6-inch model for maximum screen real estate.
When in doubt, think about what you tote around now, how it feels on your shoulder, and how much space you need at the coffee table. Also consider tablet laptop hybrids, which trade storage and power for more comfortable keyboards and seriously low space requirements.
Becoming obsessed with one specification
Tunnel vision is bad news when buying a laptop. While it’s fun to pit spec sheets against each other, avoid picking out one particular specification as your favorite and only looking at that factor.
For example, manufacturers love RAM. It can be easily be expressed as a number, and bigger numbers are better. It’s also absurdly cheap, so packing in some extra gigabytes is an easy way to rake in extra profit. Truth be told, however, you rarely need more than 8GB of RAM, unless you are a gamer or using some serious software for work purposes. If a laptop has more, that’s great, but don’t factor it in your purchasing decision.
Likewise, don’t become obsessed with battery life, or resolution, or processor speed. If you’re on a budget, and most people are, you’ll need to learn to balance a variety of hardware. A jack-of-all-trades notebook is often better than one that’s lackluster in several areas, but excels in just one.
Buying a laptop is complex, but you can find the tools you need to be successful. Our reviews here at Digital Trends are a good start. We’ll walk you through every feature of a notebook and how it performed in our hands-on testing, from display quality to performance. We take an in-depth look and evaluate every laptop we receive, including everything from the user interface and the display to performance and overall design. Remember that you have options. You’re not required to buy that 17.3-inch laptop your local retailer is selling for a song. Hunt around the Internet a bit and you’re almost certain to find a similar price on something more suitably sized. The wrong laptop is never a good deal, no matter how appealing the price.