Guide to buying a laptop

Guide to buying a laptop

Buying a laptop is an easy process. As with buying any electronics you should start by visualizing yourself using the item, try to see where and how you will be using your new laptop. Will you use it mostly at a desk? Will you travel a lot with it? Do you play games or use 3D rendering software?

As with any computer equipment the top of the line hardware costs disproportionately more than the mainstream stuff. This means it’s best to buy only what you need and not splash out too much on very expensive gear that will go out of date quickly. Having said that if you really could use a DVD burner and a high resolution screen then of course you should get them.

Are you a power user?

The majority of computer uses don’t need anything beyond Office applications, email and the Internet. So if you’re one of these people you should go for a very cheap Celeron based laptop, from Dell an entry level model such as this will be under $700. The standard 14.1″ or 15″ screen will be fine for light work, especially word processing and reading online articles. I really suggest you get at least 512mb of RAM since Windows XP is a real memory hog.

The drawbacks of an entry level laptop such as this are basically performance. These laptops use what’s called ‘integrated graphics’ or ‘shared memory graphics’ this means that the graphics subsystem shares access to the main memory with the central processor rather than having it’s own dedicated memory.

This ‘sharing’ of memory resources means that basically all 3D games won’t run on an ‘integrated graphics’ laptop and performance in graphics heavy applications will be poor (although most light users wouldn’t notice).

Another thing to remember is that Pentium 4s and Pentium 4 Celerons suffer much more of a performance hit from integrated graphics that Pentium M (Centrino) laptops. So for example if you have a digital camera and you intend to do a little bit of photography stuff on your laptop I would suggest going for an inexpensive Pentium M laptop rather than a Celeron (which is rock bottom in graphics performance).

One positive thing is that these entry level laptops are usually quite compact and generally have good battery life since they lack a lot of high drain components.

Laptops that do more

I expect most high power users will already know all of what I’m covering in this article so I’ll pitch this at first time ‘serious’ laptop buyers. If you plan on playing a few games or running multiple applications (say web designers) then you’ll want a laptop with a bit more performance.

For graphics professionals or serious hobbyists I recommend getting a Pentium 4 3Ghz or higher laptop with 128Mb of video RAM. Most filtering or rendering computations go much better on the Pentium 4 because of it’s high clock speed and memory bandwidth. While the Pentium M/Centrino is great for games and multitasking it doesn’t have the ‘legs’ for hard core tasks such as encoding DVD movies or music.

What the Pentium M/Centrino does have on it’s side is efficiency. It’s nearly as fast as the top end Pentium 4s but uses way less power and produces much less heat. This means that no matter what applications you use with your laptop, if you carry it around a lot and use it on the road I recommend you buy a Pentium M/Centrino laptop.

So if you’re after a large ‘desktop replacement’ laptop get a Pentium 4 otherwise get a Pentium M.

Mobile graphics processors

In the last year there has been a massive increase in the range and power of mobile graphics processors. Currently ATi has the edge over nVidia withe the Mobile Radeon 9700. This is a great graphics chip but unless you play games there’s no real reason to pay extra to get it. You’ll be fine with other options as long as they have at least 64mb of video memory.

Mobile hard drives

Again new 7200 rpm drives have hit the market in the last 12 months. Some notebooks such as the Sager 8890 support multiple drives in RAID arrays that can serious improve hard drive access speed. If you work with large files (such as heavy graphics, sound or video editing) then I would definitely go for a laptop that supports RAID 0 over 2 or more drives.

The mobile market is getting big

A huge number of people are switching to mobile computers since they save so much space and are so convenient. Prices are dropping fast and new technologies are coming out every 6 months. With this in mind it might be better to save a few dollars on by buying a middle of the road laptop now and upgrade in the next 12 months selling off your old laptop. That way you keep up with the latest technology and never pay through the nose for bleeding edge technology.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit

10 Steps You Can Take to Secure a Laptop

Keep your laptop safe

Your laptop is your livelihood. It harnesses all of your most personal data. If the contents of your laptop get into the wrong hands, it could be big trouble, maybe even identity theft. That’s why it’s imperative to protect your machine in any way that you can. These 10 easy precautionary measures will help keep your laptop safe and secure.

Turn Off File Sharing

If you’re using unfamiliar networks, you don’t have the same guarantee of privacy for the files on your computer unless you turn file sharing off. With file sharing on, you may not even be aware that someone else on the network you’re connected to is snooping through your computer’s hard drive.

Avoid Accessing Sensitive Informative While Connected to an Unknown Network

When possible you should refrain from viewing or entering private data while using unfamiliar networks. The network administrator or others may have access to view your online activity. No matter who it is, you don’t want them to be able to view things such as your online banking log in, social media and email passwords, or any other personal data.

Use Password Protection

Make sure that your laptop is set up with a password so that every time you turn it on or wake it up, you need to enter a pin or password. Choose your password carefully, and come up with something that would be very difficult to guess.

Take Precautions Against Ways Around Your Password

Disabling the ability to boot windows from your CD drive or USB port will prevent anyone from bypassing your password and taking over your machine. You can do this through the BIOS (basic input/output system) menu, which can be accessed by tapping F10 during system boot up on Windows. You can also set a password on access to BIOS to prevent anyone else from being able to change your settings.

Use HTTPS and SSL Whenever You Can

Have you ever noticed the ‘S’ at the end of the http address on certain sites? That stands for “secure,” so try typing the ‘S’ manually and reloading the page if it’s not already present.

Switch Off Wi-Fi When You’re Not Using it

If you don’t need to be connected, it’s safer not to be. When you’re machine is offline, no one can access it remotely, so you’re files and information will be safe from prying eyes.

Use a Firewall

You should leave your firewall on at all times if possible. You should be sure the router you’re using has a good firewall as well.

Encrypt Your Hard Drive

Hard drive encryption is a very effective way to protect your files. Programs like TrueCrypt will do it automatically.

Use Anti-Virus Software

Get an up to date and reputable anti-virus software system on your computer to detect and eliminate any threats before they materialize into a major issue.

Use a Virtual Private Network

VPN’s are an excellent way of protecting sensitive data by encrypting it before sending it out. There are various programs you can download that will automatically encrypt everything you send out once they are activated on your machine.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit