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When it comes to laptops, there are so many options and specs that setting out to buy a new one can end up being more confusing than it needs to be. How much RAM do you really need? Should you be spending $500 or $1,500?

Luckily for us, tech correspondent Avery Swartz has all the tips and advice you need to make a good decision when computer shopping. According to Avery, the first thing you should decide on is budget and what you’re looking for the laptop to be used for.

Under $500

For under $500, you can look for a lightweight Chromebook or a budget Windows laptop. These devices are good for basic Internet tasks like e-mail, social media, and web apps.

$500-$1,000

For this budget range, a Chromebook or a Windows laptop are both great choices. On these devices, you’ll be able to perform basic Internet tasks like e-mail and social media with the added benefit of longer battery life, better multitasking between programs and Internet browser, more file storage, and faster speed.

$1,000-$1,500

A larger budget means you should be looking for an Ultrabook (a premium Windows laptop), or a MacBook Air. You’ll get install software, basic Internet tasks, a lightweight device, longer battery life, more file storage, better multitasking, faster speed, as well as photo and video editing capability and on-device security.

$1,500+

In this range, you’ll want to look for gaming laptops, business grade laptops, or the MacBook Pro. Along with all the other features of the smaller budgets, these laptops also have gaming capability, durability, and are able to be upgraded.

KEY TERMS

Make sure that you know all the necessary terminology so you can fully understand the abilities of the device you’re purchasing! Below are the three most important terms that you should definitely be on the lookout for.

CPU

The ‘central processing unit’, or the processor, is the brains of the laptop. The more ‘cores’ it has, the faster the laptop is.

RAM

Stands for ‘random access memory’, and refers to the multitasking power of the device. More RAM will allow you to quickly switch between software and  have multiple tabs open in your browser – low RAM is the number one reason a laptop can feel slow. Avery recommends at least 8GB of RAM, and 16 or 32GB if you can afford it.

Hard drive

This is where the data is stored on the computer. Modern laptops come with two types – the HDD (hard disk drive), which is older and cheaper, or the SSD (solid state drive) which is newer, and less likely to give out due to mechanical failure. Flash hard drives are old and should be avoided. Avery’s tip here is to get an SSD hard drive with at least 128GB, and use external hard drives to add storage or send files to the cloud if needed.