Questions to Ask Before Buying a Laptop

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Before the proliferation of Wi-Fi, living without a laptop seemed acceptable. Now that you can access your email or get work done at just about any coffee shop, restaurant or office supply store, having a laptop is a veritable necessity. Purchasing a laptop is a big decision and an expensive one. Researching the options will help you get the most bang for your buck.

Things You'll Need

  • Electronics store circulars
  • Internet access
  • Consider what capabilities your laptop needs. If you want to watch movies, the laptop needs a DVD-ROM. If you plan on playing your favorite MMORPGs or other cutting-edge computer games, you’ll need a better video card than the cheaper, basic one. You’re going to want to connect to the Internet wirelessly, so make sure the laptop has Wireless-G capability.

  • Decide what size laptop you need. If you have small hands, you may not need a full keyboard. If you plan on doing lots of graphics-intensive work on your laptop, you’ll probably want a larger screen.

  • Decide where to purchase your laptop. There are plenty of options, and it all depends on what you need. If you go to a big-box store, the salespeople will be able to walk you through their inventory. Unfortunately, they may not have the same customization options as a small retailer run by the person who builds the computers on his or her own.

  • Figure out where to get the best deal. Get the product number of some laptops you like and plug them in at sites such as Pricegrabber (see Resources below) to see the different prices charged by each of the big online retailers. Be sure to include the cost of shipping in your research.

  • Find out what software comes with the laptop. Be sure to check this, as you may want to upgrade from your current programs, and this will add to your overall cost.

  • Consider what accessories you'll receive. Some retailers will throw in a laptop case. If you purchase your laptop in person, you can often negotiate with the salespeople to get extras.

  • Ask about the warranty. Our laptops go everywhere we do, and that means they can face the same bumps and scrapes. Big retailers such as Dell often provide comprehensive service for a period of time. If you have a problem, the company will send someone out to fix it. Other companies ask you to pay for similar programs. If you don’t plan on taking your laptop anywhere, you may not need a more extensive warranty.

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