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Monday, July 20, 2009

A Buyer's Guide to Notebook Computers

Buying notebook computers can be a daunting task for many consumers, but one can avoid the pitfalls by following a few common sense rules and understanding what each component does and why it is important. The first step is to decide what the notebook computer will be used for as that will have a major influence on later decisions. Notebook computers used for simple tasks cost less money than those used for gaming and more advanced needs such as video editing and photo manipulation. Also decide how big the notebook computer should be at this stage.

Notebook computers come in a wide range of sizes, ranging from tiny netbooks that are under an inch thin to monstrous powerhouses with screens in excess of twenty inches when measure diagonally. The best rule of them here is to only look at notebook computers that one is comfortable taking on the road, but are not too small to be ineffective. After all, what good are notebook computers that have screens too small to read?

After selecting a general range of screen sizes, it is time to look at the pixels. A pixel is a tiny dot on the screen that can change colors, and grids of thousands of pixels work together to display what end users see on their screen. The more pixels in a given space will result in sharper image quality, but also in higher prices more often than not. Of course, notebook computers with gorgeous screens need a graphics chip to render all those lovely images, windows, DVDs, games, and so on.

Graphics chips come in two varieties: discrete and integrated. Discrete are generally far more powerful, and have their own dedicated pool of memory but may also draw some additional memory from the system RAM. Integrated graphics are generally less powerful, and always use system RAM for their tasks. A general rule is that games, video editing, and image manipulation software all tend to take advantage of discrete graphics, while everyone else is probably better off saving their hard earned money on other features that notebook computers have to offer.

One of those features is memory, often called RAM. Notebook computers, like desktop computer need lots of memory if they are going to be tasked with handling multiple and/or complicated programs. RAM is measured in gigabytes, and it is important to know that systems with more than 4 gigabytes of RAM need 64-bit operating systems to reach their full potential.

Don't forget to factor in the CPU. Low-end notebook computers may feature either single or dual core CPUs and may be either 32- or 64-bit. It makes little sense to buy a 32-bit CPU today as the 64-bit era is upon us. It is only a matter of time before 32-bit applications are a thing of the past.

Rounding things out are the storage and networking options. CD/DVD/Blu-Ray drives and burners can augment a spacious hard drive, but one gets what they pay for. Wired and wireless networking is fairly standard on most modern laptops, though there are varying speed grades available.

Matthew Kerridge is an expert within the computer laptop industry. If you are looking for cheap notebook computers please visit

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