In recent years laptops been growing in power so it is now easy to find a cheap laptop that will perform most tasks that you would once have performed on a desktop PC. However, it is still the case that spending the same amount of money on a desktop PC or Mac will get you more in terms of specification and power. This is important if you are doing something like video editing or playing the latest games. The ultimate advantage of a laptop is that it gives you the freedom to use your computer on the move or around the home rather than being restricted to one room. You can take better advantage of wireless networking and surf the net without being connected to a phone socket or wired network.
When considering which laptop to buy think about what you plan to use it for. You might need your computer to be easily portable, and therefore more compact, or you might be looking to replace your desktop PC and need something that can be folded up and put away to save space when it’s not in use. You need to carefully consider which type of laptop would suit you best, weighing up things like portability against power and price. Size and weight vary considerably, with a small, portable netbook averaging around 1kg, and larger widescreen laptops weighing in at around 3kg.
Entry-level laptops are a cheap, basic option and best for those who use their laptop for straightforward office tasks and internet use.
Desktop replacement laptops are much more powerful computers that are comparable to desktop systems in terms of power. This type of computer is suitable for editing photos or videos and playing games, as well as performing office tasks. Desktop replacements are a lot heavier and less portable than other laptops.
Netbooks are ultra-portable laptops and are different from standard laptops in that they make reducing the size and weight the priority, at the cost of power, speed and feature e.g. no CD drive. They are small and compact with limited features, but they are perfectly adequate for general tasks and surfing the web. They generally use processors that are less powerful than the chips used in larger laptops but are cheaper and more energy-efficient. Some come with the Windows XP operating system installed, and several models use the free Linux operating system. Some brands offer a choice of Linux or Windows, although the Windows option will be more expensive. You will not find a built-in CD and DVD drives in these netbooks. If you really need these you will have to buy them separately. You will get wireless connectivity which you can use to connect them to a wireless network. Some netbooks use standard hard drives, while others use solid-state storage.
There are many deals offering cheap or free laptops but there is a catch. The mobile phone companies such as O2, Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and 3 which offer free laptops or netbooks insist you sign up to a mobile broadband contract, often for 18 or 24 months as part of the deal. However, this is useful if you do not want to put your money upfront to buy a laptop. Do not necessarily choose the cheapest deal. Check that the laptop or netbook suits your needs, and make sure you can receive the mobile broadband signal where you live.
Also, look out for special student deals. As laptops are so popular with college and university students needing a versatile computer for study at home and in the library, companies sometimes advertise discounts for students
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