How to choose a computer (notebook) correctly

How to choose a computer (notebook) correctly

What does the choice of a notebook depend on?

The choice of a laptop is mainly dictated by your needs and your spending possibilities. Of course, there are laptop computers (notebooks) objectively very powerful and capable of carrying out any operation you want with extreme ease, but these models usually cost much more than the average, and it is said that you can or should exploit all their capabilities. But then, how to choose a notebook? In this article you will find all the answers to your doubts.

First of all I will explain what questions you must bring within the subjective evaluations that you have to complete before buying. Then we will go into more detail with the technical evaluations, or more objective. A computer with a more powerful processor allows you to perform operations faster, but do you really need it? And in the same way a computer with a high-end GPU will allow you to run the latest generation of video games in a fluid way. But how much will you use the computer for gaming? As you see, in the end, subjective and objective evaluations are both important and not as separate from each other as it would seem at first.

How to choose a computer (notebook) correctly

Subjective evaluations on the choice of a notebook

The first two questions that you need to ask in order to know how to choose a notebook are the following:

  1. What is the budget I have at my disposal?
  2. What do I need this computer for?

After answering both questions you will see that the choice will be much simpler, or you can buy your new laptop with a mind almost free from doubts. But we try to proceed calmly and go with order.

Let’s focus on the first very important question that we asked ourselves. “What is the budget I have at my disposal?”. To give you a satisfactory answer, you need to know that there are roughly three price ranges for notebooks:

  1. entry-level that includes economic machines for a maximum of 300/350 euros;
  2. medium level that reaches up to 600/700 euros
  3. top of the range that cost over 1,000 euros.

The notebooks for less than 400 euros are a good choice for those who have to perform basic operations, such as browsing online or processing text documents, which do not require particularly advanced hardware or for those who need extremely portable computers (maybe convertible into tablets) with screens not larger than 10 ?. For a more intensive use, on the other hand, laptops of at least 500/600 euros are required (many of which are also suitable for basic video editing, mid-level gaming and other medium-demanding operations). The top-of-the-range computers – those that cost even more than 1,000 euros – instead meet the needs of those who need powerful machines to play, make professional video / audio editing or those who prefer classic ultra-thin laptops to classic laptops.

Now let’s see how to answer the second question or “What do I need this computer for?”. In fact, answering this question allows you to understand what are the characteristics of the computer on which to focus more (eg graphics capabilities, battery life, etc.) and identify the ideal size of the notebook to buy. In fact, there are laptops for all tastes and you have to choose carefully what you need. A computer for over 15 “, for example, loses much of its portability and is unsuitable for use in mobility, on the other hand computers with larger displays are an excellent solution for those who must use the notebook mainly at home or in the office and want a screen that does not strain the view, play and watch movies easily (not for nothing are called desktop replacement, or substitutes of the computer). In addition, the 10/11 laptops are the ideal solution for those who move a lot and above all need portability, while the 13/15 notebooks represent an average size that is good for both portability and for use as a replacement for the desktop.

Technical evaluations on the choice of a notebook

After the subjective evaluations for the choice of a notebook, it is necessary to quantify the real value of a laptop from its hardware. Let’s start by saying that, compared to desktop PCs, notebooks are much less customizable or you buy them in a closed box and the replacement of components such as RAM and hard disk is quite difficult for those who are not expert in the field (if not impossible). This means that you need to buy a computer that is already equipped with everything you need and that can withstand the effects of time.

That said, to choose the most suitable notebook for your needs is essential to know well the specifications and evaluate elements such as processor, RAM, hard disk or SSD, display, video card and product quality of the product.

Processor (CPU)

The processor often called CPU is also a “brain” of the computer, ie the one that processes the data and performs the calculations. It can be composed of one or more cores and its speed is expressed in GHz. In processors with more than one core (eg dual-core with 2 cores, quad-core with 4 cores etc.) the work is divided among several units of processing that are in the same processor in order to increase the computing power without overheating the computer too much or consuming too much energy. The main CPU manufacturers are Intel and AMD that have divided their processors into various families: the Intel Core i3 / i5 and AMD Serie A are intended for mid-range computers; the Intel Core i7 perform better than the Core i3 and i5 and are found on many top-of-the-range computers; Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium and AMD Series E are designed for cheaper computers (thus offering lower performance than Intel Core i3 / i5 and AMD Series A); Intel Atom CPUs ensure low power consumption and therefore are used on many cheap convertible computers, while Intel Core m3 / m5 / m7 are low-power CPUs used mostly in ultrabook and convertible. Their performance is good but still not comparable to those of Intel Core i3, i5 and i7. Then there are the AMD Ryzen CPUs, which can be compared in terms of performance to the Core i5 and Intel’s Core i7.

