A laptop has become a necessity in life today. It is true that you have tablets and smartphones to access the internet, but these devices have their limitations.
Choosing the best laptop can be a confusing affair. A lot of factors go into deciding the ideal laptop.
You have many choices available on the market. Matters can get confusing at times. This comprehensive buying guide proposes to make your job easy.
If you have any queries regarding Laptop selection, post them in the comments section, and I’ll answer ASAP.
Laptop Buying Guide
We shall discuss the various aspects that you should look into while purchasing the laptop for your use. Let us start by examining how you propose to use your laptop.
You are a light user if you use the laptop for elementary operations like browsing the web, check out emails, pay bills, and interact on social media. You do not need a laptop with advanced configurations. Streaming video content and watching it online also constitutes a light user.
People who work a lot on the computer such as typing out documents, browsing, and editing photos, and students using the internet for researching activities are medium users. Similarly, a library full of HD movies would need a comparatively more powerful laptop that you would need for light use.
Graphics content creators and avid gamers are heavy users. Such people need powerful laptops with significant memory. People involved in video editing and using tools like Photoshop extensively are heavy users. They need laptops with high-end components.
The first thing you have to do is to decide what type of user you are. It will determine the configuration you go for. Depending on the kind of user, you should look at the following features in your laptop
In short, the processor is the brain of the laptop. The better your processor, the more powerful your laptop will be. Your laptop will work faster and do more work with a higher degree of efficiency.
Two companies, namely Intel and AMD make processors. Therefore, you will find either an Intel or an AMD processor in every laptop. Processors come in various categories and series. Intel has the Pentium, Celeron, and the Core i-series. The AMD processors have A, FX, and Ryzen series. Let us now look at the appropriate processor for you depending on the usage.
Intel Pentium processors come in two categories, Gold and Silver. You will find these processors in the most basic laptops. If you are a light user, you can go for the Pentium processor. These processors are excellent for watching videos, browsing the internet, and performing simple tasks.
Compared to the Intel Pentium processors, the Intel Celeron offers greater power to enable you to use MS Office applications. Such laptop processors come with a clock speed higher than that of the Intel Pentium.
Intel Core i3
There are successive generations of the Core i3 processor. Today, you have the 8th generation Core i3 processors. These are powerful processors capable of multitasking activities. The Core i-series processors are faster and powerful than the Intel Pentium and Celeron models. Medium level users can opt for the Core i3 processors. Concentrate on the clock speed. The faster the speed, the more powerful is your processor.
Intel Core i5
The Core i5 processors provide the bridge between the moderate and heavy users. In addition to running MS office files and other multimedia content, the Core i5 processors are adequate for medium level gaming and other advanced multimedia activities such as editing photos and videos.
Intel Core i7
As on date, the 8th generation Core i7 processors are the most powerful of all Inter processors available on the market. Professional video and graphics editors and compulsive gamers need the highest configuration. The Core i7 processors are the best for such heavy users.
Also, you have different series of processors such as U-series, H-series, and G-series. Depending on the type of usage, you can select the series. Avid gamers should opt for the G-series whereas the medium users can use the U and H series of processors respectively.
Intel Core i9
Today, you have the 9th and 10th generation Core i9 CPUs as advanced versions of the 8th generation Core i7 processors.
The difference is in the power that this generation brings to the appliance. While the Core i7 CPUs come with six cores and 12 threads, the powerful Core i9 chips come with eight cores/16 threads.
Some of the latest processors can display a maximum single-core turbo speed of 5.0 GHz. Hence, such CPUs display speedy booting times and come with incredible multitasking abilities.
The 10th generation CPUs are different from the rest of the pack because they support
Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6. It makes these CPUs more potent than the earlier generation. The 10th generation CPUs also support Thunderbolt Connectivity, thereby enhancing the data transfer speed considerably.
You have various levels of potency in the AMD A-Series such as A4, A6, A9, A10, and the A12. The light users can choose the A4, A6, and A8 series of processors leaving the A10 and A12 series for the moderate ones.
AMD FX Series
You can find the AMD FX series processors in the desktop CPUs. As far as laptops are concerned, there are only two processors in the AMD FX series. They are also known as Accelerated Processing Units or APUs. The advantage is that these APUs facilitate the integration of AMD Radeon graphics chips into the processor.
The AMD Ryzen series processors are the most powerful ones from the AMD stable. The Ryzen 3 series is equivalent to the Intel Core i5, and the Ryzen 7 series is as powerful as the Intel Core i7 processors.
The critical point to note here is that all processors have clock speeds and cores. The higher the number of cores, the better is the performance. Similarly, the performance of the processors is directly proportional to the clock speed.
