There’s a lot to consider when it comes to purchasing a new laptop. That’s why we’ve broken down some of the best ones into categories like operating system, features, and price, in the hopes that it will make the buying process easier for you.
Important Laptop Features
Laptops get more and more complex every year, which means they have a ton of features that are often crucial to their performance and ease of use. Below are some of the most important features you need to understand and assess before buying a laptop.
HDD and SSD
These terms describe two different means of storing data on your computer.
SSDs are solid state drives that have no moving parts. Your computer stores data on microchips within the SSD. Because they don’t move, SSDs can simply retrieve data almost instantly, making them quite fast. Newer and higher-end computers use SSDs.
HDDs are hard disk drives and are what most computers use now. Using magnets, HDDs store and write data on a rotating plate; kind of like a record player. Because the plate spins, the speed of your HDD will determine how well it performs. Most laptop HDDs spin at 5,400 RPM or 7,200 RPM.
Simply put, your computer’s CPU is its brain. It processes almost all of the commands your computer receives, the information you feed it, and any other data it needs to run the operating system and applications.
CPUs will always have a minimum of one processor, but most laptops have either two or four. The higher the GHz of your processor, the more speed with which your CPU will perform.
If the CPU is the brain, then RAM is your computer’s memory. The more memory your laptop has, the better it will be able to load data. RAM makes a big difference if you’re running complex applications like design software, photo editing software, or games with advanced graphics. When buying a new laptop, you should, ideally, get one with at least 6 GB of RAM.
There are plenty of screen types to choose from in laptops, but below are some of the more common:
- If you have a smart phone, laptops with touchscreens will feel natural and easy to use. In the past they weren’t great, but they get better and better all the time.
- Glossy displays provide plenty of color and contrast. While they look nice, they can produce a lot of glare in bright light.
- Matte displays have an anti-glare coating, so they work well in just about any lighting situation. The trade off is that this coating dulls colors and can make the screen seem a little fuzzy.
Your laptop’s resolution is determined by how many pixels it displays vertically and horizontally. The less pixels, the lower the resolution, which results in a lower quality display. More pixels means a higher resolution that will provide more detail.
Most laptops have ports that allow a variety of cables and devices to be plugged in. There are four common ports you should learn about in order to determine what you need:
- USB ports are used for millions of devices, like cameras, printers, and external hard drives. While some manufacturers (read: Apple) are doing away with them, you’ll still find them in most laptops. If you have devices that use USB, you’ll probably want at least 2 USB ports.
- USB-C is becoming more and more popular. It’s what Apple uses to charge their newer computers. In fact, in many cases it’s the only port you’ll find on a new Mac. USBC cables transfer data using just one wire, are reversible, and can be used upside down.
- HDMI ports are used solely to transmit video and audio. If you ever plug your laptop onto a desktop monitor or TV, you’ll definitely want at least one HDMI port.
- Card readers take things like miniSDs, micro SDs, and SD/MMC cards. These types of cards are often used in things like GoPros and dashcams, so having a card reader in your computer makes it easy to transfer data off the card and save it to your hard drive.
Why Choose a Desktop Instead of a Laptop?
We’ve touted the merits of laptops quite extensively here, but let’s not forget that desktops have their time and place. Yes, they are much bigger and not portable, but that have a lot of perks that laptops don’t. The following are just a few of the reasons you might consider purchasing or building a desktop over a laptop:
- You can upgrade your own desktop parts much easier
- Bang for your buck factor. Because parts are more accessible and are generally universal
- They’re much, MUCH better for gaming (see above points)
- On average, desktops last longer than laptops
- You can customize the positioning of your screen, keyboard, and mouse
- They’re generally cheaper than laptops (depending on the upgrades you choose)
- Desktops are easier to fix
- Less chance of dropping or being broken because they don’t travel
- Desktops have bigger displays with higher resolutions
- They sit in your home, so the risk of them being lost or stolen is extremely small