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A laptop is the best tool that you can have. They are compact enough for you to take on your travels easily and they are powerful enough to complete all the tasks you need to get done. It allows you to get the work done while you are at home and even when you are on the move. While the smartphones and tablets will always be a popular choice with all the advancements being made in that regard, a lot of people will find that there are a lot of tasks that just cannot be done on the go unless you have a good enough laptop handy. So what kind of laptop should you get for yourself?
That is the essential question, really. There are several varieties that come in the world of laptop computing. The different models and makings with all their specifications in price, and features make choosing the perfect laptop for yourself more than just a challenge. This is why there is a dire need for you to figure out the needs that you have. Here are 8 essential tips that you can use from the laptop buying guide to help you better decide which machine is perfect for you.
If you happen to be short on time and do not have the levee to go through the comprehensive list, here are some of the most important things that you need to consider when you are out buying a laptop for yourself. Go through them to get a rough idea of what the guide will tell you and if you have the time, read through all of it to make the most well informed decision when you’re investing in the laptop for yourself.
- If your range is north of $600, here are the minimum specifications you should consider in your purchase:
- Core i5 CPU
- 8GB RAM
- SSD instead of Hard drive
- 1920x1080 Screen resolution
- Screens with the dimensions from 12.5 inches to 14 inches are the best when it comes to balancing between usability and ease of transport. Screens larger than that are amazing when it comes to the resolution they can offer but they are a hassle to travel with. Smaller screens on laptops will take away from the usability of them even though they will function just fine.
- Consider getting a 2-in-1 system which offers you the ability to use it as a tablet as well as a laptop when you need to.
- 8 or more hours of battery life are ideal especially if you are going to be working on the go.
- Chromebooks are ideal when it comes to use for children. MacBooks and Windows laptops are pretty good when it comes to functionality and based on your personal preference, you can choose between these two.
Now that you have been given a brief look at the guide for buying laptops, we are going to give you a comprehensive lowdown on how you should go about choosing your machine. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Pick Your Poison
There are three popular Operating Systems (OS) that are available on computers nowadays. For the longest time, Windows OS was the only on being used by people throughout the world but with the advent of Apple’s MacOS and the most recent Chrome OS, things have changed drastically. We’re going to give you a quick overview of all three of the platforms.
Which one you go for is purely based on your personal preference.
Microsoft’s Windows 10
The latest in the line of the Windows operating systems is the Windows 10. This is by far the most flexible operating system that has been made by Microsoft yet and is the most common operating system in the world right now. The Windows notebooks come in many different ranges when it comes to the features they boast and their price tags. Everything from laptops below $150 to the most high end laptops which have touch screens, fingerprint scanners and dual graphics cards, all of them utilize the Windows 10 operating system by Microsoft. This is the latest version of the operating system that has improved drastically on the predecessors including the additional capability of switching between tablet mode to laptop mode on a whim and the powerful digital assistant called Cortana.
Apple’s MacOS High Sierra
All of the MacBooks that Apple releases come with the latest operating system developed by the company, the MacOS High Sierra. This operating system provides pretty much similar operating capabilities to the Windows 10 OS but the whole interface has a different take to it. The apps dock on the bottom part of the screen is a different take on the Start menu for Windows 10. The digital assistant used by Apple’s high Sierra MacOS is Siri and the transactions from the laptop can easily be processed through ApplePay. They can unlock the laptop from their Apple Watch and can even take calls and receive texts from their phone on the MacBook. The only thing is that the MacOS has not been designed for compatibility with touch screens since none of the MacBooks come with the touch screen option.
The latest addition to the world of operating systems which has previously been dominated by Windows and Mac, the Chrome OS is found on the reasonably priced Chromebooks like Samsung’s Chromebook 3. The operating system made by the technology giant, Google is quite easy to use, it is simple and mainly secure. The thing is that it is still quite limited when you compare it to the likes of Windows and MacOS – both of which have had more than enough time to establish themselves. The user interface for the Chrome OS is very similar to Windows but it comes with an apps menu, a desktop and the ability to drag around windows on the laptop. The main application you will be using on the Chrome OS is the Chrome browser. One of the issues with the Chrome OS is that a lot of the web applications you can download on the platform do not work very well when they are being used offline. Of course that aspect is being changed by Google as the advent of the Chrome OS has also led to the creation of the Chromebook of a high end category like the Google PixelBook. That can even run the Andoird apps which you can otherwise only use on your phones and tablets.
Chromebooks offer you a lot of easy mobility and good battery life considering the low prices that they have. Devices with the ChromeOS are ideal when you need something to browse the internet, check your email, utilize the different social media platforms and chat with other people online. This is particularly the reason why Chromebooks are exceptionally popular among parents who buy them for their children. The limitations also add another layer of security and they are very difficult to infect with viruses and other malware. They are essentially like tablets but with a lot more functionality.
