Does your laptop need to be pensioned off?

Once electrical goods were built to last (nearly) forever. I am sure you have come across remarks such as this by now “How old? What do you expect?” “The cost of fixing the old thing, even if I could hunt down the spares, would be equal to a new one.” “Get rid of it”

So – considering your laptop’s hard drive probably contains files and information, which are your company’s life blood and perhaps some much treasured pictures, – do you know what the average life span of your laptop actually is?

Your laptop’s compact, all-in-one design enables you to take it with you just about anywhere and still be able to work and play. Although each individual laptop’s actual lifespan varies, on average a laptop will typically have a lifespan of about four years. The hardware begins to age after 2-3 years and they’re usually more expensive to upgrade, if they can be upgraded – than a desktop PC.

So how old is your laptop
Should it be past the 3 year mark, this would be a really good time to consider a replacement for it.

Why now?
Most major technology companies purchase goods in Dollars or Euros. Many will have placed ‘forward contracts’, based on their sales forecasts or held good stock levels. Some price rises have already happened, after the initial fall of the £ against the $, but more are on their way. Laptops are a fast moving commodity and are therefore even more likely to be affected by price rises, than some other goods. Forward contracts are now coming to an end and so are existing stocks in the UK. So from January 2017 onwards prices will, without doubt, rise. Currently it looks likely that this rise will be 10%, perhaps even a little bit more.

Here’s what to look for if you want to buy the best laptop possible

Size
If portability is your main priority, then you need to consider a notebook that has a small-ish screen and is light weight. Look for a laptop with a screen that’s 12.5-13.3 inches in size, and a weight that is from 1-1.5kg.
For general use a screen should be at least 15.6 inches. Average weight is likely to be around 2.3kg

Screen quality
You’ll be staring at your laptop for many hours every day, so you ought to make sure you have a screen which is comfortable to look at. Many laptops these days also have touchscreens and can be glossy. Glossy screens lead to reflections, so this may be a serious consideration, depending on your usual working environment.
Resolution may be important, too. . A 1920×1080-pixel resolution (Full HD) might be a consideration if you line up windows and keep things in view.

Keyboard quality
For long typing sessions, you ought to get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard.
You want a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys and some space around the arrow keys. The keys should have adequate travel on the down stroke and snappy responsiveness when you let them go. Making sure the keyboard is also backlit, so that you can type with an easier view on the keys in dimly lit environments – is a good consideration.

CPU (Central Processing Unit)
Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7? These CPUs offer the best performance when it comes to multitasking and multimedia tasks. Core i3-based notebooks are generally found in entry-level systems, while Core i5 makes up the majority of laptops. Core i7-based systems are for those, who want the best performance from their laptop. However, a Core i7-based system, tends to have heat coming through the base of the laptop- so be aware if you plan to use the laptop on your lap a lot of the time. A great help might be a laptop stand. It will keep your machine cooler and create a better working environment for you.

RAM
You need a minimum of 4GB of RAM. To get the better use of your system, you should look for 8GB RAM. More RAM allows for more applications to be run at the same time, and for more data to be quickly accessible by the system at any one time. We would generally recommend 8GB of RAM to allow you to work smoothly across applications.

Storage
Hard drives are these days often out of favour, especially for thin and light laptops. This is because they can be slow, somewhat bulky, and produce noticeable heat and noise. A solid state drive (SSD), offers a lot more speed than a hard drive, runs silently, and can be installed in a way, that doesn’t add too much to the weight and bulk of a laptop.
However, the challenge is that SSDs do not offer as much capacity. Drives tend to be either 128GB or 256GB in size, and laptops with 256GB SSDs are more expensive. If you go down the route of an SSD and your budget is tight – stick to a 128GB SSD for your new laptop. You’ll love the speed with which it can load programs, access your data, and also how quickly it can boot up your system.

Battery life
Manufacturer-quoted battery life does not tell you a lot. A laptop’s battery life will depend on many variables, such as screen brightness, screen resolution and the tasks that you run. If you run programs that need lots of processing, or if you transfer lots of files over your
Wi-Fi network, your battery will drain sooner than the manufacturer-quoted values.

