How to Buy a Laptop Computer

by Contributor

Laptop computers can't really substitute for desktop computers, but a good laptop can be a solid and convenient supplement to a desktop model.

Check the periodic surveys in top computer magazines for comprehensive information about the reliability of specific laptop brands and customer satisfaction with them. Choose a brand based on quality, price and limited warranty.

Determine the core configuration you need, including processor and speed, amount of RAM, and hard disk size.

Decide on the type of display. Choose a dual-scan display if your budget is extremely limited. Select an active-matrix display for the quickest response and best visual quality (especially under challenging condi-tions), though at the cost of shorter battery life. Choose an HPA (High-Performance Addressing) display if your budget rules out an active-matrix display but you need to use the laptop under challenging lighting and wish to maximize battery life.

Compare weights of units you're considering. Think about how often and how far you'll need to carry the computer and its peripherals.

Determine the size of display you want. Remember that bigger screens add to the unit's price, weight and bulk.

Choose an ultraportable unit if weight is more important than price, reliability, battery life and ease of use.

Buy a unit with built-in CD-ROM and floppy drives if convenience is more important than portability or reliability. Consider a model with removable internal drives for the most flexibility.

Test the comfort and feel of the input device and keyboard. Choose between a touch pad, used by most manufacturers, and the pointing stick (also called the 'command point') used by IBM and Toshiba.

Make sure the laptop comes with a lithium-ion battery. Be skeptical of manufacturers' battery-life claims.

Decide what preinstalled software you want or need.

Choose the length of warranty or service coverage you need.


  • check Touch pads are more reliable than pointing sticks.
  • check Get a laptop with a DVD-ROM drive if you would like to watch movies while traveling.
  • check Consider leasing a computer if you need to upgrade often or spread out payments over two or more years. Keep in mind that leasing is, overall, more expensive than buying.

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