In this digital world, laptops have become an essential tool for everyone, be it a student or a professional. But, as plenty of models available in the market with alluring features, purchasing a laptop that fulfills your requirements becomes a tough task. This laptop buying guide aims at helping you to choose the best laptop as per your needs.
How to choose the best laptop
Different people have different requirements. Some prefer spending more on the latest features, whereas some compromise with the features and prefer durable hardware. Thus, the laptop purchasing process, to a great extent, relies upon the individual needs and budget.
Selecting a laptop brand is even a confusing task as all top brands such as Apple, Dell, HP, etc. keep evolving their laptop’s design and features to attract maximum customers. Dell and HP are the most trusted brands for mid-range laptops. Dell’s Inspiron series and HP’s Envy series received great feedback from the customers and have a long success story.
So, do you know which laptop best suits your requirements? No idea? This guide will help you acquaint yourself with the knowledge to settle for the best laptop.
Purpose of getting a new laptop
The pace of technology change is so intense that new laptops incorporated with the latest technologies jump into the market almost every month. Thus, the first big thing to consider while purchasing a new laptop is to understand your purpose behind it. This can be classified into three sub-groups based on work purpose.
Normal or light useFor surfing the internet, sending emails, general documents editing and office suite, watching movies, streaming videos.
Medium or moderate useResearch work, editing videos, basic gaming, light programming, content writing, basic multi-tasking etc.
Heavy or rigorous useIncludes creative working, 3-D modelling and high graphics gaming, running hefty software like AUTOCAD or MATLAB, and intense programming.
So, understanding your work purpose will help you settle for the best laptop from the wide available range.
Things to consider while buying a new laptop
There are dozens of manufacturers having multiple models available in the market. Choosing a right laptop depends on a number of factors. The essential factors are listed below.
1. Laptop Type
Nowadays you can buy a regular laptop, a thin and light weight Ultrabook, a 2-in-1 laptop with touch screen or a MacBook.
Regular LaptopRegular clamshell laptops are cheaper and have better performance. Until and unless you want to use your laptop as a tablet, this is preferred.
UltrabookUltrabooks are very thin and lightweight. They are very easy to carry. This is preferred for kids, students and travelers. These are introduced to compete with high end smartphones and tablets.
2-in-1 LaptopIf you travel a lot and want to use your laptop as a tablet then you can consider a 2-in-1 laptop with touch-screen. It is available in 2 configurations. Completely detachable screen and a 360 degree fold. You can use your finger or a stylus to operate the laptop in tablet mode. These laptops mostly come with Windows installed.
MacBookApple has 2 laptop product lines, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. MacBook is known for its amazing UI and ease of use. MacBooks have amazing display and sound quality. MacBook comes with Apple’s IOS installed.
This is the most significant part of the laptop. As the brain is the most important part of the human body, likewise processor behaves like the brain of the laptop. There is a wide range of processors available at different prices. Understanding the purpose behind purchasing a laptop makes the processor selection an easier task. Here is a list of top processors based on usage type.
Intel Core i7It is one of the fastest microprocessors designed by Intel. It takes gaming and multitasking to another level. It is suitable for heavy usage laptops.
Intel Core i5People looking for a reasonable laptop with medium usage can choose i5 processor. Prefer to select the U type i5 processor as Y type has a low performance.
Intel Core i3Anyone purchasing a laptop for normal usage like surfing and watching movies can go for i3. Its productivity and performance are lesser than i5.
AMD Ryzen 7This processor tries to match the speed of i5 and i7 processor. Although AMD has a lesser success story when compared to Intel, but Ryzen is expected to give a tough competition to i5 and i7 in the coming days.
AMD AthlonAthlon is cheaper than Ryzen and can be used for normal usage. This processor loses few points on the performance side. However, if you have extra budget then it is better to go for Ryzen. But this still does the job well!
3. Display type and size
Currently there are 3 popular laptop display panel technologies available in the market. All these technologies have their own pros and cons.
IPSIPS is a short form for in-plane switching. These displays offer best color experience and viewing angles. The resulting image and picture quality is best as compared to other popular types of display screens. However IPS displays are very costly.
TNTN is a short form for Twisted Nematic. TN displays have very fast refresh rates and are preferred for gaming laptops.
VAVA is short form for Vertical Alignment. They offer best of both worlds. They offer medium picture quality and refresh rates. They are also moderately costly.
Display size is the main factor that decides whether your laptop will be portable or not. Smaller laptops are handy and can be carried much easier when compared to larger ones. A travelling businessman will prefer small screen size. Where as a software engineer will prefer bigger screen size so that multiple windows can be opened side-by-side.
The size of the most slender and least weighted laptop ranges from 11 to 12 inches, weighing 1 to 1.5 kg roughly. 13-14 inches laptops are considered to be the best regarding portability. Laptops with 15-inch display screen are the most common ones, however, they are a little difficult to carry along. Next comes 17-18 inch display size, which is preferred for a fixed setup at home or office.
4. Display Resolution
Display resolution is expressed in horizontal and vertical pixel counts. It decides the clarity of the image presented on your screen. More the number of pixels, the sharper and clearer will be the visual experience.
HD or HD Ready1280*720 pixels is a cost-efficient display which is adequate for watching movies and document editing. This comes with lower range laptops.
Full HD1920*1080 pixels has a much sharper and clearer visual experience than HD screen, almost double the clarity. Although it is expensive than HD screen but offers a great experience with high graphic games and HD movies.
