What to Look for in a Laptop: Essential Buying Tips

The very first laptop came out way back in 1981. The Osborne 1 weighed a staggering 24 pounds and had a five-inch screen. As comical as those figures may seem now, it started a revolution in computing.

Today, almost everyone seems to own a laptop of some description. As more of us are now working from home due to world events, they are often vital for our livelihoods.

If you’re interested in buying a laptop in the upcoming sales, you need to know what to look for in a laptop, so that you can find the very best one for your needs.

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how to choose a laptop so you don’t make any mistakes on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Ready to get started learning all about how to buy a new laptop in 2020? Keep reading and enjoy the buyer’s guide!

  1. Consider the Operating System

The most important part of any computer, be it a laptop, desktop, or tablet, is the operating system. This is the software that’s responsible for everything else on the machine.

All the other software builds on top of the operating system, which means that it needs to be compatible. If you’d like to run some Windows software on a Mac, you’re out of luck!

This means that the most important factor when it comes to choosing a laptop is the operating system. Think about the programs that you have to use regularly: will they run on another operating system? If they won’t, is there a similar program that will do the same job?

Ultimately, a laptop is a tool: if you can’t use it for the job you need, it’s useless. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider other OSs under certain circumstances, though.

If you want something lightweight to browse the internet and aren’t worried about using certain programs, then a Chromebook might work perfectly! Cyber Monday Chromebook deals slash the prices of these devices which makes them a very appealing prospect.

Just remember how important the OS is and plan your purchase accordingly.

  1. Form Factor: An Important Factor

If you’re going to be carrying your laptop around with you at work or school everyday, you probably don’t want a heavyweight powerhouse of a laptop. Form factor is a vital, well, factor when it comes to choosing a laptop.

If you want a laptop that you can slip into a backpack and not notice the extra weight, then an ultrabook is what you’re looking for. This type of laptop is very lightweight and usually has excellent battery life too. This means that it’s the perfect choice for people on the go.

If, on the other hand, you’re going to be using your laptop exclusively at home and you want to have a lot of power on tap for gaming, rendering, or compiling code, then you’ll need something a bit heavier. An ultrabook probably won’t fit the bill.

Consider a laptop’s form factor when browsing and think about how it would fit into your everyday life.

  1. Don’t Be Limited By Bad Battery Life

A huge heavy laptop isn’t going to be great for lugging around but nor is a lightweight laptop with a terrible battery. If you don’t want to be tied to power sockets, then you need to get a laptop with a solid battery.

Battery is measured in mAh, or milliamp hours. This is a measure of how much power the battery holds but bigger doesn’t necessarily mean a longer battery life. For instance, a powerful laptop with a big battery might have a worse battery life than an ultrabook with a smaller battery.

You need to take the power of the components into account, as this is what will drain the battery life.

It’s worth taking a look at laptop reviews around the web and checking out what they have to say about the model’s battery life. At a minimum, you should look for 2-4 hours of battery life from a single charge, even for powerful machines. For ultrabooks, you want six or more hours.

  1. Screen Size and Quality

So, are you going to be using this laptop with a lot of visual media? Will you need something that you can design on, play games on, watch movies on, or render 3D graphics on? Maybe you’ll be doing all of the former!

If you are, then you need a great screen on your laptop. The size of the screen will ultimately come down to the form factor that we discussed earlier: you may find that a 13.3-inch screen is perfect, or you may opt for a 15.6-inch screen or even bigger!

Size isn’t the only thing that matters, though. You need to take the real quality of the screen into account. First off, what is its resolution?

The resolution is a measure of how many pixels there on the screen. For example, 1920×1080 (full HD) and 2560×1440. If you want a great quality screen, you shouldn’t get a laptop with a resolution lower than full HD.

The refresh rate is another important factor to consider. This is how often the image on the screen gets refreshed: 60 Hz is the standard but if you do a lot of gaming, you should consider a 120 Hz screen, as this may give you a slight competitive edge and a slicker framerate.

  1. Does it Have a Full-Sized Keyboard?

If you want to do a lot of writing on your keyboard or need the numpad, then you’ll need a laptop with a full-sized keyboard. On smaller laptops, there’s often no numpad, which means that using alt symbol codes becomes a lot more difficult, as does doing work on things like spreadsheets.

If you want a small form factor, then you need to be aware that the numpad will impact this a lot too, adding an extra bit of width.

  1. Does it Have a Dedicated Graphics Card?

If you want a laptop that you can use for gaming, rendering 3D graphics, or photo/video editing, then a dedicated graphics card is absolutely essential. On laptops, this is often known as a discreet graphics card.

What it means is that the laptop has a dedicated bit of hardware for rendering video. If it doesn’t, it will have a system called integrated graphics. This means that the CPU has to do graphics as well as computation, which means lower framerates in games and slower rendering.

Some low-budget “gaming” laptops even have integrated graphics, which is no good at all. For the best gaming experience, a discreet card is essential.

  1. How Much RAM Do You Need?

RAM is the memory that your laptop uses to store and aid programs that are currently in use. This means that if you don’t have enough RAM, your laptop can slow down a lot.

If you are only ever going to have a couple of tabs open in your browser and will only be working on a couple of spreadsheets or documents, 4GB of RAM could be enough for you. Yet if you want to play games or use more intensive applications, then you’ll need at least 8GB.

If you want to have a load of different tabs open and run AAA games or render video at the same time, you’ll need to have at least 16GB of RAM.

  1. Budget for Your Laptop

How much can you afford to spend on a laptop? You should never overreach your financial limits to afford a laptop. Think about how much you can afford to pay if you buy it outright and do not go over this.

If you want to pay via an installment plan, consider whether you can afford to spend this amount of money every month, come what may. Think about what would happen if you lost your job or had an emergency and couldn’t afford to make payments.

  1. Is There Enough Storage?

RAM isn’t the only memory that you need to think about. You want your laptop to have a hard drive big enough to store all of your data.

If you want the fastest drive, a hard drive won’t cut it, though. These have moving parts, which means that your laptop will take more time reading and writing data. An SSD which has no moving parts offers a much faster solution.

Consider buying a laptop that has an SSD for your essential programs and a hard drive for bulk storage.

What to Look for in a Laptop: Solved

We hope that by now, you know what to look for in a laptop. Follow our advice and you’ll be left with a laptop that you’ll be happy to use for years to come!

For more interesting and informative articles about everything in tech, be sure to check out the rest of our site.