How to Buy a Laptop


The laptop market has undergone major changes in the last few years, and there may be more confusion in the notebook aisle today than at any other time. The current selection of mobile PCs encompasses everything from featherweight ultrabooks that barely tip the scales at less than 2 pounds, to lap-crushing behemoths of 10 pounds or more.
The look of a typical laptop has undergone a transformation, with dozens of convertible designs that rethink the standard clamshell to take advantage of touch interfaces. Some systems double as tablets, with hinges that bend and fold, while other touch PCs are actually slate tablets that come with accessory keyboards for laptop-style use. There’s simply too much variety in the notebook space for one size or style to fit every person’s needs.
That’s where this buying guide comes in. We’ll brief you on all the newest styles and features, and parse the latest buzzwords and trends, helping you figure out which features you want, and how to find the laptop that’s right for you.
Ultrabooks and Ultraportables
Walk down any laptop aisle and you’ll notice that the selection has gotten dramatically thinner and sleeker. Intel has spent the last few years pushing ultrabooks, a breed of laptop that combines svelte, lightweight designs with the latest energy-efficient hardware and long-lasting batteries to produce a system that delivers productivity with the sort of portability that old bulky clamshell designs could never offer.
Ultrabooks took the ultraportable category and refined it with industry-wide standards governing everything from boot times to chassis thickness—no more than 22mm (0.79 inch) thick for units with screens smaller than 14 inches. Dubbed ultrabooks, these wafer-thin systems represent a new vision for portable computing, a no-compromises laptop light enough that you’ll forget it’s in your briefcase, whose battery and storage let it resume work in seconds after being idle or asleep for days. Solid-state drives (SSD)—whether a full 128GB or 256GB SSD or, more affordably, a small one used as a cache with a traditional hard drive—give ultrabooks their quick start and resume capabilities. In the last year, these slim portable systems have gone from being the exception to being the rule, with dozens of new ultrabooks offered by every major PC manufacturer.
Most importantly, the slim designs ushered in by the push for ultrabooks has resulted in a general slimming down of the entire laptop category. Whether you’re looking at ultraportables that are carefully designed to be sliver thin, or mainstream PCs and even gaming machines, the entire laptop category is thinner, lighter, and better suited to life on the go. The best of these ultraportables will still cost you a pretty penny, but the performance they offer is remarkable, and they often come with several high-end features to boot. The Acer Aspire S7-392-6411$1,540.99 at, for example, is only a half-inch thick, yet still manages to offer a 1080p touch screen, a full-size HDMI port, and more than 8 hours of battery life. The similarly long-lasting Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus$1,149.00 at ABT takes things even further, with an astonishing 3,200-by-1,800 resolution screen.
Windows 8 and Touch
The most dramatic change to come to the PC in the last couple of years is Windows 8. If you haven’t spent anytime with a new Windows PC of late, you may be a bit disoriented by the new interface that’s focused on touch-based interaction. Windows 8 is meant to bridge the gap between laptops and tablets. It does that by introducing a new navigation scheme, a tile-based Start Screen that replaces the traditional Start Menu, and an app-friendly software environment. There’s more to Windows 8 than can be addressed in this buying guide, but the bottom line is that new operating system has brought touch interface to the forefront. As a result, the majority of new PCs also feature a touch screen, and those that don’t will have features in place to provide similar functionality.
If you’re in the market for a Windows 8 laptop, a touch screen is highly recommended. Even entry-level models, like the Acer Aspire E1-510P-2671 £362.89 at Amazon or the Toshiba Satellite NB15t-A1304, feature touch displays, and the Windows 8 user experience is dramatically more intuitive when using it with touch input. The one area where you won’t see many touch screens is among gaming machines, where touch would potentially interfere with the precision control schemes needed on the gaming grid.
Hybrid Laptop Designs
This emphasis on touch has done more than encourage the adoption of touch screens. In a further effort to enter the tablet market while still meeting the needs of laptop buyers, a new category of laptop/tablet hybrid has emerged. These new convertible hybrid laptop designs can transform from laptop to tablet and back again, some by way of specialized folding hinges, like the flip-and-fold hinge of the HP Pavilion x360 or the innovative Ezel hinge of the Acer Aspire R7-572-6423.
Other systems allow you to dock a tablet PC with an accessory keyboard for laptop-like functionality, like the Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB) $349.99 at Amazon, or the Sony VAIO Tap 11 $585.99 at Amazon. Some of these hybrid designs offer docking keyboards, with secondary batteries providing all-day charge, while others opt for Bluetooth keyboards, forgoing the bulk of a docking hinge and connecting wirelessly.
Mainstream and Premium
While the entire laptop category has gotten slimmer, there’s still a market for the desktop replacement and laptops that blend premium design and function. Desktop replacements aren’t quite as portable as smaller ultrabooks, but these 14- and 15-inch laptops offer everything you need for day-to-day computing. Systems like the Acer Aspire V3-772G-9460 $1,162.54 at Amazon offer larger displays, a broader selection of ports and features, and are one of the few categories that still come with built-in optical drives.
While many PC manufacturers have moved en masse to the ultrabook category, Apple hasn’t abandoned the desktop replacement, with the ultra-high-resolution display of the Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2013)£1,259.99 at Amazon becoming the new standard for high-quality graphics. This sort of 1080p+ display is also showing up in Windows laptops, like the Dell XPS 15 (9530)$1,999.99 at Dell, which boasts an astonishing 3,200-by-1,800 resolution screen and premium carbon fiber construction.
Media and Gaming
There has been a lot of hand wringing among industry experts and pundits over the last several months as laptop and desktop sales have started to decline, and tablet sales have expanded to fill the gap, but gaming PCs have actually sold more. For the gamer who wants top-of-the-line performance, the combination of a high-end processor, a potent discrete graphics card, and a large, high-resolution display is well worth the higher prices that gaming rigs frequently command. And, boy, do those prices run high—for instance, the Origin EON17-SLX (2014)$1,944.00 at Origin PC is priced over $3,500, and even entry-level gaming systems like the MSI GX70 3Be-007US$1,187.50 at Amazon will cost $1,400 or more.
Before you drop a grand or two on a gaming laptop, however, you should know what you’re getting for your money. Powerful quad-core processors are par for the course, with Intel Core i7 and AMD A10 chips pushing serious performance even for non-gaming applications. Discrete GPUs from Nvidia and AMD provide silky smooth graphics and impressive framerates. The Origin EON17-SLX has two GPUs, helping justify its high price tag. Additional features to watch for include high-resolution displays offering 1080p resolution or better, and hard drives that offer 1TB or more of local storage space, letting you store your entire game library on the machine.
Not all gaming laptops are hulking beasts, however. The sleek designs of ultrabooks have given rise to a new breed of portable gaming machine that puts gaming-level performance into a more portable design. These gaming ultraportables, like the Razer Blade (2013) $1,999.00 at Amazon, draw inspiration from ultrabooks, and offer the same sort of thin dimensions and long-lasting battery life. But, just like other gaming rigs, this sort of performance doesn’t come cheap, with gaming ultraportables running in the $2,000 range.

Source :,2817,2356818,00.asp

One response to “How to Buy a Laptop

  1. Pingback: Just Pondering Part 812 | Renard Moreau Presents·

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