- Portability: We all know that lugging around a heavy handbag can be taxing on your shoulder and back. So it’s important to consider size when choosing a computer, especially if you will be traveling with the laptop. Laptops range in both size (from 13-inch to 18-inch screens) and weight (from 3 pounds to 8 pounds).
- Screen Size: Screen size on a laptop is very much about personal preference. Most screens have the same resolution and clarity regardless of size, but it’s generally known that the larger the screen, the shorter the battery life. Many computers that have screens larger than 16 inches may have only a few hours of battery life, which can make it harder to travel with the laptop. That being said, having a large screen can make watching movies and videos more visually entertaining.
- The Processor: If the screen is the eyes of the computer, the processor is the brain of the device. The processor is what controls the speed and performance of a laptop. Processors are measured in speed in terms of gigahertz (GHz) and mainly provided by two companies, Intel and AMD. Both types of processors are reliable and powerful, but the majority of laptops, netbooks and desktop computers are powered by various Intel processors, with the Centrino, Pentium and Core processors as the most common on the market.
- Memory: Otherwise known as “RAM,” memory is like the heart of the computer. Memory is what the computer uses to run applications like iTunes or Microsoft Office, your browser and the operating system (Windows 7, XP, Apple). It’s important to choose a laptop that has 3 to 4 GB of RAM. Netbooks are generally under 3 GB, but this is because the devices are not meant to support complex applications.
- Hard Drive: The hard drive determines how much storage capacity your computer has. When you download music, store photos and videos, you are taking up your computer’s memory. Generally you should be looking for 160 GB of memory at the very least. But if you do store music and photos/video, you should choose a computer that has at least 320 GB.
- Battery Life: Always check the battery life for a particular laptop or netbook! As I wrote above, the larger the screen, keyboard and computer, the lower the battery life (the amount of time your computer can keep running on a charged battery). As a general rule, you should aim to buy a laptop with at least three hours of battery life.
In addition to the six key technical factors, there are other features that you may want to consider when purchasing a computer. If you video chat with your family and friends, you’ll want to make sure that your computer has a webcam. If you actively use a digital camera, you’ll want to double-check that your device has a built-in digital media card slot.