By Nancy C. Muir

Shopping for a laptop can seem a little overwhelming. Not to worry. This list will help you know what to look for. When you’re purchasing your laptop, check for the following features:

  • Portability: The size and weight of your laptop may be important if you plan to take it with you when you travel or work away from home. Remember, however, that a smaller, lighter weight laptop will typically have a smaller screen.
  • Memory: Your computer should have at least 2 gigabyte (GB) of RAM.
  • Processor: Most processors today are multiple-core processors, such as the i3, i5, and i7 processor lines from Intel. Those with two processors are called dual-core; those with four processors are called quad-core; and processors with six cores are referred to as hexa-core. The bottom line with cores is that the more you have, the faster your laptop can process instructions because all the cores can work at once. Be aware, however, that not all software applications can take advantage of multiple core technology.
  • Battery life: If you will use your laptop in settings without a power source, such as on a plane or in the doctor’s waiting room, look for a model with longer battery life (some offer 10 hours or more).
  • Keyboard: Make sure the keyboard feels comfortable to you. Some laptop keyboards may be as big as a stand-alone keyboard, but others can feel cramped, especially if you have dexterity challenges.
  • Screen: Laptops come with screens that range from 9 inches to 17 or more. A 15-inch monitor is comfortable for most people, but if you do work with higher-end images or watch videos, consider a larger screen as larger screens may be easier on your eyes. Consider getting a touchscreen laptop to take advantage of all of Windows 10 touchscreen features.
  • CD/DVD Drive: Laptops might come with a CD or DVD drive or not. If a laptop is right for you in other ways but doesn’t have a CD/DVD drive, consider buying an inexpensive external drive.
  • Hard Drive: Computers have traditionally used hard drives to store programs and data. In many laptops a solid state drive is used in place of a hard drive. The access speed (how fast your computer retrieves data) of solid state drives is much higher than the access speed of hard drives. If you need a laptop that processes information very quickly, look for one with a solid state drive.
  • Wireless capability: To connect to some wireless devices and networks, you need wireless capability.
  • Included software: Some laptops come with utility programs such as antivirus software or productivity software such as Microsoft Office. Be aware that some of this software are short-term trial versions and you have to pay to buy the full version upgrade.
  • Manufacturer support: Check the warranty and technical support available. Also check for helpful documentation on the manufacturer’s website.
  • Graphics and sound cards: If you want to use multimedia or game software, ask for more sophisticated sound and video features such as a discrete graphics card or discrete sound card.
  • A webcam: If you will be calling your friends or grandchildren over a service such as Skype, it’s useful to have a built-in webcam to transmit video images while talking. Most laptops today include a webcam located just above the laptop screen.