What questions should I ask when buying a laptop?


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When purchasing laptops there are many options that need to be considered before signing on the dotted line. To help narrow down the process here are some helpful key factors to consider when making your purchase decision: What type of laptop do you need? This will depend on how familiar you are with laptops and what you will be using it for. Do you need a desktop replacement? 

If so, then you will likely want to look at desktops, otherwise the portable options are more manageable. What does your software need dictate? Make sure that all of your required programs (office, Adobe Illustrator etc.) run on whatever laptop you choose. For instance if you have Microsoft Office 2010, make sure that the newest version of office is supported by whatever laptop you buy. Needed storage space and memory? Laptops can range from small netbooks which typically only have 32gigs or less internal storage to high end gaming laptops with 1tb+ hard drives and up to 32gb or more memory. 

Will this machine be reliable enough to last you a year or longer? Check reviews and make sure that the machine’s quality is on par with its price range. Buying an expensive, high end machine doesn’t mean it will run better than a lower level machine if they both have the same specs for memory and hard drive space. 

Ask yourself ‘will this laptop hold up over time?’ If buying for college students, go for something sturdy enough to withstand being thrown in and out of backpacks daily. Will you need an optical drive? This can be eliminated by investing in some sort of external storage unit, but not all programs are available online so some people still rely on their laptop having one built-in. 

Do you need bluetooth connectivity? yes, then look for laptops that have a bluetooth option. Do you need to connect your laptop to your TV? If so, then you will want to make sure the machine is equipped with an available HDMI port as this is used for connecting laptops and computers to TVs wirelessly or through HDMI cable. 

What are you going to use it for?

This is the most important question.  You should have a definite answer to this, not just “I want one”.  Examples of common uses are: word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, photo and music editing, multimedia entertainment such as streaming video from sites like YouTube or Netflix (or gaming…), programming/coding, some casual web surfing (a bit more than your average tablet) with the occasional email check.

Choosing Your Operating System

If you just plan on using it for the most basic of tasks–word processing, emailing, and Web browsing–you can get away with Windows 8.1 (the non-RT version).  However if there’s any sort of need for more advanced features, a Mac is the way to go.  Macs are also known for longevity (more below).

What you really want is a Chromebook (provided your needs fall within their capabilities), which comes with its own operating system called Chrome OS. Most media consumption and basic production can be done on these things virtually hassle free, without the worry of malware/viruses that plague Windows users.

Will it make or break my life if I don’t have this particular model?

For example, do you NEED to play games like Call of Duty or Diablo III? Or will World of Warcraft fulfill all your needs in that respect?  Do you need something with high screen resolution…you probably won’t even notice the difference on a 1366×768 laptop.

What are your priorities?  Do you want portability over performance?  Do you want something cheap to get by with until you can afford a much better one with the same specs (save your money), or do you want the best of everything regardless of price (spend all your money)?

How much are you willing to spend and what’s important to you in terms of key features/performance?

The bare minimum that most people would accept is an Intel i-series processor (Intel Core i3, i5, or i7). For Windows laptops, choose at least 4 GB RAM and 500+ GB HDD (faster speeds if 7200 rpm), most laptops nowadays come with 128 GB or more SSD storage which is lightning fast, but they’ll cost a lot more.

Does size matter?

A laptop’s screen size can range from 10″ all the way up to 17″.  If you need to do any sort of multitasking or work on documents/spreadsheets, go for something at least a 13″ (or 14″, 15″).  Still too small and getting a tablet might be better suited.

What about extra features?

The best option would obviously be touch-enabled screens (great for Windows 8 users), not so good for non-Windows based ones like OS X or Chrome OS.  Other than that it depends on your needs–if you don’t need bluetooth, don’t get it (it’s one less thing that can malfunction, replace/repair costs).

How long does the battery last?

This is another good indicator of quality and how much you’re getting for your money.  Minimum 6 hours on a single charge should be your standard.  If they claim more, check some reviews to see if it really lives up to expectations.

Do I really need an optical drive?

It depends; as more and more companies are starting to cut out the cost by not including them anymore, many people still rely on physical media for installation purposes (especially ppl who like having backups of their programs just in case) or software/firmware updates (the best example would be gaming consoles).  If you fit into this category, remember to look out for laptops that come with them.

What about a warranty?

The longer the better (minimum 1 year), I would recommend getting an extended one if you can afford it (2 or 3 years)…they’re not cheap but it’s worth it in terms of peace of mind.

So what brands are good and bad?

For Windows machines at least–Dell, HP/Compaq, Lenovo, Acer, ASUS all have pretty respectable names (HP is going through some rough times though); avoid Asus as much as possible…a lot of their products tend to be cheaply made and break down easily. For Macs–if you can afford it, it’s the only brand you should be looking at–Apple is known for their quality and customer service, but they’re not for everyone i.e if you want a best budget laptop or are used to certain features (windows).

That pretty much about sums up most of it; I just bought a laptop yesterday in fact so if anyone has any other questions feel free to ask!  Cheers.

How To Buy A Cheap Laptop (Extra Tip)

So there was this one time when my friend asked me if it’s possible for him to buy a $500 dollar laptop that would meet his gaming requirements i.e play games like Modern Warfare 3 etc., so after few days of research here’s what I found out:

The cheapest laptops with the best specs can be found in the $400-$500 range, but this usually means that there will be a few sacrifices made on quality. Laptops in the $300 dollar range are going to have fewer bells and whistles than their more expensive counterparts, but if you’re just looking for something simple and inexpensive then these laptops are a perfectly viable option. You also have the option of buying an older model laptop that is refurbished or used. While many people think that ‘used’ or ‘refurbished’ products can only come from an outlet store (aka not reputable), you will still find updated models at lower prices as well as deals on specific makes and models that carry a solid track record. For those of you looking for laptops in the $500 dollar range, there are still many solid options available if you know where to look or what to look for. Dell is a reliable company when it comes to making laptop computers and they always have some sort of sale going on, as does HP . My advice would be to first identify your top three requirements (software, storage capacity and RAM) and then use those criteria in your search for the best laptop deal within your price range.

As long as you are patient throughout the process and do not settle for less than you need then I promise that sooner rather than later; you will find yourself holding a cheap but amazing laptop!


If my friend had me help him find a laptop he would have had to spend around $500-600 dollars but I’m sure he would have settled for whatever that was in his price range as long as it did what he needed it to do. So my advice would be to do the research yourself if you can and remember that there is no rule stating that you must buy a new laptop with all the latest features, technology and bells; anyone who tells you otherwise has probably never shopped for a cheap laptop before or just wants your money!

Now get off the computer and go find yourself a cheap deal on a laptop…I love being helpful 🙂

Internal link – Opticalworlds

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