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How To Buy A Laptop: An Online Guide to Getting the Best Laptop for Minimum Prices

Updated on February 2, 2012

When you buy a laptop there are actually a lot to consider. Choosing a laptop is a serious decision and can take hours of research. Hopefully, this guide will cut down on some of that time.

Laptop can have multiple purposes: works, gaming, watching movies…etc. Each one of those purpose determine the hardware on your laptop. For each type of purpose, there is a simple guideline to look at: portability, costs, hard drive, processor, screen, ram. If you are unfamiliar with some of those terms, it is okay, I will explain.

  1. Portability: How much big is the laptop and how much does the laptop weight. This affects how you carry the laptop around. The smaller the laptop, the easier it is to fit in your backpack/suitcase.

  2. Cost: How much you are paying for the laptop

  3. Hard Drive: How much memory does the laptop have? This determines how much movies/program can be store in your laptop.

  4. Processor: It tough to describe this is a couple of sentences, it essentially power your laptop and determine the speed at which it can work. Read more about it.

  5. Screen: how big would you like the computer screen to be?

  6. Ram: It is tough to describe this too in a couple of sentences. It determines the number of program that can be run at the same times without slowing your laptop down. Read more about it.

  7. Battery life: How long can the laptop run on battery?

What Kind Of User Are You?

We have our guideline for choosing a laptop now. Depending on what kind of user you are, these guidelines can change pretty drastically.


1) Students:

Buying a laptop for student is pretty easy. You need something cheap that is portable. Do not bother spending big money on a fancy laptop, its not worth it (advices from a former student)

  • Portability: light weight laptop or buy a netbook

  • Cost: 200-600 dollars

  • Hard Drive: 160 GB

  • Processor: Any dual core

  • Screen: 13 inch or smaller

  • Ram: At least 1 GB

  • Battery Life: 6-7 hours (as a student you will probably be on campus a lot so you have access to an outlet. It is not that essential to have a long battery life.

I give netbook as an option but I will not recommend you get one. It is slow and crashes quite often. You cannot open certain file and trust me, you will hate writing paper on it. Best that you get a thin-laptop. Try Sony or Dell.


2) Businessmen/Travelers:

If you are the move a lots, you want a laptop that has a lot of memory and has good security. Try the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 (recommended by PC World as the best laptop for traveler).

  • Portability: lightweight

  • Cost: 800-1000 dollars

  • Hard Drive: 160 GB

  • Processor: Any (try to get window 7 professional as an operating system)

  • Screen: 13-15 inch

  • Ram: 2-4 GB

  • Battery life: 8 hours (you want something that can last long; you never know when you will be on an airplane…etc.)


3) Movie watcher/Home user:

To be honest, if you are planning to use this at home, I recommend just buying a desktop computer. A desktop computer is always more powerful but if you are lazy and just want to watch a movie while lying in bed then a laptop is a good option. What you would be looking for is a laptop with huge hard drive and a big screen.

  • Portability: Any weight should be fine. It is not like you will be carrying it around a lot.

  • Cost: 600-1200 dollars

  • Hard Drive: 250+ GB (you want something with a dvd-player/burner)

  • Processor: Recommended intel core 2 duo. (Its cheap and good)

  • Screen: 13-17 inch

  • Ram: 2-4 GB

  • Battery life: 3-5 hours


4) Serious Gamers:

If you are a serious gamer, it is unlikely you need a guide to know what you want to buy. Gamers like to buy desktop computer because it is more powerful and can be easily upgraded. But just incase you decide to buy a laptop, you probably want one with huge ram, crazy video card.

  • Portability: Heavy. You would not want to carry this laptop around.

  • Cost: 1000-4000 dollars.

  • Hard Drive: 300+ GB

  • Processor: Intel's Core 2 Quad and Core i7 CPU, Nvidia's GeForce N260 (recommended by Cnet for 3D gaming)

  • Screen: 17+ inch (big like the desktop screen)

  • Ram: 4-8 GB

  • Battery life: 2-3 hours (you should be connected to a outlet when playing games, they use a lot of power)

New vs. Refurbished vs. Used

After you figure out what kind of laptop you want from the basic guideline, you want to get it for the best prices. There are several options:

  1. New: I recommend this for serious gamers and business travelers. You do not want the laptop to fail in the middle of a trip or while you are playing Halo. Buying it new ensure that it is fresh out of the factory and you get the warranty. If anything happen, you can return it or get it fix. Not to mention, you do not have to worry about anyone tinkering with the hardware and software. You can buy new from Amazon, Ebay, the company, or any retail stores.

  2. Refurbished: This is a great option that I used myself when buying electronics. It is so much cheaper but you also get the same coverage as a new laptop. Refurbished means something was wrong with it and it was return. Then professional people from the same company fix it up again and sell it back at a cheaper price. The only downsize is that you do not get many options to choose from. You have to buy it from the company themselves to get the same warranty coverages.

  3. Use: Never buy use unless you can reformat the hard-drive. This is essential because you never know when someone messes with it or it has spyware. Check the battery life to see if it still holds a charge. Most sellers on eBay will not accept a return so you have to be careful about buying it use. It is still a good options and it is recommended for college student and other people who are low on money.


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    • montecristo profile image

      Angel Caleb Santos 6 years ago from Hampton Roads, Virginia

      Good info. Keep up the good work. I will consider this when buying my next laptop!

    • avan989 profile image

      avan989 6 years ago from maryland

      For the price you get on a Dell laptop, the quality is correct. I used several Dell Laptop and although they are not the best, they are pretty cheap and allow me to do whatever I need to. If you want quality, Dell can make those laptop too for much higher price. For recommendation, I would recommend Sony, Dell, Toshiba, Lenovo, Acer, Apple and HP. I have used or tried these brand before and they are all pretty good. It really comes down to cost, if you spend more money, the better the quality the laptop is.

    • THEHuG5 profile image

      THEHuG5 6 years ago

      This is all great advice!I like my HP laptop (I'm a student) it has a big screen for watching movies, and it has enough memory for all of my assignments and games. I've heard a lot of people complain about Dell computers.Maybe you could recommend specific brands of laptops that are good.