11 Things to Consider Before Buying an 8GB Ram Laptop

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Computers make the world go 'round.

Well, not really. Gravity does that.

But computers are everywhere in places you might not even realize such as your GPS. But with computers that you are familiar with, such as your laptop, you need to make the best choice, so the computer does what you want it to.

If you're searching for the best laptop for your needs, check out this list of 11 things to consider before buying an 8GB RAM laptop.

1. Operating Systems 

You probably know that operating systems are important, but actually, your computer's operating system is the most important component. The operating system is your computer resource manager, resource scheduler, and communication link between the computer and you.

Without the operating system, your computer would not function. The operating system creates the user interface which is the desktop screen that you're familiar with. This screen is how you can easily navigate your device.

But does the operating system really matter or is it all preference?

The Big 3

Linux, Windows, and macOS are the three most popular operating systems out there. The most used operating system is Microsoft Windows with Apple macOS following quickly in second place. Linux is the least used operating system.

Windows

Windows has become a giant in the operating system world. Windows is easily accessible and comes on many computers. It's usually the first OS that people use. This is especially true for children learning in schools because Windows computers come in a variety of budgets. Many of these Windows computers are great for educational use down to the price. 

The Windows operating system is extremely customizable and flexible which is not something that you get from macOS. One of the most important factors is that you can even build the machine yourself by customizing it down to the hardware. 

Two people work on a laptop pointing at graphs and charts

Pros:

  • There are a lot of hardware options.

  • A lot of budget-friendly machines are under $500.

  • Most games can be played on a Windows machine.

Cons:

  • Functionality isn't always consistent and updates can sometimes cause issues.

  • Quality among computer brand makers is not consistent.

  • Malware, spyware, and ransomware are rampant.

macOS

MacOS hasn't changed a ton. No, seriously! If you were to take someone under the age of 30 and introduce them to the very first Macintosh computer, they'd be able to run it. That's because the file system, the menu bar, and the trash system haven't changed in functionality. They've only slightly changed in appearance to keep up with the modern user's taste.

That's why, typically, people who have used Mac devices are loath to use anything else. MacOS has continuity throughout the years even with hardware changes. However, this operating system is not very customizable, and the hardware you get when you purchase the computer is what you get; there's no easy way to upgrade or downgrade.

This particular OS is great if you're already an integrated Apple user and have no plans to game. It's also a good option if you have the money to spare as even an entry-level computer is going to run you more money. 

Pros:

  • It can run macOS, Windows, and Linux apps at the same time.

  • It has tight integration with iPhones and iPads.

  • It offers quality hardware that is fine-tuned for the operating system.

Cons:

  • Entry-level computers are more costly.

  • It has limited hardware options and customization choices.

  • There are years between hardware updates.

Laptop with photos on the screen

Linux

Linux is versatile and open source. But because it is open source the code for the system can be changed by anyone that can code. There are many distributions (a Linux-specific word for "versions") of this operating system, all with new updates and tweaks. This is a great system to use if the capitalistic pull of Windows and Mac doesn't appeal to you. Linux, because the code is accessible, can be customized beyond what a corporate-produced operating system would allow. 

Linux has its following but sacrifices the use of many corporate-owned applications such as most PC game providers, Photoshop, and Microsoft Suite. 

Pros:

  • There are wide distribution choices.

  • It's open-source.

  • It offers cheap and free options, and has no ties to corporations.

Cons:

  • Brand-name apps are not available.

  • File formats can have issues.

  • There are only a few choices for a pre-built machine.

2. Laptop Type

Laptop type is also important. While each computer runs on a specific operating system, each computer has different hardware and specifications (specs). But you're not thinking about that yet. No, you need to decide if you want an ultrabook, netbook, tablet, or desktop replacement. 

Different laptop types weigh different amounts and are good for different things. 

Ultrabooks

This type of computer has a low weight count of about three pounds. Its screen can be anywhere from 10" to 15". The processors in this type of computer are optimized for battery life and the keyboard is usually smaller and not full-size.

