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Monday, March 21, 2016

Buying A New Laptop?


With recent posts about those not happy with Windows 10 and your options, the next computer you purchase will likely be a laptop so what direction do you go?

When I say direction I am referring to the operating system. Windows 10 is what you will get by default unless you go to the Apple Store where you would be buying a Macbook. I also mentioned the Chromebook angle as there are now many choices within the Chromebook market from sub $200 up to the Chromebook Pixel which starts at just over $1000. 

The key to buying a laptop is looking at your needs. 

The main item to any laptop would likely be the screen. Therefore the screen size and sharpness (screen resolution) would be of importance. As well, you now have the ability to go with a touchscreen option which is very useful for Windows 10 as well as Chromebooks, as I have learned by owning both Windows and Chromebook with touchscreen displays.  The larger the screen size, the more comfortable you will feel performing the tasks at hand however the larger the screen size also adds weight to your device so if you plan on using it in travel mode a lot you might want to consider downsizing your screen size if it impacts the overall weight of your device.  But there are other parts of the laptop that can be causing more weight. The all-aluminum frame for example, may add a little weight but it most certainly makes your laptop more structurally sound.

The processor/CPU is the engine to your laptop so that is likely going to be a consideration however this is not a huge issue for those surfing the web and doing basic email. If you use your device for graphics, number crunching spread sheets or gaming then you are going to want a faster CPU. As well, the operating system has a bearing here as well. Windows for example, will require a faster CPU than a Chromebook will require. Same goes for the RAM (memory).  4GB of RAM is standard on a Windows machine whereas on a Chromebook you can get away with 2GB of RAM. The more memory you have the more programs/apps you can have running before you start noticing things becoming very slow and unresponsive. 

The hard drive is your storage so the speed of the drive is not as important in most cases, as the amount of storage. I say this because the Solid State Drive (SSD) has become the most common upgrade people will go for. The problem here is this will add substantial cost to your device and unless you have no need for the internet, using a cloud storage online means you do not require a huge hard drive. You will notice this on Chromebook devices as they typically ship with either 32GB or 64GB SSD hard drive. In fact on all Chromebooks, there are no moving parts. No cooling fans to break down so they run completely silent.  When you purchase a Chromebook, most come with a 1,2 or 3 year additional storage on Google Drive.  With a Chromebook pixel (the top of the line Chromebook) you get 3 years use of 1 TB of Google Drive so this is a pretty good deal, not to mention if you are travelling through the skies, they provide you with 12 free GoGo wifi passes which works out to about $140 value. The 1TB of Google drive would normally set you back $10/month so 3 years inclusive means you are saving about $360 right there.  All of a sudden a $1200 Chromebook Pixel with all the features brings the price down to a much more reasonable level. That's if you plan on using these.  For me personally I do. I have been a Google user pretty much from day 1 and when the Google Drive and Docs became a thing I was immediately using it as I would quite often jump from one machine to another and having the ability to access my files anywhere from any device was a no brainer for me.

When you look at your new purchase of a laptop as being your main machine, it may make sense to budget a little more than you had initially planned because you might just find going to the touchscreen option worth while for example. That is about a $70 option.  The more memory is where I would first be looking. If a laptop comes with 4GB, the method in which that memory is currently set up becomes a factor. Most laptops will have 2 memory slots so if the device comes with 4GB, it is more important that it is 1 x 4GB so that I have that second slot available to add another 4GB (or more), very easily by purchasing the memory separately and inserting it myself (simply unscrew the memory panel on the back and insert the new memory card--anyone can do this). So if the laptop only has 4 GB of memory then this is the first area I am looking to upgrade to at least 8gb.  My desktop has 32gb and my Chromebook Pixel has 16GB so this to me is important.

The hard drive being SSD is great and fast but a 128GB SSD drive is NOT going to be large enough for most Windows users and to double that to a 256GB SSD drive may cost $200+ to the device which is simply not worth it.  Some of the higher-end laptops may have two hard drives, a smaller 128GB or 256GB SSD and then a 1TB or 2TB SATA drive. This works well because your operating system (Windows) sits on the SSD drive and your data and all programs can be installed to the other drive--the key here is to remember to always choose CUSTOM INSTALL so that you can direct the installation to the other "D" drive, for example.  This in itself can be frustrating to some and from my own experience dealing with client computers, it is very common for that SSD drive to fill up because the windows programs have been installing to the C drive (system drive) by default. This is why it is important BEFORE you buy that new laptop, to decide how you want to deal with your data.   The SSD drive is getting better--faster and more storage space at a more reasonable price but you can still count on paying a premium for a SSD drive larger than 256GB (for now).. we are on the crux of huge SSD  drives becoming available. By this I mean 2 to 4TB SSD drives for the same price of the standard SATA drives as companies like Samsung introduce a 16TB SSD drive.

The bottom line when it comes to your next laptop purchase must be for you to decide just how you plan on using it.  Obviously it is a laptop and that means it will be portable, but just how portable do you need it?  Battery life on these things are now 12 hours or more, especially in the Chromebook market but even Windows machines now have them lasting 8+  hours which is pretty much a full day of computing without the need for fumbling for that power cord and finding a power outlet, especially if you travel.  The other thing to remember when you are planning this purchase of a laptop which may be your 'main machine', the fact that you can also purchase a 9-12 inch tablet for a few hundred bucks, that will provide you with 12+ hours of use as well mean you might decide to get a tablet as well.. by doing this, you may find yourself not opting to spend $80-$100 for a touch screen laptop because you can spend that money on a tablet.  

What I have explained here will hopefully help your final decisions and as always just contact me if you have any questions and I will attempt to point you in the right direction.