Help Me Pick a New Laptop!
or, Which laptop is best for me?
or, How do I pick a laptop out of the 7,000 available models?!

So you are ready to buy a laptop. But then you go down to your local electronics retailer like Best Buy, Circuit City or Comp USA and you have a big problem -- there are 7,000 laptops to choose from. There are cheap laptops for $500, midrange ones for $1,000, high-priced ones for $2,000 and they can go even higher than that! Is the $500 model just as good as the $2,000 one? How much do you need to spend? What features do you need to have?

It can all be incredibly confusing!

You know what? Here's a secret. If you are a "normal person" doing "normal stuff" like email, web browsing, writing papaers, stuff like that, then here's what you can do. Go buy a Sunday paper. Look through the flyers for Best Buy, Circuit City, Comp USA and places like that. Find the cheapest "deal of the week" laptop from a "major manufacturer" like HP or Toshiba and go buy it. It will cost between $500 and $600. There is only one thing to make sure of -- make sure it has 512 MB of RAM. If you do that, you will be fine. Really!

But if you want to do a little more analysis, here are six things to consider.

The processor is the brains of the laptop. It will come from Intel or AMD. It may be a P4, a Celaron, An Opteron... It can have a speed anywhere from 1.5 GHZ on up. If you are doing normal stuff, it does not matter. The processor will have more power than you will possibly ever use no matter what you get. If you are processing video files or running spreadsheets as big as Texas then it does matter (in that case, you probably want to buy the fastest processor you can reasonably afford).

On the memory, make sure it has 512 MB or RAM or more. 256 MB is not enough (your laptop will be slow and it will bug you). If you shop around you can find a cheap laptop that has 512 MB of RAM, or buy a RAM upgrade at the same time you buy your laptop.

Cheap laptops come with LCD screens that have 1,024 x 768 pixels. That is fine for most people. If you want more pixels you will pay for them. 1,280 x 1,024 is the next size up. Look at the store and find a screen that feels good to you.

Every laptop has some kind of CD or DVD drive. What you want is at least a DVD reader (so you can watch movies on your laptop) and a CD writer (so it is easy to burn CDs). The CD writer makes it easy to back up your files, burn music CDs, share phots with your friends, etc. If you shop around you may be able to find a DVD writer in a cheap laptop.

Make sure your new laptop has something called 802.11g wireless networking. Then you will be able to surf the web when you are at the coffee shop. Almost every laptop on the market today has this.

Your new laptop will probably have 40GB of hard disk space. That is more than enough for normal stuff.

See how easy that was? Just look for a cheap laptop that has 512 MB or RAM and you are done. Have fun with your new computer!

Want to discuss laptops?

Go to the Helpation Laptop Forum!