Whether it’s for everyday use, hardcore gaming, or day-to-day business tasks, buying a new laptop can be a daunting task. Technology changes quickly, and if you haven’t bought a new laptop before, or haven’t bought one in a long time, you may be wondering what to look for.
Don’t worry though — we’ve got you covered with our laptop buying guide.
Here are 10 crucial things to consider before choosing a laptop.
The best laptop for you will be the one that serves your purpose and is within your budget. Laptops range in price from only a few hundred dollars to well over a thousand dollars, depending on what specifications you are looking for.
A budget laptop could be perfect for students or casual users. Budget laptops can be had for only a few hundred dollars.
For a little more money, a mid-tier laptop offers better performance and usually offers a compromise between affordability and performance.
A high-end laptop can usually handle anything you throw at it. They often have their own graphics cards.
They can be great for video editing, graphics editing, and content creation. Some are also designed for gaming. High-end laptops usually hover around $1000 in price but can be more or less depending on how powerful they are.
2. Operating System
The three most popular OS (operating systems) for laptops are Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS.
Windows laptops are popular because of the wide variety of software they support. They are popular for both business and entertainment purposes.
macOS is an operating system only for use with Apple computers, so if you purchase an Apple product it will run macOS.
Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system found on Chromebooks. Chrome OS is a property of Google.
Although it may look similar to other operating systems, Chrome OS is similar to the functionality of an Android device. Chrome OS runs on low-power hardware, meaning that Chromebooks can often be cheaper than other laptops.
It won’t work for most gaming uses, but for surfing the web or using Google Workspaces, Chrome OS is more than capable. It will allow you to use Google’s full suite of business tools.
If you plan on using your laptop while being connected to the internet, Chrome OS is a great choice. You can find good, small Chromebooks for light everyday use for only a few hundred dollars. Otherwise, its functionality will be limited.
3. Form Factor and Design
Most laptops come in a clamshell design, meaning they have a hinged cover that can be closed.
More recently manufacturers have been making 2-in-1 laptops, also known as convertibles. These laptops combine the form of a laptop with that of a tablet. They usually have a keyboard that is either completely removable, or that can fold out of the way, letting you use the laptop’s touch screen like you would a tablet.
What laptop type you should use depends on your personal preference.
While laptops are designed to be portable, some are more portable than others. Consider how you will use your laptop and where.
Do you plan on doing a lot of traveling? Or will you only travel around the office, or from home to the office and back?
If your travel is mostly local, you can opt for a larger size (and larger screen). If your travel will be long-distance, you might want to consider a smaller, lighter choice for your laptop.
There are also super lightweight laptops called Ultrabooks. Ultrabook is a marketing term used for any thin, lightweight laptop that’s designed to be super portable without sacrificing performance. As a result of their power and form factor, Ultrabooks are usually on the more expensive side.
5. Screen Quality
You will want a laptop that’s easy on your eyes, especially if you are using it all day. A higher resolution translates into better, sharper images. Most laptops are at least 1080p in terms of resolution, but many now offer 1440p or even 4K resolution.
Some laptops also offer touchscreens — especially convertible laptops. This feature could be useful in some instances, such as with content creators looking to edit photos or videos.
Battery life ranges widely, depending on how you use it. Playing games or watching movies will drain a battery quickly. Other factors include your screen’s brightness if you are using WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity, and the number of apps or programs you are running.
When looking for a battery look for one with a high MAh. In general, the higher the MAh, or milliamp hours rating, the better. Milliamp hours measure the amount of energy your battery can store.
Newer laptops may also support a fast charging function, similar to smartphones. This will allow you to quickly charge your battery.
7. Memory and Storage
How much storage you need will depend on what you intend to use your laptop for. If you plan on doing a lot of gaming, you will want at least 1 TB of storage. Otherwise, aim for at least 240 GB of storage to ensure you will have enough space for your files.
Traditional hard drives have been replaced in many laptops by SSDs, or solid-state drives. SSDs are more expensive, but they are also quieter and faster than traditional hard drives.
In terms of RAM, most low-end laptops come with at least 8 GB of RAM, but many come with 16 or 32 GB. A mid-tier laptop will often have 16 GB, which will work for most general purposes.
Your laptop’s performance can be throttled without a good CPU or central processing unit.
One of the most popular CPUs is the Intel Core series. The Core i3, i5, and i7 processors are found in low, mid, and high-end laptops. Some laptops even have more powerful processors.
Higher-end laptops like gaming laptops will also have a dedicated graphics processor unit (GPU) to handle games.
Determining the overall performance of a laptop can be tricky. One way of doing it is looking for the Intel Evo badge. The Intel Evo badge indicates a laptop meets certain performance requirements.
Lenovo has a series of Intel Evo verified laptops that are desired to meet performance specs while being thin and lightweight. You can get more details here about Intel Evo systems.
9. Connectivity and Ports
You will want a laptop with USB 3.0 ports or better. USB 3.0 replaces the USB 2.0 standard. This means faster transfer speeds (up to 5 Gbps as opposed to 480 Mbps).
The latest standard is USB 3.2, which offers up to 20 Gbps transfer speeds.
Many newer laptops also come with a USB-C port. It’s an oval-shaped port common in newer small devices like smartphones.
One type of USB-C port is Thunderbolt. It’s a brand name used on Apple products, so expect to see it on many of their products.
Outside of USB connections, you will want an HDMI port for outputting video. This is especially important for connecting to a second monitor.
If you plan on using your laptop without WiFi connectivity, look into getting one with an Ethernet port. The trade-off is that some smaller, thinner laptops may not have an Ethernet port due to their small size.
10. Keyboard Comfort
You need a keyboard that’s comfortable, durable, and easy to use for long periods of time.
Ideally, look for one with full-sized keys. Some laptop models have cramped keyboards, with little space between the keys.
For visibility, look for a keyboard with backlit keys. When working in a dimly lit environment, you will be grateful for a backlit keyboard.
If possible, test the keyboard out in person before you buy. A good keyboard will have strong tactile feedback and easily register your keystrokes, allowing you to type without using a lot of force.
The keyboard layout varies from one model laptop to another. Two different laptops may both have a QWERTY layout, but sometimes different shortcuts may be assigned to different function keys.
Sometimes commonly used keys such as the Enter, ESC, or Delete keys may be larger than usual. This could potentially make your typing more comfortable.
Choosing a Laptop For Your Needs
Choosing a laptop can be confusing, but if you follow our guide you will know what to look for when it comes to your next big purchase. Buying a laptop doesn’t have to be stressful if you consider your needs and know what you want in a computer.
If you like this article check out more features in our Technology section.