10 Tips for Buying the Right Laptop

In a world run more and more through technology, it has become apparent that having and using the correct technology is increasingly important. And just as people are diverse, so too are the laptops we are able to choose from. The problem comes in when you are faced with having to buy a new laptop but aren’t sure which one would be the right one for you. 

Due to the fact that we are all different and therefore have different needs, a laptop that is perfect for one person could be the completely wrong choice for someone else. Of course, this means that a lot of thought and careful weighing up needs to be taken into consideration before you purchase that new laptop. 

While mobile phones and tablets have become almost a must-have accessory to our rushed lives, nothing beats having a proper laptop for the bigger jobs that are just easier when done on a larger screen or typed on a proper keyboard.

However, unlike stand alone computers, once you buy a laptop there isn’t much you can do to beef it up or change it — you’re stuck with the product you bought, so it’s crucial to ensure you buy the one best suited to your needs. 

In lieu of the fact that there are so many things to think about before you make your decision we have put together a list of ten tips to keep in mind in order to aid you in buying the right laptop for your needs and wants. 

Tip #1: Pick an Operating System

In the world of laptops, there are four main operating systems that you need to compare. Firstly, there is the Windows OS, then Mac OS (for Apple users), thirdly there is Chrome OS and lastly there is Linux. 

Windows OS is one of the main operating systems. It is stalwart and reliable and, like a trustworthy employee, it gets the job done. If you’re relying on Microsoft apps and MS Office, then this is the best operating system for the job. Not to mention that there are more Windows laptops to choose from than any of the others. 

Mac OS is perhaps a bit more user friendly for a first time user than its Windows counterpart, but you will be very tied down with the Apple hardware thus it may not be a good option if you don’t already own an iPhone or iPad. 

Chrome OS laptops are among the cheapest out there but it will require that you do most of your work in a web browser so if that isn’t really an option for you, then this won’t be the right choice for you. Something else to keep in mind is that most apps won’t run on the Chromebook — another name for the Chrome OS laptop.

That being said, it is the cheapest if you are on a tight budget and just needing something to be able to write emails and keep in touch with friends and family. 

Linux can be installed on most laptops, but unfortunately it doesn’t allow for MS Office and Adobe and it is also quite a learning curve to get used to it. There are a few free and open source options in the place of MS Office, such as LibreOffice, which you can install and use.

Tip #2: Screen Size (and Yes, It Matters)

With a laptop, size is incredibly important because it isn’t something you can upgrade later on should you wish to. It’s not like the RAM or ROM of the computer which can be improved on or made bigger later on. Once you have chosen your laptop size, that’s that. You’re stuck with it until you buy a new one — and unlike mobile phone contracts, we tend to keep our laptops for a lot longer than just two years. 

When we talk about size, we are talking of the screen size diagonally across, which is measured in inches. Most laptop makes come in the general screen size of 13.3 inches, 15.6 inches and 17.3 inches. Whilst these are the main sizes which most manufacturers supply, there are laptops whose screen size ranges from 11.6 inches all the way to 17.3 inches.

If you are looking for a laptop chiefly for entertainment and being able to do video calls and so on, then a larger screen is preferable to a smaller one. However, if you want to carry it around with you then all day then you will want a smaller and lighter option as the bigger powerhouse may not fit comfortably into a rucksack or carry bag as easily and will be rather weighty to lug around with you. 

Tip #3: Check for Ports

While size, memory and screen quality really matter when choosing a laptop, something else that makes a difference is how many ports the laptop has. These ports are where you will plug things into your laptop such as your phone (to download those awesome family photos you took over the weekend), the USB drive to copy documents etc as well an earphone jack — where you can plug in your headphones or earphones — and also an SD reader. 

Something else you will want to seriously consider is to make sure you have enough ports so that you can use a portable charger for your laptop. This is one that charges via a USB port instead of via the normal power port. In general a laptop will specify whether or not it can charge via a USB charging cable on the specifications section so keep an eye out for that. 

Added to that, these chargers are usually cheaper to replace than the original power cable that comes with the laptop. However, be sure that when you buy a charging cable to buy the manufacturers charging cable or at least a trusted brand. In this case buying the cheapest option would be a big mistake. 

Having an HDMI (high definition multimedia interface) port is also important these days because it allows you to connect to the television or big screen or projector etc. 

