However smart your smartphone can be, you’ll still find yourself using a laptop. They are great productivity tools with software that will get you do your work perfectly well.
But buying a laptop is no simple task even for the geeks. You’ve to leap through the technical jargon down to something that will actually work for you.
So lets break it down.
This is where things get a little hairy. You’ll probably find laptops categorized into Notebooks, Netbooks, Ultrabooks, Tablet PC and Macbooks. The differences are minor, but all of them are portable, lightweight computing devices that can be run off battery power.
In most cases you’ll find Notebooks and Netbooks used inter-changeably. That’s because both laptop types are used for home and office work as suitable portable replacements for bulky tower desktop PCs. Notebooks have both low and high-end specs and come with several screen sizes.
Ultrabooks on the other hand are supper thin, lightweight laptops mainly suited for traveling executives. These devices have almost all-day battery lifespan making them the best productivity tools for those who are always on the go. The Macbook Air, Google Chromebook Pixel, Acer Aspire S7 are some of the common Ultrabooks in the market.
Tablet PCs are a hybrid of tablets and Laptops. They are usually tablets with dockable keyboards and other peripherals. Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G3 Tablet PC are some of the Tablet PC products in the market. Now why you would want to get a Tablet PC instead of getting either a PC or Tablet is entirely up to you.
Finally Macbooks are laptops exclusively produced by Apple that run on Mac Operating System(OS) unlike the other categories that can run on either Windows or Linux OS. Macbooks have great build and design mostly crafted from metal parts, have a good keyboard, trackpad and battery. They are high-end stylish machines, but come with a hefty price tag as well.
Now whether you’ll buy a Notebook, Netbook, Ultrabook, Tablet PC or Macbook will depend on what I’ll discuss next.
There are several laptop brands out there. But some of the biggest brands in the market are; Dell, Acer, HP, Lenovo, Asus, Apple, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony VAIO(RIP).
In Uganda, we are probably looking at Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, Apple in the order of popularity or market share. As with other consumer electronics, user buying decisions are majorly based on brand preference, market presence and price. Personally am a fan of Asus machines, but ever since I bought myself an Acer laptop last year, am beginning to prefer Acer machines mainly because of their great battery performance.
What are your needs
Before you make final decision of the kind of laptop you wish to buy, we recommend that you consider your needs. Different people have different use cases. A graphics designer will for instance need a high-performance laptop with a great graphics card and bigger screen size.
A blogger like myself will probably consider a mid-range laptop with enough hard disk space and battery while a sales agent will need a lightweight machine with good battery performance to last them a whole day in the field.
A campus student just needs a machine to do research, assignments and write reports. That means performance isn’t much of priority as much as price is for instance.
When making a buying decision, you have to make compromises between weight, performance, battery, screen size and ultimately price. You’ll have to prioritize those things that make your life and work easier and get things done.
Screen size and weight
When purchasing a laptop, I like to look at these two things – screen size and weight. Laptop screen sizes go as low as 10 inches and as large as 17 Inch. Again it totally goes back to personal preference and needs here. Graphic designers usually like to have enough screen real estate, so they often go for 17 inch laptops. Professionals working in an office environment like to go for mid-sized screens, normally 15.6-14 inch which is where I fall.
Besides screen size, weight is another factor to consider. If you are the commuting type that carries you machine to office everyday, then you can agree with me that you’ll have to think twice about the weight of your laptop to avoid backaches. Anything less than 3kgs is good enough here. However, if you are buying a home laptop for the kids or to do your work at home or in the office, then weight isn’t much of a thing to consider here.
This is where it gets a little intimidating for ordinary users. Laptop specifications keep changing but not as fast as smartphones at least.
The most important specs you should look out for when purchasing a laptop are RAM, Processor and Hard Disk Drive (HDD) memory. The bigger these specs are, the more costly a laptop is.
RAM is the memory that keeps your applications running. When you start Microsoft word for instance, the program is loaded into your computer’s RAM and its only when you hit save that your word file is saved on your computer’s hard drive. That means, the more programs you’ve open, the more RAM is needed. 2GB RAM is good enough if all you’ve open is MS word and a few tabs on Firefox. But if you’re running a heavy program like Adobe photoshop, then we are talking 4GB+.
The other thing is processor speeds. Most laptops in the market are powered by Intel Processors. Intel Pentium and Celeron processors are suited for really light work, while Dual-core processor are good enough for office work and nothing else. But you would be much comfortable with the intel core i series of processors. Intel core i3 gets the job done, but if you’re a high-end users like a software designer or graphics guy, then don’t settle for anything other than an intel core i7.
Lastly you want to consider the memory size of the laptop HDD. This is where you data sits. If you use your machine for entertainment purposes like playing music and watching movies, then hard disk space is a big deal. We are looking at 500GB+ if you are this kind of person, but if the machine is strictly for office or school work, then anything around 250GB is good enough.
Besides the big three, you’ll want to look at battery capacity, connectivity options like USB, HDMI, Ethernet, VGA ports and then Wi-Fi, Bluetooth for wireless connectivity. If you use your laptop for Skype calls, then consider Webcam and Microphone quality of the phone. If take a lot of photos with your camera, then make sure the machine has a card reader. If you backup data to DVD/CD or wish to rip and burn music, then your machine should definitely have a DVD/CD-RW reader. If you do lots of typing like myself then take a good look at the laptop keyboard and trackpad before you spend your money.
Price and availability
You can’t buy something that’s not available in the market even if you could afford it. Dell, HP, Acer, Apple Macbooks are some of the laptop brands currently in Uganda. In fact there are a number of authorized resellers for those brands in the country who can offer after-sale services such as repairs.
Also ultimately the choice of laptop you’ll buy depends on what you can afford. Dell, HP and Acer have varied pricing from as low as Ugx 700,000 to as much as Ugx 5,000,000. Apple Macbooks are notoriously known to be high-end expensive devices starting from as low as Ugx 3,000,000.
You can purchase a laptop online from Jumia Uganda, Macbooks from Elite computers, PCs from Kazinga channel, MFI solutions, Millennium computers, computer point, PC world on Equitorial among others.