Laptops are small and portable to take about with you while powerful enough to handle demanding programs. Of course, tablets and smartphones are now more popular than ever. But, wherever you are, laptops and notebooks are a go-to tool for serious study, work, or entertainment.
Yet, when it comes to buying a laptop, where do you start? Well, we’ve put together this comprehensive laptop buying guide to help you. By the end of reading this article, you’ll know about all the critical aspects of a laptop when considering buying one.
You’ll learn about the various sizes, prices, features, and more. So let’s get started!
Choose Your Platform
This is a complex topic to answer, mainly if you are unfamiliar with both PCs and Macs. However, this brief rundown of each platform’s advantages and disadvantages should be helpful.
macOS, Windows, or Chrome OS are the three most common laptop operating systems. Choosing the correct one is a matter of taste, but here’s a short rundown of what each has to offer.
Windows 10 is the most versatile operating system you can purchase. It is available on a vast range of laptop types, more so than macOS or Chrome OS.
Windows laptops are available in a broad range of prices, from around $100 to thousands of dollars. They can include a variety of features like touch displays, fingerprint scanners, and dual graphics processors.
Windows 10 is Microsoft’s latest operating system. It has a variety of enhancements over previous versions. For example, you can switch between desktop and tablet modes, and there is a revised Start menu.
The newest desktop operating system for Apple is MacOS Big Sur. It has pretty much the same functionality as Windows 10. Yet, the user interface is different from Microsoft’s Start menu approach, with Apple’s trademark apps dock instead.
While Microsoft has Cortana as a digital assistant, MacOS uses Apple’s Siri. One benefit of opting for a Mac computer is that you can use Apple Pay. Plus, there are loads of integration features if you have an iPhone or Apple Watch.
You’ll find Chrome OS often on low-cost Chromebooks. Google’s operating system is safe and straightforward, but it has fewer features than Windows or macOS.
The user interface resembles Windows in appearance, with an app menu, desktop, and you can slide windows around. However, the Chrome browser is the primary program.
The disadvantage is that several “online apps” don’t operate well when you’re not connected to the internet. Some newer Chromebooks now can run Android apps, so things are changing.
Overall, there’s nothing wrong with Chrome OS if your sole aim is to browse the internet. However, if you what to run specialist programs, it’s not a great choice.
Flexible and Detachable 2-in-1 Laptops
Once you’ve decided on an operating system, your next decision is whether you want a 2-in-1 laptop or not.
Several laptops now have a 2-in-1 design. Detachables are ones with displays that are separate from the keyboard. Flexible laptops have hinges that can fold 360 degrees to switch modes.
Both laptop types are hybrid computers that can transform from a clamshell configuration to a tablet mode. Many can also handle other configurations in between the two modes, such as stand or tent mode.
Many of these devices excel at one task over another. The flexible types often function better as laptops. Detachables provide a greater tablet experience for most users. So, if you don’t want your computer to act as a slate, a classic clamshell design might suit your needs better and give you more value for your money.
Before looking at specifications or prices, you should determine the portability of your desired laptop. The size of the display of a computer is classified as follows:
- 11-12 inches
- 13-14 inches
- 15-16 inches
- 17-18 inches
One way to know what size will suit your needs best is by measuring out the above measurements and seeing them in real life. If you can look at laptops in a shop or friends’ laptops, you might also get a better idea of what you want.
If the laptops you’re looking at don’t have decent ergonomics, the most impressive specs on earth won’t help you. This is especially true if you expect to spend a lot of time on your laptop.
When buying a laptop, ensure the keyboard has good sensory feedback and adequate key travel. Also, question whether there is adequate space between the laptop’s keys. A good tip for Windows laptop users is to look for Precision touchpad drivers.
Also, search for touchpads that have a constant response to multitouch actions like pinch-to-zoom and don’t have a jumping cursor.
Some people might consider acquiring a business laptop. Many of these have nubs to navigate your desktop. The nub means you won’t need to remove your fingers from the home row on the keyboard.
Choose Your Specs
Laptops and notebooks have various core components that affect performance and usability. All these components, though, can be confusing for many to get their heads around.
Let’s briefly run through each of the essential components you should check out when purchasing a laptop:
The CPU, your computer’s “brains,” has a significant impact on performance. Yet, this all depends on what you intend to achieve; the cheapest model may suffice.
For example, if you will use your laptop for schoolwork and surfing the net, you won’t need the most powerful CPU available. However, if you’re a music producer running multiple audio tracks on your computer, you need a powerful CPU for a smooth experience.
Examples of current CPUs you can opt for are:
- Apple M1
- Intel 11th Gen CPUs
- Intel Core i9, i7, i5, and i3 series
- AMD Ryzen 4000
- AMD A, FX, and E series
- Ryzen 5000
You tend to find Intel Pentium or Celeron CPUs in laptops below the region of $400.
Many low-priced laptops may come with around 4GB of RAM. Nowadays, for smooth performance, you should be looking for at least 8GB of RAM. Then, 16GB RAM will allow you to do almost anything on your laptop.
Then you can go into the realms of 32 and 64GB of RAM. Laptops with these specs tend to be pricey, but they are powerhouses! Gamers and video makers may want to look at laptops with this level of RAM inside them.
Solid State Drives (SSD)
Storage drive performance is super important, even more so than CPU performance in the best laptops. SDDs provide you with exceptional performance along with decent storage capacity. So, if you have a choice between a standard hard drive and an SSD, you may want to opt for the latter.
Although, if you require a lot of internal storage, a hard drive might be better. Yet, you could have an SSD within your laptop and then purchase an external hard drive for mass storage.
The more pixels a laptop has, the more precise and clear the display will be. Unfortunately, some inexpensive laptops still feature 1366×768 screens.
We advise you to look for one that operates at 1920×1080, which is 1080p or Full HD. High-end laptops include displays with resolutions of 2560×1600, 3200×1800, or 3840×2160 (4K). All of these will provide you with stunning visuals but use more power, reducing battery life.
Other Important Specs
We’ve run through some of the core specs you should be aware of when looking at a laptop for sale. However, there are a few more important specs to be mindful of and explore:
- Touch screens
- Graphics chips
Some laptops will come with touchscreens, and others not. Graphics chips are crucial for gamers, video makers, and people who make any sort of 3D objects.
Some people will want ports to connect various hardware to their laptop, while others won’t be fussed. High-end connectivity is also something that some will need while others are happy with standard connection capabilities.
Another you should check out on any laptop you are thinking of buying is its battery life. This won’t be such an issue for people like gamers who keep their computer plugged into the mains socket 99% of the time.
However, for those of you that what an ultra-portable laptop, good battery performance is crucial. For instance, if you like to work in cafes or a library, there might not be a mains outlet always available. Thus, a laptop with eight or more hours of battery life would be perfect for this situation.
Choose Your Brand
Brands in the laptop world often go by reputation as much as specs. Over the years, brands have developed loyalties among their customers.
Whether it’s Apple, Lenovo, or Dell, you want to figure out which brand will work with your mindset best.
A Straightforward Laptop Buying Guide
There is so much confusing literature out there these days; it can be super confusing knowing which laptop to buy. So, we hope you found this laptop buying guide straightforward and to the point.
In the end, find a laptop that fits with your lifestyle, and don’t waste money on high-end specs if you don’t need them. Be practical!
Thanks for stopping by, and good luck finding the right laptop for you. Also, if you get a chance, take a look at our blog for more tips and advice.