How To Choose A Laptop

A Basic ‘How To’ that helps you understand the jargon and get the machine that best meets your needs.

“It’s got to be pink.” My youngest daughter said. This was the start, middle and end of what she was looking for in a laptop that she was intending to buy for college. As she was aware that there’s more to laptops than their colour, she had called me to check if the ones she was looking at were any good. Pretty much as long as the Processor, Storage and anything else inside it was inside something that was pink then she was happy. This post looks at some of the other aspects one could consider when buying a Laptop.
Duel-Sided Multifunctional Desk Pad, 60×35 cm Waterproof Desk Blotter Protector. Leather Large Writing Mat Mouse Pad (Pink, 60×35 cm)

Key Parameters

When it comes to choosing a Laptop, I think the following parameters are key.

  • Processor Type
  • Hard Drive
  • Random Access Memory Size (RAM)
  • Storage Size
  • Cloud Storage

Processor

This is the ‘Brain’ of the machine and is key, among many other things, to how fast your laptop operates. A single up to date processor will normally manage standard software at an ok speed. One aspect I look for is a multi core processor. Quad Core Processors are pretty common these days but you can also still get Duel Core or even a single processor.

For ‘Core’ think ‘person’. A single processor is like one person using their brain to carry out the tasks asked of it. The sharper the person’s brain, the better the operating speed. Duel Core however is like 2 different people being able to work on different tasks at the same time. As you cam imagine, more can get done than with just a single processor. And, of course, Quad Core is like 4 people working on different tasks at once and hence the fastest processor.

If you’re using your laptop for gaming, lots of video streaming or audio production, Quad Core would certainly be best. If you’re a student running standard programs such as Microsoft Office and you’re looking to buy something low cost then even a single Processor would probably be fine.

HP Stream 11-ak008na 11.6 Inch Laptop (Rose Pink) (Intel Celeron N4000, 2 GB RAM 32 GB eMMC, Office 365 and 1 TB OneDrive Cloud Storage, 1 Year Subscription Included, Windows 10 Home)

Hard Drive

When it comes to the Hard Drive, the most important consideration for me is to look for a ‘Solid State’ (SSD) Hard Drive. These are more robust than standard Hard Drives. Previously the standard hard drive was a disc which rotated in order for data to be read. It didn’t take much of a knock to knock the disc out of position and that was the end of your laptop. Where I would still say it is best not to bump your laptop around, if the Hard Drive is SSD then you will still be operating after more bumps than if you had the older disk type processor.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

This is a piece of hardware inside the laptop which processes open programs when they are running. The bigger the RAM size, the faster things will work. This is because more RAM Memory space is available to carry out different tasks at the same time without the operations slowing down.

RAM Capacity comes in 2GB, 4GB or 8GB as standard though higher capacities are available. Gamers and Audio/Video Production gurus will be looking to the high end such as 8GB or maybe even shopping round for higher. Students or economy buyers will get 2GB at a low price maybe even 4GB if they shop around.

The pink laptop my daughter bought only has a 2GB RAM but, as she is only working standard software programs, it is running fine.

Storage Size

This is the amount of memory available for you to store files such as Music, Pictures and Videos etc.

For those who don’t know, it’s worth a quick mention of memory size and how it is measured. 1 million Bytes of Data is called one Megabit and normally written as 1MB. One thousand Megabits is called One Gigabit and is written as 1GB. One thousand Gigabits is called one Terabit and is written as 1TB. A good quality picture on your mobile will normally be in the region of around 5MB and a full length Video Movie lasting about 90 mins will be 600MB to 1GB.

Typical Storage sizes these days tend to be in the order of 500MB to 1TB. Top end laptops may even have 2TB of Storage available. With Storage in this range, you are very unlikely to run out of storage space for your files. It is very important to duplicate, or back up, your important files either to the Cloud or to another device such as an External Memory or Drive. This is because if your laptop software crashes or the Hard Drive becomes misaligned or damaged, you may lose access to all the files stored on your laptop.

For those looking for a bargain, the memory sizes mentioned above are unlikely to be readily available on the lowest cost laptops. In order to cut costs, these Laptops normally have what I would call a relatively negligible Storage size in the order of 32GB or 64GB. Of course you can still store a lot of files on these but it doesn’t take too long before they fill up. This is because the Operating System (such as Windows 10) takes up a lot of the Storage Space in these devices.

The reason these low cost laptops may still be a viable option is because they normally offer up to 1TB Could Storage as part of the package.

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage is simply a Storage Capacity that is available for you to use on a remote machine that you access through the Internet. Most popular Internet Service Providers offer Cloud Storage Space. Microsoft Office Suite has OneDrive and Google has Chrome Drive. Dropbox is also a well known and much used Cloud Storage Space.

The big advantage of Cloud Storage is that everything is held remotely. Hence, if your laptop crashes, your files are safe. Cloud Storage is also great for file sharing as you can normally grant select people access to select files within a Cloud.

The main disadvantage of Cloud Storage is that everything is held remotely. Hence, you need to be online via some form of Internet or Wifi in order to access your files. This is by no means a show stopper these days most Mobile Phones can be set up as a Hotspot so that, even if there is no available Wifi, you can access your files through your Mobile Phone Network.

So now you have some basic knowledge to understand what it says on the label when you are looking for a laptop. My daughter also has a shiny new pink laptop which was very low cost and a proud Dad offering free Technical Support.

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