This Laptop Buying Guide will help you choose the best laptop for you so don’t hesitate in reading it.
The Best Laptop doesn’t necessarily mean the best technical specifications; it also implies something that suits your needs. Maybe you want to watch movies so you’ll want a bright and sharp display. Perhaps you need something portable in which case you need super-long battery life.
With laptop specs and prices varying so much, it’s hard to make a decision. This laptops buying guide intends to help you make the right decision for your needs and budget.
Windows PC, Apple MacBook or Chromebook read on to see which one suits you best.
Or you can check out our Best Laptops of 2019 to see what we recommend.
If you need a laptop just for browsing the internet or basic everyday tasks a cheap laptop with low specs is not a bad choice.
You can check our Top 5 Cheap Laptops to see the ones we recommend.
Choosing The Best Laptop For You
To help you choose the best laptop for you, we’ll take a look at Windows and Mac models. So you’ll see which one suits you best. We’ll also see the key features and buy decisions to consider.
Windows runs on the majority of the laptops on sale today. And it’s the most popular operating system with Windows 10 being the latest version today. A great choice with a reasonable price range from low to high-end models.
With sizes from 9 to 17 inches and up you have what to choose from. Though the bigger the screen, the heavier the laptop. Always make sure to check the resolution. If the screen is big and the resolution is low the quality is terrible. Aim for Full HD(1920 x 1080) and up when possible if not you can at least settle for 1366 x 768.
Keyboard and Mouse
Seek a keyboard that doesn’t have the buttons cramped or too small. On the mouse side, almost all laptops nowadays have a trackpad. It should handle gestures well, have a firm clicking action and be responsive.
Ports and Drives
Usually, the latest laptop models don’t come with a built-in DVD/Blu Ray drive, but you can connect an external one if need be. You should look for at least two or three USB 3 ports if possible. If not, two or three USB 2 ports. Also, look for USB-C as well since that’s the latest port from them and that’s where the future is heading.
Processor and RAM
You can think of the processor as the brain of the computer. The more cores and power the better. Your processor should have at least 1.5 GHz. On the RAM side, 4 GB is a good option with 8 GB being able to handle almost anything. Don’t settle for 2 GB because it might make the laptop slow.
There are two types. Spinning drives(HDD) which make some noise and are a bit slower but have proper storage for a lower price. You should choose at least 1 TB with this one. Solid State Drives (SSD) which are quieter and faster but can store less and are more expensive. The new models usually have a form of SSD because it dramatically improves the speed of the laptop. A standard is 128 GB with some models giving more.
We accept about 6 hours of screen-on time as average but the bigger, the better. You should aim for as high as possible. Beware though if you buy a laptop with less than 6. You might need to carry the charger with you everywhere.
MacOS and laptops that run it are only made by Apple. More often than not these laptops are more expensive than the Windows models. But with that, you get a well-built laptop which looks fantastic and has excellent support from them. Don’t worry about programs either. You can either find a Mac version or an equivalent.
This range from 11 to 15 inches. The MacBook Air has the smallest while the Pro has the biggest. Both have a 13-inch version as well. There’s also a standard Macbook which has a 12-inch display, and it’s the least heavy and the thinnest. The standard and Pro MacBooks have ‘Retina’ display which is the best on the market. The Air models don’t have ‘Retina’ display, but they have a Full-HD one which is ok.
Keyboard and Mouse
The trackpads and keyboards from Apple are very well built. They’re also some of the best-feeling and best-working on the market. With the latest MacBook models, they introduced the ‘Force Touch’ trackpad that adds extra functionality. They also introduced a Retina ‘Touch Bar’ with the most recent Pro model.
Ports and Drives
The latest MacBook models don’t have a DVD drive, but you connect one if need be. Or you can simply download the software. They also don’t have too many different ports with the latest Pro model having just USB-C. You’ll most likely need an adaptor with that one.
Processor and RAM
As with Windows the higher the GHz from the processor and the more GB of RAM the better. But because Apple laptops are unique, their OS is unique as well, and it’s better optimized. That means a MacBook will run very well even if it has lower specs. You don’t necessarily need to know the numbers. You just have to know that the Pro models are the most powerful while the Air and standard are about the same.
