A Laptop is the ultimate choice when it comes to portability and power for computational purposes. Modern Laptops have so many options available when it comes to portability, computational power, brands, and budgets. With that many options, it is confusing to make the right choice.
This article will cover the different features that are available for a Laptop so that you take an informed decision in choosing the right Laptop.
Laptops come in all prices starting from entry-level laptops at $200 to high-end laptops that can cost $1000 – $3000.
Make up your mind on how much money you want to spend on a new laptop. This is very important because it is easy to get distracted and end up paying more than you want in the end. It is always good to know the price range and what to expect from each range.
$200 – $400 entry-level Laptops
Between $200 and $400, you can expect a basic laptop which is enough to complete the basic tasks such as web browsing checking emails and create basic documents. These laptops usually have a basic processor, less RAM, and less storage space. As a result, multitasking can be a problem as it may slow down the overall performance of the laptop. No more playing high-end games and carrying a lot of movies and music to play around. Some of these laptops in this category are priced so low because it is not loaded with an Operating System or use a free Operating system such as Chrome OS. The price might shoot up once you load the Operating system of your choice.
$400 – $800 middle-level Laptops
Between $400 and $800, laptops are more into the intermediate level. The processor used in these models carries more processing power. These laptops have a better processor, minimum SSD storage space, average to good screen quality, more RAM and enough hard disk space. Multitasking is not a problem unless you have more than 4-5 applications opened at the same time. Performance is average for high-end applications and games.
$800 and above high-end Laptops
Above $800, laptops are more into the high-end level. Most gaming laptops come under this category. These laptops have a relatively new high-end processor with a lot of processing power. They are usually complemented by more RAM (usually starts with 8GB and more), more SSD space, and a lot of hard disk storage space. These laptops are designed for running high-end applications and games. The screen and sound quality of these laptops are usually very good making it the ideal choice for gamers, animation and movie buffs.
Operating System – MacOS, Windows or Chrome OS
Most buyers already know what to buy since they already have experience working on these platforms. However, someone with little or no experience might want to make up their mind on which OS platform
Most laptops are loaded with any of these OS – Windows, MacOS and Chrome OS.
Windows is the most popular and most flexible OS. Windows OS is supported by many manufacturers. So, there are a variety of brands and specifications to choose from when it comes to Windows loaded laptops. Windows laptops are available from entry level to the high-end level laptops.
Most Windows laptops are loaded with Windows 10 which is the latest OS from Microsoft. Windows 7 was very popular in the past, but not preferred now as the support for Windows 7 is limited. Rarely laptops with Windows 8.1 can be seen at a lower price. Check if the manufacturer can help in doing a free upgrade to Windows 10. Most Windows 10 laptops come under mid-level to high-end category.
Entry-level laptops are mostly loaded with Windows Home version with limited features. It is desirable to have Windows 10 Pro version for mid to high-end versions.
MacBook which is the laptop version from Apple is loaded with MacOS. MacOS is only limited to Apple products, so no option to look for laptops from other manufacturers. MacOS may not be as popular and flexible as Windows, but is good enough to do almost all tasks that can be done on Windows. MacOS have a better-looking GUI (Graphical User Interface) than Windows. Combined with Apple’s brilliant product design, MacBook’s look more premium compared to other laptops.
MacBook’s also come at a higher price tag. An entry level MacBook can cost more than a mid-level laptop. MacOS applications and games are costly, while most Windows application is either free or less costly. MacOS is less prone to hacking and malware attack.
Chrome OS is developed by Google. Laptops loaded with Chrome OS is called Chromebook. Apart from Google, other manufacturers such as Acer, Samsung, HP, Toshiba etc also have Chromebook models. But they are not as popular as Windows OS.
Chrome OS looks like Windows, but the apps can be dragged and moved around like in Android. Working on Chrome OS is limited to browsing, social networking, and chat. In the latest versions of Chrome OS, Android Apps can be added which increased its functionality tremendously. Chrome OS is less prone to attacks, so more secure than Windows.
Chromebooks are usually less costly and a lot of them are available in the entry-level budget. But there are also high-end versions available which allow usage of Android Apps. Chromebooks are also highly portable and have a long battery life.
Portable or ultra-portable
When it comes to portability, laptops come in two types -Traditional laptops and 2-in-1 type laptops. If you are planning to take your laptop to the office, dock to a station and work on it, a traditional laptop is a good choice. But if you demand flexibility and would like to carry it around a lot, 2-in-1 is better.
Modern traditional laptops are much thinner, light and compact. But it still carries more space than a 2-in-1. The extra space allows manufacturers to built in more power and features at a reasonable price compared to 2-in-1. Traditional laptops also have more space for including multiple USB ports, a Blue-ray or cd drives.
