Laptops used to come with a price tag on them that would push customers towards mainstream desktop computers. Over the past few years however, the desktop’s cost advantage has all but vanished, making a laptop the overwhelming favorite if you have limited desk space or just think you have even the slightest chance you might use your computer on the go.
At the same time, technological advances have brought about laptops that are smaller, faster, lighter, and easier to use. Laptops are no longer limited to traveling businessmen and have become a common at schools and at home. You can replace your desktop with a laptop, use it to watch movies in bed, or take it the road to do homework at a friend’s house or on the train.
The sheer amount of choices when it comes to buying a laptop can be a little staggering, luckily, It’s difficult to buy a truly terrible laptop these days; and as long as you avoid anything still called a “netbook,” you’ll probably get something that actually works. But you can do better than just ‘not terrible’ as long as you know what you’re looking for.
Armed with a little bit of knowledge though, you make your purchase with confidence. Picking the right laptop means finding exactly the things you want, and knowing what you’re willing to sacrifice to get there. Laptops are all about trade-offs, and making the right ones is key.
That’s what this guide is here for. It’s not designed to steer you toward a particular laptop, as things change too quickly for that anyway, and what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. We’re here to help you make the right decision for you.
Determin Your Needs
The first and foremost thing you need to do, is to consider your unique need. Think about what you’ll be using your laptop for. Since laptops have such a wide variety of uses, this will help to focus and find out what you actually need.
If you plan on mainly browsing the web and writing emails, you’ll have a lot different needs than if you want to play games on the go or use it to listen to music or watch movies.
I Want to Surf the Web at Home
Even if you’ll only ever surf the web, write emails, and perhaps use your laptop for the occasional Excel spreadsheet or Word document, setting a minimum quality standard for your computer ensures it will do those things reliably and painlessly for years to come.
The key here is finding a computer that’s inexpensive without being cheap. Determining one from the other is easy, too: Does the laptop seem like a quality piece of hardware, or a cheap heap of junk? Could you see yourself hauling around this chassis, and using this keyboard and this touchpad for several years? The materials and parts are less important than the assembly and design and these also hint at the quality of the components and circuitry inside the machine.
I Want to Travel
Portability is your best friend, but it’s not your only requirement from a laptop that you’ll use on the go.Look beyond size and weight, because many of the usual comforts are often sacrificed in order to create an ultra-portable computer.
Keyboards can be painfully shallow on thin computers, so spend some time typing if you choose to get it at a store, and if you get the computer online read reviews about the keyboard design. The size of your laptop’s keyboard will depend on the screen size you choose. If you seek the portability of a small screen, you probably won’t have a full-sized keyboard. Small keyboards are tough to begin with if you have big hands or big fingers, but they’ll also be missing some of the shortcut keys you might be used to. Another thing to note is the Trackpad, which provides the functionality that mice provide for desktops, are made of various materials and have a wide spectrum of capabilities depending on the manufacturer and model.
Manufacturers will usually list a notebook’s expected battery life; you should assume that a notebook will only last around 70 percent of the manufacturer’s claim. This isn’t always the case but it’s a good rule to follow. The best laptops will offer a battery life of close to 10 hours. This can enable students to use their laptop throughout the day without ever having to plug it in. A longer battery life can also be very useful to work at coffee shops, or watch movies on long car rides and plane trips. With most laptops, you can also purchase a second battery to extend your computer’s battery life.
Consider your durability needs. Decide on whether you’d prefer a metal or plastic exterior. Nowadays the choice of casing is mostly an issue of personal preference, as the weight of each outer-casing is fairly similar, with well-made metallic laptops being no heavier than plastic ones. In terms of durability, metallic casing is probably best for a laptop liable to get knocked around a bit.
I Want to Watch Movies
Sometimes a laptop is more than just a laptop. It can also serve as the center of your digital entertainment life, melding your TV, stereo, and media players into one machine. A high-resolution widescreen display is a must, but remember that not all screens were created equal, and even screens with the same amount of pixels can be different from one another.
A popular resolution for wide screens is 1280×800, and larger laptops can feature screens with 1600×1200 and more. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in front of the computer, a higher resolution may be worth the extra money. It won’t be as harsh on your eyes and will make for a much more pleasant viewing experience.
Make sure to read reviews not only about brightness, but also about viewing angles, as well as colours, glare and the deepness of the colour black. An LED screen is a great new feature for your laptop. LED lighting technology offers a better picture, is more durable, and consumes less power. LED screens provide a larger spectrum of colors, and produce a greater degree of detail in dark areas.
When it comes to sound, even the best laptops won’t beat a decent set of external speakers, but some notebooks definitely sound better than others. Built-in subwoofers are generally a good thing, but don’t be distracted by meaningless branding as that does not guarantee good audio performance. Generally, the best quality speakers run along the sides or the top of the notebook and will face slightly toward you.
I Want to Play Games
While every laptop can be used to play games, the question is how well, and the answer relies on balancing four different components: the graphics chip, the processor, the screen, and the amount of power and cooling in the laptop.
The higher the resolution of your screen, the more detail you can see in a game. That’s why you’ll almost certainly want to look for at least a 1080p screen, though like with laptops that are dedicated to watching movies, you should probably aim much higher.
Check the graphics capabilities. If you are playing games, check the graphics memory. You should have a graphics card with discrete video memory for 3D games, though this is not necessary for most casual games. A discrete graphics card will consume more battery power as well.
The problem with gaming laptops is that your requirements tend to snowball: The more powerful the graphics chip you buy, the more powerful the processor you’ll want. If you’re buying Intel, look for the Core i3 and i5 CPUs, If you are buying AMD, look for the A6 or A8. And of course, once you stick a powerful processor and a powerful graphics chip into a computer, the laptop will need plenty of cooling and plenty of power to actually run those components at full tilt. You need all four parts right, or you’re going to have an a difficult time getting your games to run.
Consider a desktop replacement laptop. These have a screen size of 17’-20’ and are are larger and heavier than the average laptop. They also have full features, and tend to be bound for the desk rather than being lugged around in your backpack. While not as portable as regular laptops, they’re still very mobile when needed and the added weight when carrying it isn’t really a big issue for many people.
Laptops are so much more accessible than they were just a few years ago, and the technology keeps improving while prices fall further. For just a few hundred dollars, you can purchase a small, light, and powerful computer. The only thing you need in order to do that, is just a bit of knowledge, that we hope we managed to provide you with.
To give you some ideas, here are some of the current best laptops of 2016:
The Stuccu Team