As we said before, there are two types of drives. The spinning and solid state. All the MacBook models come with SSD; there’s no spinning option. You can choose from 128 GB up until 512 GB. The price goes up quite a lot with the higher capacity.
All the Macs have about the same battery performance. You can’t choose the performance as you do on the Windows models. That’s a good thing though because you’ll know for sure you get above the average performance on the battery.
If you like Macs you can take a look at our Apple Laptop Reviews. If you like Windows there’s plenty of brands to choose from like Lenovo Laptop Reviews, HP Laptop Reviews, ACER Laptop Reviews and more.
You can also check out our Best Laptops of 2018 page.
Laptop features explained
Laptop manufacturers and retailers use an excessive amount of jargon and technical specs. To make sure that what you choose is the best for you read on.
The processor, the brain of the laptop can drive the price up. The more GHz, the faster the processor. They also come with multiple cores(dual, quad, hex or octa-core). The more cores, the more programs it can run at once.
The big majority of laptops run on Intel Core processors. Pentium, Celeron, and Atom are Intel’s cheaper processors. Then there is i3, i5, and i7. The i7 range is the fastest. I3 and i5 are not far behind; they can run multiple programs and tasks smoothly. There’s also AMD chips with K10 series being the fastest.
All the documents, photos, music, movies, games take up space. Storage capacity determines how many of this can hold. It is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB, 1000 GB = 1 TB). With the spinning drives the bigger, the better. That’s also the case with the solid-state drive, but the difference is in the price.
An SSD is more expensive the bigger it is, but it comes with benefits too. It improves your laptop speed, and it’s silent. It is worth to have them both. You can have a smaller SSD for the speed in your laptop and an external HDD for extra memory if you don’t mind carrying it with you.
Random Acces Memory (RAM)
This is the memory that the brain of your laptop uses to store things for short-term. Don’t confuse it with the storage space; you can’t store anything here. That’s exclusively for the processor and the bigger, the better.
The more GB of ram the more programs you can run at the same time without your laptop slowing down. Generally, 4 GB is ok, lower than this it’s not recommended anymore because your travelling might be quite slow. 8 GB it’s the best option but if you have the budget and you use your laptop to the max go higher.
Screen Size and Resolution
On the screen size bigger doesn’t always mean better. If you want something portable with a long-lasting battery as well, then you should pick a screen size between 11 and 13 inches.
If you’re not carrying your laptop so much around there are 15 and 17-inch screens. These are heavier and bigger.
All the laptops nowadays have at least a Full-HD display. Only cheaper ones go less than Full-HD like 1366 x 768 pixels. If the resolution is high, you get a better picture quality which is good, but the price goes up as well.
Laptop Ports and Drives
The latest models don’t usually come with drives, but we’ll mention it in our reviews if it does.
When it comes to ports, you can never have enough of them. Unless you don’t have so many things to plug in, go for more USB 3 when you can because it’s faster and it has backward compatibility(unless it’s dedicated) with USB 2 which is slower. The latest models are fitted with an even faster one called USB-C. That’s going to be the new standard in the future.
More often than not manufacturers make big claims about battery life.
If you’re looking for a laptop that’s intended for travelling than you should seek at least 6 hours of battery, we’ve reviewed some models that last more than 10 hours. If your laptop it’s intended to replace your desktop-PC than the battery life shouldn’t be much of a problem. We do review the battery on those as well so you have an idea of how much it will last.
If you use a desktop-PC at home, it may be hard for you to change to a laptop. You shouldn’t worry because many of the 15 and 17-inch laptops have the same features as desktops. This includes a DVD-drive, a big and comfy keyboard, and Ethernet ports. There’s plenty of space and enough power as well in case the whole family uses the same machine.
Ultrabooks and ultra-portable laptops
Processor manufacturer Intel coined the term Ultrabook. Later it became a name for premium laptops that are thin and light. Ultrabooks usually have fast performance, long battery life, and excellent portability. These machines can also handle photo-editing and browsing with a lot of tabs open.
If you’re ready to buy check our laptop reviews to find the perfect model for you.