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Whether you're looking to play games, stream movies or stay connected while traveling, the latest laptops balance portability with the performance and power you need. Start your search for the perfect laptop with our overview of the most important features to consider.
More demanding users will want to invest a bit more in a higher resolution screen, a faster processor, more system memory, and a larger hard drive.
Screen size, the type and capacity of built-in storage devices, and the presence or lack of a CD/DVD or Blu-ray drive all affect a laptop's size and weight. Laptops generally fall into three categories of weight:
You can learn a lot about a laptop by handling it. Hinges and clasps should feel sturdy enough to withstand daily use. Test the lid and body — typically made from plastics or aluminums — to see if they are adequately rigid and lightweight. Make sure that the keyboard's spacing and depth allow for comfortable typing. The trackpad and mouse buttons should allow you to solidly click, scroll and zoom without skipping. Also, if you rely on 10-key for data entry, be sure the machine you select has a numeric keypad. If you won't have an opportunity to check it out in person, you can still check product pages and user reviews for recurring comments about look, feel and build quality.
The operating system is the heart of your laptop. It manages all software and hardware, including files, memory and connected devices. Most importantly, it lets you interact with your laptop and your programs in a visual way (otherwise, you'd be typing a bunch of computer code to get anything done).
Installed exclusively on Mac computers, OS X boasts an elegant and easy-to-use interface to complement Macs' sleek aesthetics and impressive battery life. Macs have historically had fewer issues with viruses and malware. However, MacBooks start at a higher price point than other laptops, and no Mac model to date includes touch-screen functionality.
Windows is designed specifically around an intuitive touch-screen interface (though it can be used with a traditional mouse and keyboard), expanding your navigation options. It also features a new task manager, streamlined file management and a suite of built-in apps. Learn more about Windows 10.
Featured exclusively in the Chromebook line of mobile computers, this OS runs custom apps and cloud-based programs rather than traditional software. It's great for surfing the Web, keeping up with your e-mail and social networks, and sharing your photos with friends and family, rather than more data-intensive tasks like video editing and hardcore gaming.
Laptop screen sizes range from about 11 to 17 inches. A larger screen is ideal for gaming, watching movies, photo and video editing, and viewing documents side by side. Keep in mind, a big screen can increase the overall size, weight and power consumption of a laptop.
Higher resolution equals better picture quality. Laptop screens come in a range of resolutions (measured in pixels, horizontal x vertical):
Different display technologies yield different colors and brightness levels. Many laptops employ LED backlighting, which can display bright colors without draining the battery. If you plan to use your laptop to watch movies and shows with a friend, choose a display with an IPS panel for wider viewing angles. Screens with a glossy finish generally provide richer colors and darker blacks, while matte displays will reduce glare if you frequently work outdoors or near windows.
Touch-screen laptops make navigating on your computer more intuitive. Tap to select, hold and drag to move items, swipe to scroll and pinch to zoom, just as you would on a smartphone or tablet. Currently available on many Windows laptops and select Chromebooks.
Your laptop's processor is like its brain. Working in combination with system memory, the power of the processor determines the complexity of software you can run, how many programs you can have open at the same time, and how fast those programs will run. Most laptops feature an Intel® or AMD processor.
Intel's processors are at the heart of every modern MacBook and the majority of Windows laptops. Most prevalent are Intel's Core ™ series of multicore processors:
In value-priced laptops, you'll also see Intel's Pentium® and Celeron® processors. These are adequate for basic e-mail, Internet and productivity tasks, but their speed and multitasking capabilities are limited relative to those of the Core family.
AMD has two categories of processors that are most common:
FX and A-Series: Like Intel's Core chips, these processors include a graphics processor built into the same chip. In order from top-of-the-line to entry level, they include:
E-Series: Similar to Intel's Celeron and Pentium processors, these are value-oriented chips with limited speed and multitasking capabilities. They're appropriate for basic computing tasks like e-mail, Web surfing and word processing.
Variances exist within processor classes. Laptops designed for exceptional battery life often incorporate an ultra-low-voltage version of the listed processor, which usually sacrifices processing speed.
