Laptop processors, storage and memory

Laptop processor (CPU) 

Laptops are normally described in terms of the processor speed and type. Usually made by either Intel or AMD, the CPU is the main brain of your computer.
It performs the millions of calculations your laptop makes every second. Processor speed is generally expressed in gigahertz (GHz).
For example, an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.26GHz laptop has a chip made by Intel, that is dual core and runs at 2.26GHz.
Most laptop CPUs are now dual core, which means they are actually two processors on one chip that share the workload between them.
Some current desktops come equipped with quad-core CPUs, and it’s only a matter of time before these reach the laptop market.
Processor speed plays a big part in the performance of your laptop, so if you’re looking for a high-performance machine or you're after something that'll last you for a few years, go for a faster processor.
Balance this with your laptop’s Ram, though, as between them, these two parts play the biggest role in determining the speed of your laptop. There’s no point in having a fast processor if you don't match it with a decent amount of Ram.
Some of the mini-laptops or netbooks now available boast Intel’s Atom chip. Atom chips are designed specifically for mobile devices and aim to give you more computing power while increasing battery life.

Laptop memory (Ram)

Ram (random access memory) is your laptop's short-term memory. It's used to store information while you're using the laptop (the hard drive is used for long-term file storage). Consequently, the amount of Ram your laptop has determines how many different tasks it can accomplish simultaneously.
Aim to have as much Ram as you can afford – ideally at least 2GB. This will make it easier to rip music while you're surfing the net, updating your security software, and sending and receiving emails.
It’s usually possible to add more Ram to your laptop, but this is more complicated than adding Ram to a desktop PC, so you may need to get an expert to do this for you.

Laptop hard drive (HDD)

The hard disk drive provides long-term memory for data storage – measured in gigabytes (GB). This is where the operating system and applications (programs) are stored, as well as files such as music, photos and documents.
We recommend getting a minimum of 250GB hard disk space, as storing video, high-resolution photos, music and software uses up a lot of space. If in doubt, go for more hard drive space if you can afford it.

Solid-state drive (SSD)

Some laptops – such as netbooks or mini-laptops – use solid-state storage rather than a conventional hard drive to store data. This uses less power and, since it has no moving parts, is more rugged.
The size of SSDs hasn’t yet reached the capacities offered by hard drives, so you may have to compromise on storage space.
If you’re only doing general office tasks, this shouldn't be a problem, but large files, such as video clips, could soon use up the space. Capacities are generally up to about 20GB – fine for many users’ needs.

Laptop optical drives

Most laptops come with a CD/DVD drive of some kind for playing CDs and DVDs, and will often allow you to burn your own discs, too.
Many laptops come with a multi-format burner, which can record to a variety of different DVD formats (DVD-R, DVD-RW and DVD-RAM) as well as CDs (CD-R and CD-RW).
All but the cheapest models include DVD burners, and we recommend opting for one if you can.
A DVD drive is useful for making your own videos, as well as for backing up large amounts of data, since DVDs can hold much more data than CDs.
The very best laptops include a Blu-ray drive so you can watch high-definition (HD) films on the move. Slot-load drives are preferable to tray-mounted drives, as they’re less prone to breakage when on the move.

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