What To Look For In A Free Laptop. A Guide From UK Mobile Broadband Deals
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What To Look For In A Free Laptop

A simple guide to help you choose the right free laptop deal for you

Choosing a Free Laptop Mobile Broadband Deal

Samsung R530 laptopMany of the best mobile broadband deals include a free laptop. Much like a free mobile phone contract the mobile networks give away laptops in exchange for signing up for a mobile broadband contract with them, generally for 24 months although there are some 18 month contracts available. Since the average laptop is used for about three years these can actually be much better deals than even free phone deals but it is important to pick the right deal for you. Since many people aren’t sure what to look for when choosing a free laptop we put this guide together to help you select the right free laptop package for you. You can also browse our free laptop reviews for more info on specific models and check out our comparison page of all the latest free laptop with mobile broadband deals.


What Do You Want To Use The Laptop For?
The first thing to think about when selecting a free laptop is how you are planning to use it. Will you use it mainly when out and about or more at home? Is it going to be your main computer or will you use it as a back up? Are you interested in power hungry applications like the latest games and video editing or simply browsing the Internet, looking at photos and listening to and downloading music? The rule of thumb here is that smaller, lighter laptops or netbooks are more portable and better for using when travelling but might not be powerful for all functions if you want to use it was your main computer. More powerful laptops today are effective desktop replacements and can easily be your main computer but you do sacrifice a little on portability.


Netbook or Full Sized Laptop?
NetbookHaving worked out what you want to use your free laptop for you should have a good idea about whether a netbook or full sized laptop is right for you. For those unfamiliar with the terminology a netbook is a very small laptop, typically with around a 10 inch screen, not much bigger than a hardback book and much thinner. Netbooks tend to be very cheap and lacking in the processor power of a larger laptop but great for basic media and web functions. Because of their low cost they tend to be on the cheaper end of the free laptop contracts scale and they can make a great second computer for taking out and about with you. Full sized laptops tend to be larger with screen sizes generally between 13 and 17 inches. They are heavier than netbooks and a little less portable but can make an effective main computer. Because they are more expensive for the networks to buy these tend to be on more expensive contracts but come with greater mobile broadband data allowances and it’s possible to get very powerful machines worth £500+


Which Operating System is Right For You?
Windows 7 laptopMost free laptop deals today come with Microsoft Windows Seven installed (although there are still occasionally clearance deals with older operating systems). There are, however, two versions of Windows Seven – Starter and Premium – and you should think about which version of the OS is the right for you. Both are a big step up from previous versions of Windows and make for a better user experience (though they can easily be customised to be like previous versions if you prefer). Basically the Starter Edition is designed to make netbooks quick, simple and safe to use with less complicated options, a lighter memory use and good built in security options. Windows Seven Premium is a better choice for more advanced users or laptops and includes the likes of Windows Media Centre, a full Windows XP mode, remote media streaming and 64 bit support for faster PCs.


What Should I Look For In The Main Laptop Spec?
There are three key aspects in the laptop spec that you should look at first to help evaluate them and decide which best fits your needs. The first is the processor and this is measured in gigahertz (orGHz). All things being equal then generally the faster the processor the faster your free laptop will run. There are some other things to watch out for, of the two main manufacturers Intel chips tend to perform better than AMD chips in most tests and a dual or even quad core processor will also perform better than a single core one. A 1GHz processor is fairly standard for a netbook and a 2GHz dual core processor is a pretty good spec in a free full sized laptop.

Intel processorThe second key part of the spec is the amount of memory or RAM the laptop has and it is measured in gigabytes (or GB). This is the active memory that the laptop can call on when in operation and shouldn’t be confused with the hard drive (more on that in a minute). Generally the amount of RAM defines how much work a computer can do at the same time before it starts to slow down and along with the processor is the other big contributor to how fast you free laptop will run. As with the other aspects how much RAM you need depends on how you use the laptop. 1GB is standard in netbooks and is fine for browsing and media but if you want to do more complex tasks or multitask with a larger laptop then you should look for more, at least 2GB and preferably 3GB or more.

The third key part of the laptop spec you should pay attention to is the size of the hard drive. The hard drive is the main data storage part of the laptop and is also measure in gigabytes or GB. This is where you store all your data, files and media so the larger the hard drive, the more you can store on your free laptop. A gigabyte is 1000 megabytes and might, for example, store 50 Word documents, 200 music tracks and 250 photos. Most netbooks have a 160gb hard drive which should be plenty for most music, photo and video collections whilst larger netbooks enable you to have more. One thing you should consider is that once the hard drive starts to get full it can slow down the overall performance of the laptop so generally it’s good to have as big a hard drive as possible even if you aren’t necessarily planning to use it all.


What Else Should I Look Out For?
USB portsSo the size, operating system, processor, RAM and hard drive should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from a free laptop but there are other extras that you might like to keep an eye out for. You can find out if a particular free laptop has them in our free laptop reviews. A web cam allows you to do video calling from your laptop and can be useful is you want to use a service like Skype. Memory card slots allow you to quickly and easily move data from a memory card (e.g. photos from your camera) onto the laptop. It’s generally a good idea to choose a laptop with several USB ports for attaching accessories, data keys, mobile phones, etc and you might also want to think about choosing a laptop with Bluetooth for connecting wirelessly. All modern laptops should also include WiFi which you can use to connect to wireless hotspots when not using your mobile broadband. For many people a DVD drive is important and you should check if it’s a DVD RW (or rewriter) drive which allows you to save to DVD too. Finally many of today’s laptops also have an HDMI port which allows you to connect them to a high Definition TV.


What About Build Quality And A Stylish Design?
Having decided what you want your free laptop to do technically, one other important consideration is the quality of the laptop production, i.e how well made it is, and how stylish it is too. We touch on this in every free laptop review and you can also get a good idea from the pictures on this site and the mobile network’s site. Some free laptops do appear to value style over performance and you often have to make a compromise about which is most important to you as it is often only the very most expensive laptops that excel at both. You should rest assured that the mobile networks do care about the quality of the products they sell as it reflects on their brands so no free laptop is likely to be hideous or badly built but there are degrees of quality and you should consider, for example, whether you prefer a metallic or plastic finish, how much you care about a vivid high definition screen and whether its worth your laptop carrying a few extra pounds for a bigger hard drive or more memory.


How Much Data Do You Want With Your Free Laptop
Orange mobile broadbandFinally you should also think about how often you will want to use the mobile broadband part of the package and for what purpose. We’ve put together a simple guide on how much mobile broadband data you need for different uses but typically you should look for 1-3gb of data for light to medium use, 3-5gb for medium to heavy use and over 5gb for very regular use.

So this guide has covered all the main things you should consider when choosing a free laptop. For further details about individual free laptops you can see our free laptop reviews or else check out the latest free laptop with mobile broadband deals.