Like just about everything else in life these days, when it comes to buying a laptop you’re spoilt for choice. The purpose of this blog post is to make the choosing a little easier for you because be in no doubt the market is complex, confusing and has a language all of its own. Ultimately, there is no single best laptop because there is no single kind of laptop user – we’re all different and each of us has a whole range of needs, wants and requirements that have to be met. So if ever there was a case of one size definitely NOT fitting all, the answer to the question ‘How to buy a laptop’ is it.
When it comes to how to choose a laptop, start with yourself
Ask some searching questions of yourself before you start asking them anywhere else, whether that’s at your local electronics and tech retailer, department store or usual Mac support or Microsoft Windows support guys.
What do you want a laptop for and what do you need it to do? Work, family or play? Office, home or college? Should it be light and portable? Are powerful graphics for gaming or video editing needed? What about battery life for long periods of use between charging?
The ubiquitous laptop is compact enough to carry with you, yet versatile and powerful enough to run the most demanding applications. Put simply, it’s the best tool for doing serious work or having serious fun on the move.
But with an enormous range of brands, sizes, features, functions and prices out there, which all go to make choosing a laptop a challenge, we’ve put together this article to help you make an informed decision as to how to choose a laptop.
The key factors to consider when buying laptop
There are a number of important things you should take into account when thinking about laptops. We go into each in more detail below but here’s a snapshot:
Choose Laptop Size
Screens that are between 12.5 and 14” probably give you the best combination of usability and portability. Larger screens are fine if you don’t travel much and smaller models are perfect for the youngsters in your life.
Choose Laptop Platform
When it comes to mobile phones and computing, people tend to go with what they know – that generally means their experience and expectations of the operating system. You can choose from MacBooks, Microsoft-based laptops or Chromebooks. They all offer you plenty of choice, power, performance, features and functionality.
Choose Laptop Brands
Don’t get bamboozled by the big brands. There are some perfectly serviceable laptops out there offering all the performance you need without the premium name price tag. Check out each brand’s reputation for reliability and support – these will tell you a lot.
Choose Laptop Battery life
If you’re going to play, work or study on the move and need your laptop to perform between irregular charging, then look carefully at battery life.
You may have seen the laptops that have bendback or detachable keyboards, so you can quickly turn your machine into a tablet for more versatility and portability in less space. If you’re not fussed about this facility, stick with a standard clamshell laptop.
The options in more detail
Usually, laptops are categorised by their display sizes because it’s the most important factor in people’s buying decision-making process.
So here’s a quick run down of the main options and the benefits of each:
- 11 to 12” are generally the thinnest and lightest systems on the market and typically weigh in at around 2.5 to 3.5 lbs, so are easy to move around.
- 13 to 14” laptops tend to deliver the best balance of portability and usability, particularly if you get a laptop that weighs under 4 pounds.
- 15 to 16” are the most popular laptop sizes, and usually weigh in at around 4 to 5.5 lbs. Only consider this size if you really need a larger screen and you’re not planning to constantly carry your laptop around. In fact, laptops with 16-inch displays are rare, although Apple offer a 16” MacBook Pro.
- 17 to 18” is a choice that really only makes sense if you need plenty of processing power for activities such as high-end gaming or workstation-level productivity and your machine is going to remain on your desk for much of the time.
Take your pick of platform
As we said earlier – like with their choice of mobile phone – people tend to go with the brand and operating system (OS) they know. There’s no reason you can’t change from, for example, Mac to Microsoft as both have similarities and are simple to use once you’ve invested a little time getting to know them. As it stands, most laptops come with one of three operating systems, which are Microsoft Windows, Google Chrome OS and MacOS.
These operating systems tend to offer similar functionality but with a different take on the interface and some other features. For example, Mac users get Siri, can perform transactions with Apple Pay, can take calls or texts from their phones and can also unlock their laptops with an Apple Watch.
But, MacOS isn’t made for touch because there isn’t a MacBook with a touch screen.
Google’s OS is simple and secure, but is more limited than either Windows or MacOS. It is probably most like Microsoft in use.