Tip #4: Webcam Capabilities

In these days of remote online meetings and video conferencing, having a webcam on the laptop is a must. Shockingly, though, there are still some laptops out there that do not have a built in webcam. This is something that you need to check before buying your laptop (this is specified under the laptop’s specifications) because if the laptop doesn’t have one you may need to purchase one at an extra additional cost. 

Tip #5: Choose Your Form

There are some laptops which are hybrids, meaning they fall into the category of two-in-one laptops. This means that they are able to transform from a normal laptop into tablet mode or other modes in between, such as a tent or stand modes. 

In general these laptops come in two different forms — namely those whose screens detach completely from the keyboard and those who are more flexible and have hinges that can bend backwards at 360 degrees in order to change modes. 

While these may be pretty cool, if you don’t need something that can transform into a tablet with the snap of a wrist, then it would be better to look at something more traditional. 

Tip #6: Decide On the Keyboard

The keyboard is one of the more important considerations when buying a new laptop, especially since we need to be able to type comfortably and accurately.

The size of your keyboard keys is directly proportionate to the accuracy of your keystrokes, which is why this is so important. Check to see if the keyboard has all the function keys you need and that they are positioned according to your specific needs. 

Having concave keys help as your fingers are able to find the centre of the keys without having to look at the keyboard. The layout and style of the keyboard also makes a difference and each person will have different needs, so if possible it would be good if you could take the keyboard for a test run — run your fingers over the keys in mock-typing motions, etc. 

Tip #7: Consider Pricing and Brand

For some people price isn’t an issue but for others it is a definite consideration. You need to take a look at your laptop needs in conjunction with your budget. There are quite a few really good laptops out there which are reasonably priced and should meet most, if not all, of your needs and requirements. 

Another point to consider would be the brand of laptop. Make sure that whichever brand you decide to buy has a very good technical support structure as you don’t want to sit with a laptop with a problem and no way to fix it. 

Tip #8: Beware of the Battery

Knowing what kind of battery the laptop has is absolutely crucial to making sure you get a good buy. Due to the fact that most people buy a laptop in order to be able to carry it around as they need it, they don’t want it to die after an hour or two. After all, you never know when you will be able to plug in and recharge, so it needs to be able to keep for at least five or more hours. 

Generally speaking, your average laptop should have a battery life of at least five to seven hours. The smaller the laptop, the larger the battery life tends to be due to the fact that it has a smaller screen and less powerful low-voltage processors. 

If you’re looking at a high end power thirsty virtuoso laptop, bear in mind that it will be power hungry and will most likely only have a battery life of four to five hours at most.

This is not ideal when looking at something that needs to travel, so keep this in mind and remember to always read the reviews to see what people have experienced after buying the product. The reviews can sometimes be quite enlightening and helpful. 

Tip #9: Storage and Memory Is Important

Overall, having 8GB of memory (RAM) is considered acceptable for laptops that are needed for general work and play. However, if you are looking for something more hard core for content development and more intensive applications, then you will need to consider getting a laptop with at least 16GB of RAM. 

Storage space (the amount of space on your laptop’s internal drive) is also key so look for a laptop that has an SSD (solid state drive) as these are more reliable than the traditional hard drives. 

Tip #10: Performance and Graphics

The GPU (graphics processing unit) has the largest and most significant impact on your laptop’s performance. It is responsible for the graphics, or visual elements, which you see on your laptop screen. If the graphics card is not up to standard then it will affect the performance of your laptop as well as the visuals. 

Graphics cards are either discrete (separate and more powerful) or integrated — built into the laptop motherboard. If you need your laptop for video editing or gaming then you will need to look for one with a discrete graphics card. Otherwise the integrated GPU is usually fine for most users. 

At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to one thing — what you will be using your laptop for. This is really at the heart and core of your entire decision as it will determine how much memory you need, what kind of performance and graphics you will need to look at as well as which operating system would be best suited to your needs. 

As always, if you’re needing any kind of additional help finding the right laptop for you, consider reaching out to HelpCloud technicians for remote support.

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About the author

Photo of Erik Fullmer

Erik Fullmer

Erik was raised in many places but has long since called Utah home. Rooted in mountains, he spends a lot of time with his dogs in the mountains and in the winter he skis… a lot.

Erik is actively earning the necessary certifications and training to become a certified AMGA Ski Guide.

With over a decade of content writing experience, Erik finds passion when writing for the tech and outdoor recreation industries.