Welcome to of our Laptop Buyer’s Guide. In this post we will discuss how each different component of a laptop affect its price. In part 2, we will discuss how other hidden factors such as a laptops condition, brand name, warranties etc. can also significantly affect price. My goal in this laptop buyer’s guide is to provide you with as much information as possible, so you can make the most informed decision when buying your cheap laptop.
Laptop Buying Guide – How Laptop’s components Affect Its Price
A laptop’s processor, also sometimes called the CPU (Central Processing Unit),
is the most important component affecting the price of a laptop. Processor speeds are measured in Megahertz (MHz) or Gigahertz (GHz) with 1 GHz being equal to 1,000 MHz. In terms of brand names, virtually all pc laptops will come with either Intel or AMD processors. While Intel chips are far more common they do on average tend to cost a little more and as a result you can sometimes save money by opting for AMD CPU instead. If you opt for an apple notebook you won’t have to deal with this issue since they use their own distinct processors.
Overall, faster laptop processors cost more. For doing basic things, like word processing and surfing the Internet, the latest fastest processor is usually not required. Thus, the lower end and cheaper processors are often all you really need. However, you should be aware that the types of processors available do play a big role in the battery life of your laptop. For more information about battery life please see part 2 of the laptop buyer’s guide.
The amount of memory, also called RAM (Random Access Memory), a computer has also plays a big role in affecting a laptops price. This should not be confused with the storage provided by a hard drive, which is discussed below.
Memory, like the computers processor, also plays a big role in determining the speed of a laptop. It is usually sized in Gigabytes (GB) or megabytes (MB) with 1 GB being equal to 1,000 MB. For most basic tasks you do not need a ton of RAM, so you can save some money by choosing the basic amount offered.
A laptops hard drive is where all your files are permanently stored. RAM on the other hand is where you store files while you are using them. Think about it like the relationship between a filing cabinet and a desk. You take a file from your filing cabinet (hard drive) and work on it at your desk (RAM). When you are done you return it from your desk to the filing cabinet until you want to use it again. Of course computers do this all automatically so you don’t need to actually worry about it.
Today Laptop hard drives are measured in Gigabytes (GB) with higher numbers meaning more storage capacity (Think of it as a bigger filing cabinet). Generally speaking most people can make do with a smaller hard drive, although a laptops hard drive does not affect price to the same degree as its memory and processor. Thus, if you do plan on storing large numbers of music, picture and/or video files this may be the one area where spending a bit more money might be a good idea.
Another important component of a laptops price, which is often overlooked, is the size of its screen. Over the last couple of years, laptops screen sizes have been getting bigger. While this makes using laptops far easier than it once was, it has also added to their cost. Therefore, if you have the option and can cope with using a slightly smaller screen size you can save a significant amount of money (Not to mention have longer battery life, which I will discuss in greater detail in part 2).
Virtually all laptops sold today will come with either a CD-ROM drive or increasingly a DVD drive. The only real difference between the two is that a DVD drive can play both DVDs and CDs, while a CD drive can only play CDs. If you don’t plan on doing either, then opting for a CD drive certainly makes the most sense, since they are cheaper than DVD drives. However, I personally think that getting a DVD drive is worth paying the extra money, because it greatly enhances the versatility of a laptop.
Another increasingly popular option for CD and DVD drives is to offer the ability to make your own CDs/DVDs. They are usually listed as one of the following: CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R and now DVD-RW.
The R in CD-R or DVD-R stands for the ability to create a read-only CDs/DVDs. This means once you have made it you cannot change it. The RW stands for the ability to make either read-only or rewritable CDs/DVDs, which means you can change the contents of the disk after you have made it. Generally speaking (although not always) DVD-R and DVD-RW drives can make both CDs and DVDs. CD-R and CD-RW drives on the other hand can only make CDs.
Overall, you certainly pay more for the ability to make your own CDS/DVDs. Personally, I often find that people tend to get laptops with this ability but then don’t really use it. So think about if you are realistically going to use it, since while it greatly adds to a laptop’s flexibility is also adds to its price. Finally, there is one extra thing to consider. If you plan to watch a large number of DVDs and/or make a large number of CDs/DVDs, you should plan on getting a little extra RAM memory and/or a slightly faster processor. The reason is that these tend to be a bit more advanced functions of a laptop and therefore, tend to take up more of its resources. Consequently, by increasing a notebooks memory and/or processor you can make these functions go more smoothly.
If you want to use your laptop to connect to the Internet you will have to get either a network card or a modem. If you have high-speed Internet and/or are using a network then you only need a network card. On the other hand if you use dial-up Internet service or need to ability to use dial-up service then you will need a modem. The basic options for either of these offered by most companies are usually more than sufficient.
One final thing to consider about connecting to the Internet is the proliferation, especially in big cities, of wireless Internet options. To use these you need to make sure that your laptop either has a Wi-Fi card or is configured to use wireless Internet connections. Again, this feature like all other features comes with an added cost, both from the card itself and the additional Internet charges that come from using the service provided by wireless Internet companies. Therefore, you have to think if this is something you are really likely to use or if it is just an added cost that you can do without.
