Buying a Laptop? Here is the List of Things to Consider
Laptops, like all other devices in our homes, have specific life spans after which they need to be upgraded with new ones. While there are used and refurbished laptops available on classified sites, It is rather better to purchase a new one as it will likely come up with the following.
- Latest Hardware: more hard disk space, better graphic card, faster processor and so on.
- Latest operating system and up-to date list of softwares.
- Warranty and guarantees, in case you damage your laptop.
- Peace of mind!
Technologies become obsolete quite fast and so even the best of upgrading may not be enough, and it might just be a matter of time that you would need to buy a new laptop for your needs.
Whatever be the reason, it is important to have the right information and knowledge when it comes to buying a laptop.
Buying a laptop is not like buying some FMCG and therefore a lot of care and caution needs to be exercised. There could be quite a few surprises if one buys a laptop that is outdated or has specs that may not suit your specific needs, therefore conduct proper research online, read through laptop reviews, check specs, and compare prices before you hit the buy button. Here are a few important points that should be carefully considered while buying a laptop.
1. Go For Branded Laptops if You’re a Novice User
The market could offer quite a few assembled and unbranded laptops and if you are a geek or an expert user it makes sense to go for either branded or unbranded ones, whatever suits your needs most! but if you are an inexperienced user you will be better off buying a branded laptop.
However, on the other hand, if you are planning to use your laptop for watching movies online, playing online games, or for other jobs like editing videos or burning CDs, you may have to go for a laptop with higher and better configurations. You must have a high-end laptop for heavy graphical tasks. Identifying the end-use is very important because it will have a big bearing on the price that you will pay for the laptop.
This is because the branded laptops always come with better “guarantee and warranty” terms and conditions, also if you are a novice user you might end up having tough time servicing and repairing your unbranded laptops as there might not be qualified service centers in the market.
2. End Use Purpose is Very Important
The main purpose for which the laptops are being bought should always be kept in mind. If you are planning to do some basic tasks such as checking emails, browsing the internet, or using Microsoft office, a simple laptop with ordinary configurations would be enough.
However, on the other hand, if you are planning to use your laptop for watching movies online, playing online games, or for other jobs like editing videos or burning CDs, you may have to go for a laptop with higher and better configurations. Identifying the end-use is very important because it will have a big bearing on the price that you will pay for the laptop.
3. Never Compromise On Features And Configurations
As mentioned above, technology is never static and it keeps on changing rapidly. According to the PEW research center, laptop ownership has grown from 30% to more than 52% since 2006, making desktops obsolete gradually.
There are several examples where we see technology transforming itself into better and more sophisticated forms, for example until just a couple of years ago we were connecting through 56 kb dial-up connections, using floppies or CD’s for the storage, now we have several MB connections, cloud computing, and whatnot.
In a more recent example, Intel is set to come up with a major update that will change how the processor architecture is designed and technology is used for both Tick (Broadwell) and Tock (Skylake) the 6th Gen processor. It is also reported that Skylake will have a different socket structure and for that reason, it is worth considering to wait a bit and make your next big purchase when 6th gen laptops hit the market in 2015.
In today’s high tech world, laptops should have a minimum of 1GB RAM, 1.5 GHz of processing speed, and at least 500GB hard disk. As for the graphic card, general wisdom suggests buying last year’s card as new ones are often buggy and it takes about a year time for the glitches to be fixed.
This is important because if you buy anything of a lesser configuration, your system would become obsolete and upgrading may not even be possible. New software updates might ask for higher memory and your laptop should not be found wanting.
