Notebook Buying Guide : A Simple Approach

notebookbuyingguide

Making a decision on which notebook to buy isn’t an easy one, as if lacking the knowledge to understand the details and specifications wasn’t bad enough, one can’t help but being bombarded by worrisome thoughts like whether the notebook will serve its purpose well or whether one had spent more than required. To make matters worse, there are sales people who quite often mislead potential buyers by painting exaggerated pictures.

Unlike the PC Buying Guide Buying guide, the Notebook Buying Guide will be using a different approach on determining which is the right notebook for you.

Notebooks, unlike PCs, are not flexible in terms of customization and quite often you’re not given much choice on upgrades other than the RAM size and a few other things. It’s impossible to have a comparison like the one seen in PC Buying Guide as there are hordes of notebook brands and to keep track of their ever-changing models, specifications and price would be a tedious task, state their price and specifications wrongly and I could get into trouble. Sorry, no hot-soup for me. Thank you.

So how do we go about deciding on which notebook to buy then? Some people say the best way to decide which notebook (a.k.a. laptop) to purchase is easily done, just compare the specifications of the notebook will do. Yeah sure but do people know what they’re comparing in the first place?

In this article, I will be covering non-technical aspects of buying a notebook that are important but quite often overlooked.

For Your Consideration

Here are some practical and non-technical factors that you should consider before making your purchase. ๐Ÿ™‚

Note : Some part of this guide is not applicable for online purchase. Use common sense when necessary.

Purpose

This is the MOST important point to consider in all your computer purchases, whether it’s for notebook or a PC or even a single component – what do you want out of it? It’s like buying a car, you buy the one that serves your purpose best.

You need to know what you intend to do with it, for example – is this machine just for typing documents and browsing the Internet? Is it for presentation? Will this notebook follow you every where?

By knowing your purpose, you helping the decision making process by knowing what you need and thus leading to a more cost-efficient purchase.

Price

I know it’s obvious that you can’t buy what you cannot afford, but purchasing a notebook is more than just buying the notebook itself.

Sometimes you need to consider whether to spend on accessories, such as a carrying medium if it doesn’t come along with the package, an additional mouse for convenience, or even various upgrades or support from the seller, so on so forth.

Remember to allocate a little extra for things that might come in handy.

Dimension (Width & Depth)

Do prefer something small? Would you mind if it’s big enough to be used as a tray? Take a look around, choose one that you’re comfortable with. The dimension of the notebook will determine the screen size for your notebook.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to bother about height unless they have preference for notebooks that are slim when closed.

Bigger notebooks have bigger screen but takes up more table real-estate or wherever you decide to place it, bigger notebooks are usually heavier and it also means that you’ll be carrying something bigger wherever you go with it. Also take note that bigger sized notebooks may cost more, same goes to the smaller notebooks too.

Weight

Try carrying it, I’m sure the shopkeeper / sales person would let you try that as long as you don’t drop it. Feel the weight of the notebook, see if you’re comfortable with it.

If you find the weight is just nice then you’ll have to bear in mind that what you’re carrying is just the notebook alone. After your purchase, you’ll be carrying more stuff along as you’ll normally receive a free bag and inside the bag you’ll be placing stuff like power adapters and various other what-nots that you may decide to stash in there.

While testing the weight, it’s very likely that you’ll be estimating the weight by lifting it with both hands. In actual usage, the notebook is carried on your shoulders most of the time. Don’t believe me? Just look around the next time go out, most people carry their notebook on their shoulders with a slingbag. The only time the notebook is carried by your two hands is when you move it in or out of the carrying medium, or perhaps when moving across short distances with less than 10 seconds travel time.

Weight affects you as you are expending energy to carry the notebook and quite often the notebook might not be the only thing you’ll be carrying.

Monitor

Not all notebook monitors are the same. Some monitors are better than others. As you check out the notebooks, note the notebook models that have monitor output that satisfy your eyes. Ask the sales person about the monitor type if you’re in doubt or if it’s not stated. Do remember that I mentioned that the notebook dimension also determines the size of the monitor. So on a smaller sized notebook, you could be on the same resolution but at a smaller scale, so take note of the screen and how small the words could be.

Take care of your eyes. Choosing a notebook with monitor that’s comfortable to your eyes is helpful when you need to stare at the screen for long hours. Some people are fine with text being small but to others it’s just plain annoying, if you’re always presenting stuff to people on your notebook then you should also consider one with bigger screen and wider view angles for easier viewing.

Keyboard & Touchpad (Ergonomics)

Make sure you try out the keyboard and touchpad as well. Imagine yourself typing a document and browsing the Internet. Type some stuff, moving your finger along the touchpad, click on the touchpad buttons. Do you find it too sensitive? Do you find it difficult to use the touchpad buttons? Does the touchpad interface feel rough? ๐Ÿ™‚ Make sure you choose a notebook that you’re comfortable in using the keyboard and touchpad.

You must feel comfortable when using the notebook, it’s pointless to get a notebook that hurts you (especially your wrists) after using it for a while.

