Buying A Laptop for Programming

The very first step to becoming a programmer is not always reading a tutorial on w3schools.com. Most times, its buying your own laptop. This article covers in details; steps that should be taken, to buy a good laptop for programming.

Identify the laptop you want to buy beforehand: It’s interesting to note that a lot of people skip this step. When you fail to identify the laptop you wish to buy before going to the laptop shop, you will simply end up buying the laptop the sales man wants for you; no matter how incompatible with your purpose that laptop is.

Since in this case, you are using this laptop for programming, be honest with yourself; how much can you really afford to spend on a laptop? The least money should be 40,000 Naira which can get you a 2gb ram laptop, whose features are okay, but whose brand is losing appeal due to new products in the market. Examples of laptops in this category are: HP Pavilion dv6000 Notebook ,Lenovo Thinkpad (older models et.c.If you have a little more than 50,000 Naira, go for second hand, higher, more recent models like HP Pavillion g6, g7. HP envy, etc.

If you can afford 120k, then go for brand new laptops.Whatever you do, know what you can afford and what you can’t and let that be a serious factor in your choice.

Find out the cost of owning the laptop:

The cost of the laptop goes beyond the initial purchase cost. You must factor in the cost of the extra batteries, as well as the problems peculiar to the model you have chosen and how much it costs to fix those problems. Note that some laptops are near impossible to repair in this country due to scarcity of parts. I once had a Lenovo thinkpad X200 laptop and couldn’t find a replacement battery, until I sent someone to go to computer village, Lagos. ( all the way from Enugu). That is quite expensive, if you ask me.

Also, users of HP Pavillion dv600 should know that they would spend at least 6000 Naira on hinges every six months. The hinges of that laptop just keeps breaking. There is nothing anyone can do about it. Every other laptop has its quirks. Find out the problems your chosen model has. Google is your friend!.

On getting to the laptop shop; Insist on the laptop you have chosen!:

This is not the time to play it gentle. The sales man is definitely going to want to show you some other ‘awesome laptop’. Your response should be a flat No. The devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know is a very applicable rule in this case. If the dealer doesn’t have the model you’ve chosen, please find another dealer!  

Test, Test and Test!:

Be prepared to spend the entire day at the dealer’s shop. It would be time well spent, trust me.

Test the battery: You can do this using the classic battery drain test. Go to the shop with your favorite DVD, charge the laptop right there at the shop till its battery is full. Now, relax and watch your DVD on your prospective laptop. How long does it take its battery to deplete?  2 Hours? Not bad. 1 Hour? Mmmmm… 30 Minutes? Please Run AWAY!.

In some cases, the DVD Rom may not play at all because there is no DVD ROM icon on the computer. Under such circumstances; go on your knees, thank the Lord for revealing this flaw to you, and reject that laptop with all the intensity your voice can command.  A laptop without a DVD ROM in Nigeria will give you a lot of “Had I known” moments in the near future.

Test the Keyboard: You wouldn’t believe how many people go to laptop shops and  come back with laptops that have keyboard problems! Testing your laptop keys are quite simple. Open Microsoft Word and  type in a-z, 1-9-0. After this, try using all the shortcuts you know on the laptop. If you find something funny (like a button that is not working) and the dealer can’t fix it on the spot, reject the laptop!.

You may also realize that the laptop buttons do not produce the keys they represent. Like pressing Q might give you A. Please reject such laptops!.

Test the WIFI: The WIFI button is usually f12. The color is usually orange when the WIFI is off/spoilt, and white when it is on/working. Press this button and see if the color changes from orange to white. If it does, switch on the hotspot on any chinese android phone (tecno, infinix…etc.), and see if your computer sees it. If it doesn’t,  ask your dealer to turn on the laptop’s WIFI. If he says it needs its drivers to be installed, ask him to install it right away or you are not buying!

You will be doing a lot of browsing and downloading on this laptop, and if you buy a laptop whose wifi is broken, you might smash it on the floor one of these days out of regret.

Test  the hinges: Repeatedly open and close the laptop you want to buy. Is it hard? If it is hard (has too much friction opening and closing), this is a strong indicator that your laptop’s hinges might break soon. Ask the dealer why it is so. He might be able to loosen it a bit. If he can’t…the DOOR is your friend! You don’t want to be at the repair shop barely 3 months after purchasing your baby.

Test the webcam, Sound, and Microphone: This is to ensure you can make skype calls with this laptop. Testing the sound is simple. Play a sound track on the laptop (Ask the dealer to do this if you don’t know how).  To test the microphone, press the windows key, in the tab that opens (for windows 7)  type in ‘microphone’. You will see ‘Set Up Microphone’. Click on this and read the text as the wizard instructs. 

If the next button is not clickable after you’ve read the words on your screen, the laptop’s microphone might be bad. This is not sufficient reason to reject the laptop. You can easily buy a headset that comes with a microphone, but it helps to know this beforehand.The same thing applies to the webcam. You can get an external webcam if the webcam is not working, but it helps to know before hand.

heck the Memories in the laptop: Click on the ‘My Computer’ Icon. It is usually on the desktop. You should see the amount of hard disk memory the laptop has. This is what determines how much you can store on your laptop: A thousand video tutorials? Or 10 video tutorials?   250gb and above is okay. Anything below that means you may always have to delete old stuff to be able to add new stuff.After checking out the hard disk memory, look at the top of your screen, in that same window, you will see ‘System Properties’. Click on this to see the System RAM.

A ram that is below 2GB means you wont be able to run modest applications like Photoshop, corel draw. A Ram that is below 1GB means your computer will spend more time freezing than it will spend serving you. 

4-8GB and above is very very good for business. You’d be able to run corel draw, photoshop, xpss, and some cool games too.

Everything does not end with the RAM though. Processor speed also matters. Core i5 – core i7 means your laptop is a beast that can handle almost any application your throw at it. The lower it goes, the lower its performance.

Now, press Windows Key + R. In the dialog box that pops up, type ‘dxdiag’.  Click ‘Display’. You will see the amount of graphics memory your laptop has. This is what determines the level of 3d activity (Gaming) your laptop can accommodate. Anything less than 2gb means your laptop will not be able to play most 3d games.

Buying a laptop is something you would do once in 3 or more years. It makes sense to invest the time and resources to get it right. Good luck!