Five things to look at when buying your first laptop

At first glance buying a notebook can be a daunting experience. While the enthusiasts love nothing more than talking about gigahertz and storage and resolutions, many folks really just want to know whether the notebook they’re about to spend oodles of money on is the right one for them.

With that in mind here are five important things you should look for when buying a laptop

1) Size

Laptops come in lots of shapes and sizes, but are generally referred to by the size of their screens measured diagonally from corner to corner, in inches. They start at around 11-inches for a very portable machine, and common sizes above that are 13, 15 and 17inches.

Larger laptops are more comfortable to work on without straining your eyes, and often have other benefits too. They’ll either be more powerful than smaller machines with extra graphics processing power inside the spare space in their body or, because they’re easier to engineer, they’ll be better value for money.

Just remember that if you’re planning to carry your laptop from class to class, an extra two or three kilos soon becomes noticeable via a shoulder strap. A thinner machine may be more expensive or less powerful, but it’s certainly worth trying out.

2) Get a keyboard

Don’t, however, go too portable. It’s worth considering a tablet computer rather than a laptop, and you’ll certainly find lots of affordable tablets out there. But if you try to write and essay or take quick lecture notes without a keyboard you’ll soon find yourself more frustrated than educated during your time at varsity.

3) Get the right screen resolution

Our advice here – get as many pixels as you can afford. Higher resolution screens are easier to read and that becomes more important as screen sizes increase. A 15 or 17inch laptop with a low res screen will be blurry and unreadable – not good for those all night writing sessions you’re going to be pulling close to exam time.

4) Performance matters, but how much do you need?

Just like you wouldn’t buy a Maserati to get to and from university you might not need the top-of-the-range processor and more RAM than an Australian sheep farm.

If all you want is a laptop to type up assignments, browse the web and watch a video or two then look for something that uses an Intel Core m processor. The upside to notebooks with those processors is that they are generally cheaper meaning they’re perfect for the average student.

For tasks that involve multitasking, light photo editing and using Microsoft Office, the Intel Core i3 range is perfect.

The Intel Core i5 range is the all-rounder of processors and does well whether you’re doing some graphic design work, working on massive spreadsheets and it can handle calculations quite proficiently as well.

If you need raw, unabashed power then the best option is Intel’s Core i7 range of processors. These processors are the most expensive but not without reason. The Core i7 range is great for CAD programmes, video editing, intense calculations and even a bit of gaming if you can find time during your lectures.

5) Try it out first

It’s tempting to just buy online, but a personal computer is, well, personal. Why risk finding out that it’s heavier than you thought or the keys are too small for your fingers after the purchase is made. Read reviews and wherever possible, try to get your hands on the machine to feel it in-hand.

And see if you can get a feel for how tough it is too. Smashed screens and cracked plastic don’t just come from knocking a notebook from your desk. The inside of your bag with its pens, paperclips and other discarded debris is a risky place for electronics to be.
On which note, as our final piece of advice, get a proper laptop bag with internal padding too. You won’t regret buying that, ever.

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