If you are, here are the tips for buying a new laptop.
A laptop is one of the essential inventions nowadays because we use it every time in school, in business, at work, and anywhere.
Essential Tips for Buying a Laptop
I am sure you prefer a laptop that’s enough to carry everywhere you go, yet very versatile to run your commonly used applications.
Although tablets and smartphones are also favorite nowadays, using a laptop still works better than these two. Say, when you do research papers, make your videos, edit your photos, and the like.
A laptop has a wide variety of features, prices, sizes, and performance. With plenty of these in the market today, it’s somewhat difficult to choose from these options. So, I discuss some tips below to help you decide and make the wisest decision.
Some Important things to Consider
If you’re in a hurry, these are the essential things to consider when choosing a new laptop. For a lot more detail, see the sections below.
- 12.5 to 14-inch screens because it offers the best balance between usability and portability. Larger screens are fine if you don’t travel much and smaller models are great for kids.
- If you’re spending over $600, shoot for these minimum specs:
- Core i5 CPU
- 1920 x 1080 screen
- 8GB of RAM
- SSD Storage instead of a hard drive.
- 8+ hours of battery life is ideal if you plan to take your laptop anywhere at all.
- Consider a 2-in-1 if you want to use your laptop as a tablet. If not, a standard clam-shell notebook may be a better choice.
- Chromebooks are good for kids. Windows laptops and Mac Books both offer plenty of functionality; which platform you prefer is a matter of personal taste.
1. Pick a Platform
Do you opt for Mac, Windows or Chrome OS?
This is not an easy question to answer, especially if you’re not familiar with both Macs and PCs. However, this quick overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each platform should help.
Most laptops come with one of three operating systems: Windows, Chrome OS or Mac-OS (for Mac Books only). Choosing the right one is a personal preference, but here’s a quick summary of what each offers.
Windows 10 is the most flexible operating system, Windows appears on many more makes and models than Chrome OS or Mac OS. Windows notebooks range in price from under $150 to several thousand dollars and offer a wide array of features from touch screens to fingerprint readers to dual graphics chips.
Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, provides some improvements over Windows 7 and 8, including the ability to switch between tablet and desktop modes, a revamped Start menu with live tiles and the powerful Cortana digital assistant.
Since its launch in July 2015, Windows 10 has also added a host of improvements, including the ability to use follow-up questions with Cortana, search your email using natural language and use your stylus to scribble almost anywhere.
A sample of Laptop Windows 10
All Mac Books come with Apple’s latest desktop operating system, Mac-OS High Sierra. Overall, the operating system offers similar functionality to Windows 10, but with a different take on the interface that substitutes an apps dock at the bottom of the screen for Microsoft’s Start menu and taskbar.
Instead of the Cortana digital assistant, Mac users get Siri. They can also perform transactions with Apple Pay, take calls or texts from their phones and unlock their laptops with an Apple Watch. However, macOS isn’t made for touch, because no Mac Book comes with a touchscreen.
A sample of Laptop Mac-OS High Sierra
Found on inexpensive Chromebooks such as the Samsung Chromebook 3. Google’s OS is simple and secure, but more limited than Windows or macOS. The user interface looks a lot like Windows with an application menu, a desktop and the ability to drag windows around, but the main app you use is the Chrome browser.
The downside of this is that many of the “web apps” you use don’t work particularly well offline. However, that’s changing as several Chromebooks, including the high-end, Google Pixel Book, can now run Android apps.
If you need a device to surf the Web and check your email, navigate social networks and chat online, Chromebooks are highly portable and tend to offer excellent battery life at low prices. They are also extremely popular with schools and parents because they are hard for kids to infect with malware and more functional than most tablets.
If you need a Chromebook, look for one with at least 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. A 1920 x 1080 resolution is preferable but uncommon. Pay extra to get a 2-in-1 if you plan to use Android apps.
A sample of Laptop Chrome OS
2. Decide If You Want a 2-in-1
Many PC laptops fall into the category of 2-in-1, hybrid devices that can switch between traditional clamshell mode, tablet mode and other positions in between such as a tent or stand modes.
The 2-in-1 generally come in two different styles: First is detachable with screens that come off the keyboard entirely and flexible laptops with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes.
Most of these systems are much better at serving one purpose than the other, with bend-backs being laptops first and detachable offering a superior tablet experience. However, if you don’t see the need to use your notebook as a slate, you’ll usually get more performance for your money with a traditional clamshell laptop.
If you decide you want a 2-in-1, note that bendable usually have far better battery life than their detachable brethren.
3. Choose the Right Size
Before you look at specs or pricing, you need to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:
- 11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh 2.5 to 3.5 pounds
- 13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability, mainly if you get a laptop that weighs under 4 pounds.
- 15 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops usually weigh 4.5 to 6.5 pounds. Consider this size if you want a larger screen, and you’re not planning to carry your notebook around often.
- 17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day every day, a 17- or 18-inch system could provide you with the kind of processing power you need to play high-end games or do workstation-level productivity.