4. Choosing Between SSD and HDD Disks
Selecting the right hard drive is crucial to the overall performance of your system. In order to make it easy for you to select which sort of hard drive suits your needs most, we have devised a comparison chart that can help you decide between SSD and HDD disks.
|Battery Usage||Consumes less power||High battery Draw|
|Capacity||Max out at 4TB||Max out at 6TB|
|OS Boot Time||Fast 13 seconds||30 to 40 seconds|
|Encryption||Full disk encryption||Full disk encryption|
|File Opening Speed||Faster||Slower|
|Heat||No moving parts, less heat||Less heat, but higher than SSD|
|Vibration||No vibration||Vibration can be heard & felt|
|File Speed||30% faster compared to HDD||Slower|
HDD prices are considerably reduced over time and it makes more sense to buy HDD based laptops only if you are low on budget, but if you are a gamer or use resource-hungry apps on your system, you might be better off with SSD disks.
5. Choose The Right Numbers Of Cores
It is quite common to come across terms like single core, dual core and quad core. These are nothing but the processors as far as the laptop is concerned. The more numbers of cores a laptop has the faster the laptop will work. It will also enable the user to work on multiple applications without the speed and efficiency being compromised. One should also keep in mind that when there are more number of cores in use, the laptops tends to get hot faster.
Instead of being stumped, check out our comparison chart between 3 major CPU types and decide which suits your needs the most.
|Cores||Hyper Thread||Cache||Clock Range||Max Turbo|
|Core i3||2||Yes||3 to 4 MB||2.9 to 3.8 GHZ||N/A|
|Core i5||4||No||6 MB||1.9 to 3.5 GHZ||1 GHZ|
|Core i7||4||Yes||8 MB||2.2 to 4 GHZ||1.2 GHZ|
The aforementioned chart pretty much gives you a surface level understanding of how these processors are categorized or what their capabilities are, however, there are cases where a specific version of an i5 processor will be as much powerful as an i7 processor. For instance, Core i5-3230M processor is almost as much powerful as Core i7-4510U on Cpubenchmark site.
Therefore when making a decision on what to buy, don’t just automatically assume if a processor is labeled i7 it must be very fast compared to an i5 processor, always checkout benchmarking and CPU performance on Cpubenchmark to make a wise decision.
Generally speaking, i3 is sufficient for basic users, if all you need your laptop to perform is basic tasks and use applications such as spreadsheets, Microsoft word, check emails, browse the internet, use social media or play lightweight games, you are good to go with i3 processors, these are normally cost-effective as well.
Core i5 performs all the jobs mentioned above plus more, you can play high-end games and perform some complicated tasks as well.
Depending upon clock range – as mentioned above in the chart – Core i7 processor are usually more powerful and expensive, you don’t need it unless you have to perform tasks that require a lot of processing speed, such as resource-hungry video games, Photoshop or some other high-end apps would warrant i7 processors.
6. Which RAM to Choose
This is a tricky question and for that reason we have devised series of points that shall give you clarity on types of RAM and which one suits your needs the most, use this information to your benefit.
- How many types of memories? – There are several types of RAMs, such as DDR, DDR2, DDR3, DDR4, So-Dimm, SDRAM, etc, check which one is compatible with your system specs.
- Which Frequency? – Motherboards are designed to accept only a certain type of frequency for RAM, for example, DDR3 will only accept up to 1300 MHZ. Because of motherboard limitations, picking a faster memory type might not add extra value to your system, and picking a slower memory type can limit the overall performance of your laptop. You will need to find a healthy balance between memory type that goes well with your laptop build.
- Timing – Latencies or timings, normally refer to the overall interval or delay between different commands executed by the laptop’s memory subsystem. To keep it simple, you will ideally want to go with lower timing as they would decrease the latency.
- 32 Bit vs 64 Bit – 32 bit operating systems are limited to hold up to 4 GB of collective memory, which also includes RAM on your video card. On the other hand, 64 bit OS can hold a fairly large amount of memory. If you plan to use more than 4 GB of memory, it would be best to pick 64 bit OS to make the most out of your RAM.
- How much memory I need? – It all boils down to your requirement and system specifications, there are limitations as to how much memory you can load onto your system, the limit varies with the type of motherboard and operating system. Read the motherboard manual to find out exact limits.
- What do I need to know about pricing? – Prices may vary from vendor to vendor – even for the same type of RAM. You will come across an instance where there is only a marginal difference between the performance, but a huge difference in prices, for that reason compare memory types and their performances before you decide on which one to buy.
