Shopping for a new laptop can be confusing. There are tons of different models, each with its own unique combination of features, each with a price tag that will either make you cringe or smile.
Which laptop you should buy depends on what you need it for. There are laptops suited for all users. In our experience there are three major groups: media buffs, gamers and browsers.
Are you a media buff? You need lots of hard drive space and RAM. Gamer? Resolution, RAM and processor speeds are key. For those just looking for a device for web browsing and word processing, you’re in luck. Most laptops will meet your needs, but there are certain things to focus on.
Let’s take a look at some of the different factors you need to consider when purchasing your new laptop. Start by answering this question: What type of user are you?
PICK YOUR PLATFORM
There are three main platforms in the world of laptops: Chrome, Windows and Mac. You’re likely already comfortable with one, and many of us like to stick with what’s familiar but while you’re shopping, check out the options, something may suit your style better. While most are very similar in design, each does have its own unique characteristics and user interface. So, you’ll want to look into each operating system (OS) and decide what’s best for you.
It stands to reason that the fastest laptops have the fastest processors (CPU), so if you’re looking for speed you want to purchase a laptop with the fastest processor – and the most gigahertz (GHz). Higher end gaming computers offer 4GHz of processor speed. If you’ll be using your laptop for simple web browsing and word processing though, you can save some money and go for a unit with a more basic processor with speeds around 2GHz.
The rule of RAM or Random Access Memory is simple: more is better. But what is RAM and why do you need more? Well, in essence RAM is your computer’s memory and its job is to store and retrieve data that’s on your computer while it’s running. So with more RAM, you’ll find working with multiple open windows smooth and seamless, surfing the Internet will be faster, gaming will be unbelievable, and the entire media experience will be enhanced. Most laptops on the market right now offer at least 4GB of RAM. If you’re a browser, this should be more than enough to keep you surfing. For those whose usage is a little more intensive, look for something with a minimum 6 or 8 GB.
Like everything else in the laptop world more hard drive space means better performance. So, if you’ll be storing a lot of media files, presentations, pictures and music, you’ll want to look at laptops that provide the most space for your budget. If you’re limited right now, there is always room to expand later with an external drive. (Shop external drives)
There are two types of hard drives: solid state drives (SSD) and standard hard disk drives (HDD). As a general rule, SSDs are better; they are bigger - 1-4TB - faster to retrieve data and will speed up your computer in most every way. But they are typically almost double the price.
Industry standard is the HDD; it is reliable and for almost all of us, the 500GB average is more than sufficient. Not to mention, budget friendly. If you are a media buff or gamer, consider a SSD if it fits in your budget, you’ll appreciate the upgrade. For the browsers, stick to a HDD, you can always upgrade if you want to.
IIt’s simple, the more pixels you have the better the display. Most budget and mainstream laptops come with 1366 x 768-pixel resolutions. However, if you have the option, choose a laptop with a higher pixel count 1600 x 900 or 1920 x 1080 —always go for the highest resolution your budget allows.
There are other aspects of the display you need to consider as well: touchscreen capabilities and graphics chips (GPU).
Convertible laptops with touchscreen displays have gained traction with the tablet boom. Offering what your tablet does, with the comfort of a full keyboard.
Touchscreen laptops are especially useful for visual arts and design professionals where photo editing is common as they offer all the dexterity and freedom of your hands, no more cursor limitations. (Shop hybrid laptops)
For the most part, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be sufficient for basic tasks like surfing the web, watching video, and even playing mainstream games. However, a discrete graphics processor – a second chip dedicated to graphics and video processing - will provide better performance when it comes to more demanding games and video rendering. A good GPU can accelerate video playback on sites such as Netflix, as well as speed up video editing. As with CPUs there are both high and low-end graphics chips. In general, desktops and gaming notebooks will have the best GPUs, including dual graphics (the integrated chip plus discrete graphics processor mentioned above) on the most expensive systems. (Shop for gaming laptops and high performance laptops.)
The next laptop you buy will be with you for the next few years so you want to make sure you get the right one. While there is a lot to know, once you decide what kind of user you are (Gamer, Media Buff or Web Browser) all the features will make sense and you can talk with a salesperson like a pro.