Which Laptop Should I Buy?

I opened the question laptop and besides warming my lap, it presented the following question to me:
[quote]I need help! Need a new laptop, my last one Toshiba Satellite M40 just died. Don’t know the tech stuff but need to store lots of photos plus run a small business (word and excel work mainly). Thinking of getting Toshiba P300 oc2. 500GB HD and 4GD DDR2 memory. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks for your help.[/quote]
I could just make up and answer and tell you to buy a Toshonic XS234.5 Revision 4 Model S with a 523GB HDD and 3GB Dance Dance Revolution, but I’d be doing neither of us a favour.

The truth is, I get variations on the “Which Laptop/PC/Phone?” question fairly regularly, and there is no correct answer. The huge diversity of consumer electronics poses at least an NP-Hard problem in selecting the ‘correct’ device. I’d argue in fact that the problem is bordering on chaos.

There is, thankfully, a correct process for purchasing a device that will get you over the 80/20 barrier very quickly. That is, you will be able to discard 80% of the available options, or select a device that is 80% appropriate, in short order.

Step 1: Set your budget.
Look, I know I sound like your father, but just bloody do it, and stick to it. If you don’t set a budget, you’ll flounder around for days and end up selecting something too expensive anyway.

Step 2: Decide on some non-negotiables.
Can you work on anything smaller than a 15″ screen? Do you require at least 300GB of photo storage, plus 100GB for the OS and sundries? Are you a Mac zealot? Do you require at least 4 USB ports to power all your humping dogs?

You get the picture. If there are any utterly non-negotiable items in your requirements, note them down and stick to them. In some cases this may require collaboration with Step 1. You may for example find no 17″ laptops that fit within your predefined budget. Go smaller or set your budget higher.

Taking the original question, this guy probably needs to prioritise disk space over CPU and RAM. Unless you’re doing hardcore Photoshop work on those images, any modern laptop will load images and run Word/Excel. If it were me, I’d go for decent internal storage, and probably even drop back on the CPU/RAM requirements and use the savings to buy an external backup device for the photos too.

Step 3: Google, Grasshopper.
Trawl the manufacturer sites for devices that fit your parameters in Steps 1 and 2, then make a list of models. Take that list and spend a good couple of hours Googling for reviews and opinions. What you’re looking for here is not “oh my god this is the shizzle fo my nizzle!” reviews. You’re looking for a groundswell of “what the hell, my battery exploded”-type messages. Some devices are lemons, and the internet discovers those lemons very, very quickly.

Step4: Purchase, then take a timeout.
Ben’s Consumer Electronics Law:
[quote]When an electronic device is purchased, a device with additional capability is instantaneously created at the same price point.[/quote]
You’ve found the device that is a close match to your requirements and fits in your budget. Buy it. Savour it. Don’t keep looking for alternatives that “could have been”. You’re guaranteed to be disappointed.

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  1. Another point is that if you buy a big name laptop (e.g. Dell, HP) they often come with a staggering amount of shite preinstalled. My last PC had a whole pile of games that only worked for an hour then demanded purchase and took ages to uninstall. – really irritating!

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