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Laptop Buying Guide: Top 5 Things to Consider

6 Mins read

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Purchasing a brand new laptop can sometimes be a daunting task. For some people, this is a question with a clear and straightforward answer. However, for most of us ordinary users, picking the right laptop can be a confusing process, especially since there are so many different laptops out there. Moreover, finding the best single laptop is simply impossible, since there is no single kind of user. It’s simple as that.

Compared to desktop computers, laptops offer outstanding mobility and versatility. In a compact and lightweight package, a laptop can house all sorts of extra features, such as a webcam, a fingerprint readers, an optical disc drives, multiple data ports, and so on. Performance-wise, desktop computer will always beat a laptop computer, however, gap between these two types of devices has been closing quickly in the past few years thanks to the development of new computer technologies.

When it comes to picking the right laptop, it is important to note that everyone wants something different. Some users care more about display screens, and visual appearance, while some focus more on the specs and connectivity options. However, no matter you’re buying a new laptop for gaming, business or home use, it’s important to find the laptop that will suit your needs. Things like screen size, battery life, CPU speed, graphics, memory and storage are all worth considering, but thinking about all these options can be quite overwhelming. This is why we’ve put together this buying guide in order to help you choose the right laptop you’ll like.

Laptops by Type


Everyday Use

If you like browsing the web, writing documents and watching movies all day, choose a laptop that features good battery life, and high-quality display screen.

Gaming

If you are in pursuit of smooth and immersive gaming experience, choose a laptop that features high-end GTX or RTX graphics cards, as well as a fast CPU.

Business

If you’re a business professional, you should look for a robust and reliable laptop with data security features, as well as high-speed memory, and great portability.

Operating System


Windows OS

Windows is the most popular operating system in the world. The latest release, Windows 10, has simplified locating and editing your documents, as well as playing video games, while at the same time it improved security against viruses and malware attacks. The Windows OS is simple and straightforward to use, and it offers the best hardware compatibility of all the operating systems.

Chrome OS

Chromes OS is a cloud-based, simple, and lightweight operating system that powers Chromebooks. It is designed to deliver smooth and easy-to-use user interface, and as such is perfect for people who want to browse the web, send emails and watch YouTube videos. Although it doesn’t support software designed for Windows OS, the Chrome OS can run Android apps, and features high-end virus protection.

Mac OS

The Mac OS is exclusive to Apple devices (e.g. the Macbook Pro or Macbook Air), and is able to offer extremely user-friendly, and highly intuitive user interface. Compared to laptops running on Windows or Chrome OS, Macbooks are able to deliver exceptional performance when creating new content, or transferring files, and other types of data. The only disadvantage of Mac OS is that it’s not suitable for gaming.

System Specifications


Processor

Home & Office Use

If you plan to use your laptop for web browsing, sending email, and doing some simple office work, then consider getting a notebook device with AMD Ryzen 3, Intel Pentium, Celeron or Core i3 processor. These processors aren’t very powerful for high-end tasks, but offer great value for money.

Business Use

If you are looking for a laptop that will be able to deliver snappy system performance, consider getting a laptop with AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5 processor. These processors are a great choice for fast and responsive laptops, and can even support some basic content creation, as well as lightweight gaming.

Gaming & Content Creation

For achieving the best performance possible, you should choose laptops featuring high-end processors such as AMD Ryzen 7, Intel Core i7, or Intel Core i9. These processors will enable you to unleash your creativity, and are perfect for 3D modelling, graphic design, and competitive gaming.

Memory (RAM)

  • 4GB RAM – Bare minimum for Windows and MacOS laptops
  • 8GB RAM – Good for web browsing and office work
  • 16GB RAM – Great for gaming and professional software
  • 32GB RAM – Perfect for hardcore gamers and enthusiasts

Graphics

Integrated Graphics

All modern laptops come with integrated graphics solution (iGPU), which shares system memory and processing power in order to deliver what you see on screen. Integrated graphics are great for everyday use, but aren’t ideal for gaming and content creation.

Dedicated Graphics

Laptops with dedicated graphics cards (dGPU) have their own graphics processing chip inside, and are much more powerful compared to laptops with integrated graphics. These solutions feature their own memory modules, and can offer up to 20x better performance. If you’re a gamer, getting a laptop with a dedicated graphics card is a must.

