Laptop Computer Buyers’ Guide

If you want or need a new laptop computer, this buyers’ guide can help you find your best laptop according to your needs and within your budget. During the last several years, laptop computers have become more popular, primarily due to lower prices and improved capabilities. People now buy more laptop computers than desktops. Also, many buy laptops to replace their desktops.

Laptop Computers, Notebooks, and Netbooks

For all practical purposes, laptop computers are identical with notebook computers. Although some manufacturers and merchants still try to differentiate laptops and notebooks, customers generally continue using the terms ‘laptop’ and ‘notebook’ interchangeably.

Netbook computers are a truly-identifiable subcategory of laptop computers. All are small and inexpensive, but have limited capabilities. For more information, see: Netbook

Operating System

Which operating system (Windows, Mac, or Linux) do you prefer on your new laptop computer? Your answer probably depends on which operating systems are running on the other computers you use, both at home and at work. If all (or most) are running the same operating system, you might choose to stay with that system and avoid needing to learn another.


Will you actually carry your new laptop computer anywhere? Many laptop owners never take their laptops out of their homes. Imagine how heavy your laptop might feel at the end of your work (or school) day, especially if you have carried it long distances. Some laptops can weigh as much as six pounds or more, especially with their carrying cases.

Battery Capacity

What is the maximum time you will need to run your new laptop computer on its batteries? Some laptops have batteries that last five hours before needing recharging. Other laptops run less than three hours on their batteries.


Select a laptop computer that has a keyboard on which you can type comfortably. Smaller laptops, especially netbooks, have keyboards that many consider too small. Most laptops that have 14-inch or greater displays have keyboards nearly as large as those used with desktops.

DVD Burner

Do you need a DVD burner built into your laptop computer? A DVDRW drive in your laptop lets you install software, watch movies, burn CDs, and burn DVDs. Although a netbook is too small to contain a DVD burner, you can connect it to an external DVD burner through a USB 2.0 cable.


What connectors will you need on your laptop computer?. For example, you might need to connect an external monitor to make a presentation. Laptop computers, even netbooks, typically include ethernet, headphone, media-reader, microphone, USB 2.0, and VGA connections (ports).


Will your new laptop computer run fast enough? If you plan to install resource-hungry applications, such as video-creation programs or high-speed, virtual-reality games, you need a powerful (expensive) laptop with the maximum available RAM and the highest possible processor speed. In contrast, if you plan using only fundamental applications, such as word processors, spreadsheets, and databases, you need a less powerful (and thereby less expensive) laptop.

Researching Your Laptop Computer

Before seriously shopping for your new laptop computer (either online or at your local computer merchants), you should study as many independent laptop-computer reviews as possible. Here are a few examples:

  • cnet Best Netbooks.com
  • NotebookReview.com
  • Test Freaks

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