RAM memory

As far as RAM is concerned, it is better to avoid computers with less than 4 GB of memory as they would not be able to fully meet the most common work and entertainment needs. The only exception are the small convertible computers (up to 10?), Which have more limited usage scenarios and therefore can work well even 2GB. Some notebooks have free slots for installing additional RAM banks without invalidating the warranty.

Graphics card (GPU)

The graphics card (or GPU) is a component that is carefully chosen according to the user’s needs. I’ll give you an example: if you plan to use the notebook only for office work: to compile documents, surf the Internet and so on, you can easily settle the integrated video cards (which use the computer RAM and can ensure good performance also for watching HD movies and playing medium quality games). If you are going to play next-generation videogames at the highest resolution, you need to work with 3D graphics or you need to create professional-quality video montages geared towards high-end computers with dedicated video cards (eg nVidia or AMD), which they can rely on their own RAM.

Display (screen)

The notebook display represents the screen or the main output interface for the user. It should be noted that a good graphics card if not coupled to a good display loses much of its usefulness. So before buying a notebook, then make sure that its display has sufficient resolution for the activities you want to do (eg to enjoy a Full HD movie you can not take a laptop with a resolution of 1366 × 768 pixels). There are also laptops equipped with displays of over 1080p, in these cases we must carefully evaluate the capacity of the battery to “hold up” such high resolutions.

Hard disk and SSD

One of the components to be evaluated carefully before buying a notebook is definitely Hard disk (HD) and / or SSD and with this the type, capacity, power and speed of rotation of the hard disk (in the case of mechanical disks only ). Currently in the shops there are notebooks equipped with a mechanical hard disk (HDD), laptops equipped with SSD drives (mainly ultrabooks) and notebooks that mount either one type of unit. If you do not know what I’m talking about, SSD drives are solid-state disks that stand out from the mechanical ones because they’re much faster, quieter, and more resistant to falls. Their main flaws are the price (they are still quite expensive compared to traditional HDDs) and the fact that they have a number of writes over which they stop working, even if it is difficult to reach this limit in the standard use of a computer. However, try to favor the 7200 rpm HDDs compared to those of 5400 rpm as they provide higher speed than the others (even if it is difficult to find 7200 rotations per minute on medium-low-range laptops) and SSD drives that have at least 256GB of data storage space (unless they are flanked by a mechanical disk). The units of measurement of HDD are the GigaBite, for those who want to use the computer to make music, photography or download movies, I recommend an HDD of at least 500 GB. Better still to always have an external HDD of 500 GB or 1 Terabite.

Doors and connections

Recent notebooks can be equipped with different types of inputs and outputs. USB ports can be standard (full size), mini or micro. They are also subdivided into USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and USB Type-C with increasing data transfer rates for each of these standards.

Optical drive (reader)

Nowadays there are more and more laptops that sacrifice the optical drive and therefore the reader because of the subtlety of the design. If you still make extensive use of CDs and DVDs, before buying a notebook check that this has a special reader / burner or, alternatively, you can buy a low-cost external burner to connect to the notebook through USB only at the time of use.

Wireless technologies

All laptops are compatible with standard 2.4GHz Wi-Fi networks, while not all offer support for faster 5GHz networks. In addition, it is good to verify that the notebook you intend to buy has Bluetooth support (to connect devices such as wireless keyboards and mice or share files with smartphones, tablets, etc.) and even less important to Miracast technology, through which it is possible send audio / video content to supported TVs.

Quality of materials

If you use your new notebook as a primary computer for work, before proceeding with the purchase you must carefully evaluate the quality of the computer itself and therefore the quality of the construction materials. In fact, it is worth spending 100 or 200 euros more to have a sturdy and comfortable notebook rather than do the parsimonious and then find yourself every day to make a cazzotti with an excessively “plastic” computer that overheats too much, has an inconvenient keyboard or a touchpad that works badly. With this I do not say that you have to buy a top-of-the-range device, but if between two mid-range computers there are two with identical technical characteristics and one of these while still costing a little more seems more robust and cared in design, take that and surely you will not regret it with time.

Keyboard layout

Finally, it is good to note that if you buy an online laptop you must also pay attention to the layout of your keyboard. Many computers, in fact, are imported from abroad and have a keyboard in QWERTZ (German) or AZERTY (French) format instead of “our” QWERTY. In addition, if you usually write in the dark it is good to check for a keyboard backlighting system.

After reading this article you should have pretty clear ideas about which notebooks are worth buying and which ones to avoid. Moreover all this will help you in a correct and wiser choice when buying a new notebook but also a fixed computer.

Versione italiana: Come scegliere correttamente un computer portatile (notebook)

Pubblicato da Vito Lavecchia

Lavecchia Vito Ingegnere Informatico (Politecnico di Bari) Email: [email protected] Sito Web:

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