Product Survey: Laptops
Before we look at its technical performance, we like to get a feel for each laptop, checking the case and finishing. Sometimes it's easy to get seduced by promises of high speeds, but sooner or later, a faster model will arrive at the same price as the laptop in question, so spending time thinking about how the user experience will be like is well worth it.
The screen gets a lot of attention from us, as you will be looking at it the whole time you use your laptop. Checking its viewing angle, how well it handles colors and whether or not adjusting the settings can give better results than the default configuration are just a few of the things we do.
After that, before we get on with the benchmarking tests, we make sure the operating system is completely up to date and that any useless bundled software has been removed so we can ensure a fair test.
Everybody has their own definition of the perfect laptop computer, but it often boils down to the age-old compromise between performance and portability.
Laptops -- or notebook computers, for some -- are veritable wonders of modern engineering. Manufacturers take a collection of components, often made in factories spread across the globe, and cram them into tiny cases to create very powerful machines that are often ready to compete with the computer sitting on your desk.
The very limited amount of space inside a laptop creates two problems, however. It's hard for suppliers to innovate -- there's only a certain number of ways you can pack all of that electronics into one box, after all. Secondly, because of the of the highly-specialized components designed to maximize efficiency, it can be hard to upgrade laptops or replace faulty parts with spares.
Your best bet is to make sure you choose the right product from the get go, ensuring you have the right combination of components to do everything you want to do with your laptop. When you're shopping around, you'll probably want to look at the following parts, all of which will affect the performance of your laptop, but there's a more detailed list of what to look for here.
- Hard Drive
- Graphics Card
As we mentioned above, apart from the RAM and the hard drive, many laptop components are very difficult to replace. Even if it is possible to swap in a spare part, their delicate construction often makes repairing laptops a costly affair. A year's guarantee, which is what's usually offered, is often less than adequate.
Putting blind faith in manufacturers' claims can often get you into trouble. Reducing the quality of components to try and save on power consumption or reduce heat is one widespread practice. That's why it's important to check our reviews of each laptop to make sure that the performance that's advertised is actually available.
Using Your Laptop
How far can you go on a laptop? In theory, absolutely anything you can do with a desktop computer is possible on a laptop, but where you position yourself on the classic compromise between size and computing power is up to you.
Any laptop on the market today will be capable of getting online and running simple office software. Editing videos and photos should be possible on the majority of models, as long as you have 2 GB of memory. However, playing the latest games is going to require a little more "oomph", and a careful choice of screen and graphics card will be needed.