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How to buy a laptop without buying more laptop than you need

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If you’re in the market for a new computer, chances are you’ll be getting a laptop. That’s because laptops have replaced desktops as the go-to computer for most consumers. They’re portable, more powerful, faster and less expensive than they used to be.

Want the top speeds? Consumer Reports tech experts say consider a solid-state drive, or SSD. They’re noticeably faster than traditional hard drives but they can also be more expensive. But if you’re going to hold on to the laptop for 5 years or so, over the cost of those 5 years, paying around $100 to get a dramatically better computing experience will be worth the extra money.

As for storage, 256 gigabytes should be enough for most people. That’s enough space for your operating system, all the updates, all your programs, whether that’s Photoshop, Excel, Outlook, Chrome or any of those type of things.

Storage and memory- or RAM- can be easily confused. Storage is where you keep your files long term, such as documents and photos. Memory houses the apps or programs that you’re currently running, such as your web browser or email. Testers at CR say the sweet spot for memory is 8 gigabytes.

Processors, also known as chips, are the brains of a laptop. CR tech experts say the best choice for most people is the Core i5, which can handle what most users need it to do and more.

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