Beware New Laptops

I am increasingly coming across clients that have bought new laptops that are completely underpowered and are performing very slowly. This is very frustrating for me because it means they have bought a system that is poor value for money and will be frustrating for the users after a few months or sooner because their ‘upgrade’ will only be temporary and they will find themselves back at square one, a slow, juddery system.

Why the Slow Laptops?

There is an emphasis now on longer battery life and taking less power to run, to get the longest life out of a battery it helps if the processor is running at a slower clock speed and more importantly uses little electricity.  The processor is at the heart of any system and basically governs how well the system will perform.

You can get powerful processors that run quite slowly but they will often be quad core (four processors on a single chip) so the slow speed is compensated with the extra processors but they will take more electricity which reduces battery life.

Windows 8 has offered companies a way of selling laptops with low spec processors, because Windows 8 can run on very minimal hardware it can appear that the system is running along quite smoothly.  From a manufacturer point of view they can then offer a unique selling point such as a touch screen laptop for less then £350 if they put in a low spec processor.  They are not concerned if the laptop then runs like a three legged dog.

How bad is the Performance?

A good way to test is to switch on the laptop and then see how long it takes to reach the desktop and then open up Internet Explore or Google Chrome/Firefox etc. Assuming the new laptop is running Windows 8 which nearly all are, then it should do the task in under 60 seconds (decent spec laptops will to this in under 30 seconds) I’ve seen new Windows 8 laptops take nearly 2 minutes to do this and that’s with hardly any software put on the system.  Opening up Microsoft Word or an Image editing program is a tortuous affair on slow laptops and limits the user to using just the one application otherwise it all grinds to a ‘wading through treacle’ type speed.

How to Check  Before You Buy?

First off check the blurb and the price, if the laptop is generally £350 or less and states ‘Great Battery Life’ or similar then there’s a fair chance it has a weak processor.  A better check is to get the processor model and then head over to http://www.cpubenchmark.net/, this site ranks virtually every processor on the market and is a fantastic resource.   The ranking guide is from the low end at the 300 mark to well over 10,000 for the highest spec and fastest processor.

As a guide when buying laptops always check what processor is inside, find the processor model and go to the cpubenchmark site, aim for a minimum number of 2000.  I find that a processor with a rank of around the 2000 mark will handle any task pretty quickly.  You could go a bit lower if it’s really good value, say 1700-1800 but the 2000 mark is pretty safe for a decent performing system.

Many new laptops have processor ratings of 600 – 800, that is really pitiful and a waste of time in my opinion, try running Google Earth with that or a game like Sims 3.  Ok you may not want to play games on it and you may only want to check emails and surf a few sites but it will start to slow down regardless because of the constant updates that will be installed over time and the many websites becoming graphics heavy it is another burden on our lowly processor to cope with.

So, you may see a laptop that looks like a bargain or a laptop that has great features (loads of memory (RAM)) but if it’s being powered by a weedy processor you will soon tire of it, Ebay is chock full of them.

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