Netbooks

Netbooks are tiny, inexpensive, and overall less powerful than most laptops. Their keyboards are the smallest. Though netbooks are still common, they've largely been upstaged by tablets with Bluetooth keyboards.

Tablets

Tablets, when built to be used as a computer, can be paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse of your choosing. This is a very popular option and there are even a few catered tablet computers out there like the Microsoft Surface or Apple iPad. The processors vary depending on the price.

Desktop Replacement

Desktop replacement laptops are intended to do just what they say: replace a desktop computer. These are not meant to be very portable though they can be moved around as needed. Desktop replacements often weigh upwards of 10 lbs with larger displays and full-sized keyboards. Processors will vary based on the price paid but are usually higher end.  

3. Size 

A bigger display gives you better viewing experiences, but with larger displays come heavier laptops. When considering size think about how often you'll be traveling with your computer. If you're traveling a lot, then you'll probably want a smaller laptop that isn't heavy. If you travel sometimes, then the standard 13.3" or 14" screen should be fine. 

Computer hard drive opened up

4. Keyboard

When picking a laptop make sure that you're checking what kind of keyboard it comes with. Some laptops have number pads, while others do not. The smaller the laptop, the fewer keys the keyboard will have. But don't worry — your computer will always have all the letters! 

The keyboards can have different key types, too. Traditional and chiclet keysets typically use a membrane under the keys to relay the key you're clicking.

Types of Laptop Keyboards:

Traditional: Traditional laptop keyboards have keys that are placed close to each other. Each key has its own slope. There's more surface area but you have to reach further for keys.

Chiclet: Chiclet laptop keyboards have flat keys with no slope around the edges. This type of keyboard gives a bit more space between keys.

Mechanical: Mechanical-style keyboards employ mechanical switches under the keys. This means that there is an audible click with each push. 

5. Spec(ification)s 

Specs can make or break a laptop as they declare just what a laptop can do or what it can't do. When considering specs, research some of the recommended specs for some applications you're hoping to use with your laptop. This can help you get a better idea of what you need.

RAM

RAM is a temporary memory bank and when you place your computer in sleep mode, it's able to start up so quickly where you've left it off because of the RAM. It can also affect your computer's speed and capabilities, and you should never go below 8GB of RAM. The speed and performance of your computer depend entirely on RAM. You can also upgrade and change out RAM.

There are two different types of RAM: Static RAM and Dynamic RAM. Each type has its differences but both serve the same purpose when used in laptops. You're going to want at least 8GB of installed RAM for your new laptop.

Types of RAM:

SRAM: This comprises four to six transistors that keep the data as long as power is supplied to the system. SRAM is faster but more expensive.

DRAM: This comprises transistors and has an integrated circuit. Data is stored in the capacitor but these can slowly discharge over time. DRAM has to be refreshed every few milliseconds to keep data. 

CPU

The central processing unit (CPU) provides instructions on how the computer should work and how it should power itself. The more powerful and updated your processor is, the faster your computer will be. This can affect what kinds of activities you can do and can cause your computer to run slower if your processor doesn't have enough power to support whatever you're doing.

Storage

Hard disk storage is important because when you run out of storage space you'll have to turn to an external hard disk drive. This isn't ideal if you're traveling with your laptop. You'll also need to think about the different storage options.

A series of ones and zeros around an opaque laptop keyboard

Types of Storage:

Solid State Drives

Solid-state drives (SSDs) are popular and usually standard. This is especially true with Apple devices. SSDs do not have moving parts which is one of the major differences between them and a standard hard drive. SSDs use flash memory to remember information when they've been switched off, very similar to how RAM works.

Solid-state drives use a grid of electrical cells which write and read data. This grid is called "pages" and the pages are divided into blocks. 

Your information is stored on pages. But what are the pros and cons of a solid-state drive?

