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Buying a new laptop is a big decision. Here are some tips.
fter going to the local computer store and seeing the wide selection, it's normal to be confused. Here are some savvy tips I've gathered throughout my laptop buying journey.
There are many things to look out for in a new laptop. For example:
Before you look at specs or pricing, you need to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:
11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh 2.5 to 3.5 pounds.
13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability, particularly if you get a laptop that weighs under 4 pounds.
15 to 16 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops usually weigh 4 to 5.5 pounds. Consider this size if you want a larger screen and you're not planning to carry your notebook around often. Laptops with 16-inch displays are rare but Apple might get the trend started with its 16-inch MacBook Pro.
17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day every day, a 17- or 18-inch system could provide you with the kind of processing power you need to play high-end games or do workstation-level productivity.
"Not all Laptops are made equal.”
The "brains" of your computer, the processor has a huge influence on performance, but depending on what you want to do, even the least-expensive model may be good enough.
#1 - Intel 10th Gen CPUs are the latest model as of 2020.
#2 - Intel Core i5: If you're looking for a mainstream laptop with the best combination of price and performance, get one with an Intel Core i5 CPU. Models that end in U (ex: Core i5-7200U) are the most common. Those with the a Y in the name are low power and have worse performance while models with an HQ use more wattage and appear in thicker gaming and workstation systems.
#3 - AMD Ryzen 4000: A new set of chips that are designed to compete with Intel Core i5 and Core i7.
Even more important than the speed of your CPU is the performance of your storage drive. If you can afford it and don't need a ton of internal storage, get a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive, because you'll see at least three times the speed and a much faster laptop overall.
Graphics Chip: If you're not playing PC games, creating 3D objects or doing high-res video editing, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be fine, especially Intel's latest Iris Plus graphics. If you have any of the above needs, though, a discrete graphics processor from AMD or Nvidia is essential.
Buy based on your budget
$150 to $250: The least-expensive notebooks are either Chromebooks, which run Google's browser-centric OS, or low-end Windows systems with minimal storage and slower processors, such as the HP Stream 11 and the Dell Inspiron 11 3000. Use these as secondary computers only or give them to the kids.
$350 to $600: For well under $600, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD A8 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive, all respectable specs. However, at this price, most notebooks don't have an SSD, a full-HD display or long battery life. There are a few notable exceptions, such as the Acer Aspire E 15 and Asus Chromebook Flip C434.
$600 to $900: As you get above $600, you'll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also start to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including higher-resolution displays and SSDs. The Lenovo IdeaPad 530s and Asus ZenBook UX333FA are great examples of laptops that offer all these perks for less.
Above $900: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. Expect higher-resolution screens, faster processors and possibly discrete graphics. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables, like the Apple MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13, tend to cost more than $1,000 (although you can get the Dell for less if you don't opt for a touch screen). High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations usually cost upward of $1,500 or even as much as $2,500 or $3,000.
Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Some of the top companies for this year were HP which placed first, followed by Asus and Dell.
- 12.5 to 14-inch screens offer the best balance between usability and portability. Larger screens are fine if you don't travel much and smaller models are great for kids.
- If you're spending over $600, shoot for these minimum specs: Core i5 CPU 1920 x 1080 screen 8GB of RAM SSD Storage instead of a hard drive.
- 8+ hours of battery life is ideal if you plan to take your laptop anywhere at all.
- Consider a 2-in-1 laptop (either a bendback or detachable) if you want to use your laptop as a tablet. If not, a standard clamshell notebook may be a better choice.