It's a new year and one goal people often have is to purchase a new computer. These days, it seems as though laptops are becoming the computer of choice. Maybe you want to upgrade your current model, or maybe you're making the switch from a desktop, but how do you know which one to buy? There are so many choices out there. And for the average computer user, sifting through them all can be time-consuming and such a hassle that it leaves you somewhat stressed out and maybe deciding against that new purchase after all.
There are so many choices to make with variations in performance, power, price, etc.. The most important thing to know is what you plan to use the computer for. This can help you narrow down what type of laptop you need and go from there. The four main categories of laptops are: netbooks, ultraportables, all-purpose laptops, and desktop replacements. Here, we'll break down each category, so you can decide which one is the right one for you.
Good: If you are always on the go and simply use the laptop to check email or take notes in class or business meetings.
Bad: If you spend a lot of time on your computer and run many different applications.
Netbooks are small, light, and great if you need to carry your laptop around all day with you, but they aren't very powerful. They can be used for mundane tasks such as surfing the internet, checking email, and word processing, but if use your computer a lot, this isn't the computer for you. It might make a good companion to your main desktop or laptop, but I wouldn't buy it as your main computer.
The average netbook is about three pounds and has a screen size of six to ten inches. They cost around $300-400. The small screen resolution and low amount of RAM (usually 1 GB) makes it difficult to work with photos and spread sheets or stream video. Also, many websites, games and other applications won't fit well on your screen. Also, if you ever want to use your laptop to load a CD or DVD, most netbooks don't have optical drives. However, on the plus-side, the average battery life of the newer netbooks is 5-6 hours which is a huge improvement over most laptops.
Good: If you're on-the-go but need more from your laptop.
Bad: If you play a lot of graphics-intense games or stream a lot of video
Ultraportables are slip and light like a netbook but have a little more power. It may be a little bigger than a netbook, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You'll get more RAM (usually about 4-6 GB), a larger screen, and more power. If you need more from your computer than the netbook can offer, but you still find yourself on-the-go, then you might want to consider an Ultraportable.
Most screens range from 11-14 inches, and the computers usually weigh about 3 -4 1/2 pounds. Battery life is still fairly decent - 4 to 6 hours - but these laptops will cost you at least $600-800, with some costing even $1,000 and above. Compared to the netbook, your computer will perform much better, especially when you're using multiple applications at once. But while you can use them to stream video or play 3-D games, the quality may not be up to your standards. Also, if you need to load discs, a lot of ultraportables are forgoing the optical drive in the name of being thinner.
Good: If you want to customize your laptop to fit your needs.
Bad: If you are on-the-go and need a long-lasting battery.
The all-purpose laptops pretty much fit any need. They are powerful enough to do most anything you want with them, but they are still small enough that they can be portable. In this category, you will find more variety than you will anywhere else. There are laptops with all sorts features, styles and purposes.
On average, an all-purpose laptops has a screen of 14-16 inches and weighs more than 4 1/2 pounds (usually topping out at 8 pounds). Even the most basic of these laptops will have about 4GB of RAM. Prices can be as cheap at $400, but can go up to more than $1500 if you are looking for a lot of add-ons or more power. Optical drives and Blu-ray Disc drives are generally optional on most all-purpose models. And one of the best things about the all-purpose laptops is that you can sort of mold it to fit your needs with upgrades and add-ons; just don't forget you have to pay for them. Also, if you plan to use your laptop outside of your home, most all-purpose models have a pretty short battery life (2-5 hours maximum), so you'll want to be somewhere where you can plug it in.
Good: If you're a gamer, photographer, or video editor.
Bad: If you're looking something portable and light-weight.
If you want to make your laptop your main computer and you want it to function just as your desktop did, the desktop-replacement, also called the "power laptop," may be the right solution. These models are larger with screen sizes from 16-18.4 inches and weigh anywhere from 8 - 12 pounds. When it comes to power, storage, and memory, these models are also top-of-the line. And if you edit graphics or video often, you won't have a problem.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a laptop you can carry around easily, this one isn't what you want. Sure, they're portable and if you use it in your home, they an be moved from room to room without a problem, but lugging them along in a briefcase or backpack all day isn't an ideal situation. And they cost more. Cheaper models may cost around $1,000 but they can get up to about $2,000.
If you're a hard-core gamer or you use your laptop for professional reasons such as editing and uploading video and photos, a desktop-replacement is perfect for you.
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