While tablets are the hot new toy to play with, it’s laptop computers that continue to dominate the home market. For good reason. Some pack the power of a desktop computer and have the convenience of portability.
As with desktops, there’s a lot of information to digest before buying. It can also be hard to find the right laptop to meet your needs at a reasonable cost. To help you make sense of the infomation we've created a guide to choosing the right laptop for you.
Consider how you might use your laptop with our example scenarios:
· Internet usage We’re all on the web these days and keeping in touch via email, instant messaging and social media sites is par for the course. Fortunately, all these tasks can be done by even the most lowly of laptops. If you intend to spend a lot of time on the internet however, a larger screen and keyboard would be preferable, so aim for a budget laptop or higher.
· Intense graphics If you use intensive graphics programs such as Adobe Photoshop, or want to play sophisticated computer games, you’ll need a powerful processor, lots of RAM, a dedicated graphics card and a big screen. A desktop is probably better suited for these tasks as you’ll get high performance at a lower price than a laptop. But if you don’t want to be pinned down to one spot you’ll need a laptop in the multimedia powerhouse category.
· Moving around Any laptop can be carried around – some more easily than others. If you just want to use it around the house you’ll always be near a power point, so battery life may not be a major consideration and you can get away with a heavier and more powerful machine. However, if you want to take the computer out and about you’ll need good battery life while keeping both size and weight down. Netbooks can work if you don’t mind a small screen and keyboard, otherwise you’ll probably want to look at the budget laptops or ultraportable categories.
· Heavy data entry If you spend a lot of time entering data, or maybe just have large fingers, you’ll need a machine with a full-size keyboard. Netbooks and ultraportables tend to have smaller keys closer together, so you’ll probably be more at home with a family all-rounder or a budget laptop.
· Intensive reading Dipping into mail or websites may be practical on a small screen, but if you read a lot of documents or websurf for hours, spend time looking at spreadsheets or just feel happier with larger text, you’ll need a larger screen with higher resolution. This means at least a budget laptop, but you may be better off with a family all-rounder or even multimedia powerhouse for screen size.
· Watching video You can watch SD (standard definition) videos or digital TV on a netbook, though the screen is quite small, but if you want HD (high definition) you’ll need a faster processor as well as larger screen, so look at a family all-rounder or multimedia powerhouse. If you want to watch DVDs you’ll need a DVD or Blu-ray drive too, though there’s so much video available in portable formats nowadays you can use a USB stick or SD card instead (and with less drain on your battery). You might still want to keep an optical drive for installing software from CD or DVD, however.
· Listening to music If you want to listen to music you’ll find most laptop speakers a bit tinny. And if you want to share the experience, you’ll probably need external powered speakers. That said, multimedia powerhouse laptops often include notably better speakers than the other classes and can include buttons to control playback of movies and music from the keyboard.
· VoIP calls You don’t need much power for VoIP calls – a 3G phone does the job after all – but you’ll want to make sure there is a webcam and microphone built-in. Some netbooks will suffice, but a larger laptop will provide a bigger screen too.
Video: What to look for - Notebook PCs
Georgina talks us through the basics of buying a new laptop computer.