Calling something a ‘laptop’ might be a vivid example of applying the philosophical concepts of relative thinking to technology: everyone would picture something vastly different, with varying expectations of size, storage, speed, power, portability, and connectivity capability.
Fortunately, if the picture in your mind seems to flicker between different channels, we’re here to help.
Which laptop can be considered ‘worth it’ in upgrading or putting in the extra bucks? Which laptop will work best for your needs? Which laptop size do you really need?
It’s not just the inches that are relevant to the discussion anymore (as in different flat-screen TVs), since the various sizes of laptops actually bring with them different features possibilities and limitations.
Let’s say there are five things you should consider: budget, screen resolution, portability, battery life, and power.
The Budget: Get Cost-Conscious
No new purchase starts without money, or, more accurately, without an appraisal of just exactly how much money we’re talking.
Cheaper won’t necessarily mean smaller, and the pricing of ultrabooks has been an issue for over 7 years now. This is mainly because ultrabooks are considered a premium product and usually have very robust hardware for their size. Not only that, smaller laptops in general have better build quality as they usually target high-end consumers.
Not to mention, when it comes to a laptop, it’s better to look at it in terms of getting your needs met in the lowest possible cost combination instead working from the ground up in terms of money – this saves further expenses down the line.
This means you can opt for a laptop as closely tailored to your needs as possible, saving on extraneous cost – and, since laptops are a buyer’s market, you can rely on competitive pricing to get you your best possible deal whether what you opt for is an 11-inch or 17.
Screen: Size vs. Resolution
The common 13-inch vs. 15-inch problem holds within it another debate: the question of 4k vs. 1080p (or 1440p). Laptop screens, as we previously discussed, are not judged simply on the criteria of physical dimensions, but by screen resolution as well.
For most people in the world today who use their laptops on a regular basis (even if just primarily for either work or entertainment), the minimum requirement is a 1080p screen.
It fits more information in a single glance, gives clearer images and picture quality, and is much easier on the eyes, as well as allowing multitasking through stacking windows side-by-side.
Luckily for us, the more that technology progresses, the better the bottom-line gets. 1080p (or “full HD”) screens are now more affordable than ever – less than 400 dollars on average, and that’s just us looking at a comparison of official first-purchase price quotes.
A go-to for many people is Dell: their price-performance matrix means you can get something with an 8GB RAM, 7th Gen i5, 15-inch LED-backlit display laptop with a 256GB SSD (a huge deal) for a little under just $600.
Portability: Take Your World With You
A smaller screen translates to bigger possibilities in portability.
A 17-inch laptop is pretty close to a desktop and would be harder to lug around for students or professionals who need to network or work on the go in different offices, cafes, and in meetings with clients. Gamers, of course, wouldn’t hear of anything else.
Let’s say we’re talking about the best laptop for graphic design: while you’d want to be able to see your work up close and enlarged, it’d be harder to actually take your laptop with you when you move around for inspiration or last-minute revisions.
As such, you can zoom in and see different parts of something much clearer on a smaller display while it’s still high-definition, but you wouldn’t necessarily be able to pack up and take a 17-inch with you in your backpack.
Our recommendation? An ultrabook! Models keep changing through the years with newer and faster processors and more features, but these are generally lightweight and battery-oriented without any of the bulk that’ll slow you down.
Battery: Don’t Get Stranded!
Arguably, all other factors are moot points if your laptop doesn’t have enough battery to facilitate you. Generally, larger screen laptops have a more powerful battery. However, smaller screens often use less power, which often leads to them having a better battery life.
Smaller laptops are best if you only plan to do simple tasks such as using Microsoft Office and surfing the web. Their small screen size allows them to efficiently utilize the battery and make sure it lasts at least an entire workday.
Of course, if you’re a gamer, nearly all of this advice goes out the window since the most powerful laptops are large and the battery drains quickly. This is because of the high performance GPUs, large screens, and the processors utilized by these laptops. However, gaming laptops should still last at least a few hours if you are doing standard tasks such as surfing the web.
Power: Your Laptop is Only as Good as its Lowest Common Denominator
Finally, a holistic view and a reminder for focus on other things as well, apart from just your screen – meaning the peripherals, power, and performance.
Once you have chosen your screen (according to what you want to do on your computer), it is best to take a look at all the other specs in order to make sure your laptop does not slow down unnecessarily due to its components failing to keep up with your needs.
Whether you’re planning to buy a laptop for programming or gaming, you need to evaluate your needs before you head to the store. Programmers often prefer medium-sized laptops (15-inch) for their versatility. Gamers, on the other hand, are spread out all over the place. Serious gamers go for larger laptops while more casual gamers prefer the portability of smaller screens.
Even if you’re read none of the article so far, here is our rundown:
- 1080p HD is worth it and affordable
- Battery life is crucial (6 hours minimum, 8+ hours should be preferred)
- 13-inch models for maximum portability, such as for students and artists
- 15-inch models if you take the laptop to work but don’t move it much, or if you want a high-quality entertainment system
- 17-inch models if you treat it like a desktop or have needs for gaming. Most laptops are marketed as “gaming laptops” directly and have their own ballgame
Lastly, forgoing USB ports is NOT recommended. Case in point: having only USB-C ports and no USB-C devices is probably not a good idea, so mix and match until you arrive at the perfect combination. Laptops with larger screens have more ports, so a 13-inch ultrabook may not be for you if you are planning to connect a lot of devices to your machine.