Laptops – What You Want And What You Don’t

I was reading today that Amazon is having a one day sale on SSDs. Very nice deal I think but this is not something I need except for an occasional phone that comes with slow memory. It got me thinking about SSDs in general and where they are really valuable to the small business owner and that’s in laptops.

What Do You Get For Your Money

I have listened for years to people talking about how much their laptops cost and how much they got for their money. I have been the default IT support person for my large family for decades and this gets me thinking about value buying for non-technical people. It promoted critical thinking about the needs of each person. From that I needed a simple breakdown so that I could quickly give advice about what to buy. So here is my breakdown of components to think about (and not) when buying a laptop.

Criteria That Matters

lapcompoWhen looking at the marketing fluff keep in mind these are the things that you can use to balance your decision. I will assume you can handle which version of OS and other basics but this is mostly about the internal hardware they are touting.

  • Disk capacity
  • Disk Type
  • CPU
  • Graphics
  • Memory

What I will be talking about is what any basic small business owner needs (and personal consumers for that matter). What this does not cover is specialty work on a computer like CAD authoring, Hi-res visualizations, gaming, music creation and editing and … well, you get the idea. If you are in these areas you already know about the things that matter for your computer.

The first thing to throw out is graphics. Any new computer you buy today will have sufficient graphics for your needs. You may have the occasional second monitor and presentation but pretty much any choice will handle this for you. So you can ignore this option.

The CPU or processor does matter but there is a lot of flexibility. In today’s world you want something that is at least a Core i3 or higher. Even the slowest chip will get your work done and anything above the slowest Core i3 just gives you quicker speeds. For my impatient taste I prefer a Core i5 and usually don’t want to pay the premium for the faster Core i7. But these echange quickly over time. AMD is a bit harder to keep track of. Their chips are fine but you have to do research to understand how to compare them to an Intel chip. They are generally cheaper for an equivalent CPU, but it’s harder to figure out what you’re getting.

Memory Counts The Most

memoryMemory is probably the most important factor for you. In today’s world of Windows 7,8 I recommend you get at least 4G of memory. 6G is even better. The reason I bring this up is most machines are configured with too little memory that causes the OS to swap to disk often dramatically slowing you down. Memory is cheap, I often buy the minimum and then separately purchase bigger chips and drop them in. This can get a little complicated to know what type of memory works for your laptop so decide for yourself but get enough memory.

An SSD Based Drive Is What You Want

ssddrive2Disk space or Hard Drive size is less important. Unless you are storing videos and tons of photos you actually need less hard drive space now than what you needed 5 years ago. The reason is cloud storage. More  is done on servers in the cloud and there is less demand on our laptop. Many people love that they have 1TB of disk space(1 terabyte). When I see that I just think, gads what happens when that drive fails or is stolen? It means you have to backup all of that somewhere and that is a real pain. So don’t worry about space if you get 256G of disk space you should have more than enough. I even use a laptop with 128G of space and never run into space issues. What really matters is type.

The usage of hard drive type is in transition. Today if you want a lot of disk space for cheap they throw a classic hard drive at you. But there 2 others that are in use today that are better. First is the SSD or solid state drive which is like the aforementioned SSD cards at the top of the article. They are placed in a casing so that they fit in your laptop like a hard drive but there is no disk or spinning or moving parts. It’s these chips arranged and accessed like a hard drive. They are much faster and more stable since there is no movement.

The other type is a hybrid classic hard drive with an SSD cache. They put smarts in the drive so that frequent and recently used data is loaded in the SSD part thereby making access to them very fast. It’s the best of both worlds where you can get a lot of disk capacity and near SSD performance.

And that’s about it. The size and weight of the laptop you can feel and see or read about. I suggest going to stores like BestBuy and even Walmart but then go online and look for sales. Read my other post about waiting to buy a laptop and see if that works for you. Today expect to pay between $400 and $1,200 for a laptop. It can go a lot higher but you gain nothing for paying more for standard small business functions.

 


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