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Laptops Buying Guide

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Laptops Buying Guide

Laptop computers, also called notebooks, give you the freedom to take your computer into different rooms and on the road. Students, frequent travelers, and people looking for a small, portable second computer love these alternatives to desktop PCs.


Prioritize Laptop Price, Performance, & Portability

Before looking at system specs, decide whether features or portability matter more to you. Many students and frequent travelers consider portability a deciding factor when buying a laptop. On the other hand, lighter and smaller laptops are generally less powerful than their heavier counterparts.

More expensive laptops either offer more features or greater portability than lower-priced models. For example, desktop replacements have all the features you'd want from a full-sized desktop PC, but they weigh a lot, and you wouldn't want to carry one around for long. Similarly, thin-and-light notebooks and bargain notebooks have a lot of the same features, but the thin-and-light models weigh less and often cost more. If your priority is budget and features, more than portability, consider buying a bargain notebook. If you'd rather have less weight to carry, it might make sense to step up to a thin-and-light or ultraportable.

When deciding how much laptop you can carry, consider the laptop's weight as well as the additional weight of a carrying case,, an extra battery, any swappable drives you feel like bringing with you, a power cord, and networking cables.


Find a Laptop to Fit Your Lifestyle

Consider how you plan to use your laptop before you start shopping. It should meet your personal needs as well as the system requirements set by your Internet Service Provider.

Laptops for home Users

You want a second computer for the house that you can take with you from room to room. You want to email, surf the Internet, and do some basic photo editing. Look for a bargain laptop with an AMD Turion or Intel Core Duo processor and 1GB RAM. If you have a wireless home network, make sure it includes built-in Wi-Fi.

Laptops for students

You want a lightweight computer that you can carry from the classroom to the library. As a starting point, find out which platform your school prefers and supports. Some universities don't care what kind of computer you have while others will provide you with a very specific list of system requirements. If your school doesn't have specific recommendations, look for an ultraportable or thin-and-light laptop with an Intel Core Duo or AMD Turion. Make sure theres built-in Wi-Fi, at least 1GB RAM, a burner (either a CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD+RW/-RW drive), a huge hard drive for music, and a productivity software package such as Microsoft Office or Microsoft Works.

Laptops for frequent travelers

You want a lightweight computer to use at the airport and in meetings. Look at thin-and-light or ultraportable laptops with processors in the Turion or Core Duo family, built-in Wi-Fi, at least 1GB RAM, and a suite of productivity applications such as Microsoft Office or Microsoft Works..

Laptops for business users

You need to travel, create presentations and spreadsheets, and hook up to a network. Depending on your need for portability, look at thin-and-light and desktop replacement laptops with the productivity software such as Microsoft Office, Wi-Fi (or an included Wi-Fi card), Ethernet, at least 1GB RAM, and a decent-size hard drive. Frequent business travelers will probably prefer thin-and-lights to desktop replacements. But, if you spend most of your time at a desk, the desktop replacement's superior power and features may be the way to go.

Laptops for multimedia enthusiasts

You want to edit video, audio, or photos with processor-intensive applications such as Photoshop. Look for a desktop replacement with at least 2GB RAM, an Intel Core 2 Duo or Turion 64 X2 or faster processor, at least 80GB hard drive space, and a 15-inch or larger monitor.

FireWire or USB 2.0 ports are handy to transfer data from devices such as your camcorder,, digital camera,, and MP3 player. If you want to burn DVD movies, buy a DVD+R/RW drive. You can also purchase these components separately in the Laptop Parts & Accessories& category.

Laptops for gamers

Gaming laptops have fast processors, high-end graphics cards, and slick displays, but you'll usually pay a premium for all the latest goodies. Look for a desktop replacement with an Intel Core 2 Duo or Turion 64 X2 or faster processor, at least 2GB RAM, a 512MB 3D graphics card, and a big display.


Pick a Laptop Processor

AMD and Intel make several processors typically found in laptops. Some optimize laptop battery life while others concentrate on performance. Mobile processors, indicated by the word "Mobile" or just "M," need less power and generate less heat than processors designed for desktops. Unless you need a powerful desktop replacement, get a mobile processor to extend battery life and prevent overheating.

  • Celeron: Intel's budget-oriented chip with speeds up to 2.5GHz. They run slightly slower than Pentiums but not as slow as pentium-M!
  • Celeron-M:This low-cost processor has speeds up to 1.5GHz.People looking to email, surf the Internet, and use word processing applications will be fine with the Celeron-M. It replaced the Pentium III-M in the low-end laptop processor arena.
  • Pentium-M: Buy a battery-efficient Pentium-M, available in speeds up to 2.1GHz. The processor is part of Intel's Centrino Mobile Technology with built-in Wi-Fi.
  • Pentium 4: Designed for desktops, Intel's Pentium 4 will appeal to multimedia enthusiasts. With speeds up to 3.33GHz, they tend to get hot and eat up battery life. If you intend to stay plugged in, they offer great performance.
  • Intel Core Duo: Intels Core Duo line benefits from having multiple processors on one chip. These are especially useful if you have multiple heavy computing needs that need to run simultaneously.
  • AMD Sempron: If you dont need much computing power, or are on a very tight budget, the Sempron is AMDs low end chip.
  • AMD Athlon 64: Always a favorite of gamers, the Athlon 64 supports 64-bit computing and is usually found in desktop replacements.
  • AMD Athlon 64 FX: Originally designed as a high-end line, the FX now shares many of its original qualities with the Athlon 64 line. However, the unlocked clock multipliers on the FX chips keeps it very popular with the overclocking crowd.
  • AMD Turion 64: Capable of running both 32-and 64-bit programs, the Turion is designed for high performance, while allowing thinner and lighter notebooks.
  • AMD Turion 64 X2: The dual core version of the Turion 64.