The video card is the part inside your computer that transmits the information being performed by your processor to your screen. Unless, you plan on using your laptop for video intensive games you do not need to really worry about this function. Usually, the basic option offered by laptop companies is more than sufficient to meet the average users needs.
External Storage Drives
One more thing you might want to consider when getting a laptop is an external storage drive. This can include a regular floppy drive, external hard drive or USB memory Key. For most people an internal or external floppy drive is sufficient. On the other hand if you need to back-up or transfer large amounts of data then you should consider getting one of the CD-R(W)/DVD-R(W) device discussed above.
Again, keep in mind that all of these add to the cost of your laptop so only get what you think you will really need. This makes even more sense with external drives since you can always buy them later if you find that you really do need them.
The final components to think about when trying to get a cheap laptop are other external devices. This can include such things as an external keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer, speakers etc. None of these devices is necessary for your laptop to work but they can make it easier to use over long periods of time. Overall they are good idea if you use your computer for long periods of time in one fixed location but are probably not necessary if you are constantly using your laptop in different places. Remember since they are external devices you can always buy them later if you are unsure about needing them.
Laptop Buying Guide – Some Factors that Affect Your Laptop Price
In this section I will discus how various hidden factors can cause you to pay more than you have to for that cheap laptop.
#1 Laptop’s Condition: New, Refurbished and Used
Overall, this is probably the most important pricing factor.
New laptops always cost more than refurbished or used laptops. The main benefit from a new laptop is that you are guaranteed that it will work (at least initially), since virtually all, new laptops come with a warranty. However, this guarantee also means that the laptop is more expensive. Just how much more expensive is difficult to say, since it varies depending on the features of the laptop and other pricing factors discussed below. Thus, while new laptops are the most expensive option they are also the most secure. For more on New laptops please visit our Cheap New Laptops page.
If you are looking for the reliability associated with new laptop but don’t want to pay the full new price, then a refurbished laptop may be for you. These are laptops that have been reconditioned by laptop manufacturers to fix minor problems. On the whole refurbished laptops tend to use slightly older components. As a result of these factors, they tend to be cheaper than a comparable new model laptop. Also, they almost always come with a warranty, but these tend to be for shorter periods of time than those offered for new laptops. Thus, refurbished laptops are a good option if you don’t need a top of the line machine, but still want some form of security that your laptop will work. For more on Refurbished laptops please visit our Cheap Refurbished Laptop page.
Your third and final option to consider is a used laptop. These are, generally speaking, by far the cheapest option. Essentially, buying a used laptop simply means that you buy a laptop that some one else has used before. Also, you generally have a much bigger range of laptop features to choose from since there is such a supply of them. However, most used laptops do not come with a guarantee, or if they do usually no more than 30 days. Also, they sometimes don’t come with all the software you need installed and so this can be another added expense. Thus, while they are by far the cheapest option there are a few tings to watch out for. For more on Used laptops please visit our Cheap Used Laptops page.
#2 Brand Name
A second important hidden pricing factor has to do with, which company makes your laptop. Big computer manufactures like: Dell, IBM, Apple etc. can usually charge slightly more for their laptops because they have a name people know and trust. Often times though, these brand name laptops have the exact same components as those made by less well known companies (except Apple who has the exclusive right to make computers that run on its operating system). On the other hand, these bigger computer companies have been around for a while and so will probably still exist should a problem arise with your laptop. Therefore, choosing a lesser known brand of laptop can save you significant amount’s of money, so long as it has comparable components to those of a brand name model. For more on laptop companies please click here.
Unlike the supermarket, in the laptop world you pay more to get less. If you want a lighter laptop then you have to pay for it. Logically then, heavier laptops tend to be cheaper. This is a result of the fact that lighter laptop components are more difficult and as a result more expensive to manufacture. Moreover, the difference in price is often not proportion to the weight savings. Essentially you pay a lot more for your laptop to weigh slightly less.
#4 Battery Life
Another factor that can affect the price of a laptop is its battery life. The longer the battery life of a laptop the more expensive it’s going to be. This is a result of the fact that laptops with longer battery lives generally have more expensive processors (generally listed as either mobile (M) or centrino). Moreover, the way you use your laptop can also greatly affect its battery life. For example watching videos or making DVDs will use up your battery life much faster than simply using a word processor.
So you have to realistically think how long you need your laptop battery to last. If you don’t need it to last more than 2 hours between charges then you can usually choose cheaper models. On the other hand, some people may need to be able to use it for 4 or more hours at a time, but unfortunately this will cost more. However, one way to save money even if you need your laptop to last for a long time is to consider getting a second battery, and then you can still get a cheaper laptop and the battery life you need.
