Laptop Buying Guide
Essential tips to know before you buy
There's such a huge choice when it comes to laptops that it can feel like a minefield. This article will help you to navigate your way to the perfect machine for your needs.
Screen, Battery and Style
12.5 to 14-inch screens are ideal if you will be travelling with the laptop and smaller models are best suited to children. 15 inch screen machines weigh a little more and are the ideal choice if you don’t travel with your laptop very much. For those who want a high level of business productivity and don’t travel with the laptop much then a 17 or 18 inch screen is a great choice.
Look for 8+ hours of battery life if you plan to travel with the laptop. If it will mostly remain plugged in on your desk then this won’t be so critical.
If you are certain that you’ll want to use your laptop as a tablet then consider a two in one model. These come in two forms; the bend back models and those with a detachable screen. If you aren’t likely to use this feature then the standard clamshell type is the better choice, particularly as you will get more performance for your money with this type of machine.
You will need to choose the platform you will use. Both Windows and MacBooks offer loads of functionality and it tends to depend on your particular preference. Neither is superior to the other, though there are those that will try to tell you that they are.
Windows 10 is perhaps the most flexible operating system and the most popular choice for laptops, particularly for students and business users and if you are a gamer they are the best choice
All MacBooks come with Apple's latest desktop operating system, macOS Catalina. The operating system offers similar functionality to Windows 10, but the interface looks really different. There is an apps bar at the bottom of the screen rather than the start menu that Microsoft users are used to. It is also not possible to purchase a Mac with a touch screen.
Chrome Operating System which is found on the Chromebooks is simple, secure but limited. It relies on web apps and these don’t work all that well offline. However, Chromebooks are improving all the time so these limitations may be resolved in due course. Since it is difficult to infect a Chromebook with malware, they are a fabulous choice for children and very popular with schools.
Keyboard and Touchpad
If you plan to do a lot of work on your computer, make sure the keyboard is comfortable to use for long periods and has plenty of key travel when pressed down. Alternatively, if you plan to work on the desk more than on the go, then a wireless keyboard and mouse are an excellent investment, particularly if you type a great deal as the ergonomics tend to be better and protect against Repetitive Strain Injury more effectively.
This is where almost everyone becomes confused. Spec sheets for laptops tend to look like a foreign language with talk of processors, hard drives, RAM and graphics chips. This is where it’s worth consulting an IT support expert who can listen to the types of things you need your new laptop to do and then suggest a suitable machine that will do all that you need it to, plus a little bit more, to allow for growth so to speak. It is a service I often get asked to provide, and one I really enjoy. I do love matching people to their tech so that they are able to increase their efficiency and productivity, connect easily with the rest of their team if needed and feel confident with the machine chosen.
The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the brains of your computer and has a large influence on performance. However, not everyone needs the fastest laptop in the west. The Intel 10 processors are now available but for many people Intel Core 9 is plenty fast enough and the machine will cost you less.
Intel Xeon is very powerful but very expensive and only recommended for those who do professional grade 3D modelling or video editing. The machines they are installed in are large and have inferior battery life as well.
Intel Pentium / Celeron: these are common in the cheaper laptops and are the slowest performers. However, if you just want to do a bit of web surfing and a few documents then it will be perfectly fine for you.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
Cheaper machines come with 4GB of RAM but ideally you’d want 8GB or higher with most people choosing 32GB and those who rely heavily on their machine and use it constantly tending to opt for 64GB
Storage Drive (aka Hard Drive)
If you can afford it and don’t need lots of internal storage then a laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD) is worth the purchase. You’ll get real speed from your laptop with this on board. If you want storage but also speed, then speak to me about GSuite. It’s a great way to store masses of data in the cloud. Always accessible, never clogging up your computer.
The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. However, you also need to balance the need for a sharp display with the consumption of extra power, which can lower your battery life.
If you are planning to use several peripherals such as foot pedals, wireless mouse and keyboard or headsets or plan to connect a screen to the laptop whilst it’s on the desk so you can work dual screen, then ports will likely be an issue you need to consider. For most people, a couple of USB ports and HDMI out (for those Powerpoint presentations) will be sufficient and are standard on most machines.