There are four particular areas that generally dictate how powerful a home laptop is. These are the central processor, the temporary internal memory (or RAM), the hard disk drive, and the graphics chip. The central processor is possibly the most important of all. The 'brain' of the computer, it dictates the operational speed – in other words, how quickly your computer does things. A lot of new software, particularly games, will require a fast, modern processor in order to run properly. However, the central processor governs the overall speed of everything the computer does, from opening emails to running system scans.
Temporary memory, known as RAM, is also very important. It serves as a dumping ground for your home laptop, storing information that would otherwise need to be read from a disk. Generally speaking, the more complex the program, the more RAM it requires to operate. The other type of memory is the hard disk drive, which is your laptop's permanent storage facility. This is where all your files are saved, be they documents, music or photos. When you install a program or game, this is the part of your home laptop the information is transferred to. In simple terms, the more files you want to keep and the more programs you want to install, the larger your hard drive needs to be.
Finally, we come to the graphics chip. Bear in mind that this is only a consideration if you want to run games on your home laptop – if you only intend to use it for Microsoft Office, the internet and storing photo, video and music files, then the integrated Intel chip will do just fine. If you want to play games with complex 3D graphics, then you will need to make sure that your laptop has a 3D accelerator. The two main manufacturers are NVidia and ATI, which accelerators replace the standard Intel chip. Graphics technology is improving all the time, but if your new home laptop contains one of these chips, you can be pretty sure that it will handle the vast majority of the latest games software.
Of course, there are other home laptop specifications to be aware of – the speed of the DVD drive, the sound card etc – but the four detailed above are certainly the most important. Happy hunting!