For heavy graphics work or gaming, choose a laptop with a dedicated graphics card and video memory. Having separate resources for your graphics allows for faster, smoother processing while you're watching movies, playing games or multitasking.
Random-access memory, or RAM, is important because it helps your processor tackle multiple tasks at once. A minimum of 2GB is required for basic computing, but 6GB or more is recommended if you're into graphics and advanced photo or video editing. Most laptops have 4GB–8GB pre-installed, and some have up to 32GB. If you think you might need more memory later, choose a model that lets you expand the RAM.
Traditional hard disk drives offer larger storage capacities, but add to a laptop's weight and thickness while generating heat and noise. Alternatively, solid state drives (also known as SSDs or flash storage) are much lighter, faster, cooler and quieter than hard drives — but they're also much more expensive per GB, so typically provide less storage space. Some laptops feature a hybrid drive, which combines a hard drive with a solid state drive for the benefits of both.
Traditional, mechanical hard disk drives are the most common type of storage because they're relatively inexpensive and offer huge capacities. However, they also add significantly to a laptop's weight and thickness, and generate both heat and noise. They come in two standard speeds: A 5400 rpm drive is sufficient for day-to-day Web surfing, e-mailing and document creation, but a 7200 rpm drive transfers data more quickly and may be worth considering if you regularly work with large files.
Solid-state drives, also known as SSDs (or, in Apple's case, "flash storage"), are many times faster than hard disk drives, but typically offer far less capacity. SSDs also offer tremendous advantages in physical size, weight and power efficiency, along with negligible heat production and noiseless operation, making them an ideal choice for ultraslim, ultralightweight laptops. And unlike hard disks, SSDs have no moving parts to wear out.
Some laptops employ an SSD for all storage. Others dedicate a smaller SSD to house the operating system and applications (enabling faster start-up) and add a traditional hard drive for general data storage.
Manufacturers' battery-life claims range from just a few hours up to 12 hours or more.
Laptop enhancements — such as increased processing power, larger and higher resolution screens, faster hard drives, or the addition of an optical drive — will drain your battery more quickly.
Laptops typically provide several options for staying connected to the Internet as well as to other devices. Most laptops provide the latest wireless standards plus Bluetooth capabilities so you can easily sync your smartphone, speakers and other portable devices.
If you are a frequent traveler, consider a laptop that connects to the 4G LTE network so you can access the Web even when you're not near a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Keep an eye out for the following ports that are commonly used for connecting to TVs, cameras and other devices:
Designed specifically for high-performance games and tasks on the go, gaming laptops provide boosted power and beefed-up features. Advanced processors and graphics cards allow for faster, smoother gameplay, while enhanced speakers and larger screen sizes help bring the game to life. Some gaming laptops also include programmable keys, color-coded backlit keyboards and additional ports for convenient connectivity.
However, these resource-intensive features often heat up the laptop while cutting down on battery life and portability. Consider how often you'll be taking your gaming on the road, and choose a laptop with a cooling system that leaves your hands comfortable and your graphics smooth.
If you like the power of a laptop but also need the portability of a tablet, consider a 2-in-1 (also known as "convertible" or "hybrid") laptop. These devices provide the functionality of touch-screen laptops with versatile displays that shift or detach into a tablet. Best Buy offers a wide selection of 2-in-1s whose displays can twist, fold, hang or lock in place, providing the perfect angle for presenting at work or catching up on your favorite show on the couch.
An ergonomic mouse or extra layer of padding can make a world of a difference when you're using your laptop on the go. Best Buy is your one-stop shop for all your laptop accessories:
Just because you're replacing an older device doesn't mean it has to go to waste. Use our trade-in program to swap your old laptop for a Best Buy gift card, or take advantage of Best Buy's free and easy recycling program.
Whether you're installing software, backing up files, or removing viruses, Geek Squad can provide helpful service and advice. Consult one of our experts by calling, chatting online, or visiting your nearest Best Buy store.
Find a wide variety of laptops on BestBuy.com. Your local Best Buy store also has a selection of laptops. Plus, our friendly Blue Shirts are there to answer questions and help you find all the must-have accessories to go with your new laptop.
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