In the past years laptops have been growing heaps in popularity compared to desktop computers. Many different types of laptops are available depending on your needs. It is extremely easy to find a (cheap) laptop that will meet your needs. The question is however, what are you looking for in your laptop? What sort of laptop will be good for me to buy? Do I like playing games on my laptop? Do I want a long battery life on my laptop? Am I going to carry my laptop around alot? These are all questions that you should be asking yourself before purchasing your laptop. In this post I'll be describing typical "laptop user profiles" and the spec's that should be taken into account for each of these profiles.
Typically students will be looking for laptops that are cheap, compared to other categories of laptops. The laptop will need to have a good battery life (in the probable case that you are last entering the classroom, and all your classmates have hogged the power-outlets) and be portable (you do not want to get rid of your freshman 15 by hauling around an oversized laptop, you'd rather want to get rid of it by hauling around cases of beer..right?).
Often this results in the choice for a netbook or mini-laptop. This is a very good choice as often the battery life of these netbooks will be above the average standard, and they are extremely portable. There are a few points that you'll need to take in account though. The benefit that portability brings to this smaller sized laptops also brings a negative; a smaller screen / keyboard / underpowered CPU's. So you'll have to decide if this is OK for you, will you be using hardcore software to work on your school projects? Will you be using the laptop for 'afterschool activities' as well? Keep these questions in the back of your head while looking for your perfect match.
A good option is to look for a slightly 'oversized' netbook, such as a 13 inch laptop. These laptops typically have a larger CPU, and so will have a bit more power. I would not go any larger than 13 inches though, as this will start having a big effect on the experience of portability.
Key suggested specs: Long battery life, at least 1GB RAM; 160GB HDD and <13 inch display.
As a (business) traveler you'll be looking for a laptop that has sufficient computing power, is also portable and is built into a sturdy case to safeguard all your work documents or pictures of the worlds wonders. A netbook would be out of the question in this case, as this simply has to little computing power to keep up with the basic needs in this category. A viable option would be in the 'portable' laptop category of 12 to 15 inch laptops. These laptops typically have a stronger computing power, are built a bit stronger and are still very portable.
However, you'll notice that these laptops often do not come with an optical (DVD) drive. This should not be a problem for you though, as you'll be using USB's and hard disks whenever you can as a traveller. These laptops are a bit pricier than the netbooks, but the performance in this category definitely makes up for it.
Examples of laptops in this category are Lenovo's thinkpad and Dell's latitude.
Key suggested specs: 2GB to 4 GB of RAM, at least 160 GB HDD, 12 to 15 inch display and if needed a windows professional operating system.
Now you'll probably say that gamers will want to get a desktop computer. I agree, a desktop computer will indeed win from a gaming laptop. Neverheless, gaming laptops have greatly improved in the last few years, and are giving desktop computers an increasing amount of competition. Gamers will want to look into laptops that have superior processing power, a good graphics / video card is also a great plus.
Furthermore a big screen / display for gaming laptops greatly increases the experience, sizes range from 15 inches to 17 inches and above! I suggest you get that nice 17 inch laptop, or even go bigger. Since you're looking for a gaming laptop, you might as well go big.
The more exclusive brands (Alienware) offers high end gaming laptops. Their laptops can be easily customized / upgraded with the latest parts and therefore make a good choice if budget is not an issue. However, if budget is an issue, try looking into Gateway's P-series laptops. These are also excellent gaming laptops and have a good overall value!
Key suggested specs: A minimum of 4 GB of RAM, 320 GB HDD or larger, a good graphics GPU and preferably that 17 inch or larger display.
The home user
The home user. This laptop category comes closest to the ordinary desktop computer. Usually a laptop in this category is used as a replacement of the desktop computer (and then usually stays at a desk). This is more of an overall laptop. 15 inch laptops are extremely common for this category, and there's almost an infinite amount of different laptops available here. This means that you'll be able to get a much better laptop (based on this categories needs) for a reasonable price.
Key suggested specs: 2GB to 4GB of RAM, 250GB HDD, a 15 inch display and if needed an optical DVD drive.