Laptop Buying Guide: Essentials to Know Before You Buy

Laptop Buying Guide: The Essential Things to Know Before You Buy

Be sure you're buying the perfect laptop suited to your needs based on the guide below.

If you don’t already have one, you’re more than likely going to need a laptop at some point in your life. Due to our technologically advanced society, buying a laptop has become increasingly more difficult. Gone are the days where you only had to pick from a handful of options. Whether you’re writing an assignment, working from home or just surfing the web, finding the right laptop to suit your needs may be daunting at first, fortunately it’s easier than you think.

First things first you’ll want to decide which type of operating system you want. Determining how you’re going to be utilising your laptop; whether that’s for gaming, work or leisure will help with this step. There are three operating systems which we believe are most important, they are:

  1. Windows: If you’re wanting to use Microsoft apps such as Ms Office or Outlook this is the best choice for you.
  2. Mac OS: Apple’s operating system is a bit more beginner-friendly. That being said MacBook’s are tightly coupled with the company’s hardware.
  3. Chrome OS: A great choice if you are looking for a laptop to use more for web browsing. Chrome laptops are among the cheaper side, which is great for tight budgets.

Once you’ve determined which system you’re looking at then you can get into the nitty gritty. Here are a few tips to help your choose a laptop that best suits your needs and budget.

1. Processor

Simply put the processor is the brain of the computer, it controls pretty much every function. The better processor you have the better performance you will get. There are two different types; Intel processor and AMD processors. Let’s take a quick look at both.

Intel Processor

Intel processors are usually the most popular and can be found in the majority of windows and MacBook laptops. The main processors are Core i3, i5, i7 and i9. With i3 being the least powerful and i9 being the most powerful. But you may also come across Celeron, Pentium or Atom processors which can be found in smaller, more affordable laptops.

Within each of these processors there are a string of numbers and letters that give you more information about the laptop’s chip capabilities. For example you may have seen Intel Core i5-10310U in a laptops description. The first numbers (10) refers to the generation in this case it is 10 th generation. The next three numbers (310) are related to performance. The higher these numbers are, the more powerful the chip is compared to other chips in the same processor line. For example the i5-10310U is more powerful than the i5-10210U. The letter at the end of the sequence refers to the chips purpose. You will usually see them ending in Y, H or U. In our case U chips are power efficient. Whereas Y chips are for battery optimisation and H chips are for performance.

AMD Processor

AMD processors are similar to Intel’s processors but seem to perform better on graphic-intensive tasks such as content creation or gaming. They also follow a similar pattern when it comes to determining the different types of processors. See AMD Ryzen 3 3250U for example. The 3 refers to the generation of the chip. The 2 refers to how powerful the chip is. This would be a weaker powered chip compared to a 6 th generation chip (the higher the better). The U at the end stands for ultra-low power. You may also come across X which related to high performance. 

2. Size 

Depending on what you plan on doing with your laptop, you want to make sure you pick a size that fits your lifestyle. Laptop sizes tend to range between 11-17 inches. Most brands such as HP tend to offer the three common display sizes – 13.3 inch, 15.6 inch and 17.3 inches. The entire system is sized to fit the display, meaning once you commit to a size you can’t upgrade it later without purchasing a whole new setup. Therefore it’s important to choose a size you love.

Smaller laptops are usually thinner and lighter, whereas the larger the laptop the bulkier it tends to be. If portability is your priority, you’ll want to go for a smaller-sized laptop such as a 13-inch. These models are perfect for on-the-go and usually only weigh around 1.5kgs, fitting neatly into your bag.

However keep in mind that the smaller sized laptops don’t always have the same high-end processors compared to the larger models. They may even feature a lesser selection of ports. If your work requires a larger display or graphics, you may need to opt for a bigger size. 

3. Screen Quality 

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time looking at the screen of your new purchase you want to make sure the resolution is as clear as possible. The last thing you want to be doing is constantly adjusting the display and brightness just to try and get a clearer picture. You want to be looking for laptops that have a 1920 x 1080 screen resolution; also known as “full HD” as the minimum. If you’re able to splurge on something clearer you definitely won’t regret it.

If you’re needing a laptop for content creation or videography it might be worth while looking into a laptop with 4k resolution. This will give you the clearest picture possible, making the editing process a lot easier. 

4. Battery Life 

If you’re planning on travelling or using you laptop on the go you’ll want to look for one with a large battery life. Laptops that offer at least 8 hours or more is a good place to start. Although how you use your laptop will also determine how well your battery will last. If you’re constantly streaming online video or gaming an even longer battery life would be ideal. But if you’re only planning on the general document & web surfing you may be able to compromise on the battery life. 

5. Storage 

A solid state drive (SSD) is usually the standard storage for laptops these days, as they are less bulky than the traditional hard drive. The only disadvantage is that SSD storage tends to be more expensive than the traditional hard drives, due to their light weight. That being said sticking to a laptop with SSD storage is your best bet.

We recommend at least 256GB storage, even if you’re not sure you’ll use that much it’s always better to have too much than not enough. The last thing you want to be doing is lugging around an extra hard drive to fit all your programs on to.

6. RAM 

Ram or Random-access memory is one of the most important components in your system as it determines performance. RAM gives applications a place to store and access data on a short-term basis. The more programs your system is running the more RAM you will need. The minimum amount of RAM you want to be looking for is 8GB. But if you’re a gamer consider looking at laptops with upwards of 32GB RAM.

7. Graphics Cards 

All laptops come with integrated graphics cards, which are designed to support a range of general computer activities such as streaming, and light games. This is fine for most users, but if you are a serious gamer or video editor you may want to look into investing in a suited graphics card for a better experience.

8. Ports 

With the increased wireless connectivity between devices, ports may not seem that important to you. But it’s best to look for a laptop that has at least 1 USB-C and a microphone/headset jack. This will be beneficial when you’re on the go in case you need to charge another device through the USB port.

Now that you’ve tackled the hardest part of deciphering the laptop language, it’s time to have a look around and decide which laptop is best for you. Check out our range of laptops  here.

26th Apr 2021 Maddison McQueen

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