Investing in a laptop for school or personal use? You don’t want to end up with a severely underpowered machine that can barely run Microsoft Word, even if the salesperson assured you of its magnificent capabilities.
Simple advice – buy the best processor you can afford. But also keep in mind what you’ll be using it for – you don’t have to fork out for the latest Intel Core processor if you’ll just be reading emails and playing the odd game of solitaire. CNET offers a helpful review of some of the more popular options include Intel’s Core i7 (high quality), Intel i5 and AMD A8 (perhaps the most popular), and Core i3 (entry-level). You may also come across Intel Pentium, Celeron and AMD A6 processors – these are most suitable for lighter operations and are generally found in the cheaper laptops.
These days you’ll need at least three USB ports, if you want to charge phones, connect MP3 players or other devices at the same time. Many laptops feature USB2.0 ports – if you can get at least one USB 3.0 slot, you’ll notice the difference in file transfer speeds. If you want to play video via your TV then make sure your choice has a HDMI cable. And, if you haven’t got Wi-Fi at home, then an Ethernet port is also a must.
You might often find salespeople pushing the latest edition of whatever paid-for anti-virus they have in store, like Norton. The fact is, however, that you can access very capable anti-virus software online for free, including options from AVG, Avira and Avast.
Many manufacturers today are saving money by shipping laptops without an optical drive to play or write CDs and DVDs. If you’ve got a Netflix account or mainly use USB flash drives then you won’t miss it. But, if you’ve got a comprehensive DVD collection and still don’t want an integrated optical drive, you can always invest in a portable drive that connects via USB.
You’re more than likely buying a laptop for the mobility it brings, so battery life is obviously an important thing to consider. Don’t forget to check if the battery is non-removable, otherwise you won’t be able to keep a spare on-hand when you’re heading into the red.
Figure out what you’ll be using your new laptop for. Bigger screens mean bulkier laptops, which can be a pain if you’re working on the go. Generally speaking, screen sizes between 13” to 14” are the best at combining decent screen size and portability.
Memory and storage
Random Access Memory (RAM) is what your computer uses to temporarily store data in order to access it faster. It can also be used as additional virtual memory. These days virtually all laptops require at least 2GB of RAM (although with intensive operations your laptop may slow down). 4GB comes recommended by many experts as a better starting point, while 8GB should easily cover your day to day tasks.
In terms of hard drive storage capabilities, bigger is obviously better. Many options today come with 320GB – that should be your minimum. You can also make use of storage in the cloud, as we’ve covered previously.
The final important thing to remember, and this goes for any of your purchases, is that European consumers are legally entitled to a free two year guarantee, for goods bought either online or in a shop. This statutory guarantee means that the seller is obliged to provide a repair, replacement without cost, or either a full refund or price reduction. Minor issues may not be covered. This guarantees exists regardless of whether or not the shop or manufacturer have provided their own warranties.
In Ireland, consumers have six years to seek redress in the case of faulty or defective items, both new and second hand. However, things get trickier after six months – after this time elapses consumers could be asked to provide proof that the defect didn’t occur as a result of misuse. If you’re ever in doubt, contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland.