Why buy a laptop?
With so many options for portable computing why would you buy a new laptop? Wouldn’t you be better off with a shiny new tablet PC or even a smartphone? Well, it depends what you want to use the device for.
For prolonged use, whether that be work, study or play, you will need a laptop computer.
Laptops have fixed keyboards, bigger screens and more power. In short they are easier to work on than other portable devices. And, with today’s incredibly lightweight designs, they are easy to carry around with you.
Which is of course also the reason why so many users are turning away from desktop PCs. They take up so much space.
If you want a space saving computer you can use for the basic tasks of internet browsing, email and watching videos as well as running more complex software and applications – a laptop computer is the PC for you. Now you just need to choose the one which will suit you best.
There is a huge variety to choose from. Picking one isn’t easy but we can help by narrowing down the options for you. First of all let’s look at the different kinds of laptop computer.
Types of laptop computer
Rather confusingly a laptop can also be referred to as a notebook but shouldn’t be confused with netbooks. Netbooks are smaller, lighter computers typically with a ten inch screen and are not usually classed as laptops. However, even more confusingly, there are also convertible and 2 in 1 laptops.
A convertible is a full specification laptop that has a screen which can be rotated and manoeuvred to act as a tablet.
You will also find 2 in 1 laptops. These have a detachable keyboard to convert the device into a tablet. Though not hugely popular they do utilise touchscreen technology.
What kind of laptop are you looking for?
We won’t all need the same type of PC and there are probably four ‘groups’ of laptop you will consider:
If you are price conscious or just want a basic PC there are some excellent low cost laptops to choose from. You could consider one of the lower specification Acer or Asus models or look at a Chromebook.
Students too will find plenty of laptops ideally suited for carrying out coursework that won’t break the bank.
Many families will have a laptop which everyone uses. This is a great idea but of course it needs to be able to meet the demands of everyone who uses it. Look for a light model which can be easily carried around the house.
You will need a choice of connectivity on the machine so smartphones, printers and cameras can be easily attached either by USB or wirelessly. Also consider the latest Intel or AMD processer to allow multitasking and streaming of video.
Business or Desktop replacement
Higher grade laptops can easily become a replacement for a desktop machine. Whether you need the PC for work or study, a high-specification laptop will allow you to write and edit text, create presentations and run intensive applications.
Busy executives, creative professionals and designers will need a machine with the fastest processors, graphics cards, and plenty of storage.
If you want to play the latest games on your laptop you will be wise to consider a specialist gaming laptop. They are equipped with top of the line processors, ultra-fast graphics and HD or 4K displays.
Unsurprisingly they are more expensive than other laptops but to handle high-end 3D games you will need a PC capable of delivering a powerful performance.
Which operating system should you choose?
You do have a few options here. The main choice is between Windows and OS X (Apple). But you could also choose either Chrome or Ubuntu. Let’s examine the options a little more closely.
The most popular option by far. As you would expect the majority of laptops are powered by Windows. This makes the laptop easy to use as most of us are very familiar with how Windows works.
Most laptops will come with Windows 10 pre-installed though some may still be available with earlier versions of Windows.
The Apple operating system is only found on MacBook’s. Creative professionals tend to favour Apple laptops though plenty of other users enjoy using the OS X operating system.
Google’s operating system can be found on the Chromebooks produced by manufacturers such as HP, Acer, and Samsung. For surfing the internet or basic word processing these low cost computers are ideal but many users will find a Chromebook too restrictive.
This open source Linux based system is popular with users who wish to break away from Windows. A very different experience from Windows, Ubuntu is in many respects an ideal operating system for a novice and for use on low cost laptops.
Few laptops are supplied with this operating system installed but you can learn more about Ubuntu and download the latest version here.
Even having decided upon the type of laptop you want and the operating system you will use there is still a bewildering array of PCs to choose from. But you can easily narrow down your choices by looking at the features on each device.
Don’t worry if you aren’t fully up to date with techie speak – we’ll explain everything here or scroll down the page for a look at our jargon buster.
Size is probably the first thing we look at when considering a new laptop. Generally speaking, the smaller the screen the more portable the PC.
Laptops usually come with the following screen sizes:
11 – 12 inches. The smallest have these screens and are very easy to carry around. These ultra-portable laptops are not really suitable for using over extended periods and this size of screen may simply be too small for many users.
13 inches. A very popular size and the smallest screen which can be comfortably viewed and worked on all day long. Easily portable these laptops can be taken with you wherever you go.
14 – 16 inches. The middle ground including the traditional and still very popular 15” screen. Not that easy to carry around every day but perfect if you want a larger display.
17 – 18 inches. The largest laptops and of course the heaviest. Because of their size much more power can be packed into the computer. Laptops of this size tend to be used as desktop replacements, saving space whilst remaining in the same position.
No matter the size of the screen you still need the picture or display to be as sharp as possible. The sharpness, or resolution, of the display is determined by the number of pixels – the more the better.
1366 x 768 is a resolution often found in laptops but if a PC with a higher resolution is within your budget you will certainly notice the difference when watching movies or playing games. A full HD display (1920 x 1080) is now found on many laptops with 4K also available.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the power which drives the laptop. The CPU reads and processes data and the faster it can do that the faster the machine and the software will run. In a laptop you will find either an Intel or AMD processor.
You have no doubt seen their TV adverts and Intel processors can be found in many laptops.
Look out for the latest and fastest generation of CPU’s. To spot which generation an Intel processor belongs to look at its model number. This will begin with its generation number. For example, a 6th generation i5 Intel processor would look like this – i5-6300M 2.6GHz.
The processor determines how efficient the computer is and the more you want the computer to achieve the faster the processor it will need.
For entry level PCs an i3 processor will be sufficient. More complex tasks require more power so look for an i5 model. Gaming laptops and those used for intensive applications such as video editing will require an i7 processor.
Higher-specification laptops and ultrabooks may have an Intel M processor. This is a cool running processor so can be used in very slim profile laptops as cooling fans aren’t required.
You may also see an Atom processor in some lower specification laptops and tablet PCs. You may wish to avoid laptops which have Pentium or Celeron processors though they are fine for very basic tasks.
Some laptops will have an AMD processor. Like Intel AMD have released a new version of their CPU known as the A Series. Look out for A4, A6, A8, A10 and A12 processors with A12 being the fastest.
Memory / RAM
You don’t have to worry too much about RAM. Most laptops will have 4GB or 8GB of RAM which is usually more than enough though high-end users may want to look for 16GB.
Hard Drive / SSD
A hard drive stores all the data used by the computer. In a laptop you will either find a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) or a newer and lighter solid state drive (SSD).
An SSD is much faster than a HDD but tends to have a lower storage capacity and is also more expensive. If speed is important to you than an SSD would be the wise choice but, if you intend to store large numbers of videos or other media files, a large capacity HDD would be the better choice.
Although the basic design of all laptops is pretty much the same – they have a lid and fixed keyboard – they do differ significantly from model to model. You will find different colours, some will have a much slimmer profile and others, usually gaming laptops, may have backlit keyboards.
You may also see different materials being used for the case, and the layout of the keyboard and touchpad can vary between PCs.
When it comes to design you pay your money and you take your choice. But, it is worthwhile making sure you like the look of your new laptop as you will be spending plenty of time in its company.
Keyboard & Touchpad
Although most laptops have a keyboard which uses the standard QWERTY layout the size, style and number of keys will vary. Many PCs will have a full-size keyboard but the more compact laptops will have smaller keys and will omit some function keys.
All laptops have a touchpad (a finger controlled device which acts as a mouse) but some will have bigger and more responsive pads. Lenovo laptops may also have a pointing stick which is set into the middle of the keyboard.
The portability of a laptop depends on its weight. Obviously the lighter it is the easier it will be to carry around all day. Generally speaking the larger the screen the heavier the computer and a laptop with a screen over 16” is usually intended to stay in the same place rather than be carried around.
That said however, there are now some incredibly lightweight laptops and companies like Apple and Dell have led the way in creating ultra-portable computers.
Check the specifications of each laptop for its weight but a rough guide is below (don’t forget you will also have to take into account the added weight of the laptop bag and charging unit):
- 1.8kg or less = ultra-light
- 1.9 – 2.26kg = light and easy to carry
- 2.7 – 3.00kg = portable
- 3.01 – 4.00kg = uncomfortable to carry for extended periods
- 4.01kg and above = desktop replacement rather than a PC to carry around
Many laptop computers now have touchscreen technology. We are familiar with using touch on our smartphones and tablet PCs but more laptops are now being produced with this technology.
Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with all the technical speak used in product descriptions. The most common acronyms and phrases are explained below along with answers to many of the common questions we receive about the laptops we sell here at Ebuyer.
What is a laptop?
A laptop is a portable computer with a fixed screen and keyboard.
What is a notebook computer?
Notebook is simply another name for laptop and can be used interchangeably.
What is a 2 in 1 laptop?
A 2 in 1 laptop has a detachable keyboard. The display can then be used as a standalone touchscreen tablet PC.
