LAPTOP BUYING & UPGRADE GUIDE

Everything you need to find a laptop you’ll love.

In this guide we cover the most important things to consider before buying a new laptop, along with all the information you need to make sure your new laptop does exactly what you want it to do.

Operating System

A laptop’s operating system determines the way the interface looks, how it works, and the types of software you can use. There are two main operating systems, each with their own benefits.

Windows is the most popular of the two main operating systems, so if you’ve used a PC before, chances are it ran on Windows.

Windows 10 has a familiar look and feel, with innovations in security, personalisation and productivity. It’s powerful yet easy to use, with all your files and important documents within easy access. If you’re looking for a new PC for university, gaming or creative computing, Windows is a great place to start.

  • Works with all your devices: Whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet, 2 in 1 or PC, Windows works the same way. Navigation and finding files is simple, regardless of what device you’re using.
  • Windows 10 works with the software and hardware that you already own, so you don’t need to buy new programs or devices.
  • Throughout the supported lifetime of your device you’re protected against viruses, malware and phishing attacks.
  • The gamer’s choice: Windows has the most games available and is the only real choice for a gaming PC.
  • If you’ve never used a PC before, it can take a while to learn the layout and navigation.

Chrome OS is a web-focused operating system that’s designed to get you to your online content as quickly and as easily as possible.

Anything unnecessary has been removed, making it ideal for people that want a simple way to get online.

  • Easy web-access: Chrome OS makes it easy to get online and to your documents – ideal for web-based computing
  • Google Play: Chrome OS is the only operating system to give you access to over 1 million apps – Google Play is the same app store used by Android smartphones and tablets
  • Most PC software isn’t compatible with Chrome OS, so it isn’t a great choice for anything other than web-based computing

Types of Laptops

There are different types of laptops to suit different people and uses – have a look at the varieties below to see which one suits you best.

Windows laptops are available in a huge variety of different specifications. From great-value laptops for college work to powerful workstations for media editing, there’s a Windows laptop to help you get things done.

A 2 in 1 combines the best of a laptop and tablet in one device. You can type notes, essays and reports using the keyboard and then transform the 2 in 1 into a tablet in seconds for browsing the web or watching a film. All 2 in 1s run on Windows 10, so whatever you would normally use your laptop for, a 2 in 1 can make it easier.

Gaming laptops are focused on performance. They feature the powerful processors and dedicated graphics cards needed to run today’s most demanding games. Like normal Windows laptops they’re available in a variety of different specifications, so whether you’re just getting into PC gaming or want the most powerful laptop possible, we have you covered.

Chromebooks are designed to get you online as easily as possible. They feature the stripped-back Chrome OS operating system that makes navigation simple, making them a great choice if your daily computing is entirely web-based. They’re the only laptops with access to Google Play (the same app store used by Android phones), so you have access to over a million apps along with music, films, and books.

Memory / RAM

Random-access memory (RAM) is an important spec to consider if you’re looking for a high-performance PC. It’s worth noting that RAM has nothing to do with the amount of documents you can store on your laptop – that’s the role of the storage device.

Before they reach the processor computing tasks are stored in the RAM, where the processor picks them up and makes them happen. More RAM allows the processor to take on more at once – vital if you use demanding software.

Most laptops come with 4GB of memory, with the entry-level having 4GB and high end gaming laptops up to 32GB. But note: the amount of RAM you require will always depend on what you want to do with your system. If you do multi-tasking or complicated graphics programs, or if you are an intensive gamer, you will need more memory. While if you use your system for light usage with occasional web browsing, emails and watching videos, you won’t need much memory and the entry level amount of 4GB is enough.

  • (4GB) Casual User  – Internet browsing, social media, email, listening to music, or watching videos.
  • (8GB) Intermediate User – Internet browsing, email, Word Processing, spreadsheets, running simple graphics programs, flash games, music, videos or multitasking.
  • (16/32GB) Professional User / Graphic Designer / High End Gaming – High performance gaming, multimedia editing, high definition videom, graphics design / 3D modeling, intensive multitasking.

Storage

Storage refers to the amount of space your laptop has for software, documents and everything else you save. There are three main types of storage available in laptops; HDD and SSD and eMMC drives.

A hard disc drive is the most common type of laptop storage. Laptops are available with a wide range of different HDD capacities to suit any requirement. If you want to save a lot of films, music and other large files, look for a laptop with at least a 1 TB hard drive.

Unlike HDDs, solid-state drives have no moving parts. While they have lower capacities than normal hard drives they’re much thinner and run much faster, making them ideal for high-performance computing. However, they are more expensive than other drives, so tend to be featured on more premium or performance-focused laptops.

An embedded multi-media card is flash storage (the same technology used in memory sticks) that’s attached to a device’s motherboard. eMMC storage is most common on tablets, but is featured on some laptops, 2 in 1s and Chromebooks. It’s a great solution for smaller devices, although it doesn’t offer the capacity and performance benefits that other storage devices do.

