What to look for when buying a new laptop
For a general purpose laptop (e.g. Internet, E-Mail, photos etc), I would suggest the following specifications:
- Intel Core i3 or i5 processor
- 4GB RAM or more
- 500GB Hard Drive or more
A laptop with this specification costs around £400 and can cope with any general purpose application. There are some other things that you may wish to consider:
- Brand of laptop: I don't think this is as important as the specifications, but I would advise sticking to computer names with a strong reputation such as Dell, HP, Toshiba, Samsung, Lenova and Asus. There are countless people who will tell good and bad about all of these brands, but I find on the whole they are all very well made.
- Where to buy: Laptops can be easily purchased online from Dell (www.dell.co.uk) or from a store such as PC World. Any computer specialist should be able to provide a laptop with the above specification. John Lewis is gaining a good reputation for selling laptops as they provide a two year warranty as standard.
- Software: Remember that most computers only come with Windows and no other software. If the laptop will be used for writing documents an office package will be needed. The best package is Microsoft Office and the most economical way for most people to get it is to buy the 'Home & Student' edition which costs about £100. This includes Microsoft Word, Excel (spreadsheets) and PowerPoint (presentations). There is a free alternative called 'LibreOffice' (an updated version of OpenOffice) which may be suitable if documents are not the focus of the laptop's use and compatibility with other systems is not important. This can be downloaded from the LibreOffice website.
- Windows 8: Almost all laptops sold today come with Windows 8, which is still quite a new system. Not all existing hardware and software is compatible with it, so if you intend to use the laptop with any existing devices (e.g. a printer) they need to be checked for compatibility. This can be done at the Windows Compatibility Centre:
- Screen: A standard laptop screen size is about 15". Bigger screens are available (such as 17") but they add to the cost and make the laptop less portable. Some laptops have matt screens whilst others are glossy. Most people find the matt sort better as they don't reflect whatever is behind the laptop. This is something not normally shown in specification listings so you would have to go to a store to check. Any modern laptop should come with a reasonable screen whatever the type but its not a bad idea to see it working prior to purchase.
- Keyboard and touch pad: Some people prefer the feel of some keyboards more than others, so its a good idea to try out the keyboard before buying. The touch pad is a mouse-type device built into the laptop below the keyboard. Some people get on well with them whilst others prefer a real mouse. An external mouse can be plugged in if the operator finds the touch pad difficult to use.