Laptops Buying Guide

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Laptops Buying Guide

Laptops are pretty straight-forward, don’t you think? No? We don’t think so either. It can be scary buying your first computer - and there’s a lot of confusing and geeky jargon to get through. How do you make an informed choice? The following guide to ASDA’s laptops will help you.

There’s a few words for what we think of as a laptop computer: Notebook is sometimes used to distinguish the traditional laptop from the new breed of Tablet PC; portable computers that are used by writing directly on a touch-screen (like a tablet). On ASDA Direct, Notebook means the same thing as a traditional Laptop.

A Netbook is a simplified computer designed only for web use, with a smaller screen and lighter weight for ultra-portability. And because they don’t have as many components they’re cheaper than laptops. They might not run advanced programs and can struggle with high definition video, but for the most important things in life, like staying in touch with friends or shopping on Asda Direct, they’re a snap.

Which one do I need?

How can I tell which laptop is good for doing what? Well, all Asda’s laptops will do the basics – you can connect to the web and do your shopping and socialising, download and play your music and videos, keep on top of your homework, finances or studies and connect your camera or mobile phone to store your images and contacts. If all you want to do is access the web – then maybe one of our netbooks is what you’re after. But if you want to make a really informed choice, here’s some basics:


The processor is the computer’s brain, and is also known (by geeks) as the Central Processing Unit (CPU). It looks after all the loading and running of programs, how quickly and smoothly programs run, and how many you can run at the same time. The better the processor the faster your computer is, and the speed is measured in GigaHertz (GHz). Most processors are built by two companies, AMD and Intel. All Asda’s computers have a speed between 1.6GHz and 2.5GHz – which is plenty for all the basics. Some of our computers have two processing cores (double the power) whereas elsewhere you might have come across ‘Quad Core’ (four brains!). This Acer Aspire 6530 Laptop is also a high end option.

Hard Drive:

The computer’s long-term memory, which is measured in GigaBytes (GB). This is where all your images, movies, games and programs are kept, and at Asda our laptops range between 20GB and 240GB of memory. To put this in perspective, a DVD-quality movie takes up about 1GB of memory, whereas a standard camera picture is about a 1,000 times smaller than that. This big bruiser has 320GB of memory.The hard disk's rotational speed also makes a big difference; a 7,200rpm notebook disk delivers significantly faster performance than a 5,400rpm model. The faster the disk spins, the better your notebook will perform overall, though a faster disk will also shorten your laptop's battery life.

Random Access Memory (RAM)
Random Access Memory (RAM):

The computer’s short term memory, which - like us - it uses for doing tasks rather than for storage. The more of this memory a computer has the better, allowing it to run several active windows at the same time, or doing demanding tasks (editing photos or videos, for example) without slowing down. A laptop with at least 1GB is a good idea for a smooth Windows Vista experience, while these clever-clog computers all have 4GB of RAM.


Cheaper laptops use their RAM memory chip to create graphics when running computer games or animations, but these graphics can be fairly basic looking. To run the most sophisticated modern games, high-end laptops come with a purpose-built chip - a graphics card. Look out for the words NVIDIA and ATI when browsing new laptops – it’s generally accepted that these are powerful enough to run modern games. These game-friendly laptops have plenty of party power.

Screen Size
Screen Size:

Screen sizes on laptops tend to be between 12”-17” and are measured diagonally from corner to corner. The bigger the screen size the easier to read – but this will mean that the laptop is bigger and heavier. Meanwhile, the basic Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) screen is heavier and less colourful than a Thin-film Transistor (TFT) screen, but the difference may be fairly hard to spot.

Operarting Systems:

What you see after turning your computer on – the blue screen, the mouse arrow, those little folders which open when clicked... They make using computers a snap – whereas twenty-five years ago nobody without training could simply turn on any PC and tell it to do complicated things! Most modern PC laptops run Windows Vista or Windows 7 (the most recent version), while some older models will run Windows XP. There are a lot of quite boring arguments about which is best. There are slight differences - but all are fine if you just want to get on with a bit of work, shop online and then show some aliens who’s boss.

Optical Drives
Optical Drives:

Most notebooks will have some kind of CD or DVD drive – called an optical drive because it uses optics (lasers and lights and whatnot) to load and save your work, photos or computer games on a CD or DVD. There are a few different types, here’s what they do:

CD-ROM drive Read Read
CD-R recorder Write Read
CD-RW recorder Write Write
DVD-ROM drive Read Read Read Read Read Read Read
DVD-R recorder Write Write Write Read Read Read Read
DVD-RW recorder Write Write Write Read Write Read Read
DVD+R recorder Write Write Read Write Read Read Read
DVD+RW recorder Write Write Read Write Read Write Read
DVD±RW recorder Write Write Write Write Write Write Read
DVD±RW/DVD+R DL Write Write Write Write Write Write Write

Budding novelist? Keen photographer? Stressed student? Not everyone needs a printer, and there are different types to suit your interest. For letters, essays and printing out angry ‘Hands Off!’ signs, you’ll get by with a small-office or home-office colour inkjet for all the basics. If you want to create glossy photos, a dedicated photo printer is recommended. Or a personal laser printer will give you fast, quality text and graphics. Scanning your old photos to your computer and sharing them online is also a real joy, and these inkjet printers are capable of scanning photos and creating lab-quality finishes.

Getting your laptop online:

If you can’t wait for your broadband to be installed at home, or need something to keep you connected on the move, you can opt for a pay-as-you-go broadband stick. You simply top up and provided you have network coverage you can take the internet with you.

Peripherals – external hard drives, flash memory sticks, USB devices
Peripherals – external hard drives, flash memory sticks, USB devices:

If you find that you’re running out of space on your laptop for all your movies, pictures and files, you can invest in an external hard drive which can give you large amounts of extra storage. Alternatively, you can use one of these memory sticks to transfer files easily or for short-term storage. Or there’s a bit of both, as with this bad boy. All memory sticks or external hard drives use USB – and will be automatically recognised by your laptop, so you don’t have to worry about installation.