Laptops are becoming more accessible each year. As technology develops, these devices are becoming more powerful and more affordable at the same time. With a wide array of options, choosing the right laptop is a challenging ordeal.
A Laptop Buyer’s Guide – 9 Essential Tips Before Buying!
You might be looking for a general-use machine or something you can game with. You might be planning to upgrade your laptop every year or you’re looking for something that can last you several years without needing an upgrade. Whatever your case may be, Let our Laptop Buyer’s Guide for 2021 show you the way.
Like most normal buyers, you’ve probably set a budget for your laptop that you wouldn’t want to go over. If you haven’t, I suggest that you set one right now. It will be tempting to get a fully souped-up laptop and having a budget will stop you from going overboard.
I would advise you against getting the god-tier models. Laptops, like other pieces of technology, can’t be totally future proof and better models come out every six to twelve months. You’ll often get more out of your money if you go for last year’s models. On the contrary, going for the newer versions means you’ll last a bit longer before needing to upgrade.
An operating system is the main software that runs your entire device. You have Windows, Linux, macOS, and ChromeOS. While you’ll likely stay with the ones you’re already using, there are several reasons why you may switch to another OS.
Most laptops run Windows 10. It’s an excellent choice if you want a laptop that does everything as it offers excellent compatibility with apps and games. If you need to use a windows-only app or you’re into light gaming, then a Windows machine is the only way to go. There are hundreds of Windows laptops to choose from basic to ultimate gaming machines.
MacOS, on the other hand, is exclusive to Apple computers. Both MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro are excellent laptop choices if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem as they work seamlessly together. Apps like iMessage, Facetime, and Airdrop easily sync up with your iPhone or iPad. If you want to become an iOS app developer, then MacOS is the only way to go since Xcode (Apple’s IDE) only runs on Mac. Mac laptops are usually more expensive but they do hold their value longer than their Windows counterparts.
Chromebooks offer a great solution to users who just want a basic laptop. Chromebooks can handle light browsing, movie streaming, and office or school work. They are typically cheaper than Windows laptops, making them an ideal choice for students. Keep in mind that you might have a limited software library.
Design and Screen Size
Although most laptops still maintain the traditional folding screen-and-keyboard design, recent design upgrades have emerged.
2-in-1 hybrids allow users a tablet-like experience by incorporating touchscreens with a detachable keyboard or 360-degree hinges. These are great for artists and illustrators since they can also use a stylus pen. Dual-screen laptops are also starting to come out. These laptops have a smaller second screen behind the keyboard for a variety of use cases like an editing console or streaming monitor while gaming. These are generally more expensive than the more conventional designs but if you can see yourself using them then you might want to consider them.
Laptop sizes generally range from 13 to 17 inches. Smaller screens offer more portability and often weigh lighter. However, if you want more powerful processors and discrete GPUs, you might need to go for the 15-inch or 17-inch models.
Most laptops still use 1080p resolution, otherwise known as Full HD. This is sufficient for most users especially since you have limited screen real estate. However, you can still go further with a 4K resolution. It has 4x the screen resolution if you need the extra detail. In addition, 4K screens are more color-accurate which is what you want if you’re doing color-sensitive work.
All of this comes with a tradeoff. While a 4K screen is sharper and more vibrant, you’ll be sacrificing battery life and performance. If you’re a gamer and you value framerate, then you’re better off sticking with a Full HD resolution.
More laptop manufacturers are coming up with 1440p or 2K resolution screens. This resolution strikes a good balance between sharpness and performance without having to go to 4K.
Until recently, Intel laptops have dominated the market. But AMD has turned the table with their Ryzen mobile processors. Intel’s 10th and 11th generation chips perform really well. However, in terms of overall performance and efficiency, we’re seeing a shift to AMD. When looking at processors, a higher number means more power. A Core i7 processor is more powerful than a Core i5. Same thing with Ryzen. Thanks to higher core count or higher clock speeds.
Apple has recently released their laptops with their proprietary M1 Chip. They are essentially an upgraded version of their iPhone processors and they hit the mark. So if you’re looking to get a MacBook, make sure it has the new M1 processor inside. You can read more about it in our MacBook Air review.
Most laptops don’t use a dedicated GPU and use integrated graphics instead. This is absolutely fine for most users. Onboard graphics have come a long way. Nowadays, you can even do light gaming on the recently released machines. However, if you’re planning to play triple-A titles on your laptop, then you need the right tool for the job. That is, you need to get a laptop with a dedicated GPU.
With the release of Nvidia 30 series laptops, now is a good time to grab a gaming laptop if you want to fully maximize the device’s life cycle. However, don’t expect your gaming laptops to perform just as well as a gaming desktop. In essence, laptop and desktop GPUs are not the same.
RAM and Storage
Having more RAM will allow you to run more programs in the background. In general, you’ll get by with 8GB of RAM. Gamers will benefit from having at least 16GB. While power users such as designers and editors should consider getting 32GB or even 64GB.
For storage, having more space means you’ll have more room for your files and programs. While you can get by with a 256GB SSD, I think you should consider getting a laptop with 512GB. This way you won’t have to worry about deleting and saving your old files too often.
USB-C is the most important port you’ll need moving forward, so make sure your laptop has one. USB-C can support either Thunderbolt 3 or 4, these ports offer the fastest transfers today. The latest laptops are offering USB4, this port uses the same USB-C connection and lets you do almost anything as far as input/output ports go. If you need to use the older ports for your mouse or older thumb drives, make sure you get a laptop with the necessary connections. Although if you’re going for a MacBook, you’ll need to shell out more for an adaptor since they only come with USB-C ports.
An ideal laptop should strike a good balance between performance and battery life. The two major factors are your battery size and your laptop’s specs. You’re going to have less battery life with a more powerful device. Don’t be surprised if you’re not getting the same battery life as advertised. The numbers are usually best-case scenarios.
I hope this list can help you in your future quest for your next laptop. Remember, never rush and do proper research before making any purchase.
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