Laptop specifications and features have come a long way since the first (rather bulky) laptop was invented. When it comes to buying a laptop now, there is simply too much to choose from, so the process can never be simple. This is why we’re going to talk you through the most important things you need to consider before making a purchase.
Windows and Mac OS are the most common platforms for PCs, and Chrome OS is a lesser-known option. This is the first thing you need to choose since this software is literally what makes your laptop run. While other features are probably more important, you should first decide which OS you want and then look for a laptop.
Windows is the most popular OS and appears on the biggest range of devices. It’s more flexible as well, with the most amount of software available. Apple laptops have the Mac OS which is great for users in the Apple universe.
Google’s Chrome OS is available on cheaper laptops like Samsung Chromebook 3 and in some 2-in-1 laptops. It is simpler but also more limited than its competitors, with some of its apps not working offline.
The CPU, the “brain”, is going to affect everything. Intel’s Core lineup is by far the most popular, with premium models like the Core i9 for gaming and other demanding tasks, and Core i7 which offers a lot of performance but for a lower price.
AMD’s Ryzen chips are close competitors to Intel’s Core family, outperforming them in many benchmarks. AMD also makes APUs for low-cost laptops, which are good enough for surfing the web and such. Intel’s Pentium processors are similar but slightly better.
Intel’s Xeon is designed specifically for professional tasks like 3D modeling or video editing, but these come in heavier laptops with terrible battery life. They should only be bought if you have a specific use for them.
Unlike desktops, laptop graphics chips can’t be upgraded later on. If you play a lot of games or edit videos, you will need a discrete graphics chip, either from AMD or NVIDIA. NVIDIA’s RTX 20s series is the latest and is usually used in the latest high-end gaming laptops. Some laptops use the older GTX 10s series, which are cheaper but less powerful.
AMD has a wide range of low and high-end chips too, but Nvidia generally tends to outperform AMD in the discrete graphics department. Remember that if you don’t use your laptop for the tasks mentioned above, then the graphics chip that comes integrated with the system memory by default should be sufficient.
Memory and Storage
The more RAM (or simply memory) that a laptop has, the more work it can handle at a given time. 8 GB is usually enough for most users, but you can get consumer laptops that go up to 32 GB if you’re going to be performing more memory-intensive tasks.
Unlike RAM, more storage space means that your laptop can hold more data even when it’s not being used, including videos, music, etc. Most laptops these days use SSDs for storage, which is faster than the traditional HDDs, although they are more expensive and thus have less space. Premium laptops often have both SSDs and HDDs so that you get the best of both worlds.
If you have a lower budget and don’t need as much internal memory, then you can get a laptop with traditional hard drive storage and call it a day. External storage drives are also an option.
Hardware and Battery Life
It doesn’t matter how good your laptop’s specs are if it doesn’t have good ergonomics, i.e. a good touchpad and keyboard. Same goes for battery life; what good is a premium laptop that dies on you whenever you’re working on something important?
Make sure the keyboard is good, as in the keys have enough distance between them and are solid enough (keyboards with key travel tend to be more ergonomic). Similarly, the touchpad should be of good quality so you don’t have to deal with a jumpy cursor, and you can utilize multi-touch gestures. Glass touchpads are known for their accuracy and feel, and are the best option for most people as long as money is not a factor.
You’ll be looking at your laptop screen for hours, so the screen ought to be worth it, right? Viewing angles are important, and IPS displays tend to be best for most users. Be sure to look up screen resolutions for whatever model you’re considering.
Regardless of the kind of work, you’ll be doing, try going for full HD (1920×1080) at the very least, unless you’re picking a low-budget laptop. Certain models offer 4K resolution and better HDR and color gamut. These laptops are perfect for photographers and videographers. However, like all good things in life, they cost more as well.
Most popular laptop brands like Dell, HP, etc., offer three common laptop display sizes; 13.3-inch, 15.6-inch, and 17.3-inch. Some brands also have options outside this range, with 11.6-inch, 12.5-inch, and 14-inch displays.
Smaller laptops are more portable so if that’s what you want, go for a Windows model because those tend to be lighter. These won’t have the same specs as bigger laptops though. 2-in-1 laptops are also a good portable option. Gaming laptops tend to be the bulkiest, so be prepared to carry some weight if you want to play games on your laptop.
When it comes to price, we can sort out laptops into three neat little categories. The first would be entry-level laptops, which are the most affordable and get the job done for the most casual users. These will be light on RAM and graphics, but there are some pretty good budget-friendly options here.
Next, we have more mainstream laptops, which is where you’ll get more bang for your buck, so more features and more options to choose from as well. And lastly, we have premium laptops, which include luxury items like the MacBook Pro. These laptops are best for power users, but not worth it for general use.
Overall, just remember to research before you buy, because laptops are a big investment. Don’t go for the cheapest straight away when there might be better options within your budget, and don’t overpay simply to get a laptop that you do not need.
It’s good to keep your future needs in mind as well. Check for compatibility with ports and hardware, and pay special attention to things like the battery. If possible, shop at official stores (like Apple has) where you can get a real feel of the product before you buy it.