What specs should a new laptop buyer look for?

Drsunil V August 30, 2014
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Which “unapparent” specifications should a laptop buyer be aware of? I’d like to avoid disappointment after buying a new laptop.

To illustrate my question, the average man buying laptops does not know about specifications like processor strength , Random Access Memory, battery life, processor cores, screen resolution, internal storage, et al.

I write “unapparent” because these specifications are neither specified in promos nor is the average man aware of such technical details. The average person usually buys based on screen size, company profile and hype. So what should I look out for when buying a laptop?

  1. Hovsep A
    September 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    An average person should first ask the question, why i am buying a laptop and for which purpose? in order to avoid surprise that person should aim high specification, in these days SSD hard drive is important so tha laptop should be equipped with one ssd hard drive and one normal hard drive, i think hp dv7 laptops do have dual hard drive but not hp DV6, G6, M6, M7 , but you can add a second hard drive to your HP Pavilion G7 Series laptop using your laptop's optical drive bay.
    http://www.newmodeus.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=459

    • Sunil
      September 4, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks. Laptop for everyday use..surfing , multimedia ( not gaming ). Please tell , is it true that these days Random Access Memory less than 4 GB is below par?

    • Hovsep A
      September 4, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Windows 8.1 System requirements
      http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/system-requirements
      RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
      there is always a minimum requirements but depending on usage 4 GB is the good number

    • Dalsan M
      September 5, 2014 at 9:24 am

      In general, especially with how difficult it can be to upgrade RAM in newer laptop models, it is better to go with 4GB of memory than 2GB. Performance would be better with at least 3GB, the cost would not be much higher (buying a 4GB module or two 2GB modules of DDR3 RAM costs more now than it did over a year and a half ago), and would help with making the laptop more future resistant as programs become more demanding. If you have used Google Chrome over the past few years, you would definitely notice how resource hungry this browser had become, especially when adding extensions and plugins.

      Also, almost all consumer operating systems are being pushed to 64 bit rather than 32 bit since better performance and larger amounts of data can be processed at once, and more programs are moving to 64 bit as a preference. 64 bit also allows for the full 4GB or more of installed RAM to be recognized and used, though there is system reserved RAM that usually is used for integrated graphics processing. If one can afford it, higher processor speed and higher amount of installed RAM is better.

    • Drsunil V
      September 6, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Thanks to both. I agree ( "4 GB is the good number" ) that 4 GB is not only cost-efficient but also performance-efficient keeping mind the trend and tendency of programs compatibility with 64-bit architecture.

    • Hovsep A
      September 6, 2014 at 10:19 am

      by now new windows versions should be able to play well with 4gb and 64-bit architecture also applications, concerning video editors they go well with nvidia cuda

  2. Dalsan M
    September 2, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    For Intel Core "i" series processors, the number corresponds to the level of performance. i3 is budget/low end, i5 is mid-end, and i7 is high end. In order to tell the difference in the generations of processors, one must look at the three or four-digit number following the Core "i" series number, as in Core i3 2350M. The first digit, starting with the serving generation processor, is the generation number, the numbers following this are the SKU numbers, abd the letter is the processor type, in this case, mobile processor. The first generation Core "i" series used three digit numbers, such as the Core i3 350M.

    There are other things to consider are the letters that follow the processor number since it will let you know if the processor is a quad core, high performance, ultra low voltage, etc. More information can be found here: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processors/processor-numbers.html.

    The processor speed in GHz would be the main indicator of performance, but the level 1, level 2, and so on, cache size as well as bus speed would have its part in performance and speed, as well. This is why some processors with the same GHz speed may perform worse that others. However, instruction sets and how the processor is coded to process everything can also influence performance and speed, which is why Intel processors perform better in compute processing than AMD processors, even if the AMD processor has a higher GHz speed.

    As far as number of cores versus generations in terms of speed, I'm not clear on what you are asking. The higher the core count, the better the ability to multitask, so long as there is sufficient RAM. A dual core second generation processor versus a quad core third generation processor, the quad core may perform better as long as the GHz is the same or higher for the quad core, but the difference may not be very noticeable except during heavy processing with multiple processes. If the dual core processor has higher GHz speed, then in most cases it would faster than a quad core. Remember that most times programs are coded only to use a single processor core, some programs can use two cores. More than two cores being used is rare in a single program. This is why a dual core processor with a speed of 2.5GHz or more will beat a quad core or higher processor that runs at 2.2GHz or lower most of the time, only when heavy multitasking well the quad core perform better...possibly. There are many other factors involved, such as instruction sets if there are any changes, L1 and other L cache differences, and if there are any graphics processing differences and the programs can use the graphics processing. In general, I would go for higher GHz over more cores, especially for basic or moderate computer needs.

