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PC Advisor's ultimate guide to buying a laptop

From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered

There's a huge array of choice when it comes to laptops, but with everything from netbooks and ultraportables to machines suitable for gaming and those designed to withstand use in rural locations, which should you choose. We've put together the ultimate laptop guide to help you decide.

Power gaming

It's a cruel and dangerous world out there, filled with all sorts of aliens, car thieves and assassins out to get you. And that's just in video games. To play for keeps, you need a powerful gaming laptop that puts an emphasis on speed and graphics.

You can't defend yourself without seeing the enemy, so having a big, high-resolution screen with the latest graphics is a matter of digital survival. The top gaming machines today start with a high-end graphics card, such as Nvidia's SLI Dual GeForce 8800M GTX or ATI's CrossFireX. Both have a pair of video processing chips that share the load for superior performance.

Whichever you choose, get it with 1GB of video memory. That way, the system can deliver realistic virtual worlds with the subtle lighting, textures and shadows that show up the way the game designer meant them to.

The rest of a gaming laptop is similarly top shelf, with a premium Intel processor, such as the Core 2 Duo Extreme or Core 2 Quad, and 4GB of system memory. On top of a Blu-ray optical drive, gaming systems like Toshiba's Qosmio X305 have the ability to hold a pair of hard drives with a capacity of up to 1TB of data. This will let you load hundreds of your favourite games.

Other than for connecting your gaming mouse, keyboard and headset, the variety of ports is a secondary issue. One thing you will want is the intimidation factor, so top it all off with an imposing laptop case.

Gaming notebooks at a glance

Target audience: Got aliens or snipers after you? A gaming laptop can help raise your chances of survival.

Pros: Super speed and the ability to adjust graphics performance make these great gaming machines on the go.

Cons: With a big screen and every hardware option, the cost and weight add up quickly. For most users they're too much machine for too much money.

Typical size / weight: 406x279x251mm / 4.5kg

Screen size: 15 to 17in

CPU / RAM: 2.5 to 3.1GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Duo Extreme or Core 2 Quad / 4 or more GB

Storage: 320GB to 1TB

Ports and connections: 3 to 4 USB ports; VGA, HDMI or DisplayPort; audio; Ethernet; eSATA and sometimes FireWire.

Price range: £900 to £2,000.

Examples: Alienware M17, Toshiba Qosmio X305.

Buying tips: If it's offered, get a second hard drive so you can load all your favourite games.

NEXT PAGE: mobile workstations

  1. From ultraportables to tablets - we've got them covered
  2. Ultramobile PCs
  3. Netbooks
  4. Ultraslim
  5. Thin and light
  6. Tablet PCs
  7. Rugged PCs
  8. Budget laptops
  9. Mainstream
  10. Entertainment machines
  11. Gaming machines
  12. Mobile workstations

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