Easy to carry along and versatile enough to do complex work, laptops outstrip tablets and smartphones for completing intricate work or running gaming programs.
Typing reports, uploading video and gaming simply works better with a laptop. The devices come in a multitude of sizes, prices and features. Which should you choose? Consider the following features to narrow your options while ensuring the best model for your specific needs.
The operating system is the backbone of your laptop. It manages the hardware, software, files, connected devices, memory and visual programs.
Windows has an intuitive touch-screen interface, but it can also be used with a keyboard and mouse. It offers streamlined file management, a new task manager, and a portfolio of built-in apps.
The Chrome OS comes exclusively with Chromebooks, which are a category of mobile computers with cloud-based programs and custom apps instead of conventional software. It is perfect for emails, social media, surfing the Web, and sharing photos instead of data intensive work such as gaming or video editing.
The operating system is exclusive to Mac computers. It has a user-friendly interface that complements the elegant design and long battery life. Macs generally have fewer problems with malware or viruses, however they start at a much higher price point than many other laptops. Nor do they offer touch-screen functions.
The screen size of a laptop can vary from about 10 to 18 inches. If you plan on using your laptop for watching movies, gaming, video and photo editing, a larger screen may be appropriate. However, this will add to the overall weight, size, and battery consumption.
Higher resolution results in clearer picture quality. Resolution is measured in pixels, horizontal by vertical.
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- 1366 x 768 comes standard on many laptops. It works well for basic computing tasks, email, social media and Web surfing.
- 1600 x 900 works well for viewing DVD movies and casual gaming.
- 1920 x 1080 works well for playing video games and watching Blu-ray movies.
- Retina display is found in Apple laptops: 12” with 2304 x 1440, 13.3” with 2560 x 1600, and 15.6” with 2880 x 1800.
- Quad HD and QHD+ comes with 2560 x 1440 or 3200 x 1800 pixel resolutions, which produces extremely sharp text and details perfect for professional graphics and photo work, or high-definition games and movies.
- 4K Ultra High Definition is a resolution at 3840 x 2160, which produces ultra-rich colors and images and very lifelike graphics.
Laptops come with varying display technologies that produce different brightness and color levels. Many use LED back lighting, which avoids draining the battery while still producing bright color.
If you plan to watch movies or games, and IPS panel will deliver wider viewing angles. Screens with matte displays will lessen any glare for outdoor work, while glossy screens produce richer colors.
2-in-1 laptops offer the best features of a laptop, but also the portability of tablets.
They are also known as hybrids or convertibles, and the offer touch-screen, versatile displays that can detach thus making it a tablet.
You will find a wide selection with displays that can fold, twist, lock or hang in place, giving you the capability to adjust the angle while making a presentation or relaxing on the sofa to catch a favorite movie.
Laptops with touch screens make navigating more intuitive.
You can tap to select, swipe to scroll, hold and drag items, or pinch to zoom just like tablets and smartphones.
This option comes on certain Windows laptops and some Chromebooks.
The processor is the laptop’s brain. It works in sync with the system memory, and its level of power will determine how many programs can run simultaneously, the complexity of the software it will support, and how fast the programs can run. Many laptops come with AMD or Intel processors.
Processors have varying classes. Laptops that offer long battery life frequently use an ultra-low voltage chip of the processor, which can sacrifice some processing speed.
For heavy gaming or graphics, select a laptop with a dedicated video memory and graphics card. This will enable faster processing while playing games, watching movies, or multi-tasking.
AMD offers three types of processors that are common: A-series, FX, and E-series.
- A10-: This is an excellent chip with lightening fast core-speed and graphics performance.
- A8: This offers a graphics performance that can support 3D gaming in high definition.
- A6: Smooth video streaming and better photo quality.
- A4: Responsive, good performance for video, photos and music.
- FX: This is an excellent chip for heavy multi-tasking and serious gaming.