However, that does not entail that you can have innumerable cores or unlimited clock speed. We shall now discuss these aspects that determine the potency of your computer processors.
Higher the number of cores, the easier it is for multitasking activities. You can equate cores to the number of workers in a factory. However, that does not mean you can have many cores. The dual-core and the quad-core processors are popular today. They are enough for your normal usage.
Having more numbers of workers in a factory is of no use if they are sluggish. You can as well reduce the number of workers if you have brisk ones to do the job. Similarly, the clock speed is a vital factor in a processor. The faster the clock speeds, the more powerful is your processor.
A Core i5 processor with 2.4 GHz speed is better than a Core i7 processor with 2 GHz speed. At the same time, you should remember that faster the clock speeds, the more power it will drain off from the battery.
Thus the clock speed is inversely proportional to the battery power. It is very much similar to your car. The faster you drive, the more fuel it consumes.
RAM – Random Access Memory
The first thing people check out while buying laptops is the RAM. The general thumb rule is that more the RAM, the better it is for multitasking. You can use various applications at a time without the computer heating up when you have higher RAM.
RAM is the internal memory of the computer that stores information about all open apps, files, and games. Usually, you find laptops with 4, 8, or 16GB of RAM.
The ideal configuration is the 8GB RAM. Of course, the modern-day computers come with facilities where you can upgrade the RAM.
You should know some other aspects of RAM when you purchase a laptop. The DDR4 RAM is better and faster than the DDR3 RAM. At the same time, they are comparatively expensive as well. Remember that the DDR3 RAM will become extinct soon.
Hence, you will not be able to find any upgrades or replacement for the DDR3 RAM. Therefore, it is better to opt for the DDR4 RAM.
The low and medium level users should opt for a minimum of 8GB DDR4 RAM. In case you belong to the heavy user category, it is better to opt for the 16GB DDR4 RAM with upgradability. You need a lot of memory to run applications like AutoCAD and Photoshop, and so on.
The display is an essential aspect of the laptop. You need to have a high-quality screen to get the best out of your computer.
Whether you use the laptop for creating documents, watching movies, or playing games, you need to have the right screen. Laptops come with various screen resolutions.
The ideal screen resolution should be around 1080p or the Full HD as they refer to it. You have laptop displays specially made for specific uses. Higher the screen resolution, higher is the cost of the laptop.
The bigger the screen size, the better it is for viewing. Laptop screens come in various sizes. You have the 11-inch screens as well as the 17-inch screens. The ideal one should be around 15 to 15.6-inches.
However, the larger the screen, the heavier is the laptop. Hence, it affects the portability. You will find students opting to go for the 13 to 14-inch screens as they are light and comfortable to carry.
The compulsive gamers always prefer to go for the larger screens.
Usually, laptop manufacturers tinker with the screen types to decrease the cost of the laptop. It is always advisable to check out the screen types and opt for the IPS displays.
These IPS displays allow you to view from wide angles. However, if you are looking for budget laptops, you cannot expect them to have IPS displays. You have to make do with the non-IPS displays.
Nowadays, you have touchscreen laptops that are similar in many ways to the smartphones or the iPads. The light users can choose the non-IPS displays whereas the medium and heavy users necessarily have to go for the IPS displays.
You must have seen the laptop screens coming with plastic borders. These are bezels. They might not present a pretty sight, but the bezels protect the screen from damage.
However, many laptop manufacturers go for bezel-less screens. They do it to produce bigger displays without increasing the size of the laptop body. However, such screens are prone to damage.
Glossy or Matte, Which is better?
Usually, people like to have glossy screens because it makes the colours on the monitor to pop up. However, it increases the reflections, and this affects the overall quality.
Matte screens are becoming popular today, especially people indulging in a lot of content creation. These matte screens do not harm the eyes as well.
The graphics cards are responsible for the different visuals you see on the screen. The graphics card assumes great importance when you are looking for gaming laptops. They are similar to RAM in many ways. More the GB on the graphics card, the better is the performance.
Compulsive gamers would love to spend more on the graphics cards as compared to other configurations. Similarly, engineering students who use programs like AutoCAD, and video editing professionals opt for high-end graphics cards. There are different types of graphics cards available. Let us look at certain aspects of these cards.
Integrated Graphics Vs. Dedicated Graphics
Integrated graphics are a part of the CPU. It can handle the basic graphics work such as enabling you to watch videos and movies.
However, if you are a heavy user who does a lot of photo editing or plays games a lot, you should opt for the dedicated graphics card. The integrated graphics are of no use for compulsive gamers
Different types of graphics cards
Intel Graphics cards
The Intel processors come with a primary graphics chip that enables you to do light work such as creating documents, watch movies, and so on.
