What factors should you consider while purchasing a laptop?

Nobody warns you that working as a professional laptop reviewer means that everyone you know will ask you what laptop they should buy at some point.

Of course, there are variances. There’s “Which laptop should I get for my son?” and “Which laptop should I buy for myself?” or “Which laptop should I get for my sister?” or “Which laptop should I get for my podcast?” I’ve heard every single one of them. I’m sure most laptop reviewers on the internet would agree.

My responses are frequently unsatisfactory. People often expect me to be able to offer them the correct advise right away because I use these things in my job. But, as I’m sure many gadget reviewers will tell you, it’s a lot more difficult than you think.

Here’s the truth: I spend my days debating which computers are best for most people. However, the laptop that is ideal for most people may not be the best laptop for you. That recommendation will be based on a slew of questions for which you are far more knowledgeable than I am.

I’ll show you how to approach the laptop-buying process in the sections below. I truly feel that if you consider all of the factors I’ve mentioned, you should have no issue discovering a solid product on your own. However, if you’re going to ask me (or a laptop reviewer you know, or an IT worker you know, or a tech-savvy person you know) what laptop you should buy, you’ll need solid answers to these questions. We won’t be able to assist you otherwise. (Or, at the very least, not as well as we would like.)

Before we get started, a brief disclaimer: this essay is mostly aimed towards shoppers who prefer to shop on Windows. Much of this will also apply if you prefer ChromeOS – I’ve identified a number of locations where Chromebooks may differ. If you want macOS, your only alternative is a MacBook, so look at Apple’s options directly.

Finally, I’m not endorsing any one model. Please see our Best Laptop, Best Gaming Laptop, Best Chromebook, Best Budget Laptop, and Best Student Laptop articles if you’re seeking those. If you’ve thought through all of these questions first, those articles will be more useful to you.

PRICE

When it comes to choosing a laptop, the price range is the most significant factor to consider. I’m a sitting duck if you come to me for advice but don’t know how much money you have. It’s fine if your price range is conditional (for example, “I’ll go up to X for an OLED panel, but otherwise I’m capped at Y”), but you must have one. Your options will be limited by that price range in the future.

Person Using Macbook Pro

Over the years, the cost of what is commonly considered a “decent” laptop has progressively increased. Some reviewers still regard $500 and less to be the “cheap laptop” line, but I’m beginning to see the $800 mark as the threshold at which I expect laptops to be truly exceptional, with cutting-edge build quality, top-notch performance, and no serious problems. That’s not to say that every laptop above $800 has top-notch build quality, top-notch performance, and no serious issues — but if that’s what you’re after, here is the place to look.

It’s worth mentioning, though, that better-built laptops tend to live longer. People I know are still using MacBook Pro versions from 2013, and one of my friends has gone through two HP Pavilions in the last four years. This isn’t to argue that everyone needs to spend thousands of dollars on a notebook; rather, a device that is really inexpensive upfront may not save you money in the long run.

Given this, I recommend that people shopping for a primary Windows driver, if they can afford it, stay above the $500 mark. That doesn’t mean you have to spend $1,000; there are lots of well-made choices in the $500-1,000 range.

If you’re looking for something more specialized, things are a little different. For starters, none of this applies to Chromebooks; in today’s market, most individuals should not spend more than $1,000 for a Chromebook.

Gaming laptops are considerably more costly. The most expensive ones cost tens of thousands of dollars. However, if you don’t have any specific gaming laptop requirements and are okay with occasionally lowering settings, you shouldn’t feel obligated to pay more than $1,500. If you have specific requirements (a lot of RGB, special connectors, a QHD screen, etc. ), add a little extra to the price for each feature.

In addition, business laptops are more expensive. Companies usually negotiate their own terms with producers and do not pay full price. The business category has some of the most beautiful laptops on the market, but I normally advise consumers to avoid it unless money is no object or they have special software requirements.

SIZE OF THE SCREEN

Photo of a Macbook Air

A 13-inch, a 15-inch, or a 17-inch are your main choices. There are sizes above and below those, but they’re uncommon and cater to very specific audiences.