There are a lot of laptops out there that fall into the hybrid category. They can switch from being like the traditional laptop into being used as a tablet. These generally come in two different styles. The first is the detachable kind which have screens that can be detached from the main body and used as standalone devices. The second type are laptops that don’t have detachable screens but the hinges are flexible enough to allow a complete 360 degree to change the mode into being a tablet.
If you don’t feel like you will be using your laptop as a tablet, you will find it better to stick to a more traditional laptop because they are better in their functionality as laptops than hybrids. When it comes to the 2-in1 systems with detachable screens, their battery life is not as long as the flexible ones. Use this information to decide which kind of laptop you want to go for.
Now that you have decided on the kind of laptop you want, you might be thinking about the price range and specifications of the laptop. This is where you need to hold your horses and think about the screen size first. The screen size will determine the ease of mobility for your laptop. They are categorized according to their different screen sizes.
- 11 inches to 12 inches: The lightest laptops have displays no bigger than 11 to 12 inches and they weigh less than 4 pounds.
- 13 to 14 inches: These are the best when it comes to providing the perfect balance between functionality and mobility. They are also usually around 4 pounds or less in weight.
- 15 inches: These are the most commonly bought laptops. They weigh anywhere between 4 to 7 pounds. You have to take into consideration the fact that the bigger screen can make it a little more difficult to carry around.
- 17 to 18 inches: These are the powerful machines that will stay on your table the whole day. You won’t be using these to work while you’re taking the subway ride to work. They are equipped with the kind of processing power you will need for the heavy tasks with productivity levels matching gaming PCs or workstation capabilities.
No, we’re not moving on to the specifications yet. All the high end functionality of a laptop will be useless if the ergonomics do not match your needs, right? If you will be using your laptop for a lot of work, you need to make sure that the keyboard has been designed to be ergonomically friendly and the feedback given by the keyboard is tactile. A laptop with a good touchpad and keyboards that have sufficient space between the keys are ideal in any situation.
Now we can finally move on to the specifications. This is one of the most important aspects to consider when you are making the purchase of the laptop you will be using for the foreseeable future. The specifications sheet can get confusing for even the most tech savvy people out there so there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you cannot make heads or tails of the stuff.
Here are the main things you have to watch out for when you are deciding on the specs of the machine.
CPU: The main powerhouse of the computer is the CPU. The central processing unit has a huge say in what the performance of your laptop will be like but even the most expensive model can fail to meet the expectations you have of it if you don’t know its capabilities. Here is a look at the different processors for you to consider.
- Intel Core i5: The most mainstream laptops which provide the perfect combination between good performance and cheap price are going to come with the Intel Core i5 processors. There are different kinds of these processors as well. Those that end with a U for instance the Core i5-7200U are typically the most common processors used in laptops. Those with a Y in the end are lower powered processors while those with HQ at the end are high powered processors. The 8th generation processors being made by Intel which have 8 in the beginning of the model number for instance the Core i5-8250 have four cores inside them instead of two which essentially doubles their performance capabilities.
- Intel Core i7: This is an improvement on the Core i5 processors. The models are all different from each other in capabilities along with the same basis as the Core i5s with their suffixes and prefixes. The only thing is that the 8th generation processors are only available in the U series as of now.
- Intel Core i3: Cheaper than the laptops with Core i5 processors and performance wise as well. It’s better to step up to Core i5s now. These are obsolete.
- Intel Pentium / Celeron: This processor is found quite commonly in laptops below the price range of $400 and are very slow in their performance. If the kind of tasks you need to do with the laptop do not require a lot of high performance from the processor, they are a good option to consider. Just don’t expect much from them.
- Intel Core m/ Core i5 /i7 “Y Series”: These are all lower powered versions of the processors which can be utilized in compact laptops. The fact that they produce a lot less heat means they can easily be used for slim laptops without fans for cooling needs. The performance they give is definitely better than what the Celeron processor provides but a notch or two below the regular Core i5 U series processors.
- Intel Xeon: These are incredibly powerful processors which can be found in the most expensive laptops in the market. They are built keeping the needs of mobile workstation in mind. If you’re an architect looking to create high definition 3D models or if you’re doing some professional video editing at high quality, you will need the kind of machine that comes with a Xeon processor. Just don’t count on the workstation giving you a good battery life. Oh and it will be quite heavy as well.
- AMD Ryzen Mobile: These are a new set of chips being made by AMD that are capable of competing with the likes of Intel’s Core i5 and Core i7s.
- AMD A, FX or E Series: These processors made by AMD are found on low budget laptops and they provide some pretty decent performance for the price tag they come with. They are more than ideal if you will mostly be surfing the internet and viewing media on your laptop.