Nvidia GeForce and the AMD graphics cards
These cards are heavy duty cards that help you to play games, do complex tasks such as video editing, and so on. The higher the model number, the more potent is the graphics card.
Most Commonly Used Laptop Graphics Cards
The NVIDIA GeForce MX250 is a dedicated entry-level graphics card for laptops. It is better than the Intel Integrated graphics cards as they supercharge the computer for work and play.
The MX250 cards can deliver up to 3.5 times faster performance when compared to the integrated graphics.
Hence, these cards are essential for gaming, photo-editing, and video-editing applications. The MX250 works seamlessly with NVIDIA Optimus technology, thereby ensuring an ideal balance between performance and long battery life.
The MX350 graphics card is an improvement over the MX250 card because it can tap the GP107 die for 640 CUDA cores, whereas, the MX250 can handle up to 384 CUDA cores.
This increase of 66.7% in CUDA cores ensures that the MX350 competes with the GeForce GTX 1050 in terms of performance.
Storage is one of the vital aspects of any laptop. No computer can work without internal storage. You need internal storage for saving everything you do on your computer.
You cannot play games or even do simple jobs such as creating documents on your laptops without internal storage. Today, you get four types of internal storage. Let us look at each of them to understand them better.
Hard Disc Drive: The HDD is the most commonly used type of storage in all laptops. It comes in a wide range of capacities. The light users can manage with either 256GB or 512GB HDDs. However, if you have various applications and games on your laptop, you should go for the 1TB HDD.
Solid State Drive : The SSDs do not have the capacity of the HDDs. However, they are faster than the HDDs. Hence, they have great utility for activities such as compiling videos and playing fast, action-packed games.
The SSDs do not have movable parts. Consequently, they are more stable than the HDDs. In the ordinary course, the laptops have either 256GB or 512GB SSDs. The most significant advantage of the SSDs is that they are at least 4 to 5 times faster than the HDDs. The SSDs are the most expensive of the lot as well.
The name suggests that the SSHD is a combination of the HDD and the SSD storage. The advantage is that the SSD takes care of the most-accessed information whereas the HDD caters to the overall storage. Hence, you get the double advantage of storage and speed. However, they are not as efficient as the pure SSDs.
Embedded Multi-Media Card : The eMMC is flash storage usually found in tablets and the iPads. You also see them in the lightweight laptops and Chromebooks. The eMMC is efficient in smaller devices. Secondly, it does not occupy much space. However, it does not exhibit much storage capacity.
Operating System – OS
You cannot run your laptop or computer without the operating system. Without an OS, your laptop becomes an ornamental appliance. The responsibility of the OS is to manage the hardware and software.
It includes the management of your files, documents, memory, and all the connected devices.
The OS allows you to interact with the computer in a meaningful manner. There are different kinds of OS available on the market. It is always better to buy laptops that come with the pre-installed OS.
Also, you should ensure to have a lifetime warranty in force for your OS. It will take care of the upgrades for a lifetime. Sometimes, you find laptop manufacturers do not include OS to reduce the price. You need to purchase the OS separately.
Windows is the most commonly used OS in the world today. The latest offering from MS Windows is the Windows 10 OS. There are two common variants of the Windows 10 OS, namely the Windows 10 Pro Edition, and the Windows 10 Home Edition.
As the name suggests, the former is suitable for business persons and professional users whereas the latter is excellent for domestic use. Remember that the OS comes with a price tag. Hence, a laptop with a pre-installed Windows OS is more expensive than a laptop that does not come with an OS.
You will find the MacOS is the Apple laptops and computers. The MacOS is a smoother and better OS as compared to Windows OS. Specific software programs work better on the MacOS than they do on the Windows computers. Secondly, the MacOS helps the Apple laptops and computers to achieve better battery life.
You do not usually find Linux on the home computers and laptops. However, Linux is the favourite choice of computer geeks and professionals because it presents them with excellent technical options. Secondly, you can download the software and install it on your laptop even if your laptop does not come with pre-installed Linux OS.
Chrome OS is Google’s dedicated OS designed for specific laptops known as Chromebooks.
You will find some of the inexpensive laptops coming pre-loaded with DOS. You will not be able to run any applications on such browsers. It is imperative for you to install a separate OS to use the laptop. You can purchase the Windows OS and install it on the computer. Alternatively, you also download Linux OS free and install it if you wish to save some money.
Important points to note
It is always better to buy a laptop with Windows pre-installed on it because a stand-alone license for Windows costs much more than the difference in the costs of a computer with and without Windows.
