Purchasing a home or business laptop can be a much more confusing and sometimes frightening experience as most users today have some experience with a desktop computer but not as many have experience with a laptop, what is properly known as a portable computer. Portable computers are an excellent solution for anyone who needs to be portable and have all of their information on a small computer. Below is a listing of help and tips when considering to purchase a laptop computer.
When purchasing a computer, it is likely that you will have a general idea of what you may like in the computer or how you would like to configure the computer. Below is a listing of the various components likely to be found in a computer, and recommendations and tips when considering any of the below components.
|Battery usage||A very important consideration for any users that need to have a working laptop on the road or in the air. Verify when purchasing a portable computer how long the battery lasts. Be cautious, as many manufacturers will indicate a battery usage time but this may be at the lowest possible settings; ensure that the manufacturer clarifies what the standard battery usage life is when using the portable computer in all power modes.|
|Display||All portable computers come with a display. While it is almost always possible to hook up an external monitor when traveling with the laptop, the display is an important consideration. When looking at the display, ensure it is large enough for your needs. A very easy method of reducing the cost of the laptop is to reduce the size of the screen, unless price is an very important consideration we highly suggest that you purchase a laptop with at least a 12" or lager LCD and recommend an LCD size of 14"|
|Drives||Drives are sometimes overlooked when considering a portable computer but can be an important consideration. Portable computers can come with various drive configurations, for example:|
Finally, some users may also want to consider different media solutions. For example, many laptops allow for a standard floppy drive or an LS120 drive. The LS120 drive can read floppy diskettes and at the same time be used as a backup storage device as it can store up to 120MB on a LS120 diskette. Additionally consider the option of a DVD* or CD-RW drive as opposed to a CD-ROM drive.
*If you are considering a DVD solution, verify if the DVD comes with hardware or software decoding. Hardware decoding for laptops is accomplished by using a PCMCIA card and will add onto the overall price of the laptop.
|Hard drive||Hard drives have and always will be an important consideration to think about when purchasing a new portable computer. Like a standard computer, the hard drive will be the destination of all your files and information, and if that drive is to become full, that drive will need to be replaced or another drive will need to be added to the computer. When looking at the space of the hard drive, always get the maximum size hard drive, considering you will eventually always run out of space. |
|Lock||Does the portable computer include any locking system? If yes, what locking system is included? This can be very important for users who are on the road.|
|Memory||Memory is and has always been an important consideration when looking at purchasing a computer. Determine the amount of memory included in the computer as well as verify if that memory can be upgraded in the future. The more memory the computer has, the more efficient the computer will run.|
|Modem||If a modem is required, ensure that a modem is included with the portable computer. In addition, verify if the modem is an internal or PC-CARD (PCMCIA) modem as you may require all the available PC-CARD slots in the future. PC-CARD modems are type II that for most computers will allow for an additional type II to be connected. |
|Network card||If a network connection is required, ensure that a network card is included with the portable computer. In addition, verify if the network card is an internal or PC-CARD (PCMCIA) network card as you may require all the available PC-CARD slots in the future. Network PC-CARDs are type II that for most computers will allow for an additional type II to be connected. |
|Processor||The computer processor is and will always be an important consideration when purchasing a computer. Today, with multiple CPU/Processor manufacturers, it may be more confusing as well as more cost efficient to look at the different processors available.|
|Sound card||Sound cards are important when looking at purchasing a computer; however, the majority of all computer users will find that most standard sound cards will suit their needs. However, some users may enjoy purchasing more advanced sounds cards that will increase the amount of speakers that can be used and in some games and programs and the sound quality and capabilities.|
When looking at the sound aspect of a portable computer, many laptops do not have sufficient sound and will require external speakers or headphones. Ensure that the sound quality meets your needs.
|Weight||Weight is a very important consideration when considering a portable as the computer will be carried; the lighter the portable computer, the more easy it will be to carry.|
|Video card||Video cards are becoming an extremely important factor when purchasing a computer. While this may surprise some, a video card can make or break a computer when it comes to playing games on the computer. Most games today require additional video memory as well as special video modes such as OpenGL. With a video card with little video memory or without these modes, the computer will be unable to play these games. In addition, the advances in video cards can dramatically increase the user enjoyment of the game being played.|
When looking at purchasing a portable computer, you will likely hear different stories, some good and some bad. Regardless if the story is good or bad, these stories are always based on the experience of that user. While it may be true that the user had a bad or terrible experience with that computer, all computer manufacturers have had users who have had a bad experience and there is no such thing as a bad or perfect computer manufacturer. Below is a listing of various things to consider when purchasing a computer, and in some cases, how to tell the good from the bad and help allow you to purchase the portable computer that will suit your needs.
