Buying Tips for Laptops

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Buying Tips for Laptops

Laptops are handy gadgets. With a laptop, professionals can work anywhere and serious gamers can play anywhere. Sometimes it seems like everybody has a laptop, or wants one. The problem is that technology develops so quickly that a person cannot just pick a laptop that works well and then buy another one just like it when that one wears out. Every purchase means making sense of all the various technical options all over again. Fortunately, there is a way to keep laptop shopping manageable. Consumers should focus on a couple of questions that apply to all laptops, like what size screen to get, to build up a clear idea of what to buy. Then consumers can go ahead and get the machine that fits their budget.

What to Look for in a Laptop

The major considerations for laptops are size, memory, and power, and the number and type of ports and extras. Technical details, such as processor type, are also important. However, buyers without much technical know-how can still select a good machine without knowing such details.

Laptop Size

Choosing a size is a good place to start because the size of a laptop influences so many other aspects of its design. A very small machine is more portable, so small laptops have features that support extreme portability, such as longer battery life. Larger laptops are harder to carry, but have more computing power. Manufacturers therefore design larger laptops as semi-portable desktop replacements.

Very small laptops often have a hybrid design intermediate between laptops or netbooks and tablets, with detachable keyboards and touch screens. Some are closer in design to tablets, while others are closer to netbooks. In either case, performance is typically similar to that of standard netbooks of the same size.

Size Categories

The size of a laptop is the diagonal length of its screen, usually in inches. Specifications within each size category vary, but certain characteristics are typical. The 13-inch category is distinctive not for its specifications but because it is the perfect size for a mobile workstation.

Size Category

Screen Size (inches)

Typical Specifications



Low-voltage Atom CPUs or AMD E-series chips

13 Inch





Dual-core or quad-core CPUs

4 to 8 GB of RAM

Minimum 320 GB of storage

Desktop Replacement

17 or more

Quad-core CPU

Discrete graphics cards

High-definition screen

The term Ultrabook is a brand name that people often use incorrectly to refer to machines in the same size and weight range as an Ultrabook. These are very thin, lightweight 13-inch laptops with SSD storage.

Memory and Computing Power

In terms of hardware, most laptops are very much alike. While processor speed and other capabilities vary, for many applications these variations do not matter very much because even the basic machines have enough speed to do the job. A good rule of thumb is to go with a mid-range machine unless the buyer plans to use the laptop for tasks like video editing or gaming that require unusual computing speed and power.

Buyers should also decide whether they want a spinning platter hard drive (HDD) or a solid-state drive (SSD). HDDs are less expensive and have more storage capacity, but they are larger and generate a lot of heat and noise. SDDs have no moving parts, so they are quiet, cool, and durable, as well as small and fast. However, the higher price and smaller capacity still make them a poor choice for some users.

Ports, Extras, and Connections

Laptops come with various ports and connection options. Some, like USB ports or WiFi compatibility, are almost standard because so much else that a laptop should be able to do depends on them. Others, such as an SD slot, are popular, but not all users need them. Which ports are important depends on what hardware the buyer plans to use. Bluetooth is a must for someone who likes wireless mice or wireless headsets, but not otherwise. Smaller laptops usually lack an optical drive, which is only a problem for people who wish to play CDs and DVDs.

How to Buy Laptops

eBay is a good place to look for laptops of all kinds and descriptions. To browse through the listings, do a basic search for laptops and then use the menu options to specify type, brand, size, and other characteristics. Buyers who already know exactly what they want can use the Advanced Search option instead. Note that used laptops are an option. While used machines are obviously less up-to-date, the prices are excellent. Use the contact link on the seller's profile page to find out the history and condition of the machine. Buying a laptop is simple if the buyers know what they want and research their options.

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