There is a difference between choosing the right vs the best laptop. Finding the right laptop for your requirements is a bit frustrating and it’s more about understanding your needs than technicals. Laptops are often designed for different purposes with different lifestyles of people in mind. Often choosing the right laptop gives you the best user experience and value for money than choosing a most powerful laptop.
“Your priorities when buying a laptop are largely going to be based on your reason for owning one. The specs on a gaming laptop will look a lot different than the specs on a laptop that’s designed just for college coursework, for example,” suggests Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review.
How to find the right laptop? A powerful processor, Graphics card, and huge amount of RAM are enough? What are the other important factors to look for while buying a laptop?
Well, it depends on what you do, how you gonna use it, and what software you want to run on it?
With this guide, we hope to usher you in the gigantic world of laptops. In each of the following sections, we discuss every vital component of a laptop simply so you can make prudent choices whether you are a first-time buyer, or one looking for an upgrade.
Laptop buying checklist: What are crucial features/specifications to look for while buying a laptop?
In the first place, you need to figure out which software you need the most and which operating system works best with it. This helps you understand which hardware you need, and all in all, you get an idea of the operating system you are looking for. There are four options for you:
Though this genius Operating System is not subjected to more press these days, however, it’s the most accurate choice if your work revolves around MS Office, Access, or Outlook. Also, windows offer the largest number of options to choose from than any other operating system. Is your Windows 10 PC running slow? find out how to speed up.
If you are a new entrant in the world of laptops, a MacBook might be a pragmatic choice for you due to its more beginner-friendly features as compared to Windows. However, a vital consideration here is that like every apple product, the MacBook is strongly gripped with the company’s hardware. If you do not own an iPhone or an iPad, your available options are strictly restricted then.
Also, Apple macOS is not made for touchscreen interface so you won’t find a mac with a touchscreen feature. If you are planning for one, you have no option other than a Windows 10 laptop.
Chromebooks are a considerable option if most of the work you ought to do can be done in a web browser. These are the cheapest variety of laptops available, so you can surely consider these if you are low on budget. However, apps like Adobe’s Creative Suite or Microsoft Office will not run on these. Though you can run Android apps natively on Chromebook, they don’t run impeccably compared to desktop platforms.
You can install Linux practically on any laptop hardware available. As Linux is an open-source platform, it won’t support most of the third-party proprietary software applications you need. But, it has a wide range of open-source alternatives for them such as LibreOffice, GIMP – a replacement for Adobe Photoshop, and Darktable – a replacement for Adobe Lightroom.
Note: Linux is not that good enough on the GUI (graphical user interface) side, the user requires an advanced level of knowledge to set up and get things done.
AMD and Intel are the two major chip manufacturers for almost every laptop that available in the market today. These two manufacturers have different reputations for making chips with different strengths and capabilities. All you have to choose the perfect one for your need so you can never get lagging at your profession/work on a shortage of computing power.
The Core series (core i3, i5, i7, and i9) processors are the main Intel processors. While the Core i9 is the most powerful, the Core i3 is the least powerful of the lot. Each of these chip lines comes with a cryptic chain of numbers and letters to give you more details about the capabilities and the year the chip was launched.
Let’s break down one of these names to understand it better.
On a typical laptop website, the processor will be mentioned as Intel Core i5-10510U. Here, the initial number 10 is referred to as its generation. In this case, the processor is the 10th Generation. Likewise, if the first number is 9, it is a year or so older and refers to the 9th Generation chip. The next preceding numbers are connected with the performance of the chip. The higher the numbers, the more powerful the chip; however, this applies only to the chips of the same line. In other words, Core i5-10510U is more powerful than the i5-10210U but comparatively less powerful than the i7-10350U. In our example ‘ U,’ the letter at the end of this designation implies the chips’ purpose. Letters Y, U, and H are used for the laptops.
The Y chips are optimized for longer battery life, so if you are required to stay away from the plug for a longer time, this processor might be the one for you. Keep in mind, though, that extra battery life comes at the expense of performance. On the other hand, H chips are designed for performance, and U chips are power-saving but not as capable as the Y chip.
Like the Intel one, let’s start deciphering the chip names first. In AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, 3 refers to the generation next digits indicate the performance levels that get out of it. The higher numbers indicate the high-powered chips and the last alphabet X, in this case, refers to high-performance. The other letter used in AMD designation is U which stands for ‘ultra’ which is lite on the battery and less powerful.
Like Intel and AMD, Apple also making its own processors called M1 chip, based on open-sourced ARM architecture for its Macbooks. These M1 processors claimed to produce higher performance than the equivalent rival products on the Geekbench with lesser power consumption. Apple’s boasting its MacBook pro with an M1 chip can last longer times up to 20 hours on a full charge. But, these M1 processor chips are limited to Apple products only.
Which CPU/Processor is Right for You?
In general specifications, both the Intel and the AMD processors perform on akin lines; however, when it comes to benchmark features such as Graphic Performance, this is the part where there is a noticeable difference.
