How to buy the best laptop in the age of Windows 8

Laptops have changed dramatically in the past few months, making buying choices more difficult. We help you navigate the mobile PC maze.

By Loyd Case, PC World |  Hardware, laptops, windows 8

LCD panel technologies have remained fairly stable for the past few years. Though capacitive touchscreens are becoming more common, the underlying LCD panels continue to use one of three basic technologies: twisted nematic (TN), in-plane switching (IPS, S-IPS, and related variants), or vertical alignment (MVA or PVA).

TN panels are still the most common, mainly because these panels are the least expensive. Most budget laptops ship with TN technology. These LCDs have fast response times and good power efficiency, but their color depth is lower (usually 6 bits per pixel), so color accuracy for photo editing and video editing is subpar. TN panels also have a relatively narrow range of acceptable viewing angles, with severe contrast and color shifts visible in off-axis viewing.

IPS panels tend to offer more color depth and better color accuracy if properly implemented. The range of acceptable viewing angles is wider, too. Until recently, IPS panel response times were slow, which sometimes resulted in visible "smearing" of video or game content; but newer IPS panel variants have improved on their predecessors' response times. IPS panels are increasingly common in high-end laptop models.

MVA or PVA panels, though less common, are available on some laptops. They offer a good balance of color accuracy and response time, but don't stand out in any one category.

The other key factor to consider when choosing a panel is resolution. With Windows-based laptops, a greater number of pixels isn't always better. Very high pixel densitiesas, for example, in a 1920-by-1080 display on an 11-inch LCDoften results in tiny, hard-to-read text. Sure, you can increase text size, but then you have to enlarge your open windows, which means that you can't fit as many windows on-screen, negating the benefits of the higher resolution.

On the other hand, a 17-inch LCD that offers a resolution of only 1366 by 768 creates a visible "screen door" effect in which you can easily see individual pixels. This can be particularly annoying when you're watching video content.

Storage

Storage is one of the hottest topics related to mobile PCs today, as solid-state drives become more popular. SSDs substantially decrease boot time and improve system responsiveness because they load applications and data faster. If a manufacturer offers an SSD as an upgrade option, you may be better off skipping a processor speed increase and getting the SSD instead. Often, SSDs are tied to premium models, however.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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