Guide to Laptop features

Even though a laptop is an everyday item, like any good technology there is plenty of jargon to get your head around before you can make an informed decision about what will suit your needs best. As soon as you start looking at laptops, you'll encounter terms like terms like Processor, GPU, RAM and Hard Disk. Here we will try to demystify some of these terms which should help you in making better decisions when choosing a new laptop.

First of all there is the processor. This, also known as the CPU (Central Processing Unit), handles all of the calculations in a computer and can be thought of as the 'engine' of the laptop. The bigger the engine, the faster it will run. The faster your processor is, the less time your computer will take to do tasks such as converting video and processing web pages and the quicker and more responsive it will be. Dual-core and quad-core CPUs mean that two or four independent CPUs are present in the same chip which improves performance quite significantly. In terms of brand names, generally Intel’s Core i7 series is better than Core i5 series which is in turn better than the Core i3 range. The cache is the processor’s own memory which is used for storing information as it is working and the larger the cache, the faster the processor will be able to run. Thus, the best processor should have a fast clock rate (denoted by Hz/GHz), a large cache (denoted in MB) and multiple cores (dual/quad).

Secondly, there is the Hard Disk. This is the place where you store all of your files. As files take space, the larger the hard disk, the more files (documents, movies, mp3s etc.) you can store. Nowadays, hard disk capacities are measured in GBs and TBs, where 1TB equals 1,000GB. Besides capacity, hard disks come with different speeds. A fast hard disk with a higher RPM will help in loading applications and booting up faster. SSDs are alternatives to hard disks and are much faster but are quite expensive and and are not available in such high capacities as conventional hard drives.

RAM (Random Access Memory) is effectively working storage where temporary data is stored. More RAM means that you can do more things at the same time (such as opening a lot of different applications) and in general things will run faster with more memory - up to a point where increasing memory further has no benefit. In 2012 terms, 4-6GB of RAM is more than enough for most consumers as most applications do not utilize a lot of RAM. Professional users working on large documents or very intensive applications (e.g. video editing or hi-res photo retouching) will require more RAM.

GPUs are Graphics Processing Units and these are the main requirement for 3D gaming. Most budget laptops make use of shared GPUs, mostly from Intel which are not suitable for gaming but other multimedia laptops use dedicated GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA which help in running 3D games smoothly due to them having dedicated memory. The laptop screens themselves are made out of individual pieces of colours called pixels. The more the number of pixels in a laptop screen, the sharper is its picture.