Laptop buying guide

Buying a laptop can be a daunting task these days. Numbers and code-names are bandied around looking impressive and are generally not all that helpful or in some cases misleading.

This guide will help you understand what to look for when buying a laptop and allow you to make a decision you are happy with for hopefully a long time.

What are you purchasing your laptop for?

Your laptop needs will change depending on your intended use. Make sure you think about and try to isolate what you will be wanting your laptop for.

  • Serato DJ
  • Serato DJ Intro
  • Serato Video
  • Music production
  • Video editing and production
  • Graphics
  • Business/office use
  • Internet/music downloading
  • Or a combination of these

Things to consider other than DJ use:

Internet use

Anytime you access the internet you are exposed to potentially harmful computer viruses. Windows machines are particularly susceptible to computer viruses, where as Macs are not. Even with protection software, you may find that your computer becomes infected with viruses if you're not careful.

Music production or video editing use

Are you wanting to use your computer for music production? Graphics or video editing? These kinds of use place a much greater strain on your computer than most other applications. You will want to get a better laptop than if you were just using it for DJ work. If you are using it for visual work, make sure it has a good graphics card, large screen and a sizable and reliable hard drive. Under specification machines will struggle to perform with these kinds of applications, even if they work well with other software.

Large Media Library

If you have a large music and/or video library you'll probably need a large internal hard drive. While we recommend you try to keep your media on your laptop's internal hard drive, it is becoming more common to use external hard drives to store large media libraries. Keep in mind the limitations of using external USB devices, and make sure that your computer can handle plugging in all the USB hardware you require.

Video performance

Unlike audio programs such as Serato DJ or Serato DJ Intro - Serato Video is very resource intensive, and as such will perform better with a more powerful laptop, especially one with a good graphics card. Serato Video scales its performance to your card, i.e. the better the card, the better the performance.

Look for a laptop with a suitable video output. DVI is a recommended digital connection, which will provide the best quality. VGA is an analog standard for many computer monitors. There is also S-Video for analog televisions.

How much do you want to spend?

If you are primarily going to use the laptop for DJing, then it won't necessarily need to be top of the line, and you should investigate portable and light machines.Look at what you need if you have a select criteria, then aim to purchase a machine that will meet these needs. Set yourself a budget, and try to stick to it. It is worthwhile doing some research into computers that other users have found stable and good value. You will always be paying a premium for the best technology, the fastest chips, the biggest hard drives, or the most RAM. Be aware that each new generation of computer will bring down the previous model’s price, so there are some good deals to be had by waiting, or not buying the latest and greatest.

MAC vs. PC

Many users get very passionate and worked up about advantages and disadvantages of Mac and PC computers. Choosing which suits you best really depends on what you need. Mac’s for example don’t have anywhere near the amount of viruses that Windows based machines are exposed to. Mac users seem less likely to be plagued by many of the small (to large) conflicts that Windows users suffer from. You will find that Macs need less tweaking than Windows machines, so for new users, or those wanting less hassles, buying a Mac might save time and stress.With Mac's you will be limited to the small selection of hardware they offer. On the flip side, you can get a fairly powerful Windows machine quite cheaply, or a top of the line machine that uses the best parts available at any particular time. Evidence indicates that there is little difference in price between Macs and Windows PCs with similar specifications, but there’s a much greater range of Windows machines. If you are looking for a cheap laptop, then you will have more choice for Windows systems.

Laptop Specifications

Laptops aren’t all created equal. You may find that two laptops with the same CPU, RAM and hard drive specifications can be polar opposites in terms of performance and stability.When buying a laptop, you get what you pay for. There is some truth to the idea that you pay for the brand; often bigger brands have better build qualities, more advanced drivers, more extensive research and development, and greater bulk purchasing power for parts. Laptops with similar specs on paper may run quite differently, so it is worth doing some research and testing before you make a purchase. Even with high specifications, this doesn’t mean the laptop's internal architecture, motherboard, graphics card, chipset, drivers, operating system or software will allow you to use these optimally. We highly recommend that you always try to test your Serato product with any potential laptop purchase.Laptop internal architecture is much the same as desktop computers, only in a smaller enclosure. Each component may need to be smaller, more power efficient, and most likely more expensive. You shouldn't expect to get anywhere near the performance from a laptop as you do your desktop. 

Purchasing

Well known brands offer a greater level of service, documentation, downloads and support than lesser known brands.

When you go to buy:

  • Test in store if you can. Use the media you will be normally using. (You can use this in demo mode for Serato Video)
  • Ensure they have a returns policy
  • Let the store know what you are buying it for. Make sure they sell you a machine suitable for what you are trying to do.
  • We recommend you get an agreement with the store allowing you to return the machine if it turns out to not be compatible. Get this in writing from the salesperson or manager.

Known issues

There are several known issues you may want to keep in mind when purchasing a laptop. Be aware that these will often change, so make sure you check back regularly.Minimum specifications. Even though your computer should work with the minimum specs, be aware that some cheaper end computers might be problematic, even if they meet the minimum specs.