Tips For Buying A Laptop: Read This Before Buying A Laptop

Laptops offer a link to the abundant opportunities online and their compact size gives users the decision on where to travel with them. Choosing the right laptop can be a tedious endeavor because of all the different factors but fortunately, this guide will help you choose the right one for you.

Take the time to consider these features in the laptop you choose because it would be unfortunate to have to return a laptop or worse find out that it is too late to return an already purchased laptop.

It is important to understand that there will be tradeoffs when picking out a laptop. For example, if you are looking for a smaller laptop then you should understand that it is going to be less powerful or exclude certain hardware because of the size. Do your best to pick out features that you value and are a need in your daily life.

1. Figure Out the Daily Activities You Plan to Do On A Laptop

Before thinking about anything else pertaining to the laptop you want to purchase. I recommend thinking about what use cases you plan to accomplish with your laptop. Below are a few examples to consider.

Are you a student whose main use for a laptop is using a word processor to write research papers, communicating with friends over social media, and watching Netflix? Then I would recommend a laptop with 4 GB to 8 GB of memory, an Intel i3/i5 processor or an AMD CPU, and either an integrated GPU or no GPU to cut on cost since you are not going to use it to its full potential.

If your job requires intense 3-D rendering/video editing/photo editing or your laptop needs to handle other heavy calculations, such as the graphics in some games, then getting a laptop with a dedicated GPU, an Intel i5/i7/i9 processor and 8 GB to 16 GB of memory may be what you are looking for. There are even laptops with more than 16 GB of memory such as 32 GB but there is an argument that too much memory will not actually improve performance.

2. Choose An Operating System: Mac OS, Windows OS, Chrome OS

Apple MacOS

Apple’s operating system consists of an appealing design and it is called MacOS. The current version is macOS Mojave. Apple aims to create an operating system that is simple to use even for a beginner to their products. It is designed for users to be productive within a short period of time.

The applications within this operating system are part of the Apple Eco-system. The idea is that Apple creates as much of its own software and hardware within their company which gives them more control over the quality of their technology. The end user gets a product that works without much configuration or problems on their part.

Mac’s tend to get fewer viruses, spyware, and malware making it a secure operating system.

Microsoft Windows OS

Microsoft Windows is a common operating system among different laptops and the current version is Windows 10. This operating system works with a wide variety of hardware compared to its competition. This is why Windows is best for laptops that handle graphically intense task like gaming, video/photo editing or any other task that requires high-end hardware.

The Windows OS is licensed to numerous laptop manufactures, therefore Microsoft does not have as much control over the hardware it is used with which leads to compatibility issues. This is the disadvantage Microsoft has against Apple which leads to the users of Windows having to troubleshoot their laptops at times.

A few features of Windows 10 include the voice assistant Cortana, accessing one or more previously copied items (including screen captures) from the new cloud clipboard, dark mode to reduce strain on your eyes and an updated Windows Security.

Google Chrome OS

Google’s Operating system centers around giving users an enjoyable web browser experience and is recently able to run most Android applications. Google created this OS keeping in mind that the average user uses their laptop for browsing the web and to use Google’s productivity applications like Google Docs. This allowed Google to make the OS more lightweight and require less high-end hardware. Chrome OS is a great option for users who need a laptop to complete basic tasks such as browsing the web, using one of Google’s productivity applications or a similar.

The downside to this operating system is that it is not meant for handling intense applications like certain games and it relies on the user having a good internet connection. Without a good internet connection, you will lose the benefits of what this operating system is meant for.

3. Choose the Specs

The combination of the following specs will determine the performance of your laptop.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)

The CPU is responsible for doing massive calculations to run programs on your laptop. They come with one or more cores and each core is clocked at a certain speed, which is the time it takes for the core to get a task done.

Each core in a CPU works on a task in your computer and the clock speed is how fast that core can get a task done in your computer. The more cores and the higher the clock speed the better the CPU will be. There is a caveat here though. The two popular CPUs are Intel and AMD. It would not work to compare an Intel processor to an AMD processor because their cores along with their clock speeds are designed differently. An Intel processor with lower cores or clock speed on paper could still potentially outperform the AMD processor.

To compare processors from competing companies you would need to do a real-world performance benchmark or do research on the competing chips. Another consideration is that there are different generations of processors. Before buying a processor make sure to also compare the generations such as making sure that an i7 processor that is 2 generations old still outperforms the latest i5 processor.

AMD is cheaper processors because of their lower performance compared to Intel. AMD and Intel i3 are on the lower end of therefore cost the least. For middle-tier processors look for i5 or older generation i7 processors. The recent generation i7 processors are the 9th generation processor and I would consider the high tier to be 7th generation and better. The i9 processors are the recent processors and are powerful for most builds.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

When you open an application on your laptop the memory necessary to run that application is stored in your RAM. Retrieving memory from your Hard Drive / SSD is slow which is why RAM was created. If you are on a budget then you could get away with 4 GB of memory but just know you will be limited in what you can do with your laptop. 8 GB of memory is recommended and will be enough to do a lot of task in for gaming. 16 GB would be considered high end and anything above that can help but the extra money may be better utilized towards more storage or better processing power.

