There are many similarities to what you should look for in a laptop versus a desktop computer, yet there are also some important aspects of the laptop that you should consider specifically. This information should help you out in the basics and hopefully answer some common questions as well. With a focus on the primary capabilities, such as everyday usage, this will help you when it comes time to actually making the final buying decision.
Obviously laptops are portable versions of the personal computer. Since these devices are portable they have the ability to function on battery power as well as from the power adapter being plugged into the electrical wall socket. This is ultimately the appeal of anything from $200 laptops to the most expensive models available. If you have ever had to spend your entire day sitting in front of a stationary computer, then you will likely be able to appreciate the versatility of being able to go portable.
CPU or Processor
The first component we will consider is the processor (Central Processing Unit). The speed of this will have a major role in how fast the laptop will perform everything from the most basic commands to ultra resource intensive gaming. The speed is measured in GHz and has been for the last decade or so. Before this, processor speed was measured in MHz. One common example today is the dual core designs such as the Intel Core 2 Duo. If you are looking for a basic cheap laptop that is perfect for daily computing needs, then you will likely find either Intel or AMD processors in the 1.5GHz range and upwards in the laptops under 200 dollars. The actual speed will often be 2.0GHz and above, yet this merely provides better performance during multi-tasking for most people.
RAM or System Memory
The next component we will look at is the system memory. This is commonly referred to as the RAM and actually has nothing to do with the hard drive. Many people will consider the hard drive to be the memory yet it is not. The RAM is considered temporary storage since the data only resides in it during actual usage and will be cleared out upon rebooting or shutting the computer down. The hard drive is the permanent storage and the data here will remain intact until it is intentionally deleted.
When looking different laptops, think of the RAM as what will determine how many software programs that you can run at the same time without bogging down the performance of the laptop. These days you will want to have at least 512MG of system memory, RAM, if you are running Windows XP. If you are running a newer operating system such as Vista or Windows 7 then you should have at least 1GB of system memory.
One final tip in this installment of our laptop buying guide series is that many of the used laptops under 200 can have the amount of system memory upgraded if necessary. This can be quite an affordable upgrade and is relatively simple to perform, although utilizing a qualified technician is recommended.