If you just need a device for you or the kids to surf the web, check email, navigate social media networks, chat online and undertake basic word processing, then Google’s Chromebooks are highly portable and tend to offer good battery life at low prices – which makes them highly popular with schools, colleges, students and parents.
If you’re in any doubt about the virtues of either of the main platforms, talk to a Mac support or Microsoft support expert for the latest specifications and advice.
Be brand aware
Essentially, whatever laptop you opt for is only as good as the organisation behind it – particularly when it comes to after sales service and support. Accurate and timely technical help is paramount.
However, that kind of back up is only part of what makes a laptop brand worth you parting with your hard-earned money for. Check out how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition in terms of design, functionality, performance and any other criteria important to you, such as aesthetics.
Think big on battery life
If you plan to use your laptop on the go – and don’t forget more and more of us are remote working in every place from coffee shops to railway carriages – aim to get a machine with a battery life of at least seven or eight hours.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a large, bulky laptop or a gaming rig that you’ll only ever use on a desk near a power outlet, battery life isn’t as important.
Here’s a heads up: to really determine a laptop’s expected battery life, don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, check out objective third-party reviews from independent sources.
Can you be converted to a 2-in-1
Some PC laptops (generally called convertibles) fall into the category of 2-in-1 machines. These are hybrid devices that can switch between traditional clamshell, tablet, tent or stand modes.
These machines tend to come in two different styles: ‘detachables’ with screens that come off the keyboard entirely and ‘flexibles’ with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes.
Again, much depends on what you want and need. Bend-backs being laptops first and foremost, while detachables offer a superior tablet experience. Realistically, if you don’t see the need to use your laptop as a tablet-style device, you’ll usually get more performance for your money with a traditional clamshell machine.
Keep usability in mind
You’ll likely spend quite a lot of time with your laptop – at work, at play or simply relaxing. So it makes sense to pay attention to two more elements of your chosen machine’s functionality. These are:
The keyboard and touchpad
Make sure the keyboard on your chosen laptop offers solid tactile feedback, plenty of key travel (the distance the key goes down when pressed, usually 1 to 2mm) and enough space between the keys. To be more precise, if you’re buying a Windows laptop, ensure it has Precision touchpad drivers.
When it comes to touchpads, that don’t give you an over-sensitive, twitchy cursor experience but provide accurate, consistent multi-touch confidence, are well worth searching out.
If you’re buying a business laptop, look at those with pointing sticks or nubs between the G and H keys so you can navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.
It’s called ‘screen time’ for a reason and we’re all spending more and more of our lives doing it. So make sure you get a screen that is comfortable to look at and use.
For example, consider whether you want your laptop to have a touchscreen. They’re common on Microsoft machines, for example, and can make some tasks easier.
Beware overly glossy screens that can lead to reflections; a definite negative if you’re gaming, watching content or editing images and video content. Note that touchscreens do tend to have glossy screens.
Resolution is another vital factor on any laptop you’re thinking of buying. For a good viewing experience, go for 1920×1080-pixel resolution (Full HD). However, for specialist activities, such as content creation, photography or videography, high quality screens offering features such as 4K resolution, better colour accuracy and a wider colour gamut are the way to go.
For most of us though, the high-end display panels are generally costly options on what is an already expensive purchase.
Laptop expertise right here in London
If you’re looking for a new laptop for you and the family to use at home or for a youngster going off to University, there are loads of retail options open to you, from electronics and digital specialists to department stores and the online providers. We’d suggest you actually go play with a few before making a decision – feel and weight, for example, are difficult to gauge from an online image.
If you’re looking for a new laptop (or even laptops) for your small to medium-sized London-based business, you could have a chat with your usual Mac support or Microsoft support provider.
However, if you’d like independent, objective, expert and highly experienced advice regarding purchasing laptops for your business,
why not try London’s go to managed IT support team?
We’re one of the Capital’s most trusted managed IT support providers (MSPs) and every year we procure numerous laptops for numerous clients across London. What’s more, we’ve earned two consecutive Feefo Gold Trusted Service Awards, Five Star ratings from both Trustpilot and Google and a 98% client retention rate.
To find out more about the various ways we can help you, simply call us here at totality services for a confidential, no obligation chat about your requirements.