If you want a laptop with higher graphic performance, say for editing high-resolution videos and/or streaming or playing intensive games, AMD processors are any day better than the Intel ones. Though Intel’s off-late series has diminished this gap significantly, yet AMD continues to have an upper hand in this parameter.
For video gamers, AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors have proved to give a better overall gaming experience. AMD Ryzen 7 5800H, Ryzen 9 5900HS processors are the best choice for intense gameing. If you are on a budget Ryzen 4000 series is a good option for you or equivalent Intel’s Core i7, i9 10th gen or later versions are best suitable.
For professionals and engineers who need to deal with intense software applications, video editing (content creators and YouTubers), or work with a gigantic database, you require powerful processors than others. An Intel Core i7 or Ryzen 7 is the best choice for you.
Lastly, for the students or an average day-to-day user need a laptop for basic tasks such as running web browsers, Microsoft Office, Photoshop, and some other least demanding tasks, an Intel’s Core i3/i5 (10th or later generations) or AMD’s Ryzen 3/5 (4000 series) chips are works just fine and get the job done.
RAM (Random Access Memory)
RAM is used by your laptop to hold the data while the processor processes it. Thus, the more RAM, the more applications can be run at a time. In general words, you can consider RAM as your working desk, and your desk should hold everything you are working on right now. Similarly, if your RAM is small and it runs out of space, you will not be able to open new applications. Further, your laptop will freeze, and you have to restart it then.
“I look for a laptop that has both speed and versatility. This is where all the RAMs come in. The higher, the better for me” says Mike Dragan, COO of Stream.Live.
An average Windows user can do with 8GB of RAM, while an upgrade to 16GB will enhance the performance of your laptop. On the other hand, for developing, video gaming, and visual content creation, 16GB or more RAM is recommended.
Note: DDR refers to Double Data Rate, DDR4 is faster and DDR3 is older and uncommon these days. However, the websites do come with a DDR3 price tag as well, so you can check it once before the purchase.
“I always look for an SSD in a laptop, as it is reliable and improves battery backup. A minimum of 256GB SSD for the operating system and other software, so it can have a quicker boot time and lag-free performance” says Sebastian Schaeffer, CTO of dofollow.io.
Hard disk doesn’t directly involve computing/processing, but it does affect the performance of your computer. As all the data is stored on a hard disk, this storage device’s read/write speed and latency will impact the processing performance. Especially for graphic designers, video editors, and those who work with large databases, it will take to a large amount of time to execute the commands or task completion.
SSD or a Solid-State Drive is the most common option used lately, however, some inexpensive laptops still use spinning hard disk drives. If your budget permits, go for an SSD drive as it transfers data much faster than a mechanical hard disk, specifically if it uses an NVMe interface, and is quicker than the archaic SATA. Some laptops come with an SSD drive with an NVMe connection as well as a SATA drive which fuses the best of both the drives – the faster speed at a pocket-friendly price.
The form factor means the size, shape, and physical specifications of an electronic gadget. A laptop’s form factor has a significant impact on your user experience depending upon what do you do and how you gonna use your laptop.
“Smaller form factors are generally recommendable as they are easily portable and can be carried to multiple job sites without much effort. They also are travel-friendly owing to their compact size” Veronica Miller, cybersecurity expert of VPNoverview.
Clamshell and 2-in-1/convertible are the two main form factors for a laptop computer. The Clamshell model is a portable version for desktop computers, while the convertibles have a 2-in-1 functionality that can be twisted to 360° degrees to switch between laptop and tablet modes when required.
Choosing the right form factor is subjective to your profession and lifestyle. If you are a digital artist, a digital entrepreneur with a nomadic lifestyle or you want to manage your work while on the go convertibles are the best, precisely the right choice for you.
Unless maybe you just spending hard-earned money on unnecessary things. Instead of opting for a 2-in-1 laptop, you can invest in a more powerful processor or more ram which will give a hassle-free performance on your growing workloads.
Traditional clamshells are also available in slimmer, lighter forms with a business class laptop lineup. Also, business laptops are known for their high build quality, premium OLED display, extra hours of battery backup, premium metal body, look & feel.
Frankly, if you are planning to buy a regular clamshell laptop, investing in a touchscreen one is may not the best of decisions, and you will end up getting less battery life. On the other hand, in 2-in-1 laptops, touchscreen comes as a standard feature.
However, if your work revolves around art, and you need a laptop for sketching or doodling, touchscreen laptops (2-in-1) are an apt choice for you for those extra bucks. For everyone else, it just may be a premium feature, and we recommend you spend your money wisely.
Note: If you are an Apple fan, unfortunately, you won’t find a Mac with a touchscreen, as macOS doesn’t support the touch interface.
The regular LCD panels are often considered for budget-friendly laptops while the IPS and OLED panels are popular in high-end gaming laptops. Normal LCD panels produce a very poor quality picture overall, while the IPS/OLED panels offer a higher refresh rate, viewing angles, mediocre accuracy, and natural color reproduction, and the high-end quality comes with expensive price tags.