If you’re not sure what screen size you need or if you’re buying for a first-time laptop user, I recommend starting with a 13- or 14-inch screen. If you’ve used one before and found it to be too tiny, or if you need more power than most 13-inches can provide, a 15-inch is certainly the way to go. Because these are designed for heavier use cases than 13-inches, you’ll probably see more powerful chips at the sacrifice of efficiency and portability.

I don’t suggest 17-inch laptops to most people unless they have a specific use case that necessitates the largest screen available. There are some decent alternatives in that size category, but your options will be significantly limited compared to the 13-inch and 15-inch spheres.

While we’re talking about displays, you should consider your aspect ratio. While some laptops are available in several aspect ratios, the majority are only available in one, so choose one before you go shopping. The most popular aspect ratio in recent years has been 16:9, which is fantastic for video consumption but can be cramped for work and multitasking. 3:2 and 16:10 aspect ratios provide you a taller screen with more space. If you want to learn more about aspect ratios, I’ve prepared an in-depth article about it.

Now that you’ve determined your size and budget, it’s time to start looking at various models. Look at the most recent Best Laptop pages, see what’s hot on Amazon and other sites, and ask your friends what models they have. It’s time to choose your favorite product when you’ve identified a few that you like the sound of.

SPECS 

Now is the time to consider why you’re purchasing a new laptop. What exactly is it about your present one that isn’t working?

If your old driver is still performing admirably for all of your needs and your problem is with the chassis, you can probably acquire a new laptop with the most recent versions of that laptop’s specifications. (By specs, I primarily refer to the processor, storage, and RAM.) Device Manager can tell you what these are on your current model.)

Most people shopping in the consumer space will have the option of a Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, or Core i9 from Intel or a Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, or Ryzen 9 from AMD, to put it very briefly (and I’m simplifying quite a bit here — Laptop has literature for you if you really want to get into the processor weeds). Within each of those categories, there are multiple chips with different names, but as a consumer, you don’t need to worry about it too much. I usually advise clients who aren’t sure what they need to start with a Core i5 or Ryzen 5. In each line, those are sort of the default “This works well” chips.

Macbook Pro

If your present laptop is incapable of performing certain tasks, you may need to upgrade. You may need extra RAM if it slows down when you open too many Chrome tabs. If your computer is running slowly, you should consider upgrading your CPU and storage. If your games have poor visuals, consider upgrading them.

Also, go to Storage Settings to see how much storage space you’re now using. If you have a lot of space remaining, you can definitely get the same amount on your next model; if you’re nearly full and think you’ll be downloading more, consider getting more on your next model.

You should additionally consider connection in this case. Are there any ports on your existing system that you never use? Are there any items that you wish you could plugin but can’t? Because you might not be able to find a laptop with all of the ports you require, selecting the ones you require the most can be beneficial.

Dongles are a thing, of course. Dongles are included in the box of many firms that offer laptops with limited port possibilities. However, as someone who has had to use USB-C-only laptops for long periods of time, I can promise you that dongles are still an annoyance. They’re difficult to keep track of and add an extra step to your day. That’s not to say that having to use them is a deal-breaker; it’s just something to consider.

BATTERY LIFE

At this point, you should have narrowed your options down to a few viable options. I’m going to ask you to read some reviews of those models right now.

Yes, laptop reviews can be lengthy and technical. I promise you don’t have to read the whole article; just Ctrl+F “battery life” and read that section attentively. Before you buy a laptop, be sure you’re comfortable with the battery life it can deliver.

Person Touching Open Macbook on Table

I understand how difficult this is because each review you read will have a different battery result. I can tell you from personal experience that it’s far from a precise science. Here’s what I’d say: Read a few reviews (at least three, in my opinion). You’re fine to go if all of the reviewers got more time to charge than you believe you’ll need. If everyone is moaning about how bad the battery life is, you should investigate further. Take note of how each reviewer put the laptop through its paces, the jobs they completed, the brightness and power profiles they utilized, and any additional circumstances. Choose the reviewer whose process most closely resembles your regular circumstances. Assume you’ll receive an outcome that’s identical to theirs. Determine whether or not you can live with it.

After you’ve completed these stages, you can go on to more detailed criteria. How’s the sound quality? What’s the status of the microphones? What’s the status of the customer service? Continue to consider more aspects and compare them to one another until you’ve restricted your options to only one. Best of luck!


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