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Last Updated: 9/14/2014 07:04 PST

How to Buy a Laptop Online

How to Buy a Laptop Online

The internet has made shopping simpler than ever before. From the comforts of your home, you can literally let your fingers do the walking. Another added benefit is the ability to quickly compare prices between vendors to ensure you're getting the best deals possible.

When choosing a laptop computer to purchase online, the first order of business is to determine what category of laptop you need based on what you'll be using it for:

Frequent business travel

If your portable computer will be your constant companion as you travel for work, weight and size will likely be your major criteria. The size of the screen is also important since most confined Economy seats on airplanes do not allow even standard 15 inch screens to fully open. Battery life needs to be above normal as well. Finally, reliability and past performance is important.

With the above in mind, look for a laptop with a 13 inch monitor and around five to six pounds. Battery life should be around 3 to 4 hours. Dell and IBM are notable vendors with strong reputations among the business community.

Home desktop replacement

Home desktop replacement laptops are meant to do almost everything a powerful desktop computer can do, which means these classes of laptops are generally big and heavy. They are likely going to spend more time on a desk than in a bag. With home desktop replacements, a large bright screen is important to watch movies, videos and pictures. Light computer gaming is needed, so a decent video card is important. Make sure to load up on the RAM and hard drive. Battery life doesn't matter as much since it will usually be plugged in.

Look for laptops with bright 17 inch monitors, a video card with at least 512MB of dedicated RAM, and 3 to 4 GB of system RAM. HP and Gateway have excellent selections of desktop replacements.

Budget laptop

If price is your main consideration, and you won't be using your laptop for more than internet browsing, email, light office applications and some light multimedia, you'll find plenty of laptops in the $500 to $600 range that fit your needs.

Where to buy

Dell should be your first destination. Their everyday low prices have made them one of the top computer companies in the world.

Other online stores frequently have great deals. Newegg, Buy.com and Amazon tend to be the most well known.

Web sites of known retailers also have specials on a frequent basis. Best Buy, Fry's Electronics and Walmart all have weekly specials.

For the more adventurous, try eBay or web sites such as eCost. Remember to check the reviews and reputation of the sellers.

Warranty or no warranty?

The rule of thumb in deciding whether or not to purchase an extended warranty is how critical the laptop is to your life. If it's a budget laptop that is the third computer in a home, you may wish to bypass extended warranty. However, if you've spent over $1,500 on a work laptop that is critical to your business, think carefully about purchasing some form of 3 year extended warranty with onsite service.

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