Tips for Buying a Laptop: 6 Crucial Features You Need to Know

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With so many different brands, specifications and price brackets on the market, deciding which laptop to buy can be tricky. 

By the time you’ve finished reading this article however, you’ll be able to compare and evaluate different laptop models, and tell whether a particular offer is good or not.

When evaluating an offer, the 6 primary features to be looking for are:

1) A fast CPU, preferably Intel Core-i3 or better

Possibly the most important piece of hardware on a laptop, the CPU (Central Processing Unit) sits at the heart of all tasks performed by the machine.

The power of the CPU directly influences the speed at which these tasks are completed. 

Keep in mind that a laptop CPU is generally not upgradeable.

Always make sure to find out exactly what the CPU model number is and double check the specifications online so you know exactly what you’re buying.

A great reference to use for checking the ranking of a laptop CPU is www.notebookcheck.net.

2) An LED HD-Ready or better display

LED displays are preferable to LCD as they have a longer lifespan and you’ll have better colour contrast ratios.

Although movies can play on a lower resolution you won’t get the full crisp picture as you would on a higher resolution. Text can also appear more pixelated.

Full HD displays do come at a higher price premium though.

3) 4GB of DDR3 RAM or more

RAM (Random Access Memory) is another component that will affect the performance of any laptop.

You’ll want to aim for at least 4GB, as you may experience slowdowns with less in the current software environment.

Even if you buy a laptop that only comes with 2GB of RAM, you should be able to easily add another 4GB of memory for roughly R 350.

Ask the store you’re buying from if they can pre-install it for you.

4) A fast storage drive, preferably a 7200RPM hard drive

Budget laptops usually include slower 5400RPM 500 or 750GB standard mechanical hard drives.

If you can find a model with a 7200RPM hard drive, this is preferable as the performance difference is notable.

The great thing about notebook storage is that it’s upgradable.

Even if your laptop only came with a 320GB 5400RPM hard drive, you can upgrade to a 1TB 7200RPM drive, or even an SSD (Solid State Drive) – another type of storage option quickly becoming popular.

These devices are based on similar technology as RAM, with one distinction; they can store data even when the machine is off. 

5) Windows 8

Windows 8 is the new standard, and should probably be your first choice as it’s faster than previous versions.

Many first-time users of Windows 8 feel the interface is too different from what they’re used to.

However, if you spend some time in Windows 8 learning the shortcuts and how to navigate the new interface, you should be used to it in a few days.

6) USB 3.0 ports and HDMI

These are the new standards, and a must-have if you’re buying a new laptop. USB 3.0 is faster, and HDMI is required if you ever want to connect your laptop to an HD monitor or display.

moneysmart tip – Ask for advice

If you want to save yourself some time, email your preferred retailer and ask them “What’s the best laptop you can offer in my price range?”

Don’t be scared of making the retailer work for you. It’s their job to scan through available models and give you their best offer.

Sometimes they might know about special offers or upcoming specials that you might not be able to find easily.

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