Solid State Drive (SSD) / Hard Drive (Storage)

A storage device stores all the data that comes with your laptop such as the Operating System, default applications and any other data that you download or save. Hard drives are older and cheaper storage devices that are slow at accessing data. SSD’s are the newer storage option and are fast at accessing data. The startup time of your laptop from an SSD will be faster when powering it up and opening applications will be faster as well. I typically recommend going with an SSD even if it means you have to get one with lower storage capacity so that you can get the advantages of an SSD. There are always options like cloud storage, which I have a post here if you are interested in learning more about it, and external storage devices.

Graphics Processing Unit (GPU)

GPU’s are processors that specialize in rendering graphics. If you plan on playing games with high-end graphics, do 3-D rendering, or do another task that requires high-end graphics then getting a GPU will be worth it. On the low end of GPUs, there is AMD Radeon RX 550 and Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 / 1050. Middle Tier Graphics cards consist of Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 / 2070 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti / 1080. The high tier GPUs consist of Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and Nvidia Titan RTX.

Lower end laptops will use an integrated GPU which means the CPU does some basic graphics processing and there is no dedicated GPU. This option provides inferior graphical processing but requires less energy.

Higher end laptops will use what is called a dedicated GPU which means the laptop comes with a separate graphics chip solely for processing graphics. This option uses more energy but provides superior graphics processing results.


The display consists of the screen resolution which is the number of pixels in length by width (l x w) format. The higher the resolution the sharper the images will be from the display. A high tier laptop resolution will be in the range of 3840 x 2160 which can display 4k images. Middle-tier can play up to 1440p and have a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440. I have a hard time calling 1080p low-tier because it is still a great resolution and it is standard on many laptops. It consists of displays with a screen ratio of 16:9 with a resolution of 1366 x 768 or 1920 x 1080.

Touch Screen

Touch screens are a benefit of 2 in 1 laptops. Standard laptops will not come shipped with this feature.

Optical Drive (Disk Drive)

Laptops typically do not come with an optical disk drive anymore because most content that can be found in disk form can now be downloaded online. This type of content is moving towards being available on websites or downloadable. I recently bought a movie in DVD form but the company also sent me a digital code to watch the movie on their website and download it on my computer. There is also the option to get an external optical Drive. If you want to learn more about external optical drives or optical drives, in general, I wrote a post about it here.


Recent laptops like the ones made by Apple are only made with USB Type-C. This is because the peripherals that are usable by laptops are moving towards being made of USB Type-C. The downside is that dongles are needed to accommodate for the lack of peripherals that currently support USB Type-C at the moment. Other ports to look are USB 3.0, HDMI and a Thunderbolt 3 port.

4. Decide on the Size

If you plan on using your laptop to travel around a lot then a screen size of 11 inches to 14 inches might be what you are looking for. There are some exceptions to this rule but typically laptops with this screen size are lighter.

The next category of screen sizes is from 15 inches to around 18 inches. Once again there are laptops at this size such as the LG gram or certain MacBooks, that is pretty light but typically bigger screen laptops are higher.

This is a point of where you have to decide on a tradeoff. If you need a laptop that is portable but you also need it to have powerful hardware than you may want to with something around the 13-15 inch range because it is possible to find laptops in this size range with decent specs.

5. Look Into the Keyboard and Trackpad

The main way you will be interacting with your laptop is through the built-in keyboard and trackpad, therefore making sure it is to your liking is important. The best way to get a feel for whether you like the keyboard and trackpad within a laptop is to go to a local technology store and try them out for yourself.

Laptops typically come with rubber keyboards and there are some that come with mechanical keyboards. The rubber refers to the rubber within the keys that you are pressing on. The type of laptop keyboard you go with will be based on preference especially when it comes to mechanical keyboards because there are several mechanical switches to choose from. Laptop manufactures also customize the rubber keys so you will find noticeable differences between a laptop keyboard made by Dell and one made by Apple. There is no real right or wrong here since it is due to preference and there is always the option to buy an external mouse and keyboard, which is what I personally use.

When looking for a keyboard within your laptop I recommend making sure that it is backlit, there is space between the keys, and that your hand is comfortable when traveling around the keyboard.

Trackpads come in an assortment of sizes with differing responsiveness and features. I would recommend choosing a trackpad that comes with multi-touch finger gestures because once you learn them you will be able to navigate through your laptop quickly and efficiently. The next feature to look for is it being responsive and a decent size because some trackpads require multiple swipes to get from one side of the screen to the next.

6. Consider Average Battery Life

When looking at the average battery life of the laptop you plan to buy make sure to keep in mind the daily activities you plan on using it for. If you plan on doing a lot of intensive task at one then the average battery life listed by the manufacture will be too high of an estimate and you need to consider using your laptop around a power source most of the time.

There is a chance you can get more then what the box tells you but it relies on how you plan to use your laptop daily.

7. Create a Budget

Your budget will dictate the type of laptop you will be able to buy.

Anything from $300 to $600 will get you a budget laptop that can run basic tasks such as browsing the web, using a word processor, communicating over social media or stream content can cost.

From $600 to just below $1000 you can get a device with a low to mid-tier CPU and graphics chip with an SSD and 4 GB to 8 GB of memory.

Anything above $1000 typically has i7 processors or better, a dedicated graphics chip, SSD, 8GB+ of memory with medium to larger display sizes.

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