Planning on buying a laptop but have no idea how to pick the right one? Take a look at our list of things you should consider before buying one!
1. Choose which operating system you want.
First, you need to decide which operating system you want to use. Here’s a breakdown of some of the available operating systems in the market:
Windows is the most flexible operating system, which is probably the reason why it appears on more models that any other operating system in existence. Windows offers a variety of features ranging from touch screens to fingerprint readers to dual graphic chips as long as the laptop can support it.
Windows 10 provides a lot of improvements over the previous Windows 7 and 8. Windows 10 provides you with the ability to switch between tablet and desktop modes which is very useful for hybrid laptops which we will discuss later. It also comes with a start menu that retains the live tiles from Windows 8. The OS also comes along with a voice assistant, Cortana, which has been present in Windows phones for quite some time now.
Windows has millions of desktop programs available. Most of the existing applications and games in the market are compatible with Windows as well. It is also very user friendly because of its easy to understand interface.
The Chrome OS is simple and secure but limited. The interface of the Chrome OS looks a lot like that of Windows. It’s complete with an application menu, a desktop, and the ability to drag windows around.
The main application of this operating system is the Chrome browser. The downside is that it only supports a few applications and those that exist don’t always work well.
Chromebooks are inexpensive and highly portable. They also offer good battery life. So if you only need the device to surf the Web, check your e-mail, or chat with your friends, you might want to consider buying a Chromebook.
Apple OS X El Capitan
This operating system is for MacBooks only. The OS offers similar functionality to Windows 10 but has a different take on the interface. Apple’s OS has an applications dock at the bottom of the screen which serves as the equivalent Window’s start menu and task bar.
The OS offers some features that are available in iOS such as the Launch Pad for apps, superior multi-touch gestures, as well as the ability to take calls and texts from your phone. However, this operating system isn’t made for touch since no MacBook offers touchscreen.
2. Decide if you want a hybrid.
Nowadays, laptops fall into the category of “2-in-1s”. These devices can switch between traditional clamshell mode, tablet mode, as well other positions in between such as tent or stand modes. These kinds of laptops generally come in two different styles: 1) ones with screens that can be detached from the keyboard entirely and 2) ones with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes.
Most hybrids are much better at serving one purpose than the other. However, for a superior tablet experience, we recommend detachables. If you don’t see the need to use your notebook as a tablet, you’ll usually get more performance for your money and a better productivity experience with a traditional clamshell laptop.
3. Choose the right size.
Here are the most common laptop sizes you can choose from.
11” to 12”
The thinnest and lightest laptops have 11 to 12 inch screens and usually weigh around 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.
13” to 14”
Laptops this size provide the best balance of portability and usability, more especially if you get one that weighs under 4 pounds.
Most laptops come with 15 inch screens. This is the perfect size if you want a larger screen and you’re not planning to carry your notebook around often. Laptops this size usually weigh 4.5 to 6.5 pounds.
17” to 18”
Laptops with 17 to 18 inch screens could provide you with the kind of processing you need to play high-end games or do workstation level productivity. This is the ideal size if your laptop stays on your desk most of the time.
4. Check the touchpad and keyboard.
Try out both the keyboard and the touchpad before you buy your laptop. Make sure that you can use them both with ease.
Your keyboard should offer solid tactile feedback as well as plenty of vertical travel. By vertical travel, we mean the distance the keys go down, which is usually around 1 to 2mm. There should also be enough space between the keys. You might wanna consider getting one with a pointing stick between the G and H keys so you can navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard.
Choose a touchpad that doesn’t give you a jumpy cursor as well as one that responds consistently to multi-touch gestures as pinch-to-zoom.
5. Pick the right specs.
If you’re not really techie, picking the right specs can be alienating. But don’t worry! Here’s a list of the specs you should pay attention to along with some tips to help you with your picking.
The central processing unit, also known as the CPU, is the brain of your computer. The CPU has a huge influence on the performance of your computer, depending on what you want to do. The better the CPU, the more processing it can do and the faster it can operate.
Ideally, you want at least 4GB of RAM even on a budgeted system. 2GB will do but you have to watch the number of applications you are running and how much RAM they take up. Most applications require at least 2GB RAM so it would be better if you get a higher RAM. If you’re willing to spend a bit more for RAM, go for 8GB.
Storage Drive (Hard Drive)
The performance of your storage drive is even more important than the speed of your CPU. If you don’t need a lot of internal storage, considering getting a laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive as it can work up to 3x faster.
It’s simple. The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on your screen, and the sharper it will look. If you’re not planning to get a full HD (1920 x 1080), one with a 1366 x 768 resolution will do. Some higher-end laptops have screens that are 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800 or even 3840 x 2160.
You should also decide if you want a laptop that enables touchscreen. However, if you’re buying a regular clamshell laptop rather than a hybrid, you won’t get much benefit from a touch screen and you will get 1-2 hours less battery life.
If you’re not going to be playing PC games, creating 3D objects or editing high-resolution videos, an integrated graphics chip, one that shares system memory, will do. However, if you will be doing any of the said activities, a discrete graphics processor from AMD or Nvidia is essential.
Not all laptops come with optical drives since nearly all software and movies can be downloaded from the Internet nowadays. If you happen to choose a laptop without one, you could always buy an external drive that connects via USB.
6. Carefully consider how much battery life you want.
If you’re planning on buying a large, bulky laptop that you’ll mostly use on a desk near an outlet, then battery life doesn’t have to be a big issue. But if you plan to use your laptop on your lap, ideally you’ll want at least 6 hours of battery life, whether you’re going to use it at home or at work. If you can find a laptop within your budget that can run on more than 8 hours, go for it.
7. Plan how much you are willing to spend on your laptop.
$150 – $250
The least expensive laptops are Chromebooks or low-end Windows systems with slower processors and minimal storage. These types of laptops are ideal as secondary computers only.
Examples: HP Stream 11
$350 – $600
Within this price range, you can get a laptop with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU. You can get one with a RAM ranging from 4 to 8GB of RAM as well as a hard drive with at least 500GB worth of storage.
Examples: Lenovo IdeaPad 100 with Intel Core 15-5200U
HP Pavilion 17-g121wm with AMD A10-8700P Processor
$600 – $900
Laptops within this price range features more premium designs such as metal finishes, higher resolution displays, and entry level SSDs.
Examples: Dell Inspiron 15 7000
Laptops with prices above $900 are more portable, more powerful, or both. You can expect higher resolutions screens as well as faster processors and discrete graphics. The lightest and longest-lasting ultraportables fall under this price range.
Examples: MacBook Air 13-inch
Dell XPS 13
High-end gaming systems as well as mobile workstations usually cost more than $1500 and might even reach $3000. But if you’re willing to spend a fortune on your laptop, then by all means go for it!
Examples: Lenovo ThinkPad W540
8. Choose your laptop brand wisely.
Your laptop is only as good as the company that it represents. It is important to choose a laptop brand that offers accurate and timely technical support. Before deciding on which brand you want to go far, read different reviews that are from laptop users who have actually tried and tested the brand.