    • Sunil
      September 4, 2014 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks. Your expertise in Info technology is great

  3. Dalsan M
    August 31, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    An average user, one that browses the internet, creates and edits word documents, occasionally streams videos and music, and possibly does very light gaming such as on Facebook, would only need a dual core processor from within the post 5 years. The latest 4th generation "i" series Haswell Intel processors are beyond the requirements of general users, but helps with furthering the lifespan of the computer by being a little more future-resistant. For budget-minded users, a system with an AMD A6 or better APU/processor would be recommended due to the better performing graphics processing. However, if compute processing power is something one wants more than graphics processing power, a newer generation Intel Pentium or 2nd to 3rd generation i3 processor would be better. Dual core processors would be sufficient for general use, along with having around 4GB RAM installed.

    The processors to stay away from so that there would not be as much disappointment would be the Intel Celeron and AMD "C" and "E" series processors as these are very slow, low budget processors that belong in netbooks or Chromebooks. Even if one were to have 8GB of RAM or more on these systems, Windows would be slow, stutter often, and leave many users frustrated on having to wait while opening programs or even switching between programs.

    Dual core processors offer better multitasking performance, especially as there are many background processes and services running whether the user opens and uses a program or not. Quad core processors would offer slightly better performance for basic users, but would be more noticeable in situations where there is heavier processing loads. The extra cost for quad core processors may not be worthwhile for basic users. The same with more than 4GB of RAM; more does not mean much better beyond 3-4GB of RAM. If more than 2GB of RAM remains free, it isn't really wasted, but the cost for the extra RAM could have been saved. However, in cases that the computer supports dual channel memory, two RAM sticks must be the same speed and size (and generally the same brand and series) in order to use the performance gains. The performance gains would be slight, though.

    Hard drive size and speed matters. The higher the RPM a hard drive has, the better the performance. The issue is lower lifespan, more heat generated, and more power consumption. Generally, 7200RPM drives offers a decent compromise of speed and power consumption without creating too much heat, lowering battery life, and letting the lifespan. In general, one should never allow the hard drive to have less than 20% free space or else the performance of the computer would suffer.

    An SSD (solid state drive) would offer greater performance at the cost of storage capacity, especially with the price per GB over a regular hard drive. Heat generation is virtually non-existent and power consumption is very little compared to hard drives, but there is limited read and write cycles, which may be less than regular hard drives. The best balance for lifespans, heat generation, power consumption, and performance would be SSHD hybrids (solid state-hard drive hybrid combinations) since it has a small solid state module for caching files and a 5400RPM hard drive for main storage. The lower RPM generates less heat and extends the lifespan of the drive while using lower amounts of power, and allows for large storage capacities.

    As far as the different generations of processors, there are some performance gains or other changes to provide a better experience for users. The instruction sets are the bigger parts of the updates processors, as well as upgrade graphics processing power, lower heat generation, power consumption, and other updates. Newer does not mean better, though. The Haswell processors offer power consumption savings and les heat generation, but does not really offer a speed upgrade over the previous generation processor. Unless battery life matters more, the third generation "i" processor may be better performing. The same goes for AMD APU series processors; less heat, but not really a better speed upgrade between the latest generation and the previous generation APUs.

    • Drsunil V
      September 2, 2014 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing your amazing expertise on this topic. Please tell ,

      a) Is i3 implies 3rd generation processor , i4 ~ fourth generation processor. If yes , what means that i2 is forlow-end machines and i5 for high end machines? and what is use of generation of processor vis-a-vis it's strength , say 2 GHZ

      b) Which is faster : Quadcore or 3rd Generation

  4. Ben S
    August 30, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    We've written plenty of articles on this topic:

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-buy-a-laptop-or-notebook/

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/basic-computer-terms-shopping-pc/

    http://www.makeuseof.com/downloads/guides/Laptop-Buying-Guide.pdf

    http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-avoid-shopping-laptop/

    In the case of RAM, for example, you want enough to future-proof your machine. If you're buying a new Windows-based computer, 4GB should be fine for the average person. Any lower than that and you're behind the times.

    Read what we've written and you'll have a much better idea. There's no need for me to re-iterate all of it.

    • Drsunil V
      August 31, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Thanks. I overviewingly read all four links with care. Please tell

      a) Which are the reputed brands in laptops? ( like how in mobile phones , nokia apple and samsung have built reputation )

      b) Is there a recent filter webservice to choose laptops based on specs?

      c) Are there laptops with sim card slot for 3G access?

    • Drsunil V
      August 31, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Please also tell , what does second / third / fourth generation processor with terms like PDC / FDC mean?

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