If you're shopping for a new laptop you may find yourself baffled by the number of choices in front of you — and the jargon-filled advertisements that recommend you buy one or the other. But finding a great laptop doesn't have to be hard: it's just a matter of asking yourself some simple questions about what you want out of your computer and then picking a system that meets your requirements.
There's no one laptop that's perfect for everyone's needs — to find your perfect tech match, you'll want to take a serious look at what you want from your computer. Consider these questions:
What do you need it to do? A computer for checking email doesn't need as much power as a computer for editing video or playing games. For more computing power, you're looking for a faster processor speed (which is a measure of the computer's overall speed) or a larger number of processor cores (which is a measure of how quickly the computer will be able to handle multiple tasks at once).
Will you be playing games? If you'll be doing any video-intense work (like gaming), you'll want to look for a laptop with its own graphics card — often NVIDIA on Intel computers and Radeon on AMD computers.
Where do you need it to go? A large, bulky laptop is great if it lives on a desk, but less great if you need to carry it to and from school or work. You'll find laptops range from 11" in size to 17" in size, and while the smaller end of this scale will weigh nearly nothing, larger laptops are heavier than you may want to carry around.
What size screen do you need? The overall size of the laptop plays directly into screen size. While you may want a large screen for easy readability, that can increase the size of the computer dramatically. Look for the balance of screen size and weight that you can live with. If you want the portability and a large screen, consider getting a smaller laptop but a large external monitor to plug it into wherever you're most likely to use it.
How long do you need it to run? Some laptops have batteries that will only last a few hours while others brag about all-day battery life.
Does it need a disc drive? Many smaller laptops skip having any kind of disc drive to keep them small and light. If you need one, either look for a laptop with one or be prepared to buy one separately.
Does it need a touchscreen? Tablets have gotten us used to navigating computers by touch, but most laptops don't have touchscreens. If this is a must-have, look for ultrabook laptops.
Mac or Windows? Most people have a strong opinion on whether they want to buy Apple or Microsoft when they start shopping. While there are good options on both sides of the fence, if you want one or the other, though, you can cut your list of potential laptops down by a lot.
How much are you willing to spend? You can get a great laptop for around $400 or you can pay several thousand — but there’s a laptop for every budget. If you have an unlimited budget, you can probably find a laptop with all of your must-have features. But if your budget is more down to earth, you'll need to weigh what features are most important to you and be prepared to give up features that are less important.
There’s no single “best” laptop for everyone, but answering the questions on this list should help you figure out what kind of laptop would be best for you. Armed with this information, you can browse laptop listings with confidence, knowing exactly what you need — and what you don’t.
Good luck and happy shopping!
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