Select Standard Laptop Features

Once you've decided on a laptop weight class and processor, look at other components.

  • Hard drive: A computer's hard drive stores all your programs and files. A drive with a higher storage capacity (measured in GB) lets you save more data than a drive with a lower storage capacity. You only need 40GB to 60GB of hard drive space if you only plan to store your operating system, programs, documents, and a few photos. You'll want at least 80GB if you plan to save a lot of large files such as high-resolution images, movies, or your entire music collection. Additional external hard drives also work well for data backup purposes and for storing large files.
  • Memory (RAM): Programs, including operating systems, need a certain amount of memory (RAM) to run, with more RAM providing better performance.
  • CD and DVD drives: When you buy any computer you want a way to back up your work. Some laptops come with fixed internal drives while others have a hot-swap bay where you can insert and remove a CD drive, DVD drive, or combo drive. Combo drives can read or write to two media formats. They may also include a read-only media format such as CD-ROM (to read CDs) or DVD-ROM (to play DVD movies and read CD-RWs). With hot-swap bays you can always upgrade to a different drive (for example, from a CD burner to a DVD burner) later, and you can sometimes use an extra battery with the bay.
  • Ports: Make sure you have the ability to connect all the peripherals and gadgets you want. Besides a parallel or USB port for your printer, you'll want USB 2.0 or FireWire to connect your MP3 player, digital camera, or camcorder. Many devices also work with USB 1.1.
  • Screens: While most folks will love a 14.1-inch display, some people may want to sacrifice size to drop some laptop weight. If you work with a lot of multimedia or play 3D games, go with a larger display.
  • Networking and Wi-Fi: If you want to connect to the Internet from more than one location in your home or office, find out if the laptop has built-in Ethernet support, a PCMCIA network interface card, or Wi-Fi (802.11b or 802.11g) support. For more information on wired and wireless networking, visit eBay's Networking Buying Guide.
  • Graphics card: A graphics card processes video, freeing up memory (RAM) for other system tasks. A high-end 256MB or 512MB graphics card is a must if you plan on serious gaming.

Laptop upgrades

Although a laptop's small size makes it a bit trickier to upgrade than a desktop, even new computer users will feel comfortable:

Adding memory.. Laptop memory upgrades don't cost a lot of money and most people can replace a RAM stick in a couple minutes.

Inserting a new hot swapdrive (if your laptop supports them).

Installing a new PCMCIA card. Some laptops have an Ethernet or modem card in the PCMCIA slot, but if you have an open card slot, you can quickly add USB 2.0, FireWire, an Ethernet port, or Wi-Fi.


Get Essential Laptop Accessories

Don't be too quick to rule out a listing based on price alone. You can save money by buying a "bundle" that includes all the accessories you need. If you find a deal on a laptop that meets all your needs on eBay, you can also shop for accessories a la carte in the Laptop Parts & Accessories category.

  • Mousing options: Laptops don't have a traditional mouse. Find out if the laptop includes a touchpad, nub, or both. You may even get lucky if a seller throws in a mouse.
  • Bluetooth: Some laptops support a short-range wireless networking technology called Bluetooth. If you have a Bluetooth-enabled PDA or cell phone, you may want a laptop that can talk and exchange data wirelessly with your other electronics.
  • Extra battery: If you plan to plug in to a power source most of the time, battery life won't concern you too much. If you depend on your battery to keep your laptop up and running for long periods of time, ask your seller how long the manufacturer expects the battery to last. You may want to invest in a second battery to keep with you in the classroom or on the road.
  • Docking station: A docking station allows you to connect your laptop to a standard keyboard, mouse, monitor, and printer. It stays plugged in and powers your laptop so you conserve battery power.
  • Carrying case: If you plan to take your laptop out and about, you'll need a laptop carrying case.
  • Cable lock: Most laptops have a security slot, but not all of them come with a lock. If you want a lock, look for listings that include them. You can also buy cable locks separately.


Find Laptop Computers on eBay

Once you know what type of laptop you need, go to the Computers & Networking& portal, click Laptops, Notebooks, and start searching for items on eBay.

  • Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down laptop listings by brand.
  • Product Finder: Use the drop-down menus on the PC Laptops Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by brand, processor speed, memory, hard drive capacity, screen size, and condition.
  • Keyword search: Type a term into the search box or Product Finder keywords box and eBay will uncover listings for items containing the term in their titles. Check "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now,, or save a searchoon My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.


Buy Laptop Computers With Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that you don't receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection will cover your purchase price plus original shipping. Learn more.

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