2-in-1 laptops offer more flexibility. It can be used as a laptop or tablet. Some models allow the keyboard to completely detach from the screen and make it work as a tablet. Some models have flexible hinges which allow the keyboard part to move 360 degrees behind the screen and use it as a tablet. 2-in-1’s are very light and compact which will help you save space in your bag and less weight on your shoulder. They carry a smaller battery, so check for battery life before taking a decision. To save space, they may not have adequate USB ports and no Blue-Ray or disc drives. Some 2-in-1 models are powerful, but very costly compared to traditional models with the same processing power.
The screen is the personality of a laptop. It sets the tone for the level of comfort working on the machine. It also decides the size of and weight of a laptop.
Laptop Screen Size
10 – 12 inches: These are lightest and thinnest laptops. It usually weights between weighs between 1 Kg and 1.5 Kg. The lightweight makes it ultra-portable but it is typically used for basic operations like a tablet.
13 – 14 inches: These laptops are both portable and multi-functional. There are plenty of basic to middle-level laptops. But some of the high-end laptops from Apple MacBook, Microsoft Surface, Alienware, Dell, HP, Lenovo etc are also available in this category. They also carry a heavy price tag since lots of additional features are incorporated into very little space. The laptops usually weigh less than 2 Kg, but it might go up for high-end models.
15 – 16 inches: This is the most popular and most common screen size for a laptop. They weigh between 2.5 Kg and 3 Kg. Most of the middle level to high-end laptops belong to this category. They are portable, but not the ideal size if you are planning to carry it around a lot.
17 inches and above: Some of the middle level and most of the high-end laptops belong to this category. The only reason to buy this laptop is if you are not planning to carry it around and use it as a workstation. Bigger laptops are also gaming laptops for high-end games. Availability of additional space allows the manufacturer to add more power to these machines. Medium budget laptops in this category are ideal for users having problems with reading from small screens.
Laptop Screen Resolution
Screen resolution decides how much information can be displayed on the screen. More the resolution of the screen, more details can be displayed on the screen.
Here are some of the screen resolutions.
- 1366 x 768
- 1440 x 900
- 1600 x 900
- 1920 x 1080
- 2560 x 1440
- 2880 x 1800
- 3200 x 1800
- 3840 x 2160 & above
Most laptops start with a basic screen resolution of 1366 x 768. Some laptop screens support Full HD (1920 x 1080), Quad HD (2560 x 1440) and even the latest 4K (3840 x 2160) screens. A 3840 x 2160 resolution laptop is priced above $1500.
Unlike Smartphones and Tablets, most laptop users are comfortable without having a touchscreen. A touchscreen is an additional cost to the price of a laptop. Touchscreen laptops are nicer to work if it is loaded with Windows 10 or iOS.
Matte vs Glossy screen
The purpose of using a laptop is to carry it around and use it in different conditions. One of the common problems is the reflection of light on the screen when there is plenty of light in your surroundings. Glossy screens reflect light and create additional strain on the user. The solution is using a Matte screen which is specially treated for anti-glare properties.
Glossy screens show more intense colors, more clean and vibrant images than a Matte screen. But Matte screen is ideal, if the laptop is supposed to be used more in outdoors and well-lit rooms.
Laptop Processing Power
Processor or Microprocessor is the brain of a computer. Faster the processor, faster is a computer’s ability to process data. The quality of a processor is a major factor in deciding the speed and performance of a computer. Laptop processors are mainly from two manufacturers – Intel and AMD. Intel processors are used in entry-level, mid-level and high-end laptops and come in different price ranges. AMD processors are mostly used in entry-level and budget-priced laptops.
Looking at processor models, the letter that comes after the model name is also very important.
- H means High-performance graphics e.g. intel i7-8750H processor
- U means ultra-low-power chips, additional cores added. Less power consumption and good performance. e.g. i5-8265U
- Y means ultra-low-power chips than the U series. Less power consumption, no high-power graphics, longer battery life e.g. i5-8200Y
- Q – Quad-core processor. High performance e.g. i7-6920HQ
Here are some of the important processors worth mentioning.
Intel Core i7 and Intel Xeon: These are extremely powerful processors which are ideal for working on high-end applications and games. To keep up with the processor speed, they have 16GB or higher RAM, more SSD storage and hard disk space. The price range starts above $1000.
Intel Core i5: i5 processors are the next best to i7 and Xeon processors. Most of the laptops in mid-range are equipped with i5. This laptop is the best combination of performance and price.
Intel Core i3: The performance comes below i5 and so does the price. Price of these laptops is between $350 and $600. Most models have RAM between 4 GB – 8 GB, hard disk 500 GB – 1 TB.
AMD Ryzen: Processor from AMD to compete with Intel i5 and i7 series. Good performance and less pricey compared to Intel laptops. But consider looking at reviews from other buyers before taking a decision.
Intel Pentium, Celeron series: Low-end processor from Intel. Average performance. Ideal for doing basic functions. Used in low-cost laptops ranging from $300 to $500.
AMD E series, A series and FX series: Found on entry-level and low-cost laptops. Laptops ideal for performing basic browsing and documentation.
