Sunday, July 1, 2012

How To Shop For A Laptop

Laptop icon
Laptop icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently just sent a long email to a friend asking her if I could help her shop for a new laptop. I felt that going out and finding some laptops that she should consider wouldn't be nearly as helpful as just walking her through the thought process I have when I purchase a new laptop.

Questions To Ask

  1. Do I plan on taking it places a lot? Class, coffee shops, biking with it in a backpack or messenger bag, etc. 
  2. Do I plan to watch movies often on it? 
  3. How many digital movies and how much music do I need to put on it? 
  4. What is my price range? 
  5. Any aesthetic looks and extra features that I want? (e.g. number of USB ports, keyboard back lighting)
These are questions you should consider when purchasing a computer. If you think of any more, ask yourself those too!

Brands and Your Needs

As far as brands go, all brands have their bad models if that makes sense. There are always a few "cheap end" ones. Here's the deal with these, they really aren't much cheaper than a decent one.

Most laptops you can't go wrong with, but personally, I'd stay away from Acer and Compaq. Asus and Toshiba seem like good brands (but remember not all laptops made by companies are equal) Personally, I have an HP dv6 that's 3 years old. I got it with Vista and installed Windows 7 (which is amazing) on it just last year. It still runs well. In FACT... it just got rained on. Yes. Full out rained on. I'm not saying get an HP because it's waterproof, I firmly believe that I just got really freaking lucky, but even my 3-year old, rained on laptop, is still holding up.

My point? Invest. Don't just think about what you're doing NOW. Think about what you will be doing three, four, even five, years from now. Try to find something that will accommodate your needs then, not now.


For the processor, I'm an Intel guy. Kinda like I'm a Windows guy. AMD also makes processors and I'm sure they're good. For Intel I'd recommend at least an i5, but if an i7 is available at a price you're willing to pay, go for it --- invest in the future.

Hard Drive Space

I'd shoot for 1TB on your laptop. We always think "I won't use all that space!" That's what I thought about 320gb when I bought my PC 3 years ago. Well ya know what? It's getting pretty packed. Go big.

I'd also recommend you get an additional portable hard drive to back up on. Backup, backup, backup. That's not a computer shopping tip I know, but it's essential. Please do it. Everyone always regrets it. Then they come to me and say "Aaron. You told me so. I wish I would have listened to you." Sounds like I'm full of myself probably, but I'm really just trying to help.

Screen Size and Portability

For screen size, this gets back to what you want to do with your computer. I love watching movies. But I also enjoy going to coffee shops. When traveling with it, it's kind of bulky, but it's not TOO bad. And I'm willing to stick with it, although a smaller laptop with a screen size of around 13" would be nice at times. Mine is 16" to put it into perspective. That's all up to you.


Other extras such as the number of USB ports, backlit keyboard media buttons to control music or movies, my laptop even has a remote which is pretty snazzy; those are all different options. I would love to have a backlit keyboard, but unfortunately I couldn't find something that I wanted with all the other features and price.

Review Before You Purchase

Also, review the laptops. You're probably going to be spending $500, $600, maybe even more. Why not make sure others are saying good things about it. Places like actually review all sorts of gadgets, but a simple google search with the laptop model number and the word "review" next to it, should also bring some results. If you don't get any, maybe it's not even very popular and you should reconsider. That doesn't mean all laptops that aren't popular are bad, but I just like to be safe. Amazon is another great place to buy and review products. That is where I got my laptop. Other websites like Newegg and TigerDirect as well as many others also are great places to buy and review things.

If you find some different laptop models to compare, narrow them down by literally writing out a pros and cons list with each one.

Shopping At Stores

Why haven't I mentioned going to places like BestBuy yet? Because they have a very limited selection compared to the internet. Also, the sales people often don't know a lot and you can't actually get reviews while shopping. Then you feel pressured, not even buy the sales guys, but by yourself because you've taken the effort, time and gas to find one and you feel like you should get one then!

Don't Impulse Shop

You'll never get a good deal that way. Be patient. Watch prices. Sometimes a store does have a better deal than online and if it's one you want, then go for it!

If you do find on online you can check the different stores in your area to go in and check it out. If the price is cheaper then you can buy it, but don't feel pressured to. It definitely is nice to feel things in your hand.


Insure your laptop! I'm not even kidding. No not through bestbuy or another retailer. No not through HP, Toshiba, etc. I recommend Safeware or SquareTrade. Both are very reputable companies and very affordable. All of these websites and companies that I'm mentioning can simply be found in a quick Google Search.

Buying Used

For the most part I don't recommend this unless you really know about the laptop you're buying and it's practically new. I've known people who've purchased used laptops and they've been satisfied. However, I think overall it's not a good deal. You can get a newer, faster, and overall just a better laptop brand new, the majority of the time. And because of that, I don't really see a point in buying used.


Do you have any more advice for laptop shoppers? Are you a laptop shopper yourself? What other questions do you have that I can help answer? For more information you can check out this complete laptop buying guide on MakeUseOf.

(NOTE: The links in this article are not affiliate links)

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