|Add-ons||Some computer manufacturers may try to sell additional add-ons when purchasing a portable computer. Unless you have done your research on the additional add-on, do not consider the add-on. While in some cases it may be beneficial to get a printer, scanner, camera or PC Cards with a computer, you may be paying premium for the additional add-on, or in the case of the printer, you may have to pay premium on the ink in the future. Do you research, ensure that if you get an additional hardware or add-ons that the hardware will suit your needs and that it does not end up being something that is not going to be used. |
Free add-ons? Some computer companies may entice you into purchasing a computer by giving you free add-ons. These add-ons may be advertised as free, however, ensure or ask if the add-on price is not just being added to the overall computer price.
|Documentation||While most manufacturers today are reducing the amount of documentation included with their computers, an excellent question, especially if the computer is being purchased by a new computer user, is "what documentation is included with the computer?"|
All computer manufacturers will include some paper documentation or paper inserts; however, does this information include documentation about upgrading the computer in the future? How to connect the cables to the computer? Documentation on how to use the software such as the additional included software?
Note: It is important to distinguish between paper documentation and on-line documentation. On-line documentation, which is being found more today, is information that is either locally on the computer or can be accessed via the Internet. If the information is available over the Internet, see how that information looks and if it suits your needs before purchasing the computer.
|Location||We use location to describe several different topics. First, what is the location of where the computer is purchased: If the computer is purchased at a local retail store, can the computer be returned to that store if unsatisfactory? If the computer is purchased through mail order or directly through the computer manufacturer or reseller, where can the computer be returned if unsatisfactory?|
Second, can the store location of where the computer was purchased service the computer? If not where is the closest location to where the computer can be serviced?
Third, if the computer is purchased directly from the computer manufacturer and is shipped through mail, how is it shipped? What is the time period for the computer to arrive to your destination? What happens if the computer is damaged during shipping?
|Refurbished||Refurbished is a term used to describe a computer or a hardware device or component in a computer that has been used; however, it has been looked at and determined to be in working order. However, because the product has been used or purchased, it cannot be sold as new.|
Refurbished computers will have a lower price and are a good deal for users who may not have a lot of money to spend on a new computer. It is important, however, to compare the price of the refurbished computer to a new computer as well as to review all of the tips on this page as all the same rules, tricks and tips still apply.
|Service||Service is an important consideration to look at when looking to purchase a computer, new or used. The service is how many companies describe the repair of a computer if it or a component within it is to become broken. Below is a listing of what services to look for.|
|Software||Software, for many computer users especially new users, is thought to be an important consideration when purchasing a new computer. Granted there is software that we highly recommend looking for when purchasing a computer, such as word processor or spread sheet program, some computer companies may over hype the software package. Below is a listing of what to look for when looking at the software included with a computer.|
|Upgrade ability||While this option may not be considered at first when purchasing a computer, it is an important consideration. Below is a listing of different options to look for when looking to upgrade a portable computer.|
|Warranty||Finally, what warranty is offered by the computer manufacturer? How long is the warranty? Does the warranty cover both hardware and software issues? |
Warranty can cause frustrations for most users. We highly recommend that a computer only be considered if it has at least a one-year warranty. Many cheap computers will only come with a 90 day warranty; meaning if a part goes bad, you will have to pay for the part as well as the service. This may not be an issue for users who just need a cheap computer and are willing to replace parts and service the computer.
Unfortunately, like anything, it is possible to be tricked or for computer companies to scam you. Below is a listing of what to look for when purchasing a computer.
- Get what you pay for - Ensure that the product you are purchasing is what you are paying for. It has been known that computer companies may list a processor being a specific speed but may actually have a different speed into the computer. This, unfortunately, can be very easy as any user can 'over clock' a processor, making it appear as one speed but in reality being a completely different speed. For example, you may buy a 733MHz processor but instead get a 500MHz.
To determine the processor speed, open the computer and look at the processor itself. Do not look at the processor through a software program or through BIOS as these values can be changed or tricked.
- Legal software - When purchasing a computer, ensure it comes with legal software. Many end-users or small computer companies who build or sell computers may not provide you with legal copies of the software, which is illegal. Verify that the software that came with your computer is on a standard CD and not a burnt CD. A burnt or home-made CD will be a different looking CD and have a gold or green bottom. Ensure that if the software requires a license or registration number that it was included with the computer. An example of software that includes these certificates is Microsoft Office and Windows.