One area where many people don’t consider the extra costs that can mount up is with a laptop’s software. Getting premium versions of an operating system such as Microsoft Windows can add significantly to the cost. Additionally, buying expensive word processing packages such as Microsoft Office Professional can also add to the cost. Before buying these expensive add-ons consider what you will really be using the laptop for. Generally speaking most people can make do with the basic versions of operating systems and other software bundles. This is one area where you can save hundreds of dollars if you shop smart. Finally, if you know a bit more about computers you can even consider installing open source software such as Linux to save yourself even more money, although, this option is only recommended to those who have a relatively high degree of computer knowledge.
This is another item that can add appreciably to the cost of you laptop without you realizing it. All new laptops and most refurbished laptops generally come with some form of warranty. These can vary in their specific terms, but generally speaking a warranty guarantees that either the manufacturer and/or the store will fix a problem with your laptop for free as long as it falls within the time period the warranty covers. Moreover, many laptop manufactures and/or stores will often agree to sell you additional years of warranty protection for slightly more money. This can be a good way of guaranteeing that you don’t have to pay to fix potential problems with your laptop further down the road. However, I should note that many stores and/or manufactures make most of their profit by selling these additional warranties, so you might want to take that into consideration before buying extra coverage. In the end it essentially comes down to whether or not you want the extra protection and security at the extra price or take a small risk and pay and lot less.
#7 Shipping Costs
Shipping costs only affect the price of your laptop if you buy online. Personally, I think buying your laptop online makes the most sense, since even after shipping costs you usually find the best price there. However, just remember that they can add an extra, unforeseen cost to you laptop, and as a result make sure you read the fine print. If on the other hand you opt to buying your laptop from a real world store you will not have to deal with this cost (Although virtually every other cost will be higher).
#8 Laptop Add-ons
One final thing to consider when thinking about how much a laptop will cost are any other additional things you might want to buy with it. In the first part of this article we talked about external devices that can add to the cost. Here we will add a few other things that may be add on costs to your laptop. The two most common options that people get beyond the things talked about in part one are: an extra battery and a carrying case. This can both be good additions but must be considered in the final price of your laptop.
Laptop Buying Guide – 5 Things to Keep in Mind When Buying a New Laptop
Popularity of laptop is increasing every year with more variety to pick from. This contributes to countless amount of options, which makes it harder and harder for us to pick the right computer. However, there are ten universal things that you should keep in mind while looking for the best laptop brand:
1. The Brain of the Computer
There is not much of a difference between PC and laptop when it comes to the importance of it’s hardware. In laptops, as well as regular PCs, the most important component is the processor. This being said, you should always go with the fastest processor you can afford. Why? Mainly because all the work performed by your computer is performed directly or indirectly by the processor. Also, unlike RAM or CD-ROM you can’t upgrade the processor.
Generally speaking, two companies are the leading manufacturers of the processors: Intel and AMD. Intel’s processors are usually faster and enable greater battery life than AMD’s. However, they are usually more pricey. Just to keep things simple, processors produced by Intel are usually better but if you can’t afford it then go with more affordable option such as AMD.
2. The Form Factor
There are different types of laptops that serve different purposes. It is essential to know what type of lifestyle the laptop is going to serve. For example, if you plan to have a laptop that will be used mainly for traveling purposes, the best option for you is a ultra portable laptop. These laptops have very small screen sizes – ranging from 10 to 12 inches – and their keyboards very tiny as well. However with smaller size comes sacrifice such as lower speed and less storage. In general ultra portables are just the essential while on the road.
Another type of laptops are mainstream which are basically good for general tasks. They are usually not small but not big as well and have 14-inch screen size. On average mainstream laptops are faster and have a better performance than ultra laptops, however, they are heavier and bigger.
The last type of laptop serves the purpose to replace normal computer – the desktops. This is where the name of desktop replacement comes from. On average these are the fastest and most powerful laptops to choose from. However, they are big – weight up to six kilograms and their screen size range from 15 inch to 17 inch – and not for people on the go.
3. Screen Size
Screen size should be very important step when choosing a laptop and should not be omitted. If you are able to decide what type of screen size you want, it will make the process of buying your laptop much easier and faster. It will cut down all of the available options by at least a third.
Notebooks with an aspect ratio of 16:9 offer better image quality than 4:3 standard-screen cousins. 17-inch screen laptop on the other hand, gives the user the best quality possible but again they are not suited for people who frequently travel.
One aspect that laptops lack is definitely not enough memory for the optimal system performance. Having lots of RAM lets you run more applications at the same time, it keeps your computer run faster, and is necessary for 3D gaming, graphics work, and image or video editing. Whenever you are in the process of buying a laptop make sure that it has sufficient amount of memory. If it doesn’t, check whether there is a possibility to add additional memory in the future.
In order to enjoy small size of the computer, great sacrifices are being made to the size of the keyboard. Before buying a laptop make sure that you feel comfortable in using small keyboard and check whether the spacebar, shift, ctrl, and backspace keys feels comfortable for you to use.
Other thing to keep in mind is to check whether you feel comfortable with touchpad. Remember that laptops do not come with the mouse (you could buy one and connect it via USB), but with the tiny touchpad that lets you move around throughout the screen. Remember to check touchpad’s comfort and responsiveness before making your final purchase.