As you begin looking at new computers for school or for home use you may be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of the laptops to choose from. What makes one computer better than a other? Why should you pay $700 when there are laptops that are only $400? Should I even bother with an extended warranty or will the manufacturer's limited warranty be sufficient? Well look no further because I have all the answers you need right here.

Things You Will Need

Knowledge of what each of these things are in your computer:

GB (gigabyte) - One thousand megabytes make up 1 gigabyte. Gigabytes are used to measure capacity in computers.

RAM (random access memory) - RAM is what is most noticeable when you look at a fast computer. When you have a lot of RAM in your computer, your computer will boot-up faster, load programs faster, switch between programs faster, and overall be much more responsive. For a Windows Vista computer, you'll want from 3 GB to 4 GB of RAM.

HDD (hard disk drive) - This is the primary storage device for your computer. This is where everything is stored on your computer from your pictures, movies, to games and software. Most people will want a 250 GB to 320 GB sized hard drive.

Processor - This is the brain of your computer. Whenever you do something the processor calculates the action and the result. This used to be a major deal when looking at a computer but most of today's processors now can handle everything a typical person can throw at them (and then some more).

Video Card - This is what makes everything you see on the screen. When you play a 3D game or use advanced photo-editing software, the video card calculates everything you see. The better the video card the better your 3D games will look and some of your graphics intensive software will run faster. Most people shouldn't worry about the video card.

Also, unless you plan on stealing your new laptop, all you need is a wallet and a bank account with money to support your purchase.

Step 1

Determine what you're going to be using the laptop for. Is the computer for home, for work, or for school? Are you going to be needing the computer for on the go or will it just be sitting at your desk at home all day? What you're going to be using the computer for will factor into what size screen for your laptop you want/need and how much money you should be looking to spend.

Step 2

The first feature you're going to want to look at for you new laptop is screen size. If you're going to be carrying your laptop to school every day you will probably want to consider a 14" or smaller screen. As the screen size gets smaller, typically the weight of the laptop goes down and the battery life while on the go goes up. Of course if you plan on having the laptop sit on the table or desk at home all day, you probably will like a 17" or larger screen for the larger viewing area.

Step 3

Now is to look at the innards and performance of your prospected laptops. Depending on what you're using the laptop, for the specific features you'll want will change.

A typical student looking for a laptop and only plan on using it for the Internet, typing papers, playing web games, and listening to music will primarily be concerned about RAM quantity, hard drive size, processor speed, built-in wireless internet, and battery life (in that order).

A student looking for a laptop for playing 3D games like World of Warcraft and other entertainment uses will want to look at about RAM quantity, video card performance, processor speed, hard drive space, and built-in wireless internet (in that order).

A typical family looking for a laptop for checking email, printing out stuff, and looking at websites will want to look at RAM quantity, hard drive space, and built-in wireless internet.

Step 4

Now that you've determined the screen size you want and what features of your new laptop you should be looking for, now is the time to go to your local retail store or purchase a laptop online. Since RAM really does play a major factor in your laptop's performance, look for AT LEAST 3 GB when choosing one.

Retailers and online sites will offer you a lot of things with your laptop and so you need to decide if you really need any of those things. Since most of those things aren't relevant to this article about choosing a laptop I'll really only mention the extended warranty you can choose to buy. While warranties aren't for anyone, sometimes they can be very useful (especially when it comes to laptops where they can be smashed by books in a back back or even dropped or spilled on).

Keep in mind that every company is different with their extended warranties and so you should research a little about them before you buy. Factors you'll want to consider are: what the extended warranty covers (does it just extended the manufacturer's coverage of mechanical break-downs or does it cover wear and tear and accidental damage?) Also figure out how long the warranty is, does it extend off the limited warranty or does it start day one? Finally, if you do break your laptop, what happens? Do they fix it or do they give you your money back?

Step 5

This step is about finalizing the decision on your laptop. You're probably wondering, what brand of laptop do I want? Does brand name matter? Well to answer that question there is a yes and there is a no for "brand matters". While bigger named brand computers are always a good option they aren't always the best option. For example a Sony branded laptop is significantly more expensive compared to other brands with little to sometimes worse features to its competition of the same price (or lower). Where other brands, like Acer, gives you great features at a great price and also have a strong brand name as well.

Here's a list of some of the good brands of computers you will come across most frequently at your local retail store that generally have a good track performance and support. (I've personally owned Sony, HP, and Compaq if you're wondering and I have been thoroughly happy with them).

GOOD Brands to look for:
HP
Acer
Toshiba
Dell
Sony (although they a really freaking expensive for no good reason)
Compaq (they are technically owned and supported by HP)
So there you go, here is everything you need to know when picking yourself a new laptop. If you have any comments or questions feel free to leave a comment. If you have need for a bad credit laptop check out the other articles written by me.

Tips & Warnings