So a friend asked me about laptops and what to buy if they wanted a cheap one for work. Since I made the list already, I thought I’d share it:
1) Look for a laptop and not a Netbook or other web-only laptops.
2) Get Windows 7, not Windows 8. Windows 8 is designed for touchscreens but Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to push it to all devices. Don’t get Windows Vista either, if they even have that anymore (pre-Windows 7).
3) Look for 4GB-6GB RAM or higher. 1-2GB has been low-tech for awhile.
4) For a work laptop, disk-space won’t really matter. (I.e. 500GB HDD).
5) If you want light-weight, an easy way to do this is just go by the screen-size, choose a laptop that is less than 16″. NOTE: A lot of light-weight/portable laptops are lightweight because they remove things such as DVD/CD drives and have few USB ports along with a smaller screen.
6) As for the processor (CPU), there is Intel or AMD. Both are great and have their fan bases, AMD is usually cheaper though.
EDIT (08 May 2014): As for the number of cores you need, it depends on what you are doing.
–> Gaming: If you are using it for gaming only (which is weird if you are buying a laptop at a showroom instead of customizing one online), a Quad-Core processor is the minimum and the most you will really need – in the future there may be games that use Hex-Core but not any time soon. Single-Core processors are out of the question and Dual-Core processors will give you somewhere between “Eh, it works” and “I can deal with this until I have more money” performance. For current games, anything more than 4 cores will rarely be used, if at all.
–> Normal Work Machines: Now, for work machines that don’t require multitasking applications (like video editing/encoding or Computer-Aided Design), then it doesn’t matter: Single- (if they even exist anymore), Dual-, Quad-, Whatever-, although I think as of right now, the Quad-Core is the best option for both gaming and non-multitasking functions.
–> Advanced Work Machines: As for a work computer with multitasking such as video editing/encoding or Computer-Aided Design, then yes, get a CPU with a lot of cores. The more task-heavy programs you use, such as 3DMax or Adobe After Effects, the more cores you should get. Shoot for 6-, 8-, or 12-Core CPUs for these applications – the more the better for multitasking. Preferably, if you are doing this kind of work, then get a desktop computer as laptops are not properly cooled for these applications (as in, the CPU’s could overheat).
–> Note: Multi-Core/Multitasking does not necessarily mean “faster”, it allows more work to get pushed to the CPU for processing. A CPU’s clock speed (as in, 2.5 GHz) is what makes a CPU fast. It’s kind of like the difference between horsepower and torque. A pickup truck designed for hauling construction equipment would need an engine with a lot of torque (Multitasking Programs), while a car made for drag racing would have a lot of horsepower (Gaming). Obviously, if you have the money, get a computer with 6-8 Cores with a high clock speed (x > 2.5 GHz).
7) Unless you REALLY want a touchscreen laptop, just don’t get one. A mouse/touchpad works great and you’re not poking your screen.
8) Don’t buy Dell/Alienware or Acer/Gateway, just don’t. They’ve been ranked as the worst computer manufacturers in the last 5 years, probably longer.
9) Check the customer reviews online, go for 4-star or higher.
10) You get what you pay for, I’m not sure of your budget, but try for a $400-600 laptop with at least a 4 star rating. That’s a good way to go. There are $300 laptops, and they’re $300 for a reason.
11) WHATEVER YOU DO, NEVER EVER, EVER, BUY USED OR “REFURBISHED” COMPUTERS!!!! Malware is usually on them and they’ll have no warranty when they WILL (not if) break!! This also applies to Open Box or On-Display computers. “Well-used” is not a good attribute of a complex machine that costs between hundreds and thousands of dollars.
12) If they don’t have the one you want at the first store you go to, check if they have it in at another location. Don’t just “settle” because you need one immediately or because the sales staff pressures you – it’s your money, don’t regret your purchase as soon as you buy it.