With tons of laptop models available in the market, it’s easy to get confused with your options. Each of these devices has a specific configuration that may or may not fit the specs you’re looking for. Usually, many laptop buyers have this formula: light enough to carry, good-looking, and has a reasonable price. If you follow the same thing, you’d end up with a lousy laptop. How often should you upgrade your laptop? Should you buy one yearly? We’ll answer it here.
From doing your paperwork to preparing a business presentation, each laptop would have varying specs. This is why knowing what you need is the first step before scouting for actual laptop models.
Let’s give you an example: a Chromebook will do great for school kids but not for college students. Also, MacBooks are great for all-around use, but it’s only as good as the fact that you can afford it.
On this post, we discussed some of the features that you should look for as well as the things you should avoid:
For starters: choose an operating system
You have three options: Windows, MAC OS/X, and Chrome OS. All these three are functional only if it suits what you exactly need. If you’re not familiar with all of it, here’s a quick rundown:
Windows. As one of the most common and flexible OS, you have far more options on this platform. Laptops from $200-$$2,000 with varying configurations can run in Windows OS. Also, there is tons of added functionality depending on the laptop you’ll choose. Mostly, Windows is compatible with Cortana.
MAC. This OS is exclusively used for Apple laptops, the MacBooks. Basically, it works similarly with Windows but with a different interface. There’s an apps dock at the bottom and icons at the top, much like what you see on your smartphone. Instead of Cortana, MAC uses Siri for voice-activated tasks.
Chrome. This is a proprietary platform of Google and only found on Chromebooks. Chrome OS is made for students since it has a streamlined interface geared for easy searching. Basically, the interface is similar to Windows but the main app is Chrome. This OS is very limited and there are websites that can’t be viewed. Anyway, most Chrome OS-run laptops are very affordable. How long should you keep a laptop? If you will purchase another one in a year, Chromebooks would be fine.
Type of laptop you need
Aside from the operating system, laptops are categorized based on its functionality type. The most popular option is the traditional laptop that bears most features of a typical computer. Back in the days, we have netbooks which are quite outdated in terms of performance.
Nowadays, 2-in-1 laptops are a big hit for businesspeople and professionals. It gives more functionality including a tablet mode or tent mode. Right now, detachable screens are crowd favorites since it also works with a touchscreen. It’s compatible with pens and other related accessories.
How long should you keep a laptop? It all depends on the specs and quality of the model.
Still, check what works for you best. The likes of 2-in-1 laptops are best for artists or designers that use a stylus and other sketching accessories. If you’re a student who does typical schoolwork, a traditional laptop with excellent power will be the best choice.
Choosing the design
A lot of laptop buyers put a lot of attention to the overall look of the device. This is understandable as students want something presentable and businesses want something that looks professional. A thin and light laptop is a good choice as long as it has the configurations you need (we’ll discuss this later).
If you want light but powerful laptops, MacBooks, ZenBooks, and the Dell XPS series would be great options. Other brands also have great offers.
Take note, though, that slim pickings have downsides too. Let’s take MacBooks for example. Since it’s very thin, Apple has to remove almost all the ports except for its Thunderbolt USB-C and power slot. This is a deal-breaker for some which is why design matters a lot when buying a laptop.
Picking the right screen size
Laptops run from 11-17-inch models. Going big might be a good option if you want a larger display for gaming, browsing, or designing. However, the likes of 17-inch models can get really heavy. To give you an idea, here are some screen sizes and its usual weight. Take note that this may not be the case for all laptops:
17 inches – This is a pain in portability. It’s best to purchase this laptop size if you’ll keep the device on top of your office desk or study table.
15 inches – If you’re carrying around your laptop from time to time, 15 inches is a relatively good choice. It’s not too light but not too heavy either. Most units are around 6 pounds.
14 inches – If you need to carry your laptop all the time, a 14-inch unit will your best bet. This is usually lighter at less than 4 pounds.
11 and 12 inches – For the lightest option, 11-12-inch laptops are great at less than 4 pounds. However, this screen size can be a bit small for most users.
Touchpad and keyboard
If the touchpad is too stiff or dragging, look for another laptop. The same goes for the keyboard. If you’re typing long reports, you’d want keys that don’t get stuck and has a solid response. In case you don’t want to lift your hands off the home row of the keyboard while typing, look for a laptop with a pointing stick. One good example here is Lenovo’s ThinkPad.
After checking the exterior, let’s jump into the internal components. These are the most important parts as it defines how functional and reliable your laptop is. Sure, you can get an attractive laptop, but its beauty is possibly within chassis-level only.
This is the brain of your laptop. So if you’re a power user, you’d want to look for a higher version or generation. Most laptops nowadays run in Intel Core processors. For the most part, processors like Core i3, i5, and i7 from 7th and 8th generation are the gold standards.
