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Learn about Form, Function, and Price When Choosing a Laptop Computer

written by: John Garger•edited by: M.S. Smith•updated: 1/9/2011

Laptop computer popularity is at an all time high. Learn how to choose the right laptop to get the most out of your computing experience by considering form, function, and price.

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    Laptop (sometimes called notebook) computers have grown in popularity in recent years as prices dropped and the capabilities of these computers increased. Many consumers are now opting for laptop over desktop computers in the home as wireless networking popularity grows. The same is true for those traveling for business as the computer continues to prove itself as an indispensable tool for getting work done.

    Choosing a laptop computer can be a difficult task for those unfamiliar with the technology and terminology of the notebook computer market. Often, the manufacturers themselves contribute to the confusion by describing their laptop computers as a necessity rather than a convenience over desktop computers. Read on to learn how to get the most from your notebook computer purchase.

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    Which Size Laptop is Right for Me?

    Although laptops are much smaller then desktop computers, there is still quite a bit of variability in size and weight, which becomes an important factor when lugging the notebook around all day. For example, Dell’s lightest laptop, the Mini 10v, weighs it at about 2.5 pounds while its heaviest laptop, the Alienware M17x, weighs in at 11.68 pounds.

    Dell Mini 10v Laptop The questions you need to ask yourself when buying a laptop computer are: What will I realistically be doing with this computer? How important is portability to me in a laptop? Will I be taking this laptop into crowded spaces such as subways and airports?

    Answers to questions like these will help you determine which notebook computer size is right for you. Many women, for example, find it inconvenient to carry around a heavy laptop. The weight of the total package increases when you consider disks, external backup drives, power cords, extra batteries, a mouse, and any other peripherals you may need to make the laptop useful and more convenient. Couple this with a briefcase, your lunch, and your overcoat, and you may be carrying well over 25 pounds around with you.

    Think carefully about whether a heavy laptop computer is worth its weight in productivity.

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    What Capabilities Do I Need from a Notebook Computer?

    There is a strong positive correlation between how much a laptop weighs and what it can do. It is not a difficult concept; the more things a computer can do, the bigger it is and the more you have to carry around with you.

    Dell Alienware M17x Laptop Some notebook computers are capable of handling four or more spinning drives at one time (hard drive, DVD, floppy, and external drives). Such capability comes with two prices, the actual dollar amount you must spend, and the physical weight associated with more equipment.

    Some laptops are truly desktop replacements; they are capable of everything a desktop computer can do. If you need that kind of power in a portable computer, spend your money on the best laptop you can afford.

    However, many laptop consumers do not think carefully about how they will be using their compact computer. Ask yourself: Do I really need the ability to burn double layer DVDs while I am on the road? Is that 17-inch screen really going to do something for me that a 15-inch screen would not? Will I really need a built-in video camera on my laptop or do I just think it would be neat to say I have one?

    Think realistically about how you will be using your new laptop computer on a day-to-day basis. Many people find that 90% of what they do with a notebook computer are simple tasks such as word processing, using spreadsheets, or composing e-mail. These tasks do not require the latest and greatest technologies and certainly do not require many external and internal peripherals.

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    How Much Am I Willing to Pay for My New Laptop Computer?

    The price factor is perhaps the most limiting part of the notebook-buying equation. There is no reason to consider buying an Alienware computer from Dell if you are only willing to spend $500 on a laptop.

    Many people make the mistake of figuring out how much they want to spend on a computer and then spend that amount. It is possible that the right notebook computer for you is actually less than the amount of money you are willing to spend on one. Look carefully at both how much you want to spend and what capabilities you need from a laptop computer. The right notebook computer for you may surprise you.

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    Buying a laptop computer is more than just going to a manufacturer’s website and piecing together a computer. To get the most out of your notebook, you must take into account three major aspects. First, what size computer do you really need? Second, what do you realistically need this laptop computer to do? Finally, how much are you willing to spend on a notebook computer? These questions, taken together, greatly increase the chances that you will be satisfied with your new computer.