Laptop Buying Guide - Best Buy Canada

April 06, 2013

Buying Guide

Laptops

In a fast-paced world, a laptop is an ideal way to stay connected. It’s portable, highly functional, and connects you to just about everything.

Types of Laptops

The Standard Laptop

Available in sizes from 13" to 18", the standard laptop has everything you need to stay connected on the go. Most models are loaded with dual-core processors and up to 4GB of RAM making them great for multitasking so you can play online games, burn data to discs, listen to tunes, and work on projects simultaneously.

The Multimedia and Gaming Laptop

Usually equipped with a quad-core processor, dedicated graphics and up to 8GB of RAM, a multimedia and gaming laptop is optimized for hardcore PC gamers, video editors, and HD entertainment. They’re powerful enough to replace your desktop computer, and come fully loaded with top-tier features like a large HD display, massive hard drive, and built-in speakers with advanced audio technologies for the best possible sounds.

The Business Laptop

In addition to a dual-core processor and sizeable hard drive, a business laptop is designed for travelling professionals. Whether you’re creating presentations or using the built-in webcam for discussions with colleagues, a business laptop is ideal. Some models come equipped with the business-friendly Windows 7 Professional OS to help you organize and work more efficiently. Choose a model with security features such as a fingerprint scanner, durable chassis, and solid state drive for total protection.

The Ultrabook Laptop

Razor-thin and lighter than your standard laptop, an Ultrabook laptop comes packed with blazing dual-core performance. Without the bulky CD/DVD drive, these laptops can remain super slim while still being powerful enough for everyday tasks. They come with a large hard drive, high definition screen, and are so light that you’ll hardly notice toting it around. To learn more about Ultrabooks, check out our helpful guide.

The Touchscreen Laptop

Touchscreen laptops combine the portability and touch features of a tablet with the power and convenience of a laptop. A touchscreen enables you to pinch to zoom, swipe to the next page, and select items with a tap. Since it’s still a laptop, you also have a full keyboard for your convenience and much larger processing power than a tablet. Many of these laptops are designed to take advantage of the optimized-for-touch Windows 8 operating system.

With Windows 8, you can stay connected to your friends, websites, and more right from your Start screen. There are thousands of touch-friendly apps available for download from the Windows Store, as well as Microsoft SkyDrive, which is integrated into Windows 8 so you can access your files and preferences from anywhere.

Laptop Fundamentals

The three most important features you’ll find in every laptop are:

  • Processor (or CPU)
  • Random Access Memory (RAM)
  • Hard Drive

With the right combination, you’ll have a laptop that will be best suited for you.

The Processor (or CPU)

The processor (or Central Processing Unit ) is the brain of your laptop. Whether you’re a student looking for a basic laptop to take from class to class or you’re looking for something with the power of a desktop, you’ll want to be sure you’ve got the right processor for your applications.

Single-core

Intel Atom, Intel Celeron, AMD C series

These processors typically use only one core to process data, so they’re ideal for basic tasks like surfing the web, email, and viewing documents.

Dual-core

Intel Pentium, Intel Core i3, Intel Core i5, AMD A series, AMD E series

Using two cores to compute data, these processors can be found in most laptops. They’re designed to let you multitask so you can work with basic applications simultaneously without slowing down your machine.

Quad-core

Intel Core i7, Intel Haswell, AMD A6 and A8, A10 series

For power that rivals some desktop computers, a quad-core processor will let you work and play with HD content, graphics-hungry 3D games, processor-crushing video editing applications, and more all at the same time.

RAM

Random Access Memory (RAM)

RAM, or pre-installed system memory , provides space for your computer to process data that your CPU can access to help applications run efficiently. If you have less than 2GB of RAM, you might find that the more you try to multitask, the slower your machine performs. A simple RAM upgrade is as easy as adding another stick of DDR, DDR2, DDR3, or DDR4 RAM in your laptop to give it a performance boost.

How much RAM do you need?

The following chart should give you a general idea of the capabilities of each RAM size. Some RAM sizes can perform other tasks than mentioned in this table.

Tasks 1GB 2GB - 3GB 4GB 5GB+
Email, web browsing, or word processing
Listening to music, and watching DVDs
Multitasking between applications such as games, web browsing, downloading, burning discs, and more  
Watching high-definition content    
Video editing, and playing 3D games      

Hard Drive

The hard drive of your laptop is where you’ll store documents, images, videos, photos, and other digital content. Measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB), it can be broken down into two types:

  • Hard Disk Drives (HDD)
  • Solid State Drives (SSD)

Hard disk drives (HDD) are the most common type of internal storage. They use spinning magnetic discs, one on top of the other, to record digital information. This process works like a record player with an arm that reads and writes data to and from the discs

Solid state drives (SSD) do not contain moving parts, making them less susceptible to wear and physical shock due to accidental drops and bumps. These drives are usually available in much smaller capacities, and offer high-speed performance that’s ultra quiet.

Some laptops feature both HDD and SSD, but tend to be very thick and heavy. If you require more hard drive space, going with an external hard drive is your best bet.

How much can you store?
  Photos
up to
  Movies
(hours) up to
  Songs
up to
8 TB 1,600,000 or 615 or 2,000,000
6 TB 1,200,000 or 461 or 1,500,000
4 TB 800,000 or 307 or 1,000,000
3 TB 600,000 or 230 or 750,000
2 TB 400,000 or 150 or 500,000
1.5 TB 300,000 or 110 or 375,000
1 TB 200,000 or 76 or 250,000
750 GB 150,000 or 57 or 187,000
640 GB 128,000 or 49 or 160,000
500 GB 100,000 or 38 or 125,000
400 GB 80,000 or 30 or 100,000
320 GB 60,000 or 24 or 80,000
250 GB 50,000 or 19 or 62,000
160 GB 40,000 or 12 or 40,000

Getting Connected

When accessing the internet, most laptops offer two connection types:

  • Wired
  • Wireless

A wired connection enables you to plug in to a variety of built-in ports on your laptop to provide consistent and reliable performance. If you do not have the port you need for older devices, there are adapters available that will allow you to connect your devices.