In case you are downloading and installing Windows OS on a Linux/DOS based laptop, you should ensure to appropriate drivers from the manufacturer website first before downloading the OS. It is necessary, especially in the case of wireless and LAN cards.
Connectivity ports are essential aspects to look at while purchasing laptops. You need them to connect USB pen drives, HDMI cables, external keyboards, mouse, earphone jacks, and so on. You also need them to charge your smartphones. The laptops available today in the market come with adequate connectivity ports. Let us look at some of the common ports.
The USB ports are the most common ones available on the laptops. You use them to connect your pen drives, external keyboard, mouse, and your camera or phone to transfer data. The USB-A ports can operate at USB 3.0 speed or USB 2.0 speed. It is easy to distinguish the USB 3.0 ports because they are generally blue.
The USB-C is the latest version of the USB port. You can use the USB-C port for faster transfer of data as compared to the USB-A ports. It also enables more rapid charging of your smartphones. The only difference between the USB-A and USB-C ports is the size. The USB-C ports are smaller in comparison, and therefore, they occupy less space.
Thunderbolt is an innovative technology that enables you to connect any accessory to your laptop through a single USB-C port.
You can also use the same cable to plug into a 4K monitor. It is a matter of great convenience to have such a multipurpose connectivity port on your laptop. It is possible to tell whether your laptop has a Thunderbolt-enabled USB-C port by looking for a lightning bolt next to it.
The HDMI port allows you to connect your laptop to your TV or projector. You need these HDMI ports to connect external devices with full HD or 4K resolution. It becomes useful when you do not have a smart TV but want to watch your favourite movies on a big screen.
HDMI 2.1 is the recent update to HDMI specification. It is superior to the HDMI 2.0 versions as it supports higher video resolutions and refresh rates such as 8K/60 and 4K/120.
It can also support resolutions up to 10K. The best aspect of HDMI 2.1 is that it is backwards compatible. It will work with devices having existing HDMI 2.0 connectivity ports.
In the earlier days, the TVs and projectors did not have HDMI ports but the VGA ports. These ports do not support Full HD or 4K resolution, but you can still watch your content on the TV when you connect with a VGA port.
Wi-Fi 6 is the latest standard internet connectivity technology available on the 10th generation CPUs. It is based on the Wi-Fi Alliance 802.11ax protocol and supports connectivity on the 6 GHz band.
This latest standard uses new advancements such as MU-MIMO, OFDMA, and TWT that enables it to support dozens of high-bandwidth connections simultaneously. At present, all devices do not support Wi-Fi 6 technology. It brings higher capacity, efficiency, and performance to your connected devices.
SD card or Micro SD card slot
This SD/Micro SD card slot allows you to transfer data from your camera or phone to the laptop without using wires. You can remove the card from the appliance and insert it into the laptop to access it.
The keyboard is a crucial aspect of your laptop. Gaming laptops come with different kinds of keyboards. They have elevated WASD keys as these keys are the most used keys along with the arrow keys. All the laptops come with QWERTY keypads. Sometimes, you find two sets of number pads, one at the side and the other on top of the QWERTY keys. It depends on the size of the laptop.
This keyboard is suitable for people who do a lot of typing on the laptops. These keys are flat and shallow that requires you to slide your fingers over to type. This keyboard is comfortable on the fingers.
The battery is the most critical part of your laptop. It keeps your computer running even when there is no power connection. You measure the power of a laptop battery in Watt-Hour (WHr). More the WHr, more powerful is your laptop battery. Remember that the battery is one of the heaviest parts of the laptop.
Larger batteries entail that your computer becomes heavy. Various factors influence your laptop battery life. They are screen brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connectivity, the type of processor you have, and the load on the CPU, and so on. Dimming your screen brightness by 50% should add at least an hour to your battery life.
In the regular course, laptops allow access based on passwords or PIN. The present-day laptops come with fingerprint scanners. These fingerprint scanners come to your rescue when you forget your passwords. Also, it is not easy to forge fingerprints. Hackers can hack your passwords but not your fingerprints.
We have seen 12 factors that play a vital role in selecting the appropriate laptop for your use. We shall now look at some of the frequently asked questions concerning laptops to make your job of purchasing a computer an easy one.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How many cores would I need for my laptop?
The thumb rule is that a dual-core processor should e sufficient for a laptop. The primary function of the cores is that they allow the computer to multitask. Hence, you can run several applications at the same time. You can listen to your favourite music while browsing the internet and working on your MS Office files simultaneously.
A quad-core computer is better if you are a heavy user. If you are into jobs like photo editing, music production, or working on other complicated engineering software, you should choose a multi-core laptop.
