When buying a new laptop you should take stock of what you want in your computer. Are you basically going to use it at home, or do you travel a lot on business? Are you going to do mainly productivity (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.), or are you a hard core gamer? There are some factors you can sacrifice for others depending on what you're going to use your computer for. The main components to look at in any computer are hard drive space, memory, and processor speed. Some secondary characteristics are, CD/DVD drives, wireless connectivity, and video quality/screen size. With a laptop battery life and weight should also be added to that. So let's take a look at those components and see what it all means.
Processor SpeedThis is simply the speed at which the main processor works in your computer. Speed can be affected by other things like memory, and buss speed (how fast the information moves to and from the processor). If all you're going to be doing is productivity and email/web browsing, then you don't need a super fast processor, a netbook will probably work for you. If you intend to do video editing or gaming then you need as fast a processor as you can get.
Hard Drive SpaceFor most smaller notebook laptops 160 GB seems about the average. Again for basic productivity then you probably won't be needing something too much bigger. If you're going to be doing things with large file size like music or video then you'll want to get as big a one as you can. I do video and music on mine with a 160 GB and I have to archive things to DVD every so often, it's not too bad. However I'd still like to have a larger hard drive.
Laptop MemoryMemory refers to RAM memory, some people confuse this with hard drive storage. RAM memory stores data only as long as it needs it. Data is loaded from the hard drive into the RAM. When you close a program or turn off the computer what ever was in RAM is gone. While you are doing work in a word processor for example the computer loads the program into RAM, if it's too big, it loads what it needs, uses it, then empties it and loads the next part it needs. That's the reason more laptop memory equals a faster computer, it doesn't have to keep going back and forth to the hard drive to get data.
If you're doing video a large screen will make your life easier, same thing for gamers. It does add weight so if you travel a lot, ask yourself it you want to be dragging a 17 inch laptop through the airport. Now most people get the biggest processor they can, but bigger processors use more power which means a larger battery. Bigger batteries mean more weight. Some makers use the smallest battery they can to save weight, but is a laptop useful if it only has a 2 hour battery time? Think about whether speed or battery time is more useful to you, if all you're doing is word processing, then you don't need a super fast computer. Speaking of things that will drain the battery using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth will do it. If you're going to be traveling a lot then wireless connectivity is probably more important than a fast computer. Some of the small netbooks don't come with CD/DVD drives either, make sure you know which you want and check your computer specs before you buy.
Buying any laptop is a tradeoff, so you should make a list of the things you need. Actually sit down and write them so you can use it as you compare. There are a lot of other things you can consider, like color, you can find red, blue, green or pink laptops these days, Acer even has a line that is leather covered! Still if you focus on the points mentioned here then you should get a computer that suits your budget and needs.