Hover over the icons to learn more about some of the ports that are commonly found on most laptops.

3.5mm jack – Lets you enjoy audio with headphones or external speakers. USB port – A Universal Serial Bus (USB) port lets you connect to an external mouse or hard drive. You can also transfer data from your compatible media player or smartphone, and charge them too. Mic Input – Attach an external microphone to chat with friends online or create voice memos. HDMI input – Connect to an external HD monitor or HD TV and work, play, create and share all your content on the big screen. VGA input – Connect to your standard computer monitor or TV’s VGA port. Ethernet port – Easily connect to your home’s wired network to surf the web or access shared devices.

Wireless connections allow you to connect to just about anything from your mouse, external speakers, or a printer. It offers a more flexible work environment without being tethered to cables.

Common wireless technologies include:

A wireless chipset that comes standard in most laptops, it allows you to access a wireless network at a café hotspot or at home, so you can surf the web and share devices easily.

A wireless networking protocol that allows you to connect peripherals (phones, mice, keyboards, headsets, printers) to your laptop for wireless data transfers and connectivity.

Developed by Intel, Wireless Display (WiDi) allows you to wirelessly send whatever is displayed on your laptop's screen to your TV set for big screen viewing. A separate TV adapter typically needs to be purchased that will receive the wireless signal and pass it on to a video input on your TV.

With DLNA-certified devices, your entire home is connected. View movies and pictures from your laptop on your HDTV, listen to music through your surround sound system, send documents to your printer, and so much more. The certification makes them instantly recognizable to each other, and allows them to send content through the network.

Other Features to Consider

Every lifestyle is different and finding a laptop with all the features you want will make it easier to connect with the things in life that are most important to you. Check out some features that will help make your laptop stand out from the rest and give you a device that suits you best.

Screen Resolution

It’s difficult to find a laptop nowadays that doesn’t have a screen resolution of at least 1280 x 720 (or HD 720p). For the best possible resolution for your content, you’ll want to choose a laptop with a Full HD (or 1920 x 1080) resolution – especially if your laptop comes with a built-in Blu-ray player.

Glossy vs. Matte Screens

Glossy screens have a reflective coating, which facilitates brightness and contrast, and make colours seem more vibrant. However, glossy screens can cause eye strain, and glare from other light sources.

Matte screens reduce glare and can also reduce eye strain from extended periods of viewing. However, matte screens can also reduce brightness, contrast, and colour vibrancy.

Discrete vs. Dedicated Graphics

A discrete graphics card shares resources with the rest of your system and is ideal for everyday tasks such as web browsing, word processing, or viewing photos.

A dedicated graphics card uses its own memory so it does not slow down the rest of your system. If you plan on playing 3D games or editing HD videos, you’ll need a laptop with a dedicated graphics card to deliver more frames per second and better response times for smooth visuals.

Weight

The weight of your laptop will ultimately depend on the size you choose. Any laptop that’s larger than 15" will likely be heavier and is best for use at home rather than being carted around town. If you’re going to be on the go with your device, then choose a model that’s smaller than 15", as they’re typically more lightweight and compact.

Battery

While some laptops boast as much as 10 hours of battery life, this feature is usually hard to predict, since it’s affected by a number of factors. Tasks like 3D gaming and video editing require a lot of power that will quickly drain your battery. If you plan to multitask for long periods of time, be sure to carry your power adapter, just in case.

Blu-ray Combo Drive

A Blu-ray combo drive displays astonishingly true-to-life images from Blu-ray and DVD movies, and enables you to burn data to discs. An HDMI output will even let you use it as a Blu-ray player for your TV.

Speakers

Nearly every laptop will have some internal speaker that will allow you to listen to your audio. Many high-end laptops feature speakers that have been optimized or engineered by Logitech, Harman Kardon, or Beats by Dre, and provide superior audio performance.

The Chassis

The chassis is the casing that makes up the exterior of your laptop, and there are typically two styles to choose from: a brushed aluminum design looks ultra-sleek and offers a durable construction that resists fingerprints and scratches, while a plastic chassis offers more colours or textured designs to give you a stylish look.

Numeric Keypad

A numeric keypad is a major timesaver if you have to key in numbers or a regular basis. If you do a lot of data entry on spreadsheets, look for a laptop with a numeric keypad or purchase a portable numeric keypad that connects via USB or wirelessly.

Must-have Accessories

A laptop sleeve will keep your device protected from nicks and scratches when you toss it into your bag.

A laptop bag or case lets you carry your device around, as well as giving you pockets for other items such as a power cord, books, and more.

A wireless mouse will give you more freedom to move than the trackpad can offer.

A laptop dock offers many of the same ports and connectivity as a traditional desktop tower. It can also provide power to your laptop, so you won’t have to run solely on the battery.

A cooling pad will help keep your laptop and your lap cool while you multitask with your favourite applications.

Keep your laptop safe from theft with a security lock. Most laptops will accommodate just about any lock, so you can be sure you’ve got the right protection.

Best Buy

Take the Next Step

Check out Best Buy’s huge selection of laptops and laptop accessories for all your needs. Whether you’re searching for a companion to go with your primary desktop computer or you want to find a space-saving device to replace it, Best Buy has a laptop for every budget.

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