Today’s Laptop shoppers face a choice when it comes to data storage: should you buy a less expensive system with a traditional spinning hard drive (often called an HDD) or spend more to get a faster, all-electronic solid-state drive or SSD? For most buyers, the answer depends on the kinds of files they store, their budget, and their need for speed in data-intensive tasks.

 Is an HDD ever better than an SSD for you? 

Advantages of a solid-state drive (SSD)

A solid-state drive or SSD is an electronic storage option that eliminates the moving parts that make traditional, magnetic hard drives susceptible to damage and mechanical failure. It uses low-latency flash memory like that found in cameras and smartphones, with data stored on the SSD chip in contiguous sections that get used (or erased and re-used) as needed.

There are several ways an SSD is considered superior to an HDD:

  • SSD benefit: Faster data access – SSDs call up data more rapidly, so they accelerate boot-up times and app loading.
  • SSD benefit: More durable – With no moving parts, an SSD is less susceptible to damage from drops and falls.
  • SSD benefit: Lighter weight – Compared to an HDD, an SSD weighs far less (great for laptops and other portables).
  • SSD benefit: Quieter, cooler – SSDs make less noise and run cooler than HDDs with spinning disks and mechanical arms.
  • SSD benefit: Less data fragmentation – Data on SSDs is stored in larger, tighter memory sections than on HDDs.
 

On the other hand, an SSD will cost two to three times more than an HDD. It will usually have less capacity, and it could have a shorter lifespan (SSDs are ideal for frequent storage and retrieval of lots of small data files (such as when booting up), but doing the same with large files is more problematic because the big swaths of semiconductor material needed can only be used/erased so many times). It’s also accepted that when an SSD fails, it can be more difficult to rescue its data than with an HDD.

Advantages of a hard disk drive (HDD)

A traditional hard disk drive or HDD stores data on one or more metal disks coated with magnetic material. The disks mechanically rotate until specific segments of data (or available empty spaces) align with a magnetic recording head that can read and write discrete bits of data on the allotted segments, which can be non-contiguous to maximize storage volume. The movement of the disks creates the distinctive clicking sounds associated with HDDs and is why they are sometimes called “spinning” disks or drives.

Here’s why some users consider HDDs to be superior to SSDs:

  • HDD benefit: Larger capacities – It’s easy to find multi-disk HDDs of 2 TB or larger, but the complex layout of the electrical circuits of an SSD chip has so far kept them far smaller (128 GB or 256 GB are common).
  • HDD benefit: Lower prices – Flash memory is still comparatively expensive. On a per-GB basis, an HDD will cost half or a third as much as a similarly sized SSD.
  • HDD benefit: Longer life – HDD technology is tried-and-true and usually works reliably unless there’s physical damage to the unit. And since it uses more of a physical process than an electrical one, rescuing data from an HDD can be easier than from an SSD.
 

On the downside, an HDD will save and retrieve data more slowly than a flash memory-based SSD. It’ll also be heavier, make more noise, generate more heat, and draw more battery power. As such, while HDDs are still a popular component in laptops, SSDs are gaining market-share in that category.

Screens

Screen size is a great way to quickly narrow down the huge amount of choice you have when looking for a new laptop. Until recently the most common laptop size was 15.6” – now smaller laptops are increasing in popularity as advances in technology mean you don’t need to sacrifice performance for a more portable device.

If you want a perfect mix between portability and visibility, a laptop with a 14” screen is ideal. Smaller screens, such as 11.6” and 10.6”, are even easier to carry around but may be too small if you spend a lot of time typing documents or looking at spread sheets.

Laptops with 15.6” screens are the most common and are great if you’re spending more time working at a desk than on the go.

The largest screen size available today is 17.3”. While laptops with this screen size can be difficult to carry around, they offer the clearest view of your content and are great for multimedia.

Full HD screens (1080p) feature a higher number of pixels than screens with standard resolutions. This allows them to display much more detail, which makes them ideal for watching films and gaming. Even everyday computing such as browsing the web and writing essays benefit from sharper text and more detail, so if you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your laptop a Full HD screen is worth it.

A lower resolution screen doesn’t show the detail needed for high-end media work, so if you need your laptop for graphic design or media editing, a Full HD screen or better is a necessity.

You control your phone using a touchscreen, so why not navigate your laptop the same way? It makes browsing video apps, scrolling through social media, navigating websites and more effortless.

Touch control is fast, fun, and works the same way it does on your mobile phone so you’ll pick it up in seconds.

UPGRADEs

Laptop Memory (RAM), Hard Drive (HDD) and Solid State Drives (SSD)

Most of our laptops can be customised to meet your specific requirements. Simply add your chosen laptop and required upgrade to your basket and we will fit prior to shipping.

Storage (HDD/SSD)

Storage upgrades available from £29.99

Memory (RAM)

Memory upgrades available from £24.99