How to Shop for a Laptop

by Joe Murray

    Laptop or notebook computers come in a variety of configurations and price ranges. Before you begin to shop, first decide exactly what the laptop's use will be -- gaming, word processing, accounting, reading and writing email, social networking, surfing the Internet, building websites or a combination of these pursuits. Determine your budget and remember that you also need to add software to your purchase price.

    Step 1

    Consider how you plan to use the laptop and proceed accordingly. You may only want a laptop for email and surfing the Internet, for example, in which case you might decide that a netbook is adequate. More robust usage will require a higher-end laptop at a commensurately higher price. Make sure your laptop has Wi-Fi capability regardless of the price. Weight is another factor if you plan to travel with your laptop. Any laptop more than 5 or 6 pounds will weigh you down. Because streaming and cloud storage have become very popular and accessible, consider forgoing an optical or DVD drive. The latest Ultrabook computers can weigh less than two pounds and pack a world of features including solid state drives, high speed processors and extended battery life. If you are replacing a desktop computer, take a look at laptops with 17- or 18-inch screens. These may weigh more than 8 pounds and cost more money but have many features and are designed to be a portable desktop computer.

    Step 2

    Visit your local electronics retailer after you have narrowed your selection to three or four makes and models. Try out the keyboard and on-board mouse. Look at the keyboard lettering in normal room light. Try out the screen with a colorful video. Look for depth, vibrancy and if the screen is well backlit. Feel the weight. Check off your list of desired features. You may have to compromise on price, but never compromise on comfort and ease of use. Price does not matter if the machine you buy does not feel or look right to you.

    Step 3

    Search the Internet and local retail vendors for the best price for the brand, the model and the features you are looking for in your new laptop. Ask about special deals like extended warranties, included or discounted printers or software and free shipping. Also find out about their return policy and warranty repair procedures. Ask about upgrades to RAM, hard drives and graphics cards. Check the price of a spare battery. Read the reviews of your selections, both by professional reviewers and by verified owners whenever possible.


    • Some Internet retailers do not charge sales tax in some states. These vary depending on their geographic headquarters locations. Check for shipping charges. Many other Internet vendors offer free shipping from time to time. Ask when your selection will go on sale.


    • Unless you are a computer expert and familiar with repairing or replacing internal laptop parts, do not buy used equipment. You could be purchasing a fairly costly doorstop with no recourse.

    About the Author

    Joe Murray San Francisco, CA, US Joe Murray began writing professionally in 1980. As a technical writer, he authored numerous white papers, journals and articles for publications and websites for Hewlett Packard and Intel. Since retiring, Murray has written several home-exchange travel articles for and CHECtravel, among other outlets. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Santa Clara University. Murray has made more than 50 vacation home exchanges worldwide.

    Photo Credits

    • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images