Some guidelines to buy a notebook

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First things first

The first thing is to go out and hunt for all catalogs you can possibly grab. Because not every laptop which we see on the web is available in your location. That is what I did when I took mine in 2010.

After you have all the laptops which are available in your locality, compare them using the Internet and analyzing reviews. Finally, you get to decide which one gives the value for your money.

All the topics are covered according to what I consider being prioritized. Go on reading…

Primary storage: The primary cost driver

The primary problem of the cheap laptops is the mechanical hard disk, which is the bottleneck when it comes to performance. Nowadays, pretty much all processors are very fast. The lag which we see is due to the hard disk which takes time to fetch or write data. If you can get a solid-state drive (SSD) laptop slightly over your budget, you won’t regret it, as the performance which you’ll gain is a lot as compared to rotating HDDs.

SSDs are even faster than USB 3.0 drives, which allows you to boot quickly and compile medium to large sized projects quickly. Also, because SSD has no moving parts, it is less prone to get corrupt on taking mechanical shocks.

However, you won’t get much of storage, as you can only afford up to 64 GB in the worst case. Anyways, you can have an external USB 3.0 HDD for data storage which is much better than storing all of your data in one location.

My Windows C: partition is just 40 GB in size which includes Visual Studio, IIS, NetBeans (much heavier than Eclipse), Arduino IDE, XAMPP, Office, Audio-Video Codecs, a couple of simple games, a couple of system maintenance software like CCleaner and not to mention drivers (most newer laptops do not need drivers for all devices, most are built-in).

CPU

You may find these guidelines useful for the two major manufacturers:

Intel:
  • High efficiency
  • High cost
AMD:
  • Not as efficient as Intel, but not moderate either (AMD Catalyst driver utility has options to slow down greatly if you are just doing trivial work, which boosts battery life)
  • Moderate cost
  • AMD also offers integrated GPU within the processor, eliminating the need for dedicated, power hungry GPUs

RAM

Coming over to RAM, ensure that the operating frequency of RAM is high. For laptops, at least 1600 MHz is recommended. For desktops, it goes up to 2000 MHz.

Work comfort

Always check out high quality pictures of the laptop before buying. Most important is the keyboard. If some keys seem odd for you (especially very small arrow keys which come in some laptops), you are better off considering another laptop rather than always struggling by pressing two of them once. Select the laptop which has a layout most close to that of a standard keyboard. If possible, try using the laptop in some mall to get a feel of it.

Squeezing out that extra juice of power

As far as possible, try not to have a CD drive. This reduces power consumption and weight. You won’t be needing it anyways, as there are all types of ISO images and USB installers being used, making CDs obsolete.

Check out how many cells the battery has. More cells it has, the more you can stay away from a power source, but then it also gets heavy. 4-cell or 6-cell batteries are enough for 5-6 hours of use.

Operating System

If you need Microsoft Windows, select the laptop which offers a Windows 8.X Pro. It is necessary in order to get advanced features like IIS server and other development tools if you ever need them in future. As most of the newer laptops have UEFI secure boot enabled, dual booting with Linux might fail. It is better to install Oracle VirtualBox and virtualize Linux. Keep in mind that virtualization requires a fast processor. Fast storage also helps. Linux fans (myself included) prefer to throw a Linux distro over the entire disk and work with it.

Nice to have things (optional)

Prefer to get more USB 3.0 ports than USB 2.0 (all if possible). USB 2.0 devices are compatible with USB 3.0, so you can easily switch over to faster USB 3.0 devices as your old flash drives get unusable in future.

Getting a laptop with a wireless ac standard is good as the new standard is faster than n.

Verdict

First, check out what laptops are available from the retailers you want to buy from. Then just compare all of them with the priority of topics in this content. Then mix your personal preferences and you have your master laptop recipe! OK, that was tasty.

But the important point to remember is if SSDs do not fit into your budget, do not overextend the budget by a large amount, or even zero, depending upon your financial status. A 64 GB SSD can easily make a significant difference over a traditional mechanical HDD.

My answer may not be right, but it is definitely not wrong (typical Eli style, isn’t it?). Whatever little knowledge I had, I compiled it for my fellow geeks. Hope you find it useful.

Author

Vivek Prajapati

A moderate level programmer interested in administration and Arduino. Familiar with C++, Java, PHP, C# with my favourite being C++. Just finished my bachelor's degree in IT.

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3 Comments

  1. Eli August 5, 2014 at 1:14 am

    +1 for SSD. You won’t believe how big the difference is.

  2. Jerin Saji August 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Some corrections/extra advice,
    1) Intel CPUs also have iGPUs. As you go up the chain of CPU, the better the graphics inside the CPU (ie.. Intel HD Graphics 4200, 4400 etc..)
    2) Honestly, 1600Mhz RAM is more than enough . I installed 8GB 1600Mhz RAM on my desktop when I built one last year and I have not had any speed issues. I mean, it would cost you around $20-30 to go from 1600Mhz to 2000 or 2400Mhz so it is really up to you. I think the speeds really come in handy when you have 16 or 32GB RAM and are doing big project on CAD or doing HD+ video editing.
    3) The point about CD drives is a big one. Only buy a laptop with a CD drive if you really really need it, If not, you could save on that space and then just get a slim CD drive from Samsung for $20-30.
    4) In my personal opinion, I think you should try to get a 120GB SSD in case you might need to put a large file on your computer. This will allow for some headroom even after you have some large files on there. I think this is a much better option because the difference between the prices for a 60 vs a 120GB SSD is around $30.

    Finally, if you are in the US and are a student. I’d recommend linking your .edu email with your Amazon account. This way, you can get free 2-day shipping and no taxes.

    Overall, this was a very nice post and the parts should really be thought of before buying a new laptop and regretting it later.

    • Vivek Prajapati August 6, 2014 at 1:17 am

      I appreciate your corrections and thoughts. I somehow overlooked the Intel HD Graphics. Thank you.

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