Ultra HD4K or 3840*2160 pixels provides 4 times the clarity of a Full HD screen. This is best for editing high-resolution photos or videos or intense graphic games. In case there is no budget issue, a 4K screen is recommended for an unmatched visual experience. Photographers and video artists need this kind of screen resolution.
Random Access Memory or RAM is straightforwardly related to the speed of your laptop. Thus, you should give great consideration to RAM before settling on any choice. DDR3 and DDR4 are the two different types of RAM available in the market. I would personally recommend DDR4 RAM over DDR3 RAM as it is faster and consumes less power. DDR3 RAMs are cheaper but are slower and older versions that are outdated now.
A laptop with 2 GB RAM would have low performance and speed when compared with 4 GB and above. Choosing RAM for your laptop relies to a great extent upon the purpose of purchase.
4GB RAMThese are best suited for normal usage like surfing, editing, content writing, watching movies, basic gaming, multi-tasking, etc.
8GB RAMIf you want a laptop for heavy programming, gaming, or graphic designing purpose, then you must go for 8GB RAM.
16GB RAMThese RAMSs would cost a bit high, but if you plan on using high-end software like AUTOCAD, MATLAB, as well as hefty games, then you must consider 16GB RAM.
6. Internal Storage
Internal storage also contributes to the speed of a laptop to some extent. It is the place where the operating system and other software are installed. All your documents, pictures, movies, and apps are stored here.
Usually, internal storage is of three types: HDD (Hard disk drive), SSD (Solid-State Drive), and SSHD (Solid-State Hard Drive). SSD is commonly preferred among all because of its faster speed and better performance. SSHD is a combination of HDD and SSD that provides a balance between high speed and more storage at the same time. To experience high-class speed and productivity with SSD, you will have to invest a little more.
7. Battery Life
Battery life is the most important aspect of the laptop. 5 to 8 hours of battery life is a must during travel. However, there is a trade-off between battery life and battery weight. Bigger the battery more the battery life. But with that laptop weight also increases significantly.
8. Laptop ports – USB 3.0, HDMI, Ethernet
Laptops are generally provided with popular ports including multiple USB ports. Newer laptops are included with at least one USB 3.0 port. USB 3.0 port is much faster than older USB 2.0 ports. You might need to attach external devices like wireless mouse, charger, digital camera, pen drive or any other device to your laptop. In that case having multiple USB ports is an advantage. Apart from USB ports, laptops also have HDMI, VGA, ThunderBolt and Ethernet port.
9. Build Quality
Be it travel or office, you need to carry your laptop at multiple places. It is likely that the laptop will be thrown and need to take a beating occasionally. To survive this, laptop must have solid build quality. It should not break in the first test at least. Keyboard quality and ergonomics like space between keys is also an important factor.
10. Graphics Card
Laptops can have integrated or dedicated graphics cards. For basic needs integrated graphics card is sufficient. But for playing computer games having high end graphics or 3D modeling etc dedicated graphics card from vendors like Nvidia is needed.
11. Operating System
OS is the heart of a laptop that handles all the operations of the system. The most commonly used OS is Windows and MAC whereas Chrome OS, Linux, and MS-DOS are also available. Most of the people have a common question in mind before purchasing a laptop i.e. which OS to consider, MAC or Windows? Well, this depends on your work purpose.
MAC OSAll laptops designed by Apple come with the MAC OS. This OS provides the best working experience to its users and has a long life. It is best suited for high-end programming and IT professionals.
WindowsIndeed the most common OS which you will find on every laptop. This OS has a user-friendly interface which provides a smooth functioning and performance to its users. Editing and professional gaming are usually carried out on Windows.
UbuntuUbuntu is an open source, Linux based operating system. User is not charged for this OS. Ubuntu is also very robust and less vulnerable to virus and malware programs. It is ideal for programmers.
Choosing the right laptop without any knowledge is indeed a difficult task. A person needs to plan things according to the budget and requirements to get the perfect one home. Reading guides before making a stride makes you mindful of those things which were not in your considerations previously, and acquaint you with the knowledge to settle for the laptop that best suits your requirements.
12. Laptop brand
Apart from individual components like processor, RAM, hard disk etc. overall build quality and after sales service and support quality also matters a lot. If you ran into some issues with the laptop your vendor should be able to fix those in a timely manner. That is why big brands focus much more on the after sales service also. Below is the data about market share for various laptop brands.
13. Special requirements
Sometimes you may have some special requirements in addition to the basics. For example, if you are working on some classified defense projects then you might want to have extra security for your laptop. You may need to have biometric fingerprint reader for extra security. If the laptop is stolen then you might want to delete all the data automatically or at least notify the laptop geo location on email. For such requirements you may need to purchase extra software.
In a nutshell, you should consider following points before finalizing the laptop model.
- Identify the usage of the laptop whether normal, medium or heavy use
- Make a list of software that you are going to use on day to day basis. This will help to identify what kind of laptop configuration you need
- Decide on the laptop type – Regular, Chromebook, 2-in-1 touchscreen or MacBook
- Choose the processor according to your planned usage. Choose slightly higher configuration than required.
- Decide on display type – HD ready, full HD or 4K
- Choose display size – 12 inches, 14 inches or 16 inches
- Finalize RAM size – 4 GB, 8 GB or 16 GB
- Choose permanent storage – Hard disk or SSD
- Check how much battery life is needed for your daily work
- Finalize if you want a dedicated graphics card or not
- Choose which operating system you need – Windows, MacOS or Ubuntu
- Check if you need biometric fingerprint scanner
- Before placing order online, first visit a nearby laptop shop and physically check the laptop model if possible