- E-Series: This processor is similar to the Intel Pentium and Celeron. These offer value with some limited multi-tasking capabilities and speed. They are good for word processing, email, and Web surfing. Not recommended for gaming.
Intel is the brain of every MacBook and most Windows laptops. The most common is the Core series.
- Core i7: This top-of-the-line processor is perfect for graphic designing, heavy gaming, and video and photo editing. It is excellent for high-demand multimedia in 3D or high definition and multi-tasking.
- Core i5: This is Intel’s mid-grade processor and very prevalent in use. It offers enough power for most computing tasks, and it can stream video while sending emails and searching the Internet.
- Core i3: This is Intel’s entry-level processor, and it is excellent for daily email, productivity tasks, and Internet. It also works well for listening to music.
- Core M: This processor is made for ultra-slim devices, and it offers plenty of power for email and Web surfing without draining the battery.
- Core i3: The entry-level Core processor, more than adequate for everyday e-mail, Internet and productivity tasks. It’s also fine for common activities like listening to music.
- Pentium and Celeron: Intel makes these processors for value-priced laptops. They work well for basic tasks, surfing and email. However, their multi-tasking capabilities and speed are limited in comparison to Intel Core processors.
Conventional hard disk drives provide greater storage capacity; however, this adds to a laptop’s thickness and weight while producing more noise and heat.
As an alternative, solid state drives (SSD or flash storage) are much faster, lighter, quieter, and cooler than hard disk drives.
In addition, they are more expensive per gigabyte, so they generally offer less storage space. Some laptops have a hybrid drive to offer the benefits of both an SSD and a hard drive.
RAM, or random access memory, is a critical component of a laptop by helping the processor handle multiple tasks simultaneously. 2GB is minimum for basic computing. 6GB and above is necessary for advance video and photo editing or graphics.
Many laptops offer 4GB to 8GB, and some offer up to 32GB. Select a laptop that can handle expansion of the RAM if you anticipate needing additional RAM later.
Solid State Drives
SSDs, or flash storage for Apples, are typically faster than hard drives, yet they offer less capacity. They have several advantages in power efficiency, size, and weight, as well as less heat production and lower noise.
They work very well for ultra-light weight and ultra-slim laptops, and they have no moving parts to deteriorate. Some laptops use SSD for total storage, while others use a dedicated, smaller SSD for the operating system along with a conventional hard drive for data storage.
Hard Disk Drives
Conventional hard disk drives are common because they tend to be inexpensive in relation to SSDs and provide large capacity. However, they add to the weight and size of the laptop as well as producing noise and heat.
They come in standard speeds of 5400 rpm, which is good for email, document creation, and surfing, and 7200 rpm, which is faster especially with large files.
Macs are popular for their long battery life, and most laptops will advertise a battery life of up to 12 hours or more.
The more enhancements that your laptop has-such as high resolution screens, higher processing power, an optical drive, or faster hard drives-the faster your battery will be drained.
Ports and Connectivity
Laptops generally offer several ways to remain connected to the Web in addition to other devices.
Most will come with the most current wireless standards and Bluetooth capabilities, which will allow you to easily sync your portable devices, smartphone or speakers.
If you plan to travel with your laptop, seek out a model that can connect with the 4G LTE network for Web access despite the lack of a Wi-Fi hotspot.
In addition, select a laptop with the following ports that will let you connect to cameras, TVs and other devices:
- USB 2.0: This will connect with gaming controllers, external drives, MP3 players, smartphones and other accessories.
- USD 3.0: Faster than the USB 2.0, but only used along with USB 3.0 devices.
- Thunderbolt: This is ultra-high bandwidth for faster data transfer over devices that offer the Mini Display Port or Thunderbolt connection.
- USB Type-C: lightening-fast speeds with good power. This offers connectors that are identical on either end, and adapters can provide for video and backward compatibility.
- Media Card Slots: These will let you transfer photos or video from a digital camcorder or camera.
- HDMI: Will display HD media over a flat-screen TV.
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