2. What is the concept of clock speed?
In simple terms, the clock speed denotes the speed with which your processor works. The unit of measurement is GHz. Higher clock speed can reduce your loading times. Gamers would require laptop processors with high clock speed to avoid the slow loading of screens in games.
3. What do you mean by ‘memory cache?
Every activity you perform on your laptop has to go through the memory cache before the processor carries them out. Therefore, you will find that your laptop slows down if you open multiple files at the same time. Professional photo editors who work extensively on software such as Photoshop need a bigger memory cache.
Light and medium users need not worry too much over these aspects. Anything in the range of 4MB should suffice for a regular laptop user.
4. What is the function of RAM?
As you perform any activity on your computer such as watching movies or video, the RAM stores the data before the processor picks it up. Hence, higher the RAM, the more is the storage capacity. A 4GB to 6GB RAM should suffice for the regular tasks. Nowadays, you have facilities to upgrade the RAM up to 16GB or even 32GB.
5. Which is the ideal screen size for me?
The ideal screen size for a laptop is 15.6 inches. It offers adequate comfort for viewing and is easily portable as well. Anything more than 15.6 inches can make your computer heavy and challenging to carry anywhere. If portability is what you are looking for, you can opt for the smaller screens such as 11.6 inches to 14 inches. The largest screen size is about 17.3 inches.
6. What are the advantages of Full HD and 4K screens?
Naturally, the Full HD screens offer greater clarity because they accommodate more pixels than the regular screens. The ideal screen resolution is 1080p. The Full HD screen will produce more explicit images and text thereby reducing eye strain.
The 4K screen can accommodate 4-times more pixels than the Full HD screen. Hence, you get greater clarity.
However, 4K screens are expensive. The cost of the laptop increases because you need a powerful processor and dedicated graphics cards as well to process 4K data.
7. Is it easy to use a touchscreen laptop?
You have many laptops coming with touchscreens today. People are accustomed to using the smartphone and tablets. Hence, using the touchscreen laptop should not be a challenge at all. You can dispense with the mouse when you have a touchscreen laptop.
8. What should be the ideal battery life for a laptop?
It again depends on your usage. Students carry their laptops to schools and colleges. They do not have adequate charging facilities at these places. Hence, they should opt for laptops that offer a minimum of nine to ten hours of battery life.
Persons using their laptops at home or office do have facilities for charging the batteries. Hence, they can choose laptops with smaller battery life as well.
9. What is the ideal weight of a laptop?
If portability is your primary concern, opt for the laptops that do not weigh more than 2.2 kg. Therefore, you might have to compromise on the screen size. The modern notebooks are inexpensive and offer great features as well.
10. What type of graphics card should I go for?
A dedicated graphics card with a distinct memory should be the ideal one, especially if you play a lot of games on your computer. However, the high-end graphics cards can get expensive. The perfect graphics card should be the Nvidia GeForce or the AMD Radeon graphics. Intel integrated graphics should be enough for light users.
11. How can I get good audio on my laptop?
The modern-day laptops come with high-quality audio systems such as Harmon Kardon, Skull Candy, and so on. These are excellent sound systems capable of producing high-quality audio.
12. What kind of security should I opt for?
your laptop needs security to protect your data from computer pirates. Viruses can enter your computer through third-party connectivity devices such as USB pen drives, smartphones, cameras, and so on.
Similarly, there is always a danger of viruses infiltrating your system when you download files and applications from the internet. Streaming videos can also inject viruses into the system. You need a strong anti-virus protection software programme to prevent such virus attacks. The ideal ones are Norton and McAfee. There are other anti-virus software programs as well.
13. Should I go for licensed office software?
Yes, you should always go for licensed software. Pirated versions are available on the internet. They can damage your laptop. The MS Office software and other office software programs are comparatively inexpensive.
14. Is additional storage recommended for my laptop?
By additional storage, we refer to two types of storage, external storage, and online storage. If you have vast quantities of data such as films, songs, images, and so on in your laptop, it is better to opt for external storage like an external hard disk. Online storage or cloud storage is also available where you can store unlimited documents, films, music files, and so on.
15. Do I need a unique port for a printer?
The modern-day laser printers do not require the laptop to have any additional ports. You can connect your printer to the laptop using a USB cable.
Final Words – Wrapping it up
We have discussed a comprehensive laptop buying guide that covers all aspects you should look at when purchasing a laptop. We have also reviewed the best laptops in different categories.
This data should be adequate to help you choose the laptop according to your usage. Determine which category of users you belong to and choose the best laptop accordingly.
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Srinivasa is Vsbytes’s Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.