How to Choose the Right Laptop?Updated on: August 4, 2018
Whether you need it for work, gaming, or just browsing the Web, there are many great laptops to buy, that suit your needs perfectly. You only need to find them, by knowing what to look for.
Fortunately the days of laptops that are too expensive, and don’t offer any performance for the price are behind us. Nowadays it is possible to buy a great machine that packs decent horsepower, and it will not cost a fortune.
But, if you want to get the best value for your money, you need to know a thing or two about laptops in general. We created this guide to help you with your decision, and to make sure you get the best possible laptop that meets your needs, and fits your budget.
So read on!
Types of Laptops
The first thing to consider is the type of laptop you need. There are many different types, but most of them can fall into one of these 5 categories: Netbooks, Chromebooks, Ultrabooks, MacBooks and Convertible laptops.
So let’s start:
If you want a laptop only for browsing the Internet, sorting pictures, and for doing some basic work on documents and spreadsheets, then netbooks are for you. These are smaller kinds of laptops, far less powerful. But, this means they consume less power too, so netbooks have a longer lasting battery than other types of laptops. Their smaller size increases their portability too. And they cost far less than what other laptops do. But, they are only good for doing the most basic work, if you need more power, you will need to get something different.
The main difference between Chromebooks and regular laptops is the OS. Chromebooks, as their name suggests, run on Google’s Chrome OS. This OS has some clear advantages, as it feels much faster than Windows, and it looks nicer. ChromeOS is known for its security too. Almost everything runs through the Google Chrome browser, which makes these laptops ideal for Internet surfing, checking email, social media and chatting. They are also quite cheap and portable with strong battery life. Recent versions of Chromebooks have access to the Google Play Store; so many Android apps are available. But, if you want something more out of your laptop, a Chromebook is not for you, as they are meant only for casual users.
Also known as desktop replacements, these are the biggest and most powerful laptops around. They are also very expensive. But, you get what you pay for. They are ideal if you don’t have room for a traditional PC, or if you need to take your work with you every now and then. But for carrying around, they are far from ideal, not only because of their size, but because of their weight too. Ultrabooks are quite heavy. But if raw performance is the thing you are looking for, these mammoths are definitely for you. You will hardly notice any difference in performance between a good ultrabook, and a desktop PC.
If you want/need Mac OS X, then MacBook is for you. There are many reasons why you would want a Mac. They are beautifully designed, inside and out, like every Apple device. Also, they have fewer issues with viruses and malware, compared to other types of laptops. And one of the key attributes of a MacBook is long lasting battery. But, like all other Apple devices, they are really expensive, and are a good option only for those who have a deeper pocket.
These laptops are the newest kind. They are also known as hybrids, because they can serve both as tablets and as regular laptops. Hybrid laptops all have touch-screens which can either rotate, twist, fold or completely detach. This makes them extremely functional as you get the power of a laptop combined with the functionality and portability of a tablet. And they can be cost efficient too, especially if you need BOTH a tablet and a laptop. But, if you plan to use them only as a standard laptop, these are not for you, since you will get a much better regular laptop for the price.
Choosing a Laptop
Now we come to choosing the actual thing. Laptops can serve many different purposes, but in general, they tend to fall in the same groups as desktop computers. Roughly speaking, people use their laptops for 3 things: casual home use & study, gaming or business/work. Although you can use one laptop for everything, it will probably be better for you to know what the main thing you want to do with it, and buy accordingly. Why? Well, race cars are made for racing. And if you are buying a race car just for picking up groceries, you are wasting your money.
Home & Study
Many people use their computer only for surfing the Internet, social media, YouTube, chatting with friends, video calls, and watching a movie now and then. And if they occasionally use it for work, that is some basic document editing, or creating a spreadsheet.
If you fall under this category, you are lucky, as these laptops are also the cheapest. Most Chromebooks and Netbooks are excellent choices for you. Simply put, for home use and studying, you don’t need a laptop beast. For general use, almost any laptop will serve the purpose. You don’t need to worry about RAM, CPU power that much, any modern laptop will have enough muscle for your daily needs.
