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Laptop buying guide

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When buying a laptop, there are a few key factors to consider.

Laptops are an essential part of everyday life now and it's not surprising that pretty much every household has at least one.

Whether you’re buying new or refurbished the same principles apply.

When making a big investment in a laptop which you will expect to give you years of use, it is important to buy from a reputable store who will set the laptop up ready for use and give warranty. Buying from the small ads may save you money in the short term, but generally you will be buying ‘sold as seen’ with no warranty.

Another important thing to look out for is the COA (Certificate of Authenticity). These are the licenses, generally stuck to the bottom of the laptop, which allows you to use products you are paying for, the operating system, Microsoft office etc. If they are not there ask why, it could be you are buying counterfeit products which will not function properly, will not be updated and could cause damage to your computer. It is a criminal offence to sell counterfeit products.

Screen size - Firstly, you need to think what you are going to use your laptop for, you may need your laptop to be ultra portable from 10.1" to 13" or maybe you want it to have a larger screen at around 14.1 to 17.3".The most common screen size is 15.6", these are light enough to occasionally carry around and are where the prices are most keen.

Processor - The processor or central processing unit (CPU) generally determines the speed and power of your laptop.

AMD processors will usually be slightly cheaper and are ideal for general home usage with the better quad core A8, perfect for multiple tasks and heavy multimedia usage.

Intel processors from the lower end Celeron and Pentium processors are great for the general usage, and the Core i5 and i7 ideal for those gaming enthusiasts and multimedia users. The Intel Core i3 is the popular go-between, a powerful processor – a good choice for regular users who want a fast and responsive processor at an affordable price.

Memory (RAM) The more RAM your laptop has, the faster it will run.

If all you're going to be doing is email, surfing the web and maybe word processing, you should look for something with around 2-4GB RAM.

If you going to use allot of programs and like to multi-task, then 4GB RAM or more will be ideal

Hard Drive -The hard drive on a laptop is where you store all your music, videos, photos and data.

Hard drives commonly range from 160GB to 2,000GB (2TB). When buying ask for advice on what size you will need.

Operating System (OS) - Windows based operating systems are the largest selling OS in the world and offer more choice and lower prices. Whereas Mac OS is popular for its graphics and publishing capabilities it is likely to cost you at least two or three times as much.

Optical Drive -The optical drive is an important part of the laptop, usually combining a CD & DVD drive, the optical drive is used for playing and recording on to a CD or DVD. Of course not everyone will need this, it’s a personal choice.

Graphics - For most users the graphics card that comes with the laptop will be adequate for every day us. For gamers and design/video/photo work you may need advice on the best graphics card.

Connectivity - Whether you want to transfer files, amplify your music or videos, connect up to external devices such as a monitor, TV, printer etc, the ports on a laptop are essential and very useful. The most common ports you are likely to find on a laptop are USB 2.0, USB 3.0 to connect external devices such as keyboards, mice and audio players. VGA or HDMI for video output, headphone and microphone for audio, and card readers (most commonly used in cameras).