4. Check That Keyboard and the Touchpad
The most impressive specs in the world don’t mean diddly if the laptop you’re shopping for doesn’t have good ergonomics. If you plan to do a lot of work on your computer, make sure the keyboard offers solid tactile feedback, plenty of vertical travel (distance the key goes down when pressed, usually 1 to 2 mm) and enough space between the keys.
Look for an accurate touchpad that doesn’t give you a jumpy cursor and responds consistently to multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. If you’re buying a business laptop, consider getting one with a pointing stick (aka nub) between the G and H keys so you can navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.
5. Pick Your Specs
Notebook components such as processor, hard drive, RAM and graphics chip can confuse even notebook aficionados, so don’t feel bad if spec sheets look like alphabet soup to you.
Here are the main components to keep an eye on.
- CPU: The “brains” of your computer, the processor has a huge influence on performance, but depending on what you want to do, even the least-expensive model may be good enough. Here’s a rundown.
- RAM: Some sub-$250 laptops come with only 2GB of RAM, but ideally you want at least 4GB on even a budget system and 8GB if you can spend just a little more. For most users, 16GB or more is overkill.
- Storage Drive (aka Hard Drive): Even more important than the speed of your CPU is the performance of your storage drive. If you can afford it and don’t need a ton of internal storage, get a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive, because you’ll see at least three times the speed and a much faster laptop overall.
- Display: The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. Sadly, most budget and mainstream laptops have 1366 x 768 displays and so do more than half of business laptops, but if you can afford it, we recommend paying extra for a panel that runs at 1920 x 1080, also known as full HD or 1080p. Some higher-end laptops have screens that are 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800 or even 3840 x 2160, which all look sharp but consume more power, lowering your battery life.
- Touch Screen: If you’re buying a regular clamshell laptop, rather than a 2-in-1, you won’t get much benefit from a touchscreen, and you will get 1 to 3 hours less battery life. On 2-in-1, touch screens come standard.
- Graphics Chip: If you’re not playing PC games, creating 3D objects or doing high-res video editing, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be fine. If you have any of the above needs, though, a discrete graphics processor from AMD or Nvidia is essential. As with CPUs, there are both high- and low-end graphics chips. Low-end gaming or workstation systems today usually have Nvidia GTX 1050 while mid-range models have GTX 1050 Ti or GTX 1060 and high-end models have GTX 1070 or 1080. Nvidia maintains a list of its graphics chips from low to high end, as does AMD.
- Ports: While the absence of ports is usually not a deal-breaker when choosing a laptop, it’s helpful to get the connections you need right on the system, rather than having to carry a slew of dongles. Most mainstream laptops will have USB 3.0 ports and HDMI out for video. However, an increasing number of laptops use USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 ports that are USB Type-C compatible. Getting Type-C is a definite plus because you can use it to connect to universal chargers and docks.
- DVD/Blu-ray Drives. Few laptops come with optical drives, because all software and movies are downloadable. However, if you really need to read/write discs and your laptop of choice doesn’t come with a built-in DVD drive, you can always buy an external one that connects via USB for under $20.
If you want to save money, you can skip certain unnecessary features such as an infrared camera or Windows 10 Pro.
6. Battery Life
If you’re buying large, bulky notebook that you’ll use only on a desk near an outlet, you don’t have to worry about battery life. However, if you plan to use the laptop on your lap, even if it’s at home and or work, you’ll want at least 7 hours of endurance, with 8+ hours being ideal.
To determine a notebook’s expected battery life, don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, read third-party results from objective sources.
7. Plan Based on Your Budget
These days, you can buy a usable laptop for under $200, but if you can budget more, you’ll get a system with better build quality, stronger performance, and a better display.
Here’s what you can get for each price range.
- $150 to $250: The least-expensive notebooks are either Chromebooks, which run Google’s browser-centric OS, or low-end Windows systems with minimal storage and slower processors, such as the HP Stream 11 and the Dell Inspiron 11 3000. Use these as secondary computers only or give them to the kids.
- $350 to $600: For well under $600, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, all respectable specs. However, at this price, most notebooks don’t have an SSD, a full-HD display or long battery life. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Acer Aspire E 15 and Asus VivoBook E403NA.
- $600 to $900: As you get over $600, you’ll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also begin to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including higher-resolution displays and SSDs.
- Above $900: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. Expect higher-resolution screens, faster processors and possibly discrete graphics. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables, like the Apple Mac Book and the Dell XPS 13, tend to cost more than $1,000 (although you can get the Dell for less if you don’t opt for a touchscreen). High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations usually cost upward of $1,500 or even as much as $2,500 or $3,000.
8. Mind the Brand
Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Accurate and timely technical support is paramount, which is why Laptop Mag evaluates every major brand in our annual Tech Support Showdown. This past year Apple came in the first place, followed by Acer and Lenovo.
Support is only part of what makes a notebook brand worth your money. You also have to consider how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition regarding design, value and selection, review performance and other criteria.
For many years now, I have been using Windows because it gives some uses and functionality even without internet, unlike the Chrome OS. Mac OS is also an excellent choice if you have the budget. What I don’t like about it is that sometimes, it gets too sensitive for transferring files.
Now that you know the things that you have to consider when buying a new laptop, I hope that you can make a wise decision.
I hope you find this guide informative. Feel free to share this article with others.
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