Laptop Buying Guide – How Much Laptop Do You Really Need


Laptop Buying Guide

Laptop Buying Guide

By Anne Ahira

Everyone is looking to get into the portable laptop game these days and choices in laptops are becoming more affordable and flexible and as a result more confusing. How much of a laptop do you actually need?

A $3,000 top of the line system a top end sound card and incredible speakers and with a top end video card system that would make the most avid gamer happy is probably too much for a person looking for a nice little laptop suitable for sitting in the garden and composing emails with.


This has become more apparent in recent times when laptops become smaller and more powerful but with so many options, the casual user ends up bewildered and usually buying more, or less than they need.

Laptop Buying – What You Want and What You Pay For

Generally the average casual laptop user will want plenty of hard drive space, 30 gigabytes is a decent amount without overdoing it. Even for casual use, a reasonable amount of memory is important in a laptop, these days 250mb of RAM is no longer enough to do anything but power up your operating system and wait for the system to load and wait and wait. Consider a laptop with at least 1 GB of RAM. For casual use, an onboard (built-in) video card is just right.

Unless your main purpose when you use a laptop is video editing or gaming, then a dedicated video card will probably an unnecessary expense. These laptops can be very inexpensive, include a wireless network card and meet or exceed minimum use standards for under $400. Asus and Dell Inspiron Mini are laptops that are perfect for casual use, fall well under the $400 mark and do not come with too much extra you really will never use.

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Laptop

Consider how heavy the laptop you plan to buy is. Laptops can range from an ultra light super portable, just over 3lbs weight to a bulky but larger screen sized 13lbs. If you plan to carry your laptop around a lot then weight and portability are just as big a factor as processing power. What you will give up when buying the ultra lightweight laptops is probably screen size and if you need a larger screen then these may not be suitable.

Netbooks are ultra lightweight super portable laptops with a lower price tag and they succeed admirably when it comes to putting laptops in the hands of almost everyone. They are useful for anyone who wants a laptop does not need many extras and does not want to pay the earth.

You will get a laptop that weights under 4 lbs with a Netbook, has a reasonably fast processor, and a decent amount of memory with usb ports and onboard graphics. Businesspersons who travel use Netbooks often, or students who need to carry their laptops around along with textbooks. 

Resolution is usually reduced as well as screen size 10.1 seems standard. You will not be getting a DVD or CD drive in most netbooks they add to weight and size.  If you do not know, what a PCMIA card slot is you probably will not miss it in the Netbooks. The Ethernet cards are not (yet) gigabyte technology that is the fastest.

High End Performance Laptop

Gaming and video editing Laptops is the high end of the laptop buying experience. When buying a gaming or video editing laptop graphics and processing power are the primary considerations. A dedicated graphics card, plenty of processing power, extra ram, and a good display are usually more important than weight.

These systems will always cost more in fact a gaming or video editing laptop will cost more than an equivalent desktop. A gaming system may well run hotter as well so, this should be taken into consideration when making a buying laptop buying decision.

Buying a Laptop – Decision Time

You have it in mind what you will be using your laptop for how much you can afford, and what extras you need and those that simply would be useless to you when it comes to buying time. If you are purchasing at a retailer do not be persuaded to purchase extras you have no simply do not need.

That is where the research comes in handy – not everyone needs the absolutely best laptop with the fastest processor and the separate video card and the superb separate sound system and dedicated sound card. Those who do need those extras will be happy for years with their purchase but for the average user a specially built system can be considered overkill.

When buying that new laptop where you purchase can be important whether you purchase it online or in a traditional store. You will want to consider how long the warranty on the laptop is, is an extended warranty available and whether or not there are exclusionary clauses to the warranty. Can you return the laptop to the merchant? What is the policy for, exchange, refund or replacement?

Some merchants offer refurbished laptops at a reduced price or used “as is” laptops. Check the warranty on those, remember that seldom will the used laptops be the latest models – after all someone has used them and if they are the latest, what was wrong with it?

If you are investing a significant amount in a laptop then new is often the wisest buying decision in terms of product warranty and replacement options and eventual life of the laptop.

Laptops will come with batteries if you plan on extended use on battery power you will also want to check how long the battery should keep the laptop powered. Remember these manufacturer figures on running hours depend on minimal use and games and graphics will consume more power.

With only a little research, you can buy a powerful laptop without breaking the bank and without extras that are useless for your particular purpose and which may add price but not value to your laptop.

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