Deciding which laptop is the right one for you and your family can be tricky. You don’t want to end up with a computer that sits unused because it’s not capable or, worse have one that’s so huge it never leaves the home office.

With so many laptop models available how do you make the right choice and ensure that you’re investing your money wisely? Should you spend money on a large screen laptop with a super-fast processor or save some cash and get a PC with less power and lower specifications? Make the wrong choice and you’ve wasted your cash.

The first thing you need to work out is what you’re going to be using your laptop for, who will be using it primarily and what tasks you’ll want to perform.

For a family PC that’s likely to be used by everyone for a range of jobs then a laptop with a larger screen and fast processor will probably suit you best. With a bigger LCD you’ll be able to watch movies and TV shows, surf the web in comfort and, when its time for work that extra space will help with Excel spreadsheets and presentations.

The faster the processor the more work you’ll be able to crunch through too. A big screen laptop with a powerful graphics card will also bring gaming to life and make HD movies jump off the screen.

Naturally, the larger the laptop the less portable it becomes so these machines are primarily for desk-based use. However, even with a huge screen and extra weight the larger laptops can still be moved about. A big screen laptop can be great if you want a powerful PC to move from room to room, it makes them perfect for sharing between family members, though on the road they can be a bit heavy..

If the laptop you’re after is for a specific family member then there are other considerations you’ll need to make. If, for example, the computer is for a student then they’ll have a different set of requirements. A smaller, more portable machine is most likely the order of the day for someone at high school or university.

The new range of Ultrabooks or compact laptops can really come in to their own here. Of course a smaller screen will mean less space for working, but this is a compromise that has to be made for the fantastic portability that these laptops offer. Even though they are physically smaller these laptops still pack a powerful punch with Intel processors that are really capable. There are other benefits to the smaller laptop in that they are much easier to carry around, especially when there are books and other equipment to be hauled around campus in a backpack.

Not only that but the computers themselves tend to be a little more stylish, which can be an important factor when you’re at school. Even though these laptops are physically smaller they still have full size keyboards and track pads so you can get work done on them easily.

However, if you need something that crosses the divide between large- screen desk-based PC and portability there are still options open to you. For many a 15in laptop will suit the whole family perfectly. A 15in screen can still give you a great experience when playing games or watching movies and is a useful size for homework and other activities. When it comes to portability the mid-sized screen laptop is still lightweight enough to make it to school or work and back, it’s also easy to lug around the house if you want to share it between rooms.

When you’re choosing a laptop remember to keep in mind what it will actually be used for. It’s nice to imagine that the only work a laptop will perform is business or homework, but remember that on many family laptops it’ll be HD movies and 3D games that take precedence, so choose wisely.

Think about how you use or want to use your computer and keep in mind when you’re looking at the specifications. A 17in screen might look fantastic, but if you need a PC that’ll fit in a backpack it’s not the ideal solution.

The more RAM you have and the faster the processor the more capable your laptop will be, but remember there are other considerations too. If games and movies are something you’ll be playing then keep an eye out for the graphics performance. If you expect a few people to be using the laptop then invest in a larger hard disk to store more of your movies, pictures and documents. If you’re sure that you’ll only be using the PC for web browsing and the odd Word document then you can forgo an enormous screen with superfast graphics processor as neither of these need that much power. If, however, you’ll be looking at video editing or high-end gaming then the more power the better.

With a laptop for a child at school or university then portability will likely be the major factor you should take into account. Smaller laptops may be less powerful, but they’re still more than capable devices for the majority of schoolwork tasks. For the ultimate balance there are laptops that sit across the divide offering power and portability in one package.

Whichever laptop you choose there will be compromises that have to be made for one reason or another, but by keeping in mind exactly what the PC will be used for you can ensure that you’re not wasting your cash and get the best machine for you and your family.

Visit the Dell Tech Zone for more advice on family computing.