Warranty & Support

This is probably the most important aspect of notebook purchase and quite often overlooked. You must know in detail what you’re getting.

For example
– How many years of warranty do you get? eg. 1 year? 3 years?
– What does the warranty cover? eg. Does it cover accidents like spills?
– Is the warranty recognized Internationally? This might matter if you intend to buy it some place and use it more often in another place.
– How’s the support availability? eg. Do you have to bring to their Service Center or can they come to you instead?
– Are there any support upgrades? Like DELL for example, they provide a basic level of warranty but gives you various warranty upgrade options.
– Does doing my own upgrade void warranty? Yes, this should be brought into consideration. It could be cheaper to upgrade on your own, like RAM size for example, but will it void the warranty? Remember to verify this with your seller.

Shit happens. Having warranty and support coverage is like having insurance. You wouldn’t want to be stranded too long, would you?

Looks

Paying for good-looking notebook is not necessary. Only consider paying for good looks only when you are required to impress people you meet. ๐Ÿ™‚

Yes, looks are cool but looks without purpose is a waste. If you’re out to impress clients and all, a nice notebook would give a great first impression. ๐Ÿ™‚

Summary

So there you have it, a guide that works even a few years from now. For a more technical approach, head on to Notebook Buying Guide : A Technical Approach – the second part of the Notebook Buying Guide. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ll update both articles from time to time if some good ideas come up. If you have any way to improve this guide? Leave a comment or contact me. I’d love to hear what you have in mind.

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47 Comments

  1. Haha, atleast the guide for buying laptop approached ^^. Nice work man =)

  2. I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding Notebook Buying Guide : A Simple Approach, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Author

    Well Daniel, to each their own opinion. It’s good enough to know that you don’t “Disagree 100%”. Why don’t you share your opinion? Maybe you do have a point, something I could’ve missed out.

  4. Thanks for the guide goldfries ๐Ÿ™‚

    But if possible, can you provide some examples of notebook model available in market, for certain purpose? (gaming, business, work)

  5. Author

    Sorry, I can’t give you examples, I did explain that earlier. ๐Ÿ™‚ I could give you examples now but 2 years later people wouldn’t know the models already.

    Most brands will come with their general work / business range and gaming range. I would say All laptops in the market can be used for business / work purpose. That of course, subjected to your line of work. Office productivity suites and accounting softwares are fine for all, only subjected to compatibility with Operating Systems.

    As for gaming, again it also depends on your gaming preference. Yahoo! Games? or games like Battlefield 2142 and the likes? ๐Ÿ™‚ You need to choose one that supports your type of gaming.

  6. Love this guide – I especially love that you took care to mention the ergonomic factors associated with buying a computer or laptop. So many people only are about how much memory or how much hard drive space there is – I have to admit, when I brought my macbook a month ago I didn’t realize what a strain on my wrists it could be – now I am paying for it a little. With disorders like RSI and Carpel Tunnel you can never be to careful.

  7. Author

    Fellow Macbook user!! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Yup, it’s not just for laptops, it’s humans generally forget about how keyboard and mouse could help their health.

  8. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Notebook Buying Guide : A Simple Approach, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  9. Nice Guide! Understand this guide, and you wont get into any trouble of purchasing NB in the future. Two Thumbs Up

  10. Great guide goldfries. It does help me in my notebook purchasing deal next year before I pop into college.

  11. Author

    ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’m glad to see that the guide is doing what it was created for.

  12. i thought i just share this to add on your tip, most people would follow or listen to the “myth” that brands do reflect the notebook quality. But according to CHIP magazine a few years back, cant remember which issue. Its totally bullshit as theres 3 main hardware vendors/warehouse that supply parts to the worlds biggest computer company ie:acer,hp,compaq,toshiba and etc

    so saying you buy acer and hp. the chances of it failing is actually the same as they could have taken it from the same company. im some most of us notice that hardisk failure were quite common at 1 point in time and that acer and hp could be using the same brand of hardisk.but because the hardisk in acer failed more most people would just blame acer although both notebook hardisk came from western D or something.

    but what i believe company like dell and all that are alot bigger and tries to guarentee better notebooks would have a different method of selecting hardware or they have some custom made for them.not too sure how things work on their side. i tried to google up and find these notebook warehouse infor but didnt manage to.maybe someone could try clear up this myth ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I’m surprised you didn’t mention about the build quality. For me it’s the most important criteria when choosing a laptop/notebook. Just like choosing a casing for your PC. You don’t want a lousy casing that is very likely to crack or loosen & etc. when you have got all the best hardware in the world.

  14. Author

    It’s not in there because most notebooks I come by are build sufficient for usage. If it breaks due to mishandling, then I would blame the user more than the product. ๐Ÿ˜€

    It’s a little tricky to introduce build quality. Quality is subjective.

    Anyway I like your point and I will consider adding to the article! Every little bit helps.


  15. Hey Goldfries,

    Nice article you have!

    However, there are many people, especially younger students who have troubles buying notebook. They should read this article before buying those notebooks. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Either they are ‘forced’ by shopkeepers to buy a high-end C2D, and they are all just using it for assignments only, not multimedia work.

