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This Geeks2U guide has expert tips and tech advice on RAM, storage, CPUs and screen quality – everything you need to know when buying a new laptop computer.
Typically speaking, the life expectancy of a laptop computer is two to four years, or 400 battery cycles. At this point you may start to notice some telltale signs that things are heading downhill: a sluggish system thanks to an older CPU, not enough RAM or storage, issues with your battery, unexpected shutdowns, long load times and even the spinning wheel of death. Yikes. Anthony Hill, Head of Technology at Geeks2U, is here to guide you on your pathway to buying a new laptop computer. Read on for his advice, tips and tricks for choosing one that best suits your needs.
Before you upgrade, it's smart to back up your existing data, files and photos. This will allow for an easy transition to your new computer. “Make sure you’ve got a backup that you know is readable and available, and it’s separate to the system and taken offline,” Anthony says. The easiest way to backup your computer is through a portable hard drive; try quality brands like Western Digital and Seagate. Or take extra precaution and use cloud storage, keeping all of your data safe, secure and hosted miles away. “If your old laptop is no longer functioning then you may need to engage a professional computer technician to assist you in recovering your important files,” Anthony says.
The laptop market is huge, with a wide range of different models available. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so it may help if you take the time to note down your needs and personal preferences to avoid feeling overwhelmed by choice. “As a simple rule of thumb, I’d recommend you go for the highest specification available within your budget. Some key things to look for are, processor (CPU), RAM (memory), screen quality (resolution), storage (hard drive space) and battery life,” Anthony says.
Laptop computers can vary greatly in price, with more expensive models usually reflecting greater CPU, RAM, screen quality and storage space. Your budget should be determined by the kind of work you intend to do. “In general, a cheaper laptop will have lower-specification hardware and slower performance,” Anthony explains, “But if you intend to simply browse the internet and check emails then the lower specification will have little effect.” A faster, more expensive laptop might be a good investment if you plan on running multiple complex applications at once and using graphic- and video-editing software.
“For general use 250-320GB hard drive space is recommended,” says Anthony. “However, it depends on what you intend to use the computer for.” If you see a lot of photo or video editing in your future, then a computer with 500GB-1TB in storage would be a better fit. Don’t forget that cloud storage or an external USB hard drive allow you to easily add extra storage when needed.
Apple MacBooks are well-regarded for their ease of use, screen quality, battery life, durability and software. As Anthony says, “Apple follows strict design and manufacturing standards for all laptops and only offers a few variations of each model at any one time. These standards mean that Apple products are easy for anyone to pick up and use, regardless of skill level.” On the other hand, Apple computers have a higher price tag than their Windows or Chrome OS counterparts and, typically, there is more software available for Windows systems. If you do decide on Apple, there are two models to consider: the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air. The Air has a smaller trackpad and a slightly thinner wedge-shape, while the Pro has a larger price tag due to its high-quality display and more powerful CPU.
Leading laptop brands include Lenovo, HP and Acer. Lenovo is among the largest PC manufacturers in the world and offers an enormous selection of laptops from affordable student options through to quality gaming laptops. Its ThinkPad range, in particular, is very popular and often recommended in buying guides. HP has a reputation for making reliable, well-built laptops with good warranty and customer service options. Meanwhile, Acer produces a diverse range of laptops with plenty of options to suit varying budgets and user needs. They’re known for pushing the limits when it comes to design, with the Acer Swift line awarded the gong for the world’s thinnest laptop.
In one word: maybe. Depending on how you plan to use your laptop, it may be worth investing in a few key extra pieces of equipment. “If you are using the laptop in a fixed location, like a home office, then an external keyboard and mouse can be more comfortable and easier to use,” Anthony says. “Also a second monitor or external screen will allow you to have more applications visible on the screen.” If you’re travelling to work or university with your laptop, a quality protective laptop case is essential.
Still struggling? Choosing a laptop can be a daunting process but there are more in-depth resources available online to help you come to a decision. Anthony recommends the Officeworks Laptop Buying guide as one of the best places to start – “As with most electronics there are always new options available. Look for advice which explains the different options and guides you based on your requirements.”