Pros:

Cons:

  • SSDs can break, and each page of the SSD has a finite life expectancy. 

  • SSDs are more expensive.

Hard Disk Drives

Hard disk drives (HDDs) have been used in computers consistently for decades. They're the cheaper option and typically offer more storage space at a lower price. This type of drive resembles a turntable with disks that spin around a center axis. 

That spinning motion would be why these are so prone to damage. Data is written and read by the read-write head which changes the magnetic fields of the platters. Hard drives are standardized in sizing and are much easier to replace. 

Pros:

  • They are one of the oldest types of storage for computers.

  • They're cheaper per gigabyte.

  • It's easy to increase storage space.

Cons:

  • It uses a lot of power and can cause the laptop to overheat.

  • It can be noisy.

  • It's much faster, but susceptible to wear and tear.

USB 3.0 Ports

If you're planning to use a peripheral device, like external hard drives, mice, or keyboards, you'll need USB 3.0 ports. Without those ports, these devices may not function as intended. Do enough research on your computer to ensure you have enough USB ports for all of your devices. 

Woman works on laptop

6. Battery Life

Battery life is important. If you're not traveling much, you can get a computer with less battery power as you'll be nearer to an outlet. However, if you travel a lot, you'll want a computer that can run for up to eight hours without a charge. 

7. Budget

Budget is an extremely personal thing for every laptop customer. Everyone's going to have a different budget. To ensure your computer can do everything you need it to do, look at your budget and determine where you may have to sacrifice to stay within budget. Most low-priced laptops come with 8GB but always make sure.

8. Brand

You may ask yourself: Does the brand of the laptop matter when choosing one? With brands such as Acer or Dell or HP, is it necessarily relevant? The answer to this is no. The brand is an entirely personal choice and does not affect specs or appearance.  

Most laptop companies create laptops to serve a market. Business laptops and gaming laptops are just two of many target markets. Different brands present their laptops in different aesthetic models such as Dell's Alienware or HP's Pavilion. If you care about aesthetics, you might explore the different laptop brands. 

9. Ports

Modern laptops come with all kinds of ports, at least they do when you get a laptop that has at least 8GB of RAM. But what do all those ports mean? Knowing their meanings is the only way you can decide if you want these ports on your laptop. 

Dive into some of the most common ports:

Audio Jack: The audio jack, otherwise known as a 3.5mm jack or headphone jack, is one of the most common ports on a computer. It allows you to input and output audio and you can connect most wired speakers or headphones to it.

Ethernet: This allows you to connect your laptop directly to a wired network. Though these are less common, Ethernet is the most reliable way to connect to the internet.

HDMI: High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) is the most common manner to connect your laptop to an external display such as your television or another monitor. 

USB: USB 2.0 is grey and offers transfer speeds of 480 Mbps while USB 3.1 is blue and has a higher transfer rate. USB Type-C ports are used when connecting to Thunderbolt connections.

Woman works on laptop on desk

10. Storage

You've learned about solid-state drives versus hard drives, but not storage amounts. When getting a laptop, you'll need to think about what you plan to do with it. How much space do you need to have? Will you need an external drive to download things? What works best for you will not work best for someone else.

Do your research beforehand to ensure that your storage is optimal for your needs.

11. Build Quality

When considering the build quality of a laptop, the price will not be everything. Some brands are known for using cheaper materials, while others go above and beyond. However, when you're looking at build quality, you should also look at the warranties and see what's offered with the device. Some companies offer a typical one-year warranty and poor customer service while other companies have better customer service and a longer warranty or a warranty that covers more.

Final Thoughts

When choosing a computer there's a lot to consider. However, now you will make a better decision for your needs because you better understand the components. Make the best decision for your needs and don't rely simply on word of mouth to tell you what kind of laptop you should get. Everyone's needs are going to be different and trying to focus on what has worked for other people will not work for you.

Read more about the specs of your laptop before you decide. And make sure that you're reading reviews about that laptop.