It is essential to make sure there is enough RAM to complement the processing power of Microprocessor. If the processor is from a high-end category, a low amount of RAM memory can become a bottleneck for the smooth flow of data.
RAM memory usually comes in 2GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB.
2GB memory is usually seen in low-end laptops usually a Chromebook or a low-end Windows OS.
4GB memory is enough for running any OS. Most laptops from mid-level category carry a minimum of 4 GB. But 4GB is not enough for running high-end applications and games.
8GB memory is enough RAM for running most high-end applications. Most mid-level to high-end laptops
16GB memory and more: 16GB is enough for anyone running the most complex software and high graphics animation game. Usually, this much RAM is seen in high-end laptops.
Graphics card is responsible for displaying images. Modern monitors are capable of displaying a wide range of colors at varying depths and display every detail in the highest resolution. This demands a lot of processing power from Graphics card.
There are mainly two types of Graphics card in laptops – Integrated and Dedicated. As the name suggests, Integrated Graphics Card is built into the chip system and it shares the processing power with the main system. A dedicated graphics card does graphics processing separately and hence have less impact on other system processes.
A dedicated graphics card is ideal for those who use 3-d modeling software, multimedia graphics and high-end games. They are usually seen in mid-level to a high-end graphics card. Integrated graphics costs less and ideal for normal users. This can be seen in entry-level to mid-level laptops.
Most integrated graphics card are from Intel. Dedicated graphics cards are mainly manufactured by Nvidia and AMD. Both have very good models in mid-range to high-end category. Check the manufacturer website to know the impact of each model on graphics processing.
The amount of Hard disk space available used to be a major factor in the past. Not anymore, as most Laptops carry at least 500 GB Hard disk space. That is now replaced by the type of storage used in the Laptop. The type of storage plays an important role in performance.
Type of Storage
Hard disk which is used to store information comes in 2 types – Mechanical Hard Drive and SSD.
Mechanical drives store information in a physical disk which constantly rotates around a spindle. A magnetic needle which moves to and fro constantly reads and writes data inside the rotating disk. Mechanical disks are slow in reading data compared to SSD.
SSD: It stands for Solid State Drive. It stores information in magnetic chips and there are no mechanical moving parts involved in reading and writing data. So SSD’s create no noise, no heat and less prone to shock and vibration. The latest SSD’s are almost thrice the speed of mechanical hard disks. This makes the laptop very fast.
SSD’s are expensive compared to a mechanical hard drive. SSDs are costly. They are usually seen in mid-level to high-end laptops.
Adding storage space for later is no more a problem with availability of terabyte-sized external disks and USB thumb drives which can carry large amounts of data. But if you can get a good deal with enough internal storage, you don’t have to worry about upgrading for a long time.
Most laptops come with a minimum of 500 GB storage space for a medium budget. 1 TB is now getting more common in the mid-level and high-end laptops.
This is one feature which cannot be determined by looking at laptop specifications. A Keyboard is a part that a user uses the most in a laptop. A good keyboard helps in typing fast and make fewer mistakes. A badly designed keyboard can create a lot of strain on fingers and wrists.
Before buying a laptop, check if typing is comfortable. Check if individual keys are placed too close or far which can create strain. Avoid stiff keyboards and go for the springy ones which respond fast to your typing. Avoid keyboard with more space between the key and the base. Usually, it should be between 1.5 mm and 2mm. Check user reviews for a second opinion.
Battery life is an important factor to look for when it comes to a portable device. If you are not going to move around a lot with the laptop, the battery life may not be a big concern. You have the option to connect to a power supply when the battery is low. But for those doing the field work, battery life is going to be a major concern.
A bigger screen, faster processor and dedicated graphics card can drain your battery fast. Also, thinner and lightweight Laptops carry a smaller battery which also reduce the battery life. The battery life claimed by manufacturers may not be accurate in real life situations. Check user reviews from other buyers to know what to expect.
A battery life of more than 8+ hours is ideal for most users. There are laptops with as much as 12+ hours of battery life. But be careful. To achieve those milestones, they may lack screen quality or have poor overall performance. Find a balance that suits your needs.
Warranty and Tech Support
Laptops are portable devices. So, they are prone to thefts and damages from liquid spill, dust, overheating etc. Diagnosing and replacing damaged hardware is also not easy. Laptop hardware is much more complex than Desktop as they are designed to fit in limited space. So, keep the laptop protected by warranty even if it means extending the warranty.
Most manufacturers offer a 1-year warranty and the opportunity to extend by paying a small amount. Ensure they offer free replacement for damaged parts. A theft insurance will be an added advantage.
Also, check the Tech support options for your Laptops. Check if the Tech support option is available in your region. Some brands offer 24 hr Tech support through phone, chat or email. Brands like Apple, Dell, Samsung, Asus and HP topped the best tech support list in a 2018 survey by Laptop Magazine.