Picking the right size is a little bit different, and you need to be more careful here. If you are buying a laptop strictly for home use, and you don’t plan to move it around much, getting a bigger screen can prove beneficial. The most popular laptop size is 15 inches, and this will probably suit you best. If this is too much for you, get a smaller one, as it will be lighter and more mobile. But don’t go too small, it will ruin your occasional movie experience.
In the past, laptops were not good for gaming, as their performance was subpar, compared to desktop computers. And the ones that had the needed performance were nearly a fortune.
Things have changed, and modern gaming laptops let you play the latest games on highest settings without any FPS drop.
There are several things you need to look for, when buying a gaming machine:
- Graphic card- GPU– the most important part of every gaming laptop. Latest games are extremely demanding, and if you want everything to look nice, and to play smoothly, you will need a powerful GPU. Because of all this, you should consider getting the best GPU for your money, and if you need to save, save elsewhere. We would recommend getting at least GeForce GTX 700 or better, ideally GTX 800 series. These will have enough muscle not only to guarantee highest performance for today’s games, but will also be able to run any future games smoothly, for years to come.
And you should look to get a GPU with at least 2 GB VRAM if you are on a budget, and ideally 4 GB. The more the merrier, but since everybody has budget limitations, you probably don’t need 8 GB VRAM, at least for now.
- Display and resolution– Since your gaming laptop will probably spend most of the time in your room, on your table, bigger is better, so get a big screen, go for 17 inches. You don’t need to worry about dimensions and weight; your table can handle it.
And for resolution, 1080P is optimal. This will give you the most FPS with great image quality. 3K is also available, but to get that, your pocket needs to be deep, and at this point, it simply does not pay-off. The best value is 1080P, and it is standard today, so stick to that.
- Processor, CPU– CPU power was not that important for gaming before. But nowadays, when multiplayer games took over the market, a good gaming laptop needs to have a strong CPU. CPU is responsible for keeping track of dozens or even hundreds of players, and if it doesn’t have enough horsepower, your gaming experience will become laggy. And since lag totally ruins the multiplayer experience, you want to prevent it by buying a strong enough CPU. For modern and intensive games, Intel core i7 is a must. You can probably go with i5 as well, but you will risk a performance drop. And it is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you play most of your games multiplayer.
- RAM– this is also crucial, as this memory is used by CPU to store all those settings and files here. Aim for 8 GB, this will be more than enough.
- Storage– games take up enormous amounts of disk space. So if you are like most gamers, and you like having many games installed all the time (which you don’t even play!) then getting 1 TB hard drive is a must. If you have a deep pocket, and want even more performance, you can buy an SSD. It will give you the fastest boot times, and it may decrease some loading times too.
- Sound– most gaming laptops have a decent sound. But this should not worry you too much, because chances are, you will use a headset anyway (khm, CSGO, khm). But it is good to know that some gaming laptops have subwoofers on the bottom, a cool feature if you are a fan of that deep bass.
Like gaming laptops, business laptops need to be powerful too. But, they also need some other features. Here is what to look for:
- Keyboard– this might sound stupid and unimportant, but having a great keyboard is a life saver. It will speed up your typing speed, reduce the number of typos, and it feels more comfortable for your hands. There are other features you need to look for too. For example, if you are an accountant, you will appreciate a laptop that has a full number pad on the side. Or you may need a fingerprint reader? Choose wisely, laptop keyboard is often neglected, but getting the right type can benefit you in many ways.
- Connection– Wi-Fi now comes with every laptop, and you only need to find a free hotspot and you are good. But there are some other things to consider. You should aim for dual band, as it gives you more flexibility, especially if your office is in a building that is overcrowded. Being able to switch between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz range can boost your Internet speed and stability significantly.
Some laptops have mobile broadband wireless modems built into them. These are great, if you travel to areas where there is no Internet, but mobile signal is available. A SIM card is cheap, but mobile data plans are far from that, so choose carefully.
And for those hotels without Wi-Fi, it would be great to have an Ethernet port.
- Software– depending on your business needs, you will want to get either a Windows laptop or a MacBook, but we will cover that later, in our PC or Mac section.
- Drive– a DVD/Blu-ray drive is a surplus in most cases. But if your clients send you content this way, you have no choice, you need a drive. But, if this is not the case, or at least if you don’t use it regularly, an external drive will be a better option.
