Laptop Buying Guide

Avoid regret when buying a laptop in a marketplace full of variety. In this guide, we’ll share some important pointers on what to look when purchasing a new laptop.

Display Size

11–12 inches: The ultraportables are the smallest, thinnest, and lightest laptops. If your laptop is always by your side wherever you go or you walk long distances with your laptop then this is the size for you. They also tend to have longer battery life because smaller screens use less energy and they tend to have more efficient processors.

13–14 inches: The portables are for people who carry their laptop several times per week, or who carry their laptops over such short distances that weight & size are not significant factors (think walking through a city vs parking your car 20 feet from the door). They offer the best compromise between portability and usability, generally sporting faster hardware than their smaller counterparts. Above average battery life can be expected.

15 inches: The mainstream laptop is the most popular size, and is for people who want a larger screen size and won’t be carrying their laptop often.

17–18 inches: The desktop replacement is a laptop that stays on your desk or rarely moves. These are heavy and have the shortest battery life of all laptops. This segment has been trending more towards gamers, with high-end processors and dedicated video cards.

Operating System

Windows is the most popular operating system, and the latest version, Windows 10, is optimized for touch screens. Most gaming and business software will run on Windows.

Mac OS is found only on Apple Mac computers. It’s similar to Windows, but with a different interface that places applications on a dock at the bottom of the screen instead of a start menu. As a plus, it integrates well with iPhone and iPad products.

Chrome OS is found only on Chromebooks. The interface is very similar to Windows, but it’s simpler and limited. Most applications are run through the Chrome web browser, requiring an Internet connection. There are a limited number of offline applications.

Specs

The processor is the brain of your computer. Whatever you tell your computer to do, the processor makes it happen. Faster processors open and run programs more quickly and allow you to run more programs simultaneously.

Intel Pentium / Celeron + AMD E Series: Basic performance for budget laptops
Intel Core i3 / i5 + AMD A Series: Mainstream performance
Intel Core i7: High-end performance for gaming and professional workstation use
Intel Core m3 / m5 / m7: Low-power and low-heat for fanless systems (lightweight / slim)
Intel Atom: Found on 2-in-1s. More battery life than Pentium / Celeron.

RAM is the memory your computer uses for applications that are currently open and running. Having more memory means your computer can run more programs and is less likely to freeze.

2GB: Chromebooks and budget laptops
4GB: Mainstream performance
8GB: Handle a higher workload and future proof your computer
16GB: Overkill for most users. For gaming or workstation users.

The hard drive is where everything is permanently saved on your computer: the operating system, programs, files, pictures, music, etc. Traditional disc hard drives store the most data at the lowest price. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are three times faster (your computer will turn on and load programs much faster) and use less battery.

Quick Guide

The Chromebook

The defining feature of the Chromebook is that it runs Chrome OS, which is designed to run the majority of its applications over the Internet. Because most applications are run over the Internet, Chromebooks can be thinner and lighter. Chromebooks work best with an Internet connection, but Google has been encouraging developers to make apps that work offline. View Chromebooks.

The Entry-Level Laptop

If you’ll only be doing basic tasks (surfing the Internet, typing papers, listening to music, etc.) then a budget laptop may be all you need. Just don’t expect to run the newest high-performance games or be able to quickly navigate through a tsunami of open browser tabs. If you’ll be doing basic every day computing tasks and won’t be gaming or running power-hungry applications like photo editing software, an entry-level laptop may be your best bet.

The Mainstream Laptop

Mainstream laptops run faster than an entry-level laptop and feature better design and build quality. Faster processors and more memory mean you can do more without your computer struggling to keep up, and you won’t have to replace your computer quite as fast. View Laptops.

The 2-in-1

These laptops are hybrids of a laptop and a tablet. Depending on the model, they can be a laptop which has a screen that folds over, turning the laptop into a tablet; or they can be powerful tablets that connect to keyboards, becoming laptops. If you can’t decide between a laptop and a tablet, the 2-in-1 may solve your dilemma. View 2-in-1 Laptops

The Desktop Replacement

Everyone likes the performance of a desktop but most aren’t thrilled with the size. Desktop replacement laptops feature large 17 inch screens, faster processors, and better speakers. This is not a computer that you would want to move often (unless you have a backpack or a chiropractor), but if you won’t be carrying it you will enjoy the larger screen and performance.

The Gaming Laptop

Games are advancing rapidly, and gaming laptops have the hardware to keep up with them. They also have large screens (who wants to play on a small 13” screen?) Gaming laptops have among the best performance, but all that hardware and the large screen come at a cost: weight. View Gaming Laptops.