Our original article got quite a response, with hundreds of reader comments across our own site and social networks detailing their own experience with clueless sales people. We rounded up the best responses to shatter a few more mistruths you might have been told while buying a laptop.
While we heavily advocated in the last article that for most people Intel graphics are just fine, if you play non-browser based games, you're going to want to get a discrete graphics card from either AMD or Nvidia.
For our money, capable gaming cards start at the GeForce GT640, but if you're a core gamer, you're going to want to get something as high powered as you can. Just keep in mind that, as much as technology has advanced, a good desktop is still going to kick the pants off a laptop for gaming performance.
The flip side of this is battery life — the more powerful your graphics card, the more it's going to chew on your charge, so you'll want your laptop to be able to automatically switch to an integrated graphics card (read: Intel) when you're not doing taxing things. AMD's Enduro drivers still seem to be a work in progress, while Nvidia's Optimus has worked seamlessly for years (although, note, it won't work with laptops that support Nvidia's 3D Vision glasses). Moral of the story? If you're a gamer, get a GeForce GTX of some variety.
We'd suggest checking out the excellent Notebook Check to get an idea of what will give you the best performance in games.
Side tip: make sure your laptop will work with the generic drivers provided by Nvidia or AMD. Many laptop manufacturers prevent the generic driver installation, choosing instead to have custom video drivers. The downside of this is that they often stop updating these custom drivers once the laptop you own stops selling, potentially causing issues in future games. Make sure you're supported.
Battery 2 image byctr, royalty free
"It has superb battery life..."
Battery life is typically hard to quantify, so most manufacturers simply configure a laptop to its lowest settings and give the number that makes it sound the most impressive. A salesperson will then typically parrot that on.
Everybody uses laptops differently, and every review website will test battery life differently, making results non-comparable. At CNET Australia, we try to give a middle-ground figure by playing back a 720p movie and dimming the screen to 40 per cent — but things are going to last longer if you just perform lighter tasks, like editing documents or browsing the web, and shorter if you're going to play games.
Bottom line? Find a review site you like, and follow their battery usage stats. We'd prefer something that erred on the sensible than the best-case scenario.
Side tip: you'll find that laptop vendors often give a different warranty for the battery than the rest of the laptop, usually capping out at one year. Lithium-ion batteries lose their charge over time, meaning that a year or so from now, it'll hold less charge than it used to. Our sister-site TechRepublic has listed a few things you can do to help them last longer.
"It has a larger hard drive than you'll ever need"
This one cropped up a few times. If you're a digital hoarder, have yourself a thumping iTunes account and take thousands of photos per holiday, get the biggest drive you can find. If you want to make sure, get yourself an external hard drive of 1TB or more. Just remember that for something to legitimately be a backup, it needs to exist in more than one place.
A note on buying a laptop with an SSD: they are wonderful things that make computing life a lot easier, but they're not exactly capacious at present. Do not buy anything less than 128GB. If the laptop you're looking at only has an SSD, then there's a very good chance you're going to need to invest in external storage, unless your expectations for that device are quite low (say, as a travel laptop only).
Eye on you image by Joejoe77, royalty free
"You want 8GB RAM? Yeah, 32-bit is fine"
A 32-bit operating system can only address 4GB of RAM total. Add more hardware into the mix and the total goes down, typically leaving a user with somewhere between 3GB and 3.6GB of usable memory, and wasting the rest.
If you're buying a laptop with 4GB RAM or more (which is almost everything these days), you absolutely need a 64-bit operating system to take advantage of it.
"Buy a Mac, it just works/can't get viruses/never crashes"
Ooh, here lies a car bomb in the comments, just waiting to go off. Okay, let's do this.
If you're already familiar with OS X, great. Go for it. Those who are Windows users may need a little help transitioning. I use both OS X and Windows, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. So long as you're happy with what you've got, what does it matter what other people are using?
Still, this requires a little injection of reality: I've fixed plenty of Macs that don't "just work", whether software or hardware. I've sent friends to Genius bars to get things like entire laptop topcases replaced. It's just delusional to think that there will never be any problems ever — despite its excellent execution, ultimately, a Mac is just another computer. These are complex machines. Things can and do go wrong.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: do you like OS X, does it fit your purpose and personal workflow, and do all the apps you need run on it? Great, get a Mac. If Windows suits you better, get a Windows machine. No need to slag off someone for using something they enjoy.
See? That wasn't hard, was it?
Heed! image by Joejoe77, royalty free
"If you have any problems, you can just download more RAM"
Haha, hoho, heeee... no.
RAM is a physical object. While 3D printers are getting better each day, it'll be a long wait before we have something with the same capabilities as a foundry in our home.