Intel Core i3 is a mid-range processor that can handle most day to day tasks. But if you can, try to upgrade to an i5 or i7 configuration. An i5 processor with a ‘U’ product line suffix is the most common nowadays. At all cost, avoid processors with a ‘Y’ suffix. These are extremely low powered and low performing. If you have the money, try looking for 7th generation processors with H, HQ, or HK suffixes.
You can also opt for 8th generation Intel but take note that these are currently available in ‘U’ versions only. Still, it’s way faster than the 7th gen. But how long should you keep a laptop? With Intel’s release record, a 7th gen should last for more than 5 years.
As a rule of thumb, avoid Celeron and Pentium processors if you want a decent machine. You can also find laptops running in AMD Ryzen chips, but be wary since it used to experience major glitches before.
The Random Access Memory capacity is responsible for the working memory of your laptop. If you’re using multiple applications at a time, you should invest in a bigger RAM.
Nowadays, entry-level laptops have 4 GB of RAM. But if you can, look for at least 8 GB. The likes of 16 GB and 32 GB are for power users like serious gamers, professional programmers, and filmmakers.
Here, you have two options: HDD and SSD. HDD is a physical disc that spins inside your laptop. This can be noisy and vibration-inducing at times. In terms of speed, you’re better off with an SSD hard drive. A 256 GB SSD is way faster than a 1 TB HDD in terms of memory speed. You can find 512 GB SSD up to 4 TB SSD hard drives in other laptops, mostly MacBooks.
How often should you upgrade your laptop? Do you keep changing machines every year? If so, you’re probably chasing memory performance. It’s best to invest in a bigger one that buying multiple units.
However, beware of eMMC drives. Although this is technically a solid state drive, it’s way worse than an HDD.
If you’re doing graphics-intensive applications, you need a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU). This allows your laptop to project high-resolution videos and graphics by providing a separate GDDR memory. The integrated Intel graphics card wouldn’t be enough for heavier than usual tasks.
Most laptops that you’ll find on your local computer store have either NVIDIA or AMD discrete GPUs. The NVIDIA GTX series is already a good catch for this.
Aside from picking the right screen size, it’s also important that you check the clarity of the screen. Usually, low and mid-priced laptops have a 1366 x 768 resolution which is pretty okay if you’re just doing non-photo and non-video tasks. However, the gold standard if you want optimal visual experience is 1980 x 1080p. This is more expensive but definitely worth the splurge.
Also, take note that laptop products use different monitor panels. For those in the bargain aisle, Twisted Nematic (TN) is the usual component. This is a mediocre choice and not best for gaming or visual-intensive tasks. As much as possible, invest in IPS (In-Plane Switching) or VA (Vertical Alignment) panels.
The reason why you’re purchasing a laptop is that you want to bring it anywhere. This also means that you need optimal battery life. Entry-level laptops nowadays can run for an average of 4-6 hours per charge. This is just fine if you’re not chasing deadlines or traveling for extended periods.
Remember, the bigger the laptop gets, the higher the chance that it will consume more power. Still, take this with a grain of salt because newer models can last long even if housed in a bigger chassis.
When it comes to gaming machines, it’s quite typical that battery life will be shorter. Since it has more hardware, it will definitely burn more power in a short period.
For a decent laptop, 7-8 hours is already a wise buy. If you have the money, you can invest in models that can endure up 13 hours in operation.
If you have the money to splurge, you can purchase just about any laptop with the configurations you need. But for a tight budget, you can still get the best bargain of specs and performance. Here’s quick look so you can plan on a budget:
This is the aisle of Chromebooks and outdated Celeron and Pentium processors. As much as possible, avoid these options, unless you’re purchasing it for your grade school kid.
At this price range, you can already enjoy an Intel Core i5 with 8 GB RAM and an HDD storage. This is enough to support most tasks but not CPU-intensive ones.
At this price range, you can enjoy ultrabooks with far better configurations. You’ll have an 8th gen processor, 16 GB of RAM, and an SSD storage. Also, laptops in this price range have more appealing construction.
🔖$1000 and above
This is the price range of MacBooks, premium gaming machines, and high-end laptops. You can already purchase a sleek 2-in-1 laptop within this budget. Traditional laptops above one grand have 4K resolutions, thinner build, lightning-speed processor, and a top-dollar discrete GPU.
Should I base my purchase on the brand?
Yes and no. Answer this question first: how often should you upgrade your laptop? If your current brand gets outdated easily, then you may want to do a big switch. The likes of Lenovo, HP, and Dell are leaders while Acer, ASUS, and Apple are mid-players.
Put more emphasis on the configuration more than the brand. Even if you have a MacBook, a $999 worth of configuration will be low-performing than the one from Lenovo with the same price tag.
Answer this: how often should you upgrade your laptop? From there, choose the best unit so you won’t have to make multiple purchases in the future.