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What to Look For (And How to Save Money) When Purchasing a New Laptop
Computers have come a long way in the past two decades, but sometimes this type of rapid advancement can make finding the right device cumbersome. Here are a few things to look for when searching for a new computer.
How Will I Be Using It?
Computers are manufactured for a wide range of specifications. Some are built for personal use, some for professional use, and some are even built for advanced use (i.e. online gaming, video editing, programming, etc.) For 95% of consumers (read: YOU), pretty much any computer these days will do what you need it to do. That is, they will perform the basic functions such as internet browsing, word processing, and a little graphic design with no problems. However, to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck, the most important things to note are:
Essentially the engine of your computer, it designates how fast everything runs. The two primary brands of processors are AMD and Intel. Intel is the most well-known and is generally agreed upon to work the best. New Intel processors come out all the time, but at this stage anything i3 or higher (i5, i7, etc.) will be able to run all your programs with ease. Processors can really up the value of your computer. For instance, take two identical computers except one has an i3 and another has an i5. The one with the i5 may be 200-300 dollars more expensive, and, unless you are doing something like serious video editing, you will never even notice the difference.
My advice: Look for an Intel i3 processor or higher.
This is your computer's memory, or how fast you will be able to run multiple programs simultaneously. RAM is most likely where you will see a lot of variability as it is an integral part of how your computer operates. For basic functions, you will want at least 2GB of RAM, but a lot of computers come equipped with 4GB. If you are going to spend extra money anywhere, I would put it toward this. 2 GB of RAM or more will probably allow you to run everything in Microsoft office at once without noticing any lag.
My advice: Look for at least 2GB of RAM.
This is how much storage space you have on your computer. Everything these days is pretty much equipped with hundreds of GB so unless you are storing massive video files anything over 100GB will be fine. If you need more space you can always pick up an external hard drive for next to nothing.
My advice: Look for at least 100 GB hard drive capacity.
This sounds obvious, but is the computer too big or small? While 15" is a typical size for laptops, a lot of people like either smaller or bigger screens for various reasons. For instance, smaller laptops are easier to transport and typically less expensive while bigger laptops give you a better viewing experience. Something in the middle (14-16”) is more common however, and may provide the best of both worlds. Because of this, it is also easier to find cases for these laptops.
My Advice: Look for something around 15”
Just because the computer you are looking at has the right specs doesn't mean they are all built the same. Certain manufacturers have reputations for building more durable products. Read some customer reviews and/or consumer reports about the ones you are looking at to help make your decision.
My Advice: Focus your search on seasoned brands like Lenovo (IBM), Dell, Samsung, Toshiba or Apple.
So How To Pay For It All?
Believe it or not, computers, even with great specs like these are pretty affordable now. ALWAYS research online using comparison shopper resources like nextag.com and bizrate.com to find the lowest possible price. I prefer buying electronics online because they are usually way cheaper and generally tax/shipping free. Another option is to pay for it through retailer financing. Most of them offer 0% interest for the first year or so, with payments of around 20-30 bucks a month.
One last note on price: you should be able to find all of the specs mentioned above in a computer for under $700 fairly easily.
That’s basically it. The key is to look for computers that will fulfill your needs, so think about how you will be using it, then use the aforementioned specs as a guide to make sure you get everything you want for a reasonable price.