Its that time of year where the kids back to school and the holidays are arriving fast. So what better gift to give someone (or yourself) than a new laptop. But what to get? With so many choices out there you could go nuts quick trying to figure it all out. Here is my laptop buying guide 2012. We’ll take a look at specs, sizes, and of course your budget to consider before purchasing one. So read on!
What is a Laptop?
This basic question should have a simple answer right? To me a laptop computer is a portable computer that has everything built into it.
This would include:
- Monitor (Display)
- Motherboard, CPU, Memory
- Video / Sound
- Hard Drive
- DVD ROM Drive
As you can see this is a pretty basic list. Of course this can get complicated when you start looking at different brands, types of laptops out there, and of course cost.
Different Types of Laptops
For me there are 4 basic types of laptops available to you today. These are the following:
- Small Laptops
- Standard Laptops
- Desktop/Gaming Laptops
Ultra Book – $600.00 – $1,500.00
An Ultra Book is the answer to the Apple Mac Book Air – sort of? Well they are very thin and compact. And the newer ones have touch screens that work great with Windows 8. These are the (almost) perfect marriage of laptop and touch screen.
Typical Features of an Ultra Books:
(These specs are taken off of my ASUS Ultra book that I recently received.)
- They are based of the Intel i3, i5, or i7 CPU/Chipset Architecture.
- 13″ Touch Screen.
- 4 Gigs of DDR3 RAM
- 500gig Hard Drive w/SSD Cache Drive
- Intel Graphics
Small (Highly Portable) $500 – $1,800.00
A “Small” laptop is those with a 13-14″ screen. A great example of a small laptop would be the new Mac Book put out by Apple earlier this year. Even with its 13″ display it is still quite powerful. If you look at the specifications on this laptop this is pretty much the “mid-range” on parts you should be looking for in a new “Small” laptop.
Mac Book 13″ – “Base Model”
- 13-inch: 2.5 GHz
- 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5
- Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
- 4GB 1600MHz memory
- 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive
- Intel HD Graphics 4000
- Built-in battery (7 hours)
- Weight: 4.5 pounds
But notice I didn’t say cheap! The base model above from the Apple store is listed currently at $1199.00! Couple that with Apple Care, iCloud, iTunes, and other costs and it can pretty expensive. Though you do get the service with that cost!
Of course this is the extreme spectrum when looking at a laptop. Apple is almost always going to be more expensive. You can always go with something similar like a Dell Inspiron for almost half the cost of an Apple!
- Intel 2nd Gen Intel Core i3-2367M 1.40 GHz
- 6 GB DIMM
- 500GB 5400 rpm SATA HDD and 32GB mSATA SSD
- 14-Inch Screen
- Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
- Weight: 6.5 pounds
This is just to show you if you shop around you can usually find something with the same amount of power at half the price. Of course you won’t get the same level of support as you would with Apple. But you won’t pay as much either!
Standard – $499.99 – $2,500.00
A “Standard” laptop are what most of will be looking for. Why? Because this is where you will find the widest range of specifications and you can find these at the cheapest price for the three categories mentioned!
Typically a “Standard” Laptop for today is:
- 15″ – 17″ Screen
- Anything from an AMD to Intel CPU
- 4 Gigs + RAM
- Intel, Nvidia, or AMD Graphics
- eSATA Hard Disks up to SSD Hard Drives
- Built in DVD/Blu Ray Drives
- Windows 8
The problem with this category is that it is so vast and so many options you can quickly go nuts researching these. My personal suggestion – go with the “name brands” such as Dell, HP, ASUS, Toshiba etc.. If you don’t know the name? Stay away from it.
Desktop Replacement or Gaming Laptops $1,200.00 – ??
These mini beasts of the portable computing world have it all in one neat easy to carry package. With high end processors, video cards, SSD Hard Disks, and a ton of RAM along with large vibrant displays. These will replace your home desktop easily. But you might need to take out a second mortgage as well!
The other downsides of these types of laptops? You usually take a hit on things like battery life. And they usually weigh quite a bit more than other laptops. Oh, and last thing would be potential heat issues. High end hardware seems to run hotter lol. (Its the video cards in them that are usually the culprit. Make sure to invest in a laptop cooler which will keep temperatures down and keep your laptop from dying an early death!
Also – you can spend upwards up to $7,000.00 for one of these (Source: Origin). So um keep that in mind when shopping around.
Which One Should I Get?
Now which one should you buy? I would ask yourself a few questions to help you decide:
- What is My Budget?
- What will I be using it for?
- What are my minimum specifications I am willing to live with?
- I would stick with a 15″ display as they are typically a lot less in weight and more portable than the 17″ behemoths out there.
- Go with an Intel i5 CPU. It is the perfect CPU for power and power management!
- Get at least 4 gigs of RAM but keep in mind the more the better!
- A 500 Gig Hard Disk is a minimum but if you have the budget get the SSD Drive as they are F-A-S-T!
- A Blu-Ray player is great but if it only comes with a DVD-R? That is fine too.
- And although if it comes with Windows 7 – keep it. Although Windows 8 isn’t as horrid as people would like for you to believe unless you have a touch screen? It isn’t worth updating it.
Do Your Research!
OK, so after you’ve answered those three important questions? Then you go out and find the laptop you really like as it meets everything above. Then I would suggest the following:
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
I know this is the part that sucks as you’ve found your shiny new laptop which is beckoning for you to take out your credit card. But I beg you to wait and do this next step!
- EndGadget: Yup, The folks at EndGadget – although I might get yelled at for providing a link to a company owned by AOL . I still think they offer a pretty good opinion on hardware/gadgets etc.
- PC Mag : Although I personally think it is starting to get bloated and out-dated I still trust their writers.
- Newegg.com: Although yes this is an affiliate link. I don’t want you to use it to purchase anything (well.. unless of course you made up your mind 🙂 ) I want you to use it for the Reader Reviews. You’ll pull up the search and look for Laptops on there then click on one that you might like and check out the reviews.
- Amazon Laptops: Again same thing (yet another affiliate link…) applies here. Perform your search and make sure to read the reviews!
- I received my latest Ultra Book from Tiger Direct. I can tell you it was the right price and received free shipping during this holiday season! And they usually have pretty decent reviews too!
If it gets a relatively clean bill of health meaning not too many negative reviews, no horror stories of it burning peoples legs…. you know all that kind of stuff.
To Warranty or Not to Warranty – That is the Question?
So if you finally decide on what shiny new notebook you plan on purchasing. They always seem to hit you with the warranty. Should you get it? In the past I would’ve said no. Now that I’m older and a little wiser? I would say YES!
I would just be very careful if you decide to use the retailer as your warranty provider. I know the ones online through Newegg, TigerDirect, and Amazon are awesome. But some retail ones like say through Best Buy look good on paper but I’ve had less than stellar customer service from them. Plus if you can get any type of manufacturer warranty I would get that too!
Can I go Buy It Now – Please?
NOW you go out and purchase it knowing you have made the best decision based on your research. Is it a pain? Sure. But in the end you should end up on top with hopefully a couple bucks left over and a laptop that you will enjoy using instead of something that you paid too much for and hate! These are my affiliate links to online e-tailers I know and trust. I have personally used all of them (even Microsoft!) and can vouch for them as being trustworthy and offering some great deals!