Easy Laptop Buying Guide

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Easy Laptop Buying Guide - All the tech jargon made easy!

Welcome to the Laptop Buying Guide on eBay. So you're out to buy a new or used laptop online and you can't quite make up your mind or you've got some questions or things you don't understand with those portable computers everyone seems to have. Let's take a look...

Firstly...

Are you going for a new or used laptop? Generally, buying a laptop on eBay is relatively safe as long as the seller offers Paypal protection and you have a secure address. After all, you're parting with your cash so it's always a good idea to pay through Paypal getting you that extra bit of protection.

It's a good idea to go for a new or refurbished laptop which either haven't been used or have been fully checked out by a computer technician and are ready to go. Used laptops are much cheaper but do carry the risk of already been used so it may be an idea to get in touch with the seller and ask them what repair the laptop is in, how old it is and what sort of warranty it comes with. It may still be possible to buy an extended one.

The technical bit.

There are so many brands, labels, bits and pieces to look out for, so what's good and what's not? By the end of this you'll know all the facts from your hard drive to your graphics card. They're just below and are in a list with simple explanations:

  • Processor - The ''brain'' of the computer - the processor handles everything the computer does from playing a movie to telling the printer you want that piece of work printed. Processors have different speeds and there are different processors on the market. The ones to look out for are AMD or Intel. ''Intel Core Duo 2'' are the latest batch of processors and offer the longest battery life because they don't create much heat. Looking on eBay you might see a laptop advertised as 1.66Ghz or 1.5Ghz. The ''1.66'' is a measure of how fast it is. The ''ghz'' stands for gigahertz although this isn't important to know. If you're planning on writing some word documents, playing music, watching DVD's and browsing the internet, it's advisable to get anything from 1.5 to 1.86Ghz. The higher the speed (or 1.xx) is how fast or how many things you can do at once. If you're planning on composing music, video editing and playing intensive games, 1.8Ghz and over is recommended.

  • Memory (think of it as your short term memory) - With the event of Microsoft's new Operating System, Windows Vista (we'll get to that shortly), laptops now need more memory or RAM to remember your commands as laptops are now doing more ''behind the scenes'' because they are more powerful. Look for 1GB or 2GB ideally. Laptops can take up to 4GB although most users won't need this much.
  • Hard Drive (think of it as your long term memory) - This is one of the most important parts of a computer. The hard drive is the section which stores all of the information such as pictures, music, web pages, videos and documents. Hard drives come in sizes of gigabytes or GB. Laptops come (as of June 2008) come in sizes from 80GB and up. Anything around the 80GB mark will be perfect for those just word processing and keeping a small to medium size library of music and pictures. If you're planning to store videos it's best to get a laptop with a 160GB (or even more!) hard drive to store all of your files.
  • Screen - A few years ago only the expensive laptops came with wide screens. Now that laptops are more powerful, they can play widescreen DVD's. 15" screens will actually be 15.4" where that extra .4" makes the screen wide enough to properly display DVD's. It also means you can fit more of your word document or internet page onto your screen. Laptop's come with 12", 14'', 15'', 17'' and rarely 19" screens. However, it's recommended to get a 15" screen as it keeps the laptop fairly small and light.
  • Graphics card - this bit of the computer sends all of the information to the screen such as web pages, pictures and icons. When you click on an icon on your computer, the graphics card will display the appropriate folder or webpage. All laptops come with intergrated graphics meaning there is nothing external you have to plug in and it's not an important part of buying a laptop if you're just browsing the web, listening to music or writing a word document. However, if you're planning on editing videos or playing games then a more substantial video card is needed. Graphics cards are measured in megabytes or MB. The higher the MB the more you can do with it. For basic needs, look for 128mb although this has become a standard so you won't have to worry about it too much. Anything higher and you may need to look for 256 or 512mb cards.
  • Battery life - If you're planning on keeping the laptop in the house, plugged in then this is not an issue. However, if you want to spend time in the garden typing your latest novel then find out what the battery life is like. On used models batteries are often worn and don't hold much charge so it is recommended buying a new laptop however spare batteries are available and the seller may have already purchased one for theirs. If you're planning to keep the laptop plugged in, discharging it by using it every now and again is a good idea or the battery will self discharge shortening the life extensively.
  • Windows Vista - Windows Vista is one of the most important parts of the computer. Think of Windows like the soul, it animates the laptop when you interact with it. Windows Vista is the latest operating system from Microsoft. It is a piece of software filled with millions of lines of code intended to make your computer run perfectly. The older version from Microsoft is called Windows XP which was introduced in 2001. It's always important to get the latest version of Windows because it is technically supported by many computer shops such as PC World here in the UK. There are different flavours of Windows Vista: Basic, Premium and Ultimate. Basic is for the user looking to edit word documents and browse the web. Premium is for those looking to do the same, listen to music and maybe video edit. Ultimate is for those who want the full package which includes special effects and different languages. However, a faster computer maybe needed to run these. Most of the time, computers come with Basic or Home and there isn't much different between the two. You need to see if the laptop you're after comes with XP or Vista.
So there we have it. Above are the most important aspects to look out for when buying a notebook computer. There are many different brands however and it is in your favour which one you decide to buy. However, in the laptop world big brands are not everything. While many hourhold names like Sony manufacture laptops, most of the guts or components we have already talked about that goes inside them actually go inside many other laptops which don't sport the ''Sony'' badge. For example PC World's, Dixons' and Currys' own brand ''Advent'' make excellent computers are much lower prices because they have not got the badge.

What are the good brands to look out for?

This is very much up to your pocket but:

  • Toshiba is excellent. They make many sturdy and well made laptops are fairly affordable prices. Much cheaper than they used to be.
  • Dell. Quite expensive but again very well made and boast excellent components.
  • Advent. Quite cheap but outwin the bigger brands and feature quality components.
  • Sony. Slightly more expensive and with less impressive specifications but still sturdy and fashionable.

The ones to miss?

  • Packard Bell. There are numerous horror stories from this manufacturer.

  • Medion. This German brand have good specifications but they aren't very sturdy.
  • EI SYSTEM. Very cheap laptops to budget wallets. Not recommended.

Your choice!

After reading this review I hope you are enlightened a little more! Please remember that with there are pros and cons with every electronic product.

Thanks for reading,

Tóm

If you have any queries with this review, email: thomas_heavens@hotmail.com  


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