Wireless networking and Bluetooth
This is something that we often forget about, when buying a laptop.
Most laptops rely on an Internet connection for the majority of their tasks, so it is an important feature. You ought to look for a laptop that has a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter. This will enable you to use the laptop with a dual-band router’s 5GHz network, allowing it to work quicker and perhaps segregating it from other devices on the network that use the 2.4GHz network.
Also look for Bluetooth 4.0. Bluetooth isn’t only handy for connecting to wireless mice and keyboards, but also printers, headsets and cameras.

Full-sized SD card
Why should you want a full-sized SD card slot? If you’re a photographer and you want to get photos off your camera onto your laptop, the SD card slot is the best and quickest way to do so. Modern cameras often come with Wi-Fi to facilitate transfers of photos, but it can be a fiddly process. Some SD card slots are better than others, too. Look for one in which the card can sit all the way in, rather than a slot that makes the card stick halfway out.

USB 3.0
You really should not get a laptop without a USB 3.0 port, preferably more than one. This is for reasons such as plugging in an external hard drive to back up your laptop’s data, or for when you want to plug in a conventional mouse or a fancy keyboard.

Additional items to consider

DVD drive
Most laptops are no longer made with internal DVD-ROM drives. So should you need one, as you may still have much media and/or software stored on CD’s an external DVD-ROM drive can be purchased for relatively little money ad be connected via your USB 3.0 port.

Keyboard & mouse
Using the laptop for extended periods can easily lead to RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).
So adding an external, full-sized keyboard and ambidextrous mouse will do a lot to allow your shoulders and arms to be in a relaxed position, with your elbows at a 90° angle when typing.
Most are connected wireless via a tiny USB dongle.

Independent screen
When you know you are working much from a desk at home it may be wise to consider an independent screen to your laptop. It makes for a much more comfortable and physically acceptable work environment. Aim for a 16:9 ratio for general use, as most media is now produced in this format. The minimum native resolution should be 1920 x 1080 pixels to ensure you have a very clear display, which is easy to see. If your budget permits look for a screen which has a height and tilt adjustment. This will make it easier for you to adjust it to ensure it is comfortable to use.
Or on the other hand – consider a monitor bracket, which will keep your desk space clear altogether.

Antivirus protection
Many laptops are pre-loaded with trials for Antivirus software, which you firstly need to activate and then re-new after 30 days, as not to leave you without protection. This often is an easy way for Antivirus software vendors to gain new subscribers easily. However, not every Antivirus program and license is the same and may not be right for you. The trial is also only for the machine you actually purchased, rather than covering other devices, too. Your chosen program should be tailored to your requirements, i.e. how many devices need protecting, which platform are those devices on, does the program cover those platforms and do you have a network server environment? It is always worth talking to an independent specialist to ensure you get the right protection for you, your business and all of your and your businesses devices.

Data Backup options
This is especially important, if your laptop is used for business. Data should be regularly backed up to an external hard drive as well as to a cloud based environment. Copying all of your actual files is great, but a proper backup covers much more. There are files that will not be backed up by this approach. Any files that are “in use”, i.e. opened in running programs, will not be copied. Some files are always in use, such as the Windows registry – the central store on your machine for millions of Windows and other application settings and configurations. If Windows is running, the operating system keeps the files that contain the registry open and locked from outside access.
If your hard drive were to die– without the registry, you’re still looking at a complete reinstall of Windows, plus your applications, onto a replacement drive.

Microsoft Office
The days of purchasing a physical copy of specific applications is coming to an end. Today Microsoft has a large choice of Office 365 subscriptions, which suit almost every type of user, whether a single user, small business or Enterprise. Some subscriptions allow you to use Office 365, whilst connected to the internet, however others permit you to download the applications to your machine to use off line. So chose carefully! No internet connection means not being able to work on your documents/presentations/emails.

Purchasing online, from a major reseller or from a specialist?
The choice is yours!

You may, however, wish to consider that a specialist will assess your actual needs and tailor the machine to you and your business. A laptop purchased via a specialist and set up for you – will not be cluttered with unnecessary software apps and programs, taking up valuable space on your hard drive. A specialist can interpret your requirements and suggest the right hardware and software for you, without being beholden to specific hard or software vendors and upselling unnecessary items.
A specialist can also save you hours of your valuable time spent on trying to understand of how to set up your machine, waiting for downloads to complete and transferring files from your other devices.

Engineer Artur

It’s IT support, Jim, but not as we know it

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