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Shopping For A New Laptop

How Will You Use Your Laptop?

  • Light use: Browsing the web, paying bills online, email and social networking, organizing and sharing digital photos.
  • Average use: Storing and streaming music and movies, tasks like spreadsheet and document creation.
  • Demanding use: Multitasking with multiple tabs and programs, sophisticated graphics and photo editing, and video production.

Pick Your Operating System

Before you begin to look at laptops, you must figure out which operating system (OS) works best for you. Thinking through what software you need to run and on which

Windows

Windows-based PCs are an incredibly diverse category. Dozens of manufacturers make them, and the quality and pricing can vary greatly depending on which model and brand you choose. The fastest models will surpass Macs in terms of performance, and many companies tailor their Windows PCs to a specific purpose, such as gaming or business.

macOS

Installed exclusively on Mac computers, macOS boasts an elegant and easy-to-use interface to complement Mac’s sleek aesthetics and impressive battery life. Macs have historically had fewer issues with viruses and malware. However, MacBooks start at a higher price point than other laptops, and no Mac model to date includes touch-screen functionality.

Chrome OS

Found on inexpensive Chromebooks such as the Samsung Chromebook 3. Google's OS is simple and secure, but more limited than Windows or macOS. The user interface looks a lot like Windows with an application menu, a desktop and the ability to drag windows around, but the main app you use is the Chrome browser. The downside is that many of the "web apps" you use don't work particularly well offline. However, that's changing as all new Chromebooks, including the high-end, Google Pixel Book, can now run Android apps.

Processor

It’s simple: the faster and more powerful the processor, the more work your laptop can do, and the faster it can do it. But, just because a CPU is more powerful, doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. So which processor is right for you?

Processors are virtually all dual-core these days, and are usually made by either Intel or AMD. There's little to choose between the two, although AMD silicon tends to be found in cheaper machines. Intel chips get more powerful as their model number increases (ie. an Intel Core i5 chip is faster than an Intel Core i3).

General Considerations For Buying A Laptop

There are several universally important things to consider when buying any laptop:

Monitor Size: Unlike a desktop, you can’t buy a new monitor for a laptop. If you’re looking to game, watch movies, do graphic design, or any task that requires ample screen real estate on-the-go, you’d want to consider a 15”+ monitor. Keep in mind, however, a bigger screen means a more power-hungry laptop, thereby increasing weight and overall size and decreasing battery life.

Weight: If you know you’re going to be lugging your laptop bag with you all day, you may want to consider giving your shoulder or back a break. Many laptop manufacturers offer lightweight devices exactly for this reason, with laptops under 3 pounds, slimmer components and smaller screens. These laptops tend to be easier to carry and have excellent battery life, with the tradeoff being generally less horsepower due to smaller and lighter components.

Battery Life: Nothing’s worse than being in the middle of your work and the dreaded “battery low” alert flashes on your screen. Fortunately, it isn’t unheard of to find laptops with 15+ battery life and is increasingly commonplace. If you plan on being on-the-go with your device often and don’t like always having to be outlet hunting, you should consider a laptop with up to 6-8 hours battery life at a minimum.

SSD: These days, you want to buy a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD), not a hard disk drive (HDD). SSDs are 4-5x faster and are much less likely to be damaged or corrupted. They are commonplace in modern laptops. Although slightly more expensive than HDDs, SDDs are well worth it, and they only keep getting better with developments like NVMe SSDs.