Laptop Buying Guide – Part 1

Have you been thinking about getting a new computer and maybe you’re leaning more toward a laptop? Well, if you are and you’re wondering some comparisons, different types, etc., this tip is for you. This is a two part tip all about laptops. It will give you some helpful information about laptops and it help you know what to look for when you go shopping for one. Today we’ll discuss different uses for laptops, different types of laptops, sizes and memory and screen options. Make sure you read tomorrow for even more information on laptops!

Which laptop is right for me?

Home User:

Home users are increasingly turning to notebooks as second or third PCs for the home. Notebooks can offer similar performance and features to those of a desktop PC and they can be easily moved from room to room. Two types of notebooks are suitable for home users: mainstream notebooks and desktop replacements.


Students and others on a tight budget should look for a laptop that delivers the most bang for the buck. In particular, students need a notebook that is small and light enough to lug back and forth across campus, but rugged enough to withstand bouncing around in a backpack.

Frequent Flier:

If you spend a lot of time on the road, size and weight are the two most critical factors in choosing a new notebook, even if it means sacrificing a little on performance and features. The smallest and lightest notebooks are called ultraportables. They weigh less than four pounds and are no thicker than a spiral-bound notebook.

Business Power User:

If you rely on the same notebook at work, at home and on the road, you need a well-balanced system. It also has to deliver the performance to keep up with a wide range of applications. A thin and light laptop is just the ticket.

Multimedia Author or Gamer:

If you demand more from a notebook, you’ll need a true desktop replacement. Whether you’re designing a Web site, editing home movies or mowing down aliens, your notebook will demand a powerful processor, plenty of memory, great graphics and a healthy hard drive.

How do I find the right fit?

Laptops come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, appearances, and prices, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find exactly what you’re looking for that will meet all your needs.

Take a look at the table below to learn more about what each type of laptop has to offer, each with its own set of pros and cons.


4 pounds or less.
Less than 1 inch thick.

Smaller than 12 inches (diagonal).

Slower low voltage mobile processor.

LAN, modem, WiFi, Bluetooth (optional), cellular (optional).

Fewer ports and connections, 30 GB to 60 GB hard drive. Small keyboard and touchpad. May lack an internal optical drive.
Thin and Light
4 to 6 pounds.
Approximately 1 inch thick.
12 to 14 inches (diagonal), possible wide screen.

Midrange to fast mobile processors.

LAN, modem, WiFi, Bluetooth (optional).

Most ports and connections 40 to 80 GB hard drive, optical drive. Small keyboard and touchpad.
6 to 8 pounds.
More than 1 inch thick.
14 to 15 inches (diagonal), widescreen.

Slow or budget to fast mobile processors.

LAN, modem, WiFi.

Most ports and connections 40 to 80 GB hard drive, DVD burner, memory card reader, decent software package. Less attractive, may suffer from mediocre performance and poor battery life.
7.5 pounds or more.
er 1 inch thick.
15 to 17 inches diagonal.

Fast mobile or desktop processors, dual core processors.

LAN, modem, WiFi.

Wide array of ports and connection, 80 GB to 120 GB hard drive, double layer DVD burner. Large keyboard, separate number pad, large touchpad, batteries not designed for lengthy mobile use.
Tablet PC
Usually four pounds or less, with some slates weighing as little as 2 pounds, some larger laptops incorporate tablet functionality.
Less than 1 inch thick.
12 inches or smaller (diagonal) or smaller digitized display.

Moderate mobile processors.

LAN, modem, WiFi, Bluetooth (optional).

Fewer ports and connection. 30 GB to 60 GB hard drive. Microsoft XP tablet edition OS, hand writing recognition software.


Ultraportables: Start at $1500. Fully loaded: $2000 and up.

Thin and Light: Start at $1000. Fully loaded: $1500 and up.

Midsize: Start at $500. Fully loaded: $1500 and up.

Desktop Replacement: Start at $1000. Fully loaded: $1500 and up.

Tablet PC: Start at $1000 and go up to $2000.


Every computer comes with a certain amount of physical memory. It is usually referred to as main memory or RAM (random-access memory). This area of computers is used to store currently running applications and data. To find out how much memory you’ll need, take into account your operating system and the applications that you plan to use. A general rule of thumb: You’ll need 256 MB for Windows XP or Mac OS X and at least 128 MB for all other Windows and Mac operating systems.

If you’re planning to hang on to your notebook for a long time, look for a laptop with easy access memory slots, as memory is typically one of the first specs you’ll want to upgrade.

Display Size:

Unlike traditional desktop CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitors, notebooks ship with thin, liquid-crystal displays (LCDs). Notebook LCDs range in size from 12.1 inches (diagonal) to 17 inches. For comfortable viewing at the preferred Windows resolution of 1024×768, most people like 14.1 inch or larger LCDs.

The ultraportable Fujitsu LifeBook P series has one of the smallest screens. It’s just 10.6 inches, enabling it to accommodate its feather light, 3.1 pound weight.

The giant 17 inch Apple PowerBook, on the other hand, has the biggest notebook screen we’ve ever seen.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to read the second half of the laptop buying guide!

~ Shantala Ramamoorthy