RAM: Now that you have had a good overview of the processors there are, we shall move on to the next part of the computer specs you have to consider. Equally as important to the performance of your laptop is the RAM installed in the laptop. The cheaper laptops come with 2GB of RAM but nowadays, you need at least 4GB of RAM to enjoy satisfactory performance from your laptop. That being said, you should spend on 8GB RAM for some really good performance but you can go for the overkill and get 16GB of RAM. Any more than that is just ridiculous but very much possible.
Storage Drive: Also known as the hard drive, the storage drive on your system is even more important for the computer’s speed than the CPU. If you can afford to get it, you might not even need to get a lot of internal storage drive. Just go get the Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of getting a hard drive. The speed of your computer will increase by at least three times than what you can get with a hard drive.
The Display: Now we come to the display. We’re not talking about the size of the display itself but the resolution of it. The more the number of pixels you have on the screen, the better the resolution and quality of the display. The thing is that most of the budget laptops nowadays have no more than 1366 by 768 resolution displays. The same is the case with a lot of compact business centric laptops. If you can afford to get it, you should go for a laptop which has at least 1920 by 1080 resolution. That is what you call an HD screen or a 1080p screen. There are laptops that even top those screens with 2560 by 1600 or even as insane as 3840 by 2160. The thing with very high resolution screens on laptops is that they consume more energy and that means a comparatively short battery life.
Graphics Chip: If you are not the kind of person who is into gaming, creating high quality 3D models or doing some professional video editing on your laptop, getting a laptop that has an integrated graphics processing chip is more than good enough. The integrated chips draw power from the system memory itself for the graphics of the laptop. However if you have any or all of these needs to be catered through your laptop, you need to get a system that comes with a dedicated processor for the graphics. Something by Nvidia or AMD is what your laptop needs to take care of the heavy graphics processing needs you might have.
Just like when it comes to the CPUs, there are different kinds of graphics processing chips available in the market for both high end and low end uses. For instance, your typical low end gaming PC or workstation will have an Nvidia GTX 1050 installed while the midrange models have the GTX 1060 or the GTX 1050i. When you go high end, there is the Nvidia GTX 1070 or the GTX 1080. Both AMD and Nvidia have a list of the graphics processors they produce with the low end to high end users in mind. That makes it incredibly easy for you to choose which one you should get keeping your use from the laptop in mind.
Ports: When you’re choosing a laptop, the number of ports on the laptop is not a particular issue. That being said, it is useful to have a sufficient number of ports through which you can attach the necessary devices to the laptop rather than having to carry dongles. A lot of the laptops have the USB 3.0 ports now and they also have HDMI out ports for the video. There are a number of laptops coming into the market now that have USB Type C ports or even Thunderbolt 3 ports which are compatible with USB Type C. Connecting with universal chargers and docks becomes easy when you have a laptop with USB Type C.
Blu-ray/DVD Drives: The number of laptops coming with optical drives nowadays is much less than before. That is because all of the software being used now and the movies are downloadable. There definitely are laptops which come with optical drives but if there isn’t one on a laptop and everything else is perfect, you should get it.
6. Battery Life
If you are looking to buy the kind of laptop which you will be using on your desk all the time, you probably do not have to worry about the battery life too much. If you are planning to use the laptop on the move, that will be something of a concern. You should have at least 7 hours plus of battery time with anything above 8 hours being more than ideal. Read the third party reviews about laptops when you want to know their real battery life and not what the manufacturer has to say about it.
In this day and age, it is easy to get a laptop which is functional for under $200 but if you can put in a little more money into it, you definitely should. The more money you’re willing to spend, the better functionality you can get from a laptop. The machine will be more durable when you spend the kind of money that reflects on it. Here’s a brief look at what you can get for what budget:
- $150 - $250: This is the cheapest price range which you can get a Chromebook or a low end Windows system like the HP Stream 11. These are secondary machines or something for the kids if they need it for school.
- $350 - $600: For under $600, you can get laptops with intel Core i5 processors with 4 to 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. These are good specs but most laptops do not come with an SSD within this price range, they don’t have full HD displays nor do they offer a very good battery life.
- $600 -$900: Going north of $600, the grass definitely starts to get a whole lot greener. The more premium designs in laptops with SSDs and HD screens begin from this point.
- $900: Anything more than $900 will get you a very good system indeed. Expect the very best of laptops when you go above $900 with graphics processors, SSDs, Full HD screens and good battery life.
When it comes to the laptop you’re buying, who has made the machine actually matters a lot. You need to get a system from a company that has active technical support available. Acer and Lenovo are high up there in that regard. Apple comes in the clear winner when it comes to technical support.
That’s just a part of it, however. You need to get a notebook from a brand that is worth your money. The performance of a particular brand based on the competition and their reputation matters a lot.
And there you have it, folks. You’re pretty much an expert when it comes to buying laptops now. Now how about going out and getting one for yourself?