- GPU– for most cases, integrated graphic is good enough for business purposes. But, if your line of work is design, and you use applications like Photoshop or some video editors often, you should consider getting a better GPU. Check the “Gaming laptop” section for more info.
- Display– getting an anti-glare screen is vital if you work outside a lot, or near a window. Also, try to get 1080P resolution, as it will be more practical than other, lower resolutions, since you will have more items on your display. For advanced graphic and scientific work QHD and 4K displays are available, but they come at a hefty price.
- Weight– unlike gaming, business laptops are meant to be carried around. This is why weight is important; you want to avoid back pain if it is not necessary. You don’t want your laptop to be too big, so be smart, because in most cases for business laptops, size doesn’t matter that much.
- Battery– you don’t want your laptop to let you down in the middle of your business day, so you want a good battery. You can choose a laptop with 4, 6 and nine battery cells. More cells, more power, but more weight too. You should also look for a laptop with removable batteries, just in case.
PC or Mac dilemma
This is the chicken or the egg question of the 21st century; which one is better, PC or Mac? This is not reserved only to laptops; it spreads to desktop computers as well.
Obviously, if one was better than the other in all cases, there would be no need for you to read a guide like this. But, since it is not the case, we will try to break down the benefits and drawbacks of PCs and Macs, based on different purposes:
- Gaming– without any doubt, if you are a gamer, get a Windows laptop. The reason is fairly simple- there are not enough games (yet) optimized for Mac. Windows is THE platform for PC gamers, and it will probably stay the number one for years to come.
- Design/photography/videography– for you, Mac is probably a better option. Macs are more stable, have fewer viruses, and better optimized hardware. They have a better design overall, and they even look good! And there is one more reason- most design and art schools, and their professors are trained on Mac and most likely you will learn design on a Mac. So you should go with the flow, and get one, if you can afford it.
- Customization– if you have specific needs, PC laptop is a better option. There is a limited choice of MacBooks, both in design and hardware. PC laptops are a different story, as you can find one that fits your unique needs perfectly; there are hundreds of different models, from dozens of brands.
- Ease of use– Mac, definitely. Mac OS is known for its minimalistic design, both inside and out. Their interface is one of a kind, and you will have no trouble adapting to its features. And this simplicity does not mean that MacBooks are weak, on the contrary.
- Tight budget– if you are on a budget, MacBook (and Apple in general) is not for you, this is a premium option, only for those who can afford it. But don’t worry; there are plenty of PC laptops that are good enough for any budget. In the PC world, you will find the right fit for your needs.
Questions to answer before buying a laptop:
How often do you carry your laptop around?
This question is important, because it will tell you the optimal size and weight of your laptop. If you carry it often, you want it to be light and not too big. This will most likely be the case if you are buying your laptop for work.
But if you use your laptop mostly for gaming or watching movies and surfing the Web at home, weight is not important, since it will most likely sit on a table. And in this case, the bigger the screen, the better.
What level of performance do you need?
This will answer you which type of laptop you need to buy. If you are a performance-freak, a gamer or a designer, you will want a beast, so ultrabooks and Macbooks are for you.
On the other hand, if you are a casual user who needs a laptop only for web-surfing, studying and doing light work, a simple netbook or a Chromebook is the right choice for you.
What is your budget?
Like with many things, the depth of your pocket will tell you what you can, and what you can’t afford. If you are on a budget, Mac is definitely not for you. And you can forget about ultrabooks too, they are far too expensive. You should, stick to standard laptops, netbooks and Chromebooks.
But if you can afford it, go for more premium options. A laptop is something you don’t buy every day, and if quality is the option, go for it. It is an investment, and you will not regret it. And more expensive laptops have a better resell value too (this is especially true for MacBooks).
In this article we tried to present you with key features a good laptop needs to have. We hope that now you have a much broader knowledge, and that you will have easier time buying the perfect laptop.
There are many good options, whether it will be a netbook, Chromebook, ultrabook, MacBook, or a hybrid. Laptop market is rich, and there are many good options no matter if you use your laptop for gaming, business or just for surfing the Internet and watching movies.
The freedom of choice is yours; you know exactly what you need and how much money you have, and now you have the knowledge needed to make the right choice.
Good luck in finding your laptop!