Depending on your requirements, choosing a laptop can be a more complicated decision than choosing a desktop computer. Laptops are inherently limited in their upgrade possibilities and while the performance of laptop computers has increased enormously in recent years, they do remain inferior to desktop computers. Laptops are available in a variety of different budget ranges. You can spend anything from about $400 on the cheapest budget machine right up to $2000 or more for a gaming powerhouse.
Most people use laptop computers in addition to a desktop computer. Virtually any laptop is more than adequate for checking emails, performing office tasks or watching movies on the move. If all you want is something that you plan to use in addition to your main computer for these tasks, then there is much more available for a variety of budgets. Unless you want a complete desktop-replacement laptop, you can probably get what you want for under $800. This will buy a low- to mid-range machine and the upper end laptops of that budget range will probably be able to run a few games as well. After around the $800 mark, prices go up enormously as the laptop models reach into the desktop-replacement range. A desktop-replacement laptop is, as the name suggests, supposed to replace your desktop entirely in terms of features and performance. The reality is, however, that a laptop is still a laptop. You will never be able to enjoy the high upgradability and flexibility of a desktop computer in a portable solution.
Following are some general considerations with regards to choosing the perfect machine for you.
The only reason people think about buying a laptop is for portability, but there is a little more complexity to this than you may think. What do you want to use the laptop for? A desktop-replacement machine with a 17″ screen is not going to be at all convenient for frequent travel. It will quickly become a nuisance if you need to carry it around in hand-luggage on planes or in a backpack. A laptop with a 15″ screen is far more convenient but can also be bulky. On the other end of the spectrum, a tiny netbook is little larger than the average paperback and weighs less than one kilogram. If all you need is the ability to browse the Internet, use instant messengers and carry out office tasks, a netbook is the perfect solution for your travels.
For others, portability is less of a concern. If you don’t intend to move about too much, a larger laptop may be worth the inconvenience. A desktop-replacement machine is going to be bulky and unmanageable for traveling with, but taking it away occasionally should not be a big problem. With the additional power provided by such a machine, you should be able to use it for almost everything that you can use a decent desktop computer for.
Battery life is only of concern if you plan to use your laptop in places where there is no power supply available. If you want to use your machine on a daily commute by train, for example, then battery life will be important. If you like to work outside, battery life will also be something to consider. Most laptops have poor battery life and the more powerful a laptop is, the worse its battery life becomes. A netbook battery may last over four hours while a gaming powerhouse laptop may last less than an hour on full load. There are exceptions, however. Most laptops use components specially suited for mobile use. This does help to conserve battery life.
Speed and Performance
All but the most basic machines provide dual-core processing or better, at least 2 GB of RAM, plenty of hard disk space and everything else that most laptop users need. Netbooks have considerably lower specifications due to their small size. With such specifications, carrying out everyday tasks is fast and efficient. Even on netbook computers with Intel Atom processors and no more than 1 GB of RAM, browsing the Internet and performing office tasks is a breeze.
The speed and performance of a laptop computer is only really called into question when people want to use them to play video games. Other things such as graphic design or movie editing also require a great deal of power, but most people prefer to use a desktop computer for this due to larger monitor sizes and greater speed.
Although prices have decreased, it is still a lot more expensive to buy a laptop for gaming. Some of the mid-range models provide a basic graphics card that may be adequate for less demanding games, but for something truly comparable to a basic desktop computer, a lot more money will need to be spent. For a laptop with a graphics card that is comparable to a mid-range gaming desktop, you can normally expect to spend upwards of $1200.