Are you looking for a new laptop computer but aren’t sure where to start? Any large purchase can give you a certain amount of anxiety, especially if you don’t feel confident in your tech skills.
To help you find the right laptop, we’ve put together the ultimate buying guide. From your thought process and purpose behind the trip to the store to the specs and details, everything you need is right here. Take a look below for help navigating this shopping struggle.
Why do you want a new computer? If your old laptop crashed or can’t keep up with what you’re asking it to do, then you don’t have time to wait for the best time to buy a laptop. You need a new one now.
If you’re hoping to upgrade because you want to do some gaming, then you have a little more time to look around and find the best laptop with all the specs you need.
Are you working from home? It might be that you’re upgrading your current computing set up because your company has decided to keep everyone working at home for an extended period of time during the pandemic.
Whatever the reason you’re buying a computer, it should inform your decision. Those who access everything for work in the cloud may only need to worry about a great WiFi card. If you’re using the Google app suite for word processing and your files are online, then you can work with anything as long as it can access the internet reliably.
For gamers, you’ll need a more complicated setup. Which games are coming out soon, and what are the specs they recommend? If you want to win, you’ll want a laptop that hits the top of those specs, rather than the bare minimum.
Writers and designers may have more specific needs as far as programs you’ll run and computers that support your creative work.
The best thing you can do is dig into the details of the programs you’ll be using. Make a list of the minimum requirements and other needs or “nice to haves” so that when you shop, you’re ready.
Operating System: Find the Right Laptop
Which type of operating system are you most comfortable with? Switching to a new operating system is okay, but you should do it at the right time.
Mac and Windows
Mac OS can be hard to learn if you’ve grown up an Android user and you’re more familiar with Windows. Yet even Windows has changed its look with Windows 10. Transitioning to the new look could be a challenge at first. What’s more, Microsoft doesn’t plan to abandon it in a few years.
Instead, Windows 10 will be more like a core OS that gets updated as tech grows and changes. That means that the same OS will work across platforms and gadgets, like the Windows phone and tablets like the Microsoft Surface.
MacOS 10.15 is the latest operating system, also known as Catalina. Before that was macOS 10.14 or Mojave, but the two don’t look very dissimilar. If you’re approaching computer purchasing with some apprehension because of the switch, don’t worry. Your new Mac won’t look too different from the older version you’ve gotten used to.
People forget about other operating systems. Windows and Mac aren’t the only OSes out there, though. If you want to learn a little more about computers and you’re already comfortable with Windows, Linux could be a good choice.
Linux is an open-source operating system, which means it’s free and available for public download, much like OpenOffice. It’s also a pretty secure system and doesn’t crash as much as other more popular OSes.
If you plan to use your computer for a long time, Linux could be a great way to extend your computer’s life. Linux doesn’t slow down as the computer ages Windows or Mac does. It will be just as fast in five years as it is when you first start using it.
For families, Linux can be a great way to help kids learn more about computers. It’s easy to use and built for customization. As your kids get into coding and the depths of programming, a flexible system like Linux can help them learn how it works. You can run Linux on either a Mac or a PC.
For the most basic of laptops, a Chromebook can function. Because the OS doesn’t do very much besides access the web, it doesn’t take much time to boot up. Yet it also doesn’t have as much computing power as other OSes, so if you’ll be doing anything other than using the internet, this probably isn’t the operating system for you.
Are you brand-loyal? If you’re set on having a specific type of computer, that will help you narrow down your options. Whatever the reason you’re sticking to a particular company, be sure to check out their website. For example, if Lenovo has never let you down, then go to the website to explore models and find the right one for you.
Check out early Black Friday deals or new models just released. Be sure to examine all the possibilities before deciding which one to buy.
Of all the laptop specs, the processor is an important consideration. CPU choices are either an AMD or Intel processor. All Macs come with an Intel processor.
Intel processors are more popular, and you’ve probably heard of them. The other choice, an AMD processor, is usually cheaper. Some argue that they can handle intense graphics better, although once you get into more intermediate processors, that’s not the case. If you’re a gamer on a budget, though, AMD processors can work well enough for the price.
If you don’t want to buy a laptop with an AMD processer, then consider buying an Intel laptop with a built-in GPU, or graphics processing unit, to help the CPU perform better. The GPU takes over a lot of the media functions and graphics or display tasks, leaving the CPU free to do its regular work. It makes the interactions faster and smoother.
Screen Size and Weight
How big do you want your laptop to be? Explore different laptop sizes at the store and get a feel for how large each one is. What would fit best on your lap or on your desk?
Are you going to be taking your laptop with you to a lot of different remote workspaces or on trips? If so, you need something that can comfortably fit in a bag or briefcase. You’ll also want one that doesn’t need a lot of extras plugged into it, because then you have to haul those along.
For example, a 15″ laptop with a 10-key pad attached means that you don’t need a USB 10-key pad attachment. Smaller laptops don’t necessarily have the number pad, but if you don’t do a lot of accounting or data entry, you may be able to get by with a smaller keyboard.
For traveling, a lighter-weight laptop is also a good idea. Find out how heavy the models are as you shop around.
You also need to consider whether your laptop will fit in your existing office, or else consider redesigning your home office. You can get a laptop stand and an extra monitor to help facilitate many open windows or programs. If you’re replacing a desktop computer with a new laptop, then you may actually end up with extra space, which means adding extra equipment won’t be a problem.
If you’re working from home more now than ever, you may want to invest in a better webcam than the one that comes built in. A ring light can also help you get better lighting if you’ll be on Zoom calls a lot.
Watch out for the tiniest laptops. Some stores will try to market them as computers, but they may only be running Chrome OS. If you want more computing power than that, you’ll have to get something larger. Despite the size up, you’ll appreciate the heftier function compared to a Chromebook.
Larger screens don’t always mean higher resolution, though. If you’ll be doing a lot of gaming, make sure you’re getting a high-quality display. Ultra high definition means more pixels per inch, up to 3840×2160.
When you’re looking into drive space, the two options you have are HDD and SSD: Hard Drive Disk and Solid State Drive. HDDs have been around longer, so they are less expensive. They can also store more data.
SSDs store data on flash memory chips rather than actual disks. They don’t spin like a traditional hard drive does. They are also faster and weigh less, as well as using less energy to access and store information.
For the best of both worlds, and when your budget allows, try a hybrid model. Get the storage capacity of HDD with the energy savings of SSD.
Between the purpose of your computer, the OS you want to run, and other specs, it can be a big decision to buy a new computer. However, you’ll find the right laptop if you take your time and look at brand, processor, size, weight, and data storage.
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