On the Hunt for a Glass Slipper: How to Choose the Right Laptop for You
Choosing the right laptop can be a tricky process. Your team members will all have different needs and preferences. Selecting a laptop that helps boost their productivity is more complex than simply picking up a deal on the high street, after all.
Netstar talks you through everything you need to consider.
In one of our recent blogs Maria’s Expert Advice On Laptop Buying we covered the “Three Ps” of laptop specification: Power, Portability and Performance. These are all elements that go into choosing the laptop that is right for you. In this article we’ll go one step further, helping you to choose the type of portable device that would suit you best.
One of the other important “Ps” Maria talked about was Personal. This should be the starting point of any laptop specification. What you finally specify will very much depend on what the laptop will be used for.
It’s tempting to respond to this question with the answer, “just normal office work”. However, in our experience, there is no such thing as “normal office work” when it comes to specifying laptops.
The requirements of an office-based graphic designer, for example, will be very different to a sales person who does a lot of travelling.
Why snapping up the best high street deal isn’t going to work
The laptops sold by most high street retailers tend to serve two markets. Simple home use and gaming.
At the lowest-price end of the market, you’ll find low-spec models designed for little more than browsing the internet, doing homework and maybe catching up on social media. These will seem like great value – until you start looking under the bonnet and find that the specifications of the chipsets, memory, graphics cards and other elements are often way below what you’d need to work effectively.
The other market served by the high street is the gaming market. Here the laptops are built to a much higher specification, but this doesn’t make them ideal for office work either. These laptops often have high-end graphics cards with added RAM, and extra hardware such as virtual reality (VR) headsets. However, the average accountant isn’t going to need a graphics card of that magnitude – and your money would be better spent on increased security features or the hard drive.
In her blog, Maria used the analogy of a kitchen to explain how the different parts of a laptop work together. If we imagine, in the office environment, the data is our food, and it is served up on different dishes (or programmes). In Maria’s analogy, this food is stored in the hard drive (our fridge), prepared on the RAM (our kitchen counter), and cooked up by the CPU (the chef).
Each different dish and recipe is going to require different resources to prepare and serve – so you need to know what you’re going to be preparing and serving before you can begin to specify your kitchen components or chef.
Specifying the components of your kitchen
Let’s take a look at each of the key components of a laptop and its function in more detail.
Size and Weight
- Laptops can range from around a 10.1” screen size up to around 17”.
- Weights vary from just over 1kg for the ultra-thin models to as much as 4kgs for some models.
- If going lightweight is important to you, remember to consider the weight of the power supply within your calculations.
- For a truly lightweight solution for mobile workers or those who do a lot of travelling, a tablet and detachable keyboard may be an alternative solution. However, the practicality of this will depend on the access to the necessary software and functionality on the tablet form.
- If you are specifying laptops with smaller screens, the quality of screen resolution becomes more important.
- Screen resolution is measured in pixels and this needs to be matched with the size of the screen.
- Colour rendition and contrast may be important considerations for some users, especially those in creative industries.
- The best thing to do, if possible, is to look at the screen in action beside another screen.
Laptop Storage Space
- The hard disk drive is your computer’s central storage system.
- The bigger the hard drive the more applications and files can be stored.
- Users who work with larger file types, such as videos and high-resolution graphics, will usually need larger hard drives.
- The capacity is measured in gigabytes (GB) and terabytes (TB).
- 1TB is usually the minimum specification in an office environment.
- If performance is important, a Solid State Drive (SSD) may be worth specifying, but this will add to the cost.
- Bear in mind that cloud applications, cloud storage, as well as removable or networked storage drives, can help to alleviate the pressure on storage space. If your office environment is largely cloud-based, a lower-spec laptop could work equally well.
- The smooth running of tasks is managed by the laptop’s Random Access Memory (RAM)
- Speed and size are the two most important considerations about Memory
- Speed relates to the maximum transfer rate and it will determine performance
- The capacity is usually measured in gigabytes (GB)
- 8GB to 16GB is usually ideal for most office applications
- For advanced graphics and web design tasks or other memory-hungry applications, you will usually require more RAM (32GB +)
- Some models allow you to swap out the RAM card. This is worth considering if reducing electronic waste and prolonging the lifecycle of your equipment is an important consideration for your organisation.
Central Processing Unit (CPU)
- The generation, number of cores and speed of each core are the most important considerations about the microprocessor.
- Dual-core is the minimum you should consider.
- Speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz).
- Generation is important; a 3GHz CPU from five years ago won’t perform as well as a 3GHz CPU built today. The newer chips tend to be more efficient and less power-hungry, so a newer chip set will often mean a lighter-weight laptop and longer battery life. Cheap laptop deals often feature older generation CPUs.
- Your choice of operating system will depend on whether you use Apple, Microsoft or Linux/ Android and this will affect the choice of laptops available to you. Whatever your preferred OS, it is important to get the most up-to-date version.
- If one or more of your key office applications is an old, legacy programme you will need to ensure it can run on the laptop before purchase.
- The number of available ports is often an overlooked aspect of a laptop purchase. It can affect usability dramatically. Consider how many USB ports you will need and whether you will need to plug into a monitor or projector that requires a HDMI, VGA or DisplayPort, etc?
- If you are going to be connecting devices via Bluetooth, you need to ensure your laptop has that capability. This is especially important if you have limited USB ports.
Given all these possible variations, you can see why it is important to be very honest about how, where and how you will be using your laptop.
There is a laptop out there to suit everyone: you just need to know what you want and why.
Under-specifying could lead to poor productivity, IT downtime and low morale. Investing in the right laptop could save you time and money in the long run.
Get in touch with us today for expert advice on choosing the laptop that is right for you.