How to choose the right laptop for you – Popular Science

Go browsing through the laptops in your local retailer, and you’ll see a whole host of specifications. The good news: When it comes to specs, you don’t have to get overly worried about the small print. As a useful shortcut, just look at the prices, which will often tell you which computers are more powerful than others. But it still helps to know a little bit about what you’re dealing with.

The central processing unit, also known as the CPU or simply the processor, is the brains of the operation, controlling all the calculations that hum through your laptop’s circuitry. To find out how capable a computer’s CPU is, look for references to a clock speed (in gigahertz), which is how fast the thinking gets done. Also keep an eye out for the number of cores, which are basically mini CPUs in their own right: More cores means more simultaneous thinking.

These specs are often hidden behind brand terms. Take Intel’s labels of i7 and i5: i7s are top of the line, while i5s are mid-range. Watch out for the generation of the chip too (Intel’s seventh generation CPUs are appearing in 2017). A new generation means better performance with less battery drain. That’s why, when a new generation of processors arrives, you’ll often see laptop ranges updated across the board.

Another important spec is the RAM, which essentially controls how much your laptop can think about at any one time. More RAM means more support for lots of browser tabs, bigger images, more open applications, and so on. Basically, RAM lets you have a lot more going on without forcing your machine to come to a grinding halt. 4GB is the absolute minimum these days, though if your needs are even slightly demanding, you’ll probably want to go above that.

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