Shopping for a laptop can be a daunting task, considering all the different brands, components and configurations available. Before letting go of your hard-earned cash, you should be prepared and make sure you are getting the right laptop for you, at the right price.
Determine Your Needs
Determine what exactly you need the laptop for and what you will be doing with it. You can't make the right choice without knowing this first.
There are a variety of different types of laptops available that vary greatly in size and features based on the needs of their intended audience. Ultra-portable (or ultralight) laptops are small and light, with smaller LCD screens (typically 12 to 14 inches) and often no optical drive, intended for users who only need to perform light tasks such as word processing or for Internet use. It must be noted that such a model could prove frustrating for a user trying to visit graphics-heavy websites though.
Medium-range mainstream laptops are the most common type, and are typically the value line sold by manufacturers, providing the best bargains, because they are produced in volume. These laptops generally feature screen sizes from 14 to 16 inches and include optical drives.
Gaming/Desktop Replacement laptops are the largest and most powerful systems available on the market, and are intended for power-intense users, such as gamers, graphic designers and video professionals. With screens from 15 to 17 inches (and some even larger), large hard drives, more powerful graphics cards and dozens of other features, these laptops are often large and heavy.
Depending on your power needs, there are a variety of processors available in laptops. On the lower end, there are single-core processors capable of light tasks, and on the high end there are dual- and quad-core processors, which essentially have two to four processors built into a single chip. These processors are great for gaming, video editing, and other power-intense computing tasks.
As for memory (or RAM), laptops range from having 1 GB to 4 GB or more. The more memory you have available, the more you can multitask with different applications open at once.
There is also the choice between a Windows-based laptop or an Apple laptop with the Mac operating system (OS). Windows is most common and many people are familiar with Windows already, which has a larger selection of third-party software and hardware. Mac systems have long been the top choice for creative professionals in fields such as graphic design and video editing.
Once you determine what your needs are and what type of laptop will suit you best, you have narrowed the selection, which will make the shopping process simpler.
Shop Around Before Buying
There are many different retailers from whom to make a purchase. In addition, numerous manufacturers, such as Apple, Dell, Gateway and Lenovo, even offer factory-direct purchasing.
If you want to make a local purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, shop around for pricing and features before deciding where to buy from. Look through the circulars in your local paper, as prices can vary greatly from store to store. One store may have a sale or clearance price. Some stores will even match the price of a competitor with the same item for less, so be sure to do your research.
When shopping online, there are endless places to buy, but be sure to only make a purchase from a website that you know and trust. Amazon and eBay are good places to find low prices, and many brick-and-mortar retailers also offer laptops for sale on their own individual websites too, some with special online-only pricing, or sales. Laptops can also be purchased direct through many manufacturers' online stores. If desired, many companies will also offer you the option of building a custom-configured system, to fit your needs exactly.
Once you know what model(s) you are interested in, complete your search for the best bargains by visiting websites such as dealnews.com and slickdeals.net, which provide visitors with constant updates of the latest online deals, sale events and coupon codes.
Factor in Upgrades and Accessories
Depending on your needs and uses, the purchase of a laptop will also signal the need for accessories, upgrade components and software.
If you are purchasing a new laptop for portability, you will definitely want a laptop case or backpack to travel with and protect your investment. If you are purchasing a desktop replacement system, a case may not be necessary, although there are many cases available for larger laptops.
If you are in the market for a light, ultra-portable laptop with no optical drive, you may occasionally want to install software from a CD or watch a DVD, in which case an external drive must be purchased. If you are uncomfortable with using the touchpad on a laptop, there are a variety of portable mouse options available. External sound cards and portable, USB-powered speakers are also easy to find, as many laptops do not have very powerful built-in speakers. Other external accessories available include bluetooth adapters, TV tuners and portable external hard drives.
Many users will also want to consider a productivity suite such as Microsoft Office, which must usually be purchased separately. The amount of software included with laptops is minimal, so be sure to determine what additional software you need and its cost.