Storage

Hard Disk Drive Storage (HDD)

With classic hard disk drives you get plenty of storage space. Some of them can even store up to 3TB of data. However, HDDs are much slower than SSDs, and as such aren’t convenient for storing operating systems, games, and applications.

Solid State Drive Storage (SSD)

Solid state drive offer unprecedented data transfer speeds, but offer less space than hard disk drives, and are much more expensive. They also use less power, which helps increase laptop’s battery life. SSDs are also completely silent, and are not easy to break.

Visuals


Screen

Display Size

The screen size of a laptop is measured diagonally. Most laptops feature screens that measure 12″ to 17″ in size. Compact and ultra-portable laptops usually have 13″ screens, while gaming and workstation laptops have 17″ screens. Bigger screen also means more weight, so if you prefer having a lighter laptop, go with the one that features smaller screen. The ideal size for laptop screen is 15.6″.

Screen Resolution

Laptop screen contains millions of pixels that help create a picture. The more pixels the screen has, the larger resolution it supports. Most laptop screens nowadays come with native support for Full HD resolution, but some of them support even 4K resolution. Having a high-resolution screen means having sharper and clearer image, so don’t buy a laptop with a low-resolution screen if you strive for better image precision.

Connectivity

Most laptops come with at least one USB port. It can be used to connect memory sticks, mice, external hard drives or optical drives, etc. Compared to USB 2.0, the USB 3.0 offers much faster transfer speeds.

Some laptops feature USB Type-C port, which is an updated USB port. It is smaller, but it enables you to transfer data extremely fast, and allows insertion either side up.

Speaking of video connector, you shouldn’t buy a laptop without an HDMI port these days. The HDMI has become a gold standard for transmitting both audio and video signals, and it allows you to connect your laptop to a TV or a monitor.

Lastly, there is Thunderbolt. This is a high-end data transfer interface which allows you to achieve transfer rates of up to 40 Gbps. Thunderbolt also allows you to send video and audio signals, and as such is more convenient than both USB and HDMI.

How To Get Started


Setting things up

Purchasing a new laptop computer can be an exciting experience. However, before you really start using your computer, you’ll have to go through a lengthy process of installing an operating system, as well as installing the latest system updates. This can all be frustrating for unexperienced users. In order to help you set up your new laptop as quickly as possible, here is our checklist of essential things to do after you buy a new laptop.

Checklist

  • Install critical system updates
  • Check and calibrate your display screen
  • Install additional hardware (e.g. printer, camera)
  • Perform audio check
  • Check your keyboard and touchpad
  • Test your battery
  • Examine ports and connections
  • Install essential apps

FAQ


What laptop brand is the best?

In our opinion HP, ASUS and Lenovo make the best laptops on the market. However, other manufacturers also offer high-quality models that may offer better features and design for less money.

Do I need a touchscreen laptop?

If you plan to use your laptop as a tablet, then you should definitely get a laptop with a touchscreen display. Most Chromebooks feature touchscreen display, and feature a 2-in-1 convertible design which allows you to turn your laptop into a tablet.

Do I need an external graphics cards for my laptop?

It depends. If you already have a gaming laptop with its own dedicated graphics card, then you don’t need an external GPU. However, if you have a laptop with integrated graphics solution, but want to play the latest PC games, then buying an eGPU is worthwhile.

How to connect a laptop to TV?

If you are using wired connection, you can connect your laptop to a TV with an HDMI or DisplayPort cable. You can also use DVI-D, S-Video, or VGA cable to do the same. If you are trying to connect your laptop to a TV wirelessly, then be sure to check if your TV supports this kind of technology, and if you have appropriate software installed on your machine.

How much battery life does my laptop need?

This depends on a large variety of factors. For example, if you use your laptop for intense gaming or graphics design, then be sure to have a docking station, or access to a power outlet, as your battery will drain fast. If, however, you plan to use your laptop for simple office work and web browsing, then you can expect battery life of up to 10 hours on some models.

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About author
Before he joined ViCadia, Nicholas worked as a journalist for several tech magazines. Over the years he gained a lot of knowledge about computers. His main area of interest are processors, motherboards, and operating systems.
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