7. Operating Systems
Choosing the right operating system is important. Though Windows 8 and Windows 7 are the most commonly used operating systems, Windows 10 is also here now. Hence, you should be sure that your laptop will be able to support enhanced versions of operating systems as and when required. If you are building a high specs laptop, go with 64-Bit operating systems.
8. Integrated vs Dedicated Graphics Card
In a nutshell, integrated Graphic Cards come built-in within the system, they are either mounted on CPU (AMD) or soldered onto the motherboards and normally cannot be changed. Internal GPU does not have their own supply of memory or processing power, so they use a laptop’s inbuilt memory and CPU, which has the potential of clogging or slowing down the system, however, if you are a basic internet user you will be fine performing all the normal office tasks.
For the dedicated graphics card, there is a separate GPU card built for the system, these are normally connected through a PCI slot and have their own memory thus produce better graphics. Dedicated graphic cards are best suited for the high-end gaming experience, video editing, and for some resource-hungry data analysis tasks.
While the general wisdom goes in the favour of dedicated cards, It’s not always the case, there are a number of cases where integrated cards give dedicated cards a good run for their money. For instance Intel’s Iris 5100 scored 741 at GPU benchmarking tests, which is far better than what Nvidia’s Geforce 830M, 9800 GT, GTX 280M scored, which are 732, 727 and 677 respectively.
The key point to take here is, don’t get fascinated by what the label on specs chart says on the merchant’s site, compare the performance of all shortlisted laptops and pick the one that suits your budget and needs the most.
9. Significance of Power Supply
In order to run your laptop smoothly, you will need a good power supply system. AC and DC are the two different types of power adapters that are responsible for converting electricity into a form that can power your laptop. The power supply can impact performance indirectly, a better power supply is likely to power up components that require more power in a better way.
If you are looking for a replacement power supply, it would be best to go for branded versions that come along with a warranty. In developing countries like India, we have severe electricity issues and with a poor power supply, you put your laptop at risk. The following are some of the disadvantages that cheap power supplies bring with them.
- Shifts in voltage signals can cause laptop Locks ups and data loss.
- Processing equipment within the build can lose synchronization, which can cause slowdowns.
- Switching or surge in current can affect DVD players or other sensitive parts in the laptop.
- Voltage harmonics in your PSU can cause extra heating & reduce the operational efficiency of internal equipment that can lead to the early retirement of your laptop.
- In worst-case scenarios, the poor power supply can destroy your entire build and given the situation of electricity in developing countries, it makes it even more important to invest in superior PSU.
10. Where to Buy
It is probably better to buy laptops from brick and mortar stores because you would always like to have a touch and feel of it. While authorized sales outlets could be a good option, the prices could be slightly higher when compared to other outlets that sell laptops along with other electronic items and devices.
However, it is very important that you spend some time on the internet comparing various brands. This will help you to have a clear idea about the specifications and prices of laptops that come in your budget. If you feel confident, which you should, you can even bite a bullet and buy your laptop online.
The following are some of the things you can do prior to buying.
- Check laptop specs and prices online, there are several portals like Amazon, eBay, Flipkart, Shophive, etc where you can browse products and check their features.
- You might want to do laptops price comparison between different sites before you make a decision, it can save you some pretty penny.
- Read reviews of the product on online forums and review sites to get an idea about product performance.
Since there is a wide variety of laptops, don’t get carried away and end up buying something that you don’t really need, for instance, if you have a budget of 200,000 Rs and all you need a laptop for is to send emails or use social media, you should not really burn all that money on a super loaded Alienware laptop!
Most of the laptops are pretty much similar inside, for instance when processing or storage capacity is pretty much similar and there is no huge difference in prices, lookout for something that has better appeal, durability and comes with a longer warranty.
It is likely that we missed out on something, it would be best if you could list out some of the points you look out for and share tips when buying laptops.
This was a guest post by Ahmed Raza.