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Page last updated at 17:46 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Click Essentials: Laptops


Our essential guide on what to look out for when buying a laptop.

More people are now buying laptops than big desktop computers.

But for the novice how to choose what specification is right for you?

The basics

First of all decide how you are going to be using the machine. If it is simple tasks like using office software or sending e-mails, then a low to mid-price machine might be suitable enough.

If videogames are more your thing, then aim for a top spec gaming machine. If you plan to take it on the road, a smaller lighter laptop might be more your style.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

It pays to choose a laptop with the right speed as many components inside it can't be changed or upgraded in the same way as a desktop machine.

The CPU or central processing unit performs all of the machine's calculations - it is the brain of the machine. Its speed is commonly measured in gigahertz (GHz) - the numbers range from 1.6 to three, and the bigger the better.

Also consider the number of cores. The CPU has a single core processor but a dual core CPU should be able to double the number of calculations.

Hard drive

The hard drive is where all of a user's data is stored - they currently come as traditional spinning drives or SSDs (Solid State Drives).

SSDs are faster, quieter, consume less power, are lighter and will even boot up faster than a spinning hard drive. They also cost a lot more than old fashioned drives.

If you run out of space, you can sometimes upgrade the drive, or plug in external hard drives.

Random Access Memory

RAM also helps speed things up. Some applications like photo and video editing are extremely RAM intensive, so opt for more if you are planning to edit.

The bare minimum for most tasks is 2GB of RAM, so 4GB should be enough for most users. But you can add more RAM to your machine if needed.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

Now, the graphics card handles the pictures displayed on the screen. Cheaper laptops come with a less powerful, integrated GPU, which is fine for most applications.

But if you are interested in 3D graphics or gaming, you will need to get a machine with a high-end dedicated graphics card.

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