What to Look for in a Laptop

An Introduction, Processors and Memory

Over the past few years the prices of laptops have fallen dramatically. What was once seen as an expensive luxury item for business professionals is now available as an inexpensive commodity for everyone. However, the variety in laptop capabilities can make the buying process seem overwhelming. What separates a good laptop from a bad laptop? What is the importance of the processor, RAM, hard-drive? Are the commercials with the cool, laidback young Macintosh and the dorky, uptight, and old PC are being candid or deceitful.

We here at BFAds want to make your buying process as smooth as possible, so we've constructed a buying guide to bring you up to speed on the ins and outs of laptops. Note that much of the information below is applicable to desktop computers as well.

The Processor (CPU)
The CPU is basically a powerful calculator for the computer. In the past, the more GHz or MHz it had, the better it was. It's a bit more complicated now, especially with Intel's horrid naming convention, but it really boils down to the processor's product line and model number. The chart below shows the relative hierarchy of both Intel's and AMD's processors.

Intel i7 / i5 Core 2 Quad
Core 2 Duo
Core 2 Solo
Dual Core Pentium D
Pentium 4
Celeron Atom
AMD Phenom II
Phenom
Turion Athlon X2
Athlon 64
Sempron

At this point we should note that there is a lot of overlap in performance of the different product lines, the chart below should only be used as a rough guideline. Additionally, the chart does not indicate performance across both manufacturers (e.g. a Pentium D or Pentium 4 is not going to perform at the same level as an Athlon X2 or Athlon 64).

The Memory (RAM)
Generally speaking, the more RAM (memory) you have, the more programs you can have open without slowing down your computer. A few years ago, 2GB of RAM was considered excessive. Now it is common and considered the suggested minimum. 3GB of RAM is better, and 4GB is more than enough for most practical purposes.

Most memory in current computers will be DDR2, although newer computers are featuring DDR3. DDR3 is a newer generation of memory, however it is fairly new and unless you are purchasing a top-of-the-line computer, whether your computer has DDR2 or DDR3 should have little influence on your buying decision.

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Next Page - Hard Drives, Screens and Operating Systems

November 12, 2009

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