What is a convertible laptop?
Unlike a 2 in 1 model a convertible laptop has a screen which is rotated (but not detached) to become a tablet PC.
What is a netbook?
Not usually classed as a laptop a netbook is a smaller lightweight device usually with a screen size of 10 inches.
What is an operating system?
This is the software that manages the computer. Most laptops run Windows but Apple machines use OS X.
What is a Chromebook?
A Chromebook is a laptop which runs on the Google Chrome operating system
What is a desktop replacement?
A high-specification laptop which eliminates the need for a separate desktop PC. Desktop replacement laptops usually have a large 18” screen.
What is screen resolution?
Screen resolution is displayed as pixels, for example 1366 x 768. The basic rule here is the more pixels there are the sharper the image will be. In practice most non-HD laptops have a screen resolution of 1366 x 768.
What is a HD screen?
A laptop with a full-HD screen display will have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and will be able to display HD movies and games.
How is screen size measured?
A laptop screen is measured diagonally from the bottom left corner to the top right corner and not horizontally left to right.
How heavy is a laptop?
This of course varies between models. But they are becoming lighter every year as technology improves. Some laptops will omit an optical drive to help reduce weight.
What is a hard drive?
This is where all data is stored. The bigger the drive the more data it can store. Look for at least a 500GB capacity.
What is a SATA drive?
You may see SATA before the hard drive and optical drive in a laptop’s list of specifications. SATA is simply the interface used to connect the drive to the computer.
What is RAM memory?
RAM stands for Random Accessed Memory and is where the data used by applications is temporarily stored. A PC with insufficient memory will not be able to cope with complex tasks such as media streaming. Most laptops will have 4GB or 8GB of RAM as standard.
What is an optical drive?
This is the extra drive used for reading and recording most commonly a DVD drive. Be aware that not all laptops will have an optical drive.
What is a computer processor?
The processor is the brains of the computer. Most processors will be at least dual-core meaning they can process multiple tasks. The fasted processors will be quad-core.
What is a touchpad?
The touchpad is basically a built-in mouse and performs the same functions.
What are computer interfaces?
Interfaces are the connections / ports available on the laptop for connecting external devices. The common ones you will see are:
- USB – the majority of devices such as printers, cameras and external hard drives will connect via USB.
- HDMI – An extremely useful port. It can transfer uncompressed audio and video which means you can use it to connect your laptop to your TV and watch online content on your big screen television.
- VGA – The Video Graphics Array port can be used to connect your laptop to a monitor.
- RJ45 – The port for the Ethernet cable. RJ45 refers to the connector on each end of the cable.
- DisplayPort – Similar to HDMI but the DisplayPort can be used on more than one device. For example you can connect two monitors simultaneously to your laptop.
- Microphone in – as you would expect this is the port into which you plug a microphone if needed.
- Headphones out – again this pretty self-explanatory. If you wish to use headphones you plug the jack into this port.
What is an Ethernet port?
If you want to connect your laptop to the internet without using Wi-Fi you can choose to plug a cable from your router into the Ethernet port (also referred to as RJ45).
How long does a laptop battery last?
This very much depends on the model and can vary from a few hours to fourteen or more for top of the range machines.
What does WLAN mean?
WLAN stands for Wireless Local Access Network and means your laptop can connect wirelessly to a router. You may see WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n in the product description. Don’t worry about this as 802 is simply the networking standard.
What is a webcam?
Most laptops will have a webcam. This is a camera built into the computer which enables the user to chat online or record videos.
How do I connect my laptop to the internet?
You have two options here. Most will connect wirelessly or you can get online via an Ethernet cable which connects your laptop to a router.
Does a laptop have speakers?
Your laptop will have a sound card and built-in speakers. However, for listening to music or movies you should connect some external speakers. This is easily done by plugging the speakers into the headphones out plug or many speakers now connect via USB or wirelessly.
What is the difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0?
Laptops may now have a mix of USB 2.0 and 3.0 or 3.1 ports. 3.1 is the latest version of USB and is much faster than 2.0. Both versions are compatible so a USB 3.1 device can be connected to a USB 2.0 device and vice-versa.
Can I use an SD card with my laptop?
If you have a digital camera or other portable device it is possible to use your SD card with your laptop. Some computers will have a micro SD slot but, for those which don’t, you can use a SD card adapter which connects via USB. This adapter will have to be purchased separately.
Do laptops have Bluetooth?
Many new models will have Bluetooth connectivity and will be able to connect to similar devices. Check the laptops spec for confirmation of this.