9 Things to Consider When Buying a Laptop – The Ultimate Guide

By | June 2, 2022

Almost everyone needs a laptop, where a student, a professional, a gamer or a stay at home mom.

In a world where computers and online platforms have become our primary workplaces and communication channels, it is critical that we purchase the best gadgets to fit our needs in a budget friendly way.

More than ever, students, professionals, and freelancers are all working on the go and they need the right laptop to accomplish their work well.

However, laptop come in great variety of specifications and differ hugely in terms of both performance and price.

In this buying guide, we shall try to explain the most important points that you need to consider when purchasing a new laptop, to ensure that you get the best one for your needs.

Some of these points are:

  • CPU - The Processor
  • RAM Memory -
  • Graphics Card - dGPU and iGPU
  • Storage Drive - HDD, SSD, M.2 NVME
  • Connectivity - USB Ports, HDMI, Ethernet
  • Size and Portability
  • Display Size
  • Display Color Gamut
  • Display Refresh Rate and Response Time
  • Upgrade-ability
  • Battery Life

1. CPU - Processor

No matter what programs you like to run, there will always be instances where you need to multitask – possibly opening 3-4 applications at the same time, be it for photo design, research, or even just listening to music in the background. To support this, you need a laptop with a capable CPU and RAM components.

The CPU, or central processing unit of a laptop, is responsible for making sure these programs start up smoothly and display information to your monitor accurately. At the same time, RAM, more commonly known as memory, stores data in the short-term while your laptop is running, allowing you to jump from one application to another, free of delay.

AMD vs Intel

Given a slow CPU with low clock speed, measured in hertz (Hz), your laptop will process your actions and clicks at a slow pace.

For processors, these are the ones you should consider if you want a responsive laptop to do everyday work and low-mid range gaming:

  • 10th Gen Intel Core i3 - Dual or Quad Core, 4-8 Threads, Clock speed up to 3.8GHz

For content creation and mid-level gaming:

  • 10th Generation Intel Core i5 Processors - Quad or Hexa Core, 8 to 12 Threads, Clock speed up to 4.8GHz
  • AMD Ryzen 5 Processors - Quad or Hexa Core, 8 to 12 Threads, Clock speed up to 4.4GHz

For professional creatives and high-end gaming:

  • 10th Generation Intel Core i7 Processors - Quad to Octa Core, 8 to 16 Threads, Clock speed up to 5.0GHz
  • AMD Ryzen 7 Processors - Octa Core, 16 Threads, Clock speed up to 4.7GHz

Users who always run memory-intensive applications such as video editors and high-end games should consider at least a quad-core or hexa-core.

Regardless, the benefits of a powerful CPU will be noticed even if you don't use heavy apps often. With a quad or hexa core, your CPU will be able to better handle multiple processes and streams of data simultaneously, meaning less system lag and overheating.

2. RAM - 8GB or 16GB

After CPU, the next important hardware component is the RAM memory which determines, how many applications your system can load at a time. Modern laptops have RAM sizes in the range 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, or 32GB, where 4 GB or less is considered lacking.

If your laptop is low in RAM, then your system will slow down due to low memory and will start using disk space to compensate for the shortfall. This will result in slower application launch time, sluggish and unresponsive system etc.

A minimum of 8GB RAM has become the standard across all laptops, and anything lower than that (like 4gb ram) is highly discouraged. More-over the most common operating system as of 2022 is Windows 10 which will not run properly on any system having less than 8GB RAM.

I would recommend a minimum of 16GB RAM on your laptop to make sure that it can run a large variety of applications without lags or memory bottlenecks.

4GB RAM: If you need to use your laptop for some very specific application that you know would never need a lot of RAM, then you can try a 4GB RAM laptop. It will be cheap but with limited capacity.

8GB RAM: For minimal use cases including data entry, document typing and editing, reading and watching movies 8GB ram would suffice.

16GB RAM: For other use cases like coding, video editing, image editing, CAD applications, intensive web browsing, playing games etc. we recommend 16GB or more.