    In that case, they should be using only a plain Celeron or a Pentium Dual-Core.

    For me, thank goodness I received a laptop from my cousin for free (i think), and it’s an old Sony Vaio with only an Athlon XP-1800+ and a meager 768mb RAM. However, it cruises the net very well enough on my desk or anywhere I go. (I don’t have the battery, so it’ll be always at my home).

    Strange, if they purchase a C2D notebook, could surfing the net faster? I doubt it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Just my humble opinions. Any ideas about a good, sturdy students’ notebook? ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Author

    Yup. If it’s just using it for documents, presentation and spreadsheets even the lowest end computers could do.

    I did my assignments with sub-400mhz processors, 128mb RAM and 2GB hard disk! ๐Ÿ™‚

    So unless there is a REAL requirement, I’d just go for the bare basic (lowest spec) with but probably with like longer warranty period.

  17. but can you imagine loading all the heavy software using old laptop? they are going to take years.

    time is money. if you lose time, you lose double money ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. my approach is easier… as long as it is not from acer, it is good enough… had very bad encounter with my dad’s acer laptop last time… and other fren’s acer branded laptops…

  19. but my friend’s acer laptop still running good.

    i got many friends who bought compaq. 2 motherboards gone before it ages 1YO. after warranty claim, at least got 1 port(usb, audio-out) got problem.
    other 2, LAN port got problem since the beginning, the other one if you plug in audio-out, BSOD

  20. Weight was a big issue for me when I bought my notebook. A couple pounds doesn’t sound like much until you have to carry it around everywhere.

  21. Author

    Yes, in the long run it counts. ๐Ÿ™‚ A few short moments at the shop and we usually think it’s fine. Furthermore at the shops, quite often we’re just testing based on the weight of the notebook itself, not counting the bag and cables.

  22. Interesting article. I wouldnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt say the purchasing process is simple but you definitely made it much easier. This by far one of the best guides I’ve come across. One of my friends is planning to buy a laptop next month and I certainly know how to direct him now. Thanks for the awesome stuff.

  23. As most of the people who commented, weight has been a crucial factor for me. I’m never at my desk and I move around with my laptop to meet clients etc. The notebook being light weight is the main requirement for me.

  24. Hey guys, I’m still in college and I’m planning to buy a laptop soon. One of my friends pointed me to your site and it has helped me a lot to decide what laptop to buy. Just thought to drop a word and thank you for the awesome post.

  25. Author

    Glad you guys liked it! (man, such odd names make it difficult to respond to.)

  26. well I guess you have covered all the aspects there. but what about extra features? Like Bluetooth,WiFi etc. Anyway awesome guide. Good job with it. Cheers

  27. Pretty comprehensive article. You have more or less covered all bases. Thanks alot for the information, I learn’t a few things that I didn’t normally look for when it came tho this.

  28. That’s a really cool guide. my friend ho dropped by yesterday mentioned me about your site. really cool. I wish there is similar guide to purchase cameras :(( nice work any way. Thanks

  29. Author

    @all – thank you!

    yes. I think I’ll have it on draft but it’s not that easy. ๐Ÿ˜›

  30. I want to buy a laptop and my budget is nearly $900 I am looking for a good brand, but all seems to be nice. Could you suggest me which one would be better among Dell, compaq and lenovo and sony, coz these are among the most popular ones.

  31. Author

    I can’t go by brand, it all depends on the specs.

    Do check which one gives you better warranty and support in your area.

  32. Great post. I’m hoping to buy a notebook. I had doubts what to choose. But after reading this I have a clear thought of what I should buy. Thanks a lot for sharing the information.

  33. Great post. This shows us that what we like is not always the one we need. We have to chose the one that suits us the best. In that case the one that can fulfill our needs. Now I know what to consider when buying a laptop. Thanks for sharing the information.

  34. Author

    Thank you for such goods works, could it be done with at least a nice nickname next time? ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. I’m so happy that I came across this site. Specially this post. I’m hoping to buy a new notebook and I had about 5 models in my mind. After reading this I narrowed it down to 2. This post really helped me to choose what I need. Thank you.

  36. Great stuff. This is really useful. Many people buy laptops without thinking what they really want. They just buy what they like. It’s really important to select a laptop that suites our needs. I’m really happy about your post. Thanks for helping all of us.

  37. I was hoping to buy the best thing on market but after i read this it made me realize that I don’t need the best because I wont be using it for huge tasks. A normal laptop would do. also i’ll have some cash left to buy some other stuff. I’m so glad that I came across this post. Thanks for sharing the information.

  38. Thanks, I had a HP presario which lasted for almost 2 years, just passing its warranty, apparently the motherboard burnt, and rather than replacing it I thought to myself that I must as well get my self a new one. Now I’m definitely going to get one with an extended warranty! Thanks so much for posting! :)z

  39. Nice website youรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve got their. Shocked you get the time to keep this so current. I usually struggle with my personal webpage.



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