How to Choose the Right Laptop for Your Needs
The push towards doing everything from school to work to ordering food digitally was already in motion, even before the pandemic started. Now, however, having the means to work and study from home has gone from a luxury to an absolute necessity. This means that, for many of us, it’s time for a digital infrastructure overhaul.
Choosing a laptop, for yourself or your kids, should be priority one of that reconstruction. No longer can families get away with a single desktop computer off in a study somewhere. Every single person in the household needs a separate device.
Tips for Choosing a Laptop
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re searching for a new computer. With so many specs to decode, it might be hard to find the right fit. And, sadly, your sole guide through these rough waters might not be on your side.
Most of the larger electronics chains will claim their salespeople don’t work on commission. However, if you approach a worker pleading, “Help me choose a laptop!”, chances are, they’ll push you towards the model that will grant them the biggest paycheck bonus, without accounting for your needs or desires.
Shopping online helps you avoid this, but it also means you’re sailing blind through the sea of laptops available for sale. These tips should provide a waypoint:
Don’t Bust Your Budget
While your processing and storage needs should come into play (more on that below), we should face facts. For many of us, budget is the principal factor in deciding which laptop we buy. While you should consider stretching the budget in order to future-proof your laptop, don’t break it.
The best laptop in the world won’t be able to help you if you bankrupt yourself in the process. Fortunately, if you browse a computer manufacturer’s online store, you should find some decent bargains.
What Types of Laptop Are There?
Did you know that there are at least five different types of laptops you can choose from? You do now. Choosing a laptop type can be beyond difficult, especially with the glut of options available.
To simplify things, we’ve broken down the various types of laptop below:
While these machines are called “basic” laptops, they’re anything but. Depending on the specs, these machines can run anywhere from under $600 to over $1000 and can run a variety of tasks. (Granted, they won’t run them as well as a laptop designed and dedicated to that specific purpose.)
The reasoning behind the “basic” moniker? They don’t have special features like touchscreen, tablet conversion, a slim profile, or dedicated gaming specs. If you want something budget-friendly and don’t need anything special, this is your go-to.
Ultrabooks and Notebooks
Ultrabooks and notebooks, as far as body profiles are concerned, are virtually identical. Both focus on being thin, lightweight machines designed for maximum portability. Granted, ultrabooks can be a touch thinner than their notebook counterparts.
The biggest difference between the two? Their processing power.
Notebooks are notorious for being light on their processing capabilities. Ultrabooks, by contrast, offer highly efficient Solid State Drives (SSDs) and Intel-powered processors for maximum battery life and speed. However, because of this, they can be more expensive than most.
2-in-1s bridge the gap between tablets and laptops. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend, the specs for these machines can range from ‘tablet with a keyboard’ to ‘powerful and versatile all-rounders’.
You can get 2-in-1s in two different styles: detachable and convertible. Detachable, as the name suggests, offers you the option to remove the screen for use as a tablet. Convertible lets you fold the keyboard back to serve as a stand while you work with the laptop screen in tablet mode.
These computers tend to be more expensive and heavy than their counterparts, so keep that in mind.
Gaming has become a business in itself, and business is good. Whether you’re a consumer or a content creator, having a gaming laptop will let you experience the latest and greatest the industry has to offer.
These portable powerhouses have graphics cards and processors specifically designed for gaming purposes. The good news is that, since gaming tends to be a computing powerhouse, they’ll also run pretty much any other program you throw at them.
The drawback? Price point and weight. Gaming laptops are among the most expensive options on the market, and all that powerful hardware makes them hefty computers.
Once upon a time, businesspeople were limited to notebooks or basic laptops. No longer. Now, there are several laptops on the market optimized for business use.
These laptops are durable, have exceptional privacy protocols, and have extensive battery life. Those intended for audiovisual professionals may also have enhanced displays and sound drivers. Their only downfall is their price point, as these tend to be premium machines with premium specs and prices.
Decoding the Specs
Now that you know what types of laptops you can choose from, it’s time to get down to brass tacks. If you have an idea what type of laptop you want but get overwhelmed when looking at the sea of specifications, we’ve got your back.
We’ve cracked the code of the main specs you need to know about, and listed them below to help you in choosing a new laptop.
What OS should you choose?
OS, short for Operating System, refers to the framework on which your computer’s programming gets based. Currently, there are three major players in the OS field: Chrome OS, Windows, and Mac.
Which one you choose comes down mainly to personal preference, as there are a wealth of apps available for each of them. However, if you prize keeping all of your data in the same ecosystem, you should keep the following in mind:
- Windows tends to be the OS of choice for businesses
- Mac will let you sync files easily with your iPhone if you have one
- Chrome OS works similarly, but with Android phones in mind
Once you’ve decided on an OS, it’s time to move forward.
Don’t Get RAMed or Caught Low on Internal Storage
RAM and Internal Storage are two of the most important specs you’ll find on any laptop. RAM, short for Random Access Memory, determines how many tasks your computer can process at once without getting overwhelmed. Internal Storage determines how much data you can store on the computer before running out of space.
The RAM available for laptops starts at 4GB, which puts these machines on par with most mid-range to premium phones. However, it can run up to 128GB of RAM on top-tier laptops. Most basic users only need 4GB of RAM, but if you do something more intensive like gaming or video rendering, you’ll need at least 16GB.
As far as Internal Storage goes, you have two major options: HDD or SSD.
An HDD, or old-school hard drive, offers you a disk drive and uses spinning disks to power its internal storage. Machines with HDDs can give you more storage for less money. However, they’re slower and more prone to breaking than their SSD counterparts.
SSDs, or Solid State Drives, do away with a disk drive, allowing for faster load times at the expense of a higher price point for less storage. SSDs can range from 64GB of internal storage (less than most premium phones nowadays) to 2TB, depending on how much you’re willing to spend.
RAM may help determine how well you can multitask, but your processor determines how well those tasks can run, if at all. Most Windows, Chrome OS, and older Mac machines come with an Intel or AMD processor onboard. However, the latest releases from Mac have their own proprietary M1 chip, which offers extensive battery life.
It’s up to you to determine how much processing power you need for your work or play.
Behind the Body Design
The body of a laptop is for more than just show. Granted, we all get suckered into buying something for its esthetic value from time to time. But a laptop’s body also decides its display size, the number of ports, webcam, weight, and feel. These things are all important to consider when choosing a laptop.
Overwhelmed? Let’s Recap
Choosing a laptop that’s best suited for your needs and budget can be a tricky process. You have to decide what type of laptop you want, then dive deep into the ocean of specs to figure out what will work best for you. However, with the tips mentioned above as a guide, you can navigate those waters with confidence, and know that you have the perfect machine for your purposes.
If you enjoyed this handy how-to on choosing a new laptop and would like to read more articles like this one, check out the tech section of our blog each day for more content like this!