IPS panels are a good option for media consumption and content creation as it offers enhanced viewing angles, accuracy and color reproduction. An average gamer can use these as it offers a good gameplay experience. But for hardcore video gamers OLED panels are an apt choice for their responsiveness and higher refresh rates.
OLED has all the positives of an IPS panel but comes with negatives such as display burn-ins and degrading over time. Also, IPS panels are a bit less expensive than OLED ones.
“It is not just about the type of display, “the screen resolution plays a vital role in overall picture quality. Also, the more pixels mean the more workspace you get” says Remco Bravenboer, CEO at Laptoid.nl. Most budget laptops still offer a 1366 x 768 res as standard, but the ideal screen res for any user is 1920 x 1080 also termed as full HD or 1080p.
In short, there is no best panel in general, and your needs and budget decide which panel is the best one for you.
Every laptop comes with a graphics card that is usually mounted into the motherboard with the processor. This approach is termed integrated graphics and works well for watching HD movies and playing casual games. In contrast, if you are a professional gamer or do high-resolution video editing or 3D modeling and rendering, you will need a separate and extra powerful graphics card. Nvidia and AMD make most of the graphics cards used in laptops.
A majority of Intel-based laptops are coupled with Nvidia graphics cards in the GeForce line. These are available in GTX and RTX ranges, 3000 series are the high-end graphics chips, while the 2000 series are mid-range chips. But most budget-friendly laptops equipped with MX series cards which are power-saver and laptop-friendly alternate to Nvidia’s desktop cards. Though these cards are weaker than the desktop ones, they still get the gaming and the video editing jobs properly done.
AMD’S Graphics cards are called Radeon and range from the Vega and RX cards to the R-Series cards that resonate with the Ryzen naming pattern. The Radeon R9 is the fastest and the most powerful, followed by the Radeon R7 series, and then the Radeon 5 series.
Availability of Physical Ports
Physical ports are the least considered for most people but could create a serious problem when got shortage on a port while connecting other devices/peripherals. Understand what other devices you need to plugin into your computer and what types of interfaces/physical ports they support, and look for them.
“You need at least two USB ports with one USB 3.0 and one fast-charging port, one USB Type-C port, HDMI port, one LAN port, 3.5mm headphones out, and microphone in ports. If you are a photographer and always need to download photographs from your camera, opt for a laptop that comes with an SD or a MicroSD card reader, or else you will always have to carry a dongle” suggests Thilo Huellmann, CTO at Levity.ai.
If you are opting for a bulky notebook or a gaming rig that will always be on a table next to the power socket, you need not worry about the battery of the device. However, if you are someone who will have the laptop majorly on your lap while working, you require a minimum of 7 hours of endurance, and 8+ hours is an ideal pick. To get a correct understanding of the battery life of a laptop rather than completely trusting the manufacturer websites’ specs on this behalf, read the third-party reviews for an accurate answer.
Note: Apple claiming that its new MacBook pro with M1 chips can last longer times up to 20 hours.
It might seem like an unimportant factor to consider if your laptop is going to be on a desk for the majority of your working hours. However, if you are someone who needs to travel regularly with your laptop on your shoulders, the weight of the device is an essential consideration. Generally, the screen size determines the weight of the laptop. However, the modern-day laptop is portable and lightweight, and even the laptops with big screens are getting lighter in weight.
Unlike desktop PCs, laptops do not come with that many updates. However, many aspects of a laptop can be enhanced with these regularly available updates. Almost all the laptops let the users upgrade the memory system and hard drives. Choosing a laptop that allows upgrades is essential for a smooth user experience, as the newer operation does not work impeccably with older systems.
Mind Your Brand
The brand that makes your laptop defines the goodness of your laptop. Impeccably and timely support is an essential part to consider while investing in any laptop. This is just one part of the aspect, you also need to consider how your brands rack it’ counterparts in terms of selection, value, design, performance, and other essentials.
Pay for the right laptop, not for the best one.
“Finding the right laptop is not about choosing the best-specced one. It is all about understanding your need and spends money on the right things” says Chris Nutbeen, Founder & CEO of Nuttifox.
In contemporary days, the laptop is a must-have whether you are a student or a professional. You can get a laptop at as low as $200, and as you raise your budget, you get enhanced performance and better quality.
Many people are updating from the traditional clamshell laptops to convertible ones just for the sake of an upgrade. Moreover, touchscreens on the convertibles cost comparatively higher than their traditional screen counterparts with the same features. Instead, you can spend that money on a better processor or for some extra RAM so you can always be ready for a growing workload.
Best Gaming Laptops:
Here’s the list of the top 10 gaming Laptops recommended by our experts. Find the complete details in our dedicated article here.
If you are a hardcore video gamer, you will definitely love these pro accessories for intense gamers.
In conclusion, while considering and analyzing all these parameters, be as specific as you can regarding your requirements to grab the best deal.
Ultimately, you have to choose a laptop that suits your needs. Make a list of what you want to do with your laptop and the programs you need to run, then lookup for the best configuration for your requirements so you at least have a couple of years of functionality. Ideally, shoot for a laptop that will last you 5 years.