32GB+ RAM: If you are planning to use your laptop as a workstation for heavy usage, then consider 32GB or more of RAM. If you open a lot of Chrome tabs at a time then you would need lots of RAM. Other use cases that need a lot of ram include virtualization using tools like VirtualBox. If you tend to keep a lot of memory intensive applications running concurrently, then having 32GB of RAM would keep your system smooth.

RAM Speed

Aside from size, another consideration to be made with RAM is the speed measured in DDR or double data rate. This determines how quickly data is transferred to and from the RAM while opening or using applications. Most modern laptops have DDR4 memory which is faster than DDR3 and the older DDR2 RAM memory which were used in older laptops and are not obsolete.

Upgradability

Also bear in mind that most laptops have provision to upgrade the RAM by installing additional RAM modules/sticks. For example if you purchase a laptop with 8GB ram you can later install another 8GB stick to increase the total size to 16GB.

However there are some laptops that do not have this feature and come with the maximum amount of RAM pre-installed. So while selecting a new laptop, you might want to check if the RAM can be upgraded later on when needed.

Graphics Card / GPU

Graphics cards, or GPUs, are an essential hardware component for many laptops, as they speed up the rendering of on-screen graphics and images. This is essential for graphics intensive applications like gaming, 3D rendering, and video editing, which rely on 3d functions.

However it is important to note that even modern operating systems like Windows 10 need some graphics processing capabilities on the system to run properly.

Therefore most modern laptops have some form of GPU in their hardware, either iGPU (integrated GPU) or dGPU (dedicated GPU).

Integrated gpus are part of the cpu itself and provide basic or medium level graphics performance. For example the Intel
i5-1135G7 CPU has integrated gpu called Intel Iris Xe Graphics. Budget laptops and non-gaming laptops usually rely only on the iGPU.
Laptops with amd cpus have the Radeon RX Vega 11 igpus.

Gaming and workstation laptops on the other hand have a dedicated gpu like RTX 3060 or GTX 1660Ti. Dedicated gpus are far more powerful than integrated gpus and can run graphics intensive applications more easily.

Without a dedicated graphics card, rendering times for HD video and 3D objects are extremely long, and most games will have to be run on the lowest settings.

Graphics Cards Comparison

Graphics Cards Comparison

Integrated GPUs will share from the system RAM memory for graphics processing, whereas dedicated graphics cards have their own separate graphics memory which further boosts performance.

Dedicated Graphics / GPUs

Dedicated GPUs are more powerful with advanced functions used by 3D games and rendering softwares. They also have their dedicated memory called GDDR and come in sizes from 2GB to 8GB or even more.

If you need higher FPS in games with high quality graphics then you need a powerful dedicated gpu. They are also necessary for 3D modeling and rendering applications.

These are the higher end GPUs that you should be looking for if you want to run most games and render work with no problem:

  • AMD Radeon RX 560X - 1024 Stream Processors, 4GB GDDR5 Memory, 7 Gbps Memory Speed, Base Clock (MHz): 1175
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 - 1152 CUDA Cores, 3GB GDDR5 Memory, 8 Gbps Memory Speed, Base Clock (MHz): 1708
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL - 1280 Stream Processors, 4GB HBM2 Memory , 1.6 Gbps Memory Speed, Base Clock (MHz): 931
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti - 1536 CUDA Cores, 6GB GDDR5 Memory, 8 Gbps Memory Speed, Base Clock (MHz): 1530
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 - 2304 CUDA Cores, 8GB GDDR6 Memory, 14 Gbps Memory Speed, Base Clock (MHz): 1620

When you don't need much GPU power

There are several use cases where you don't need a lot of graphics processing power. Not having a powerful gpu also makes the laptop much cheaper. This means that you can spend the extra money on other features of the machine like display size and RAM.

If you need a laptop for just regular tasks like browsing web, reading mails, working with documents then you probably don't need a very powerful graphics card. Any integrated GPU would suffice.

iGPU vs dGPU

Note that most laptops with a dedicated graphics card will still also have the integrated gpus as well, since its built into the cpu. However most laptops have options allowing the user to choose which graphics card they want to use.

[note]
Dedicated gpus consume a lot more power compared to iGPUs and hence not suitable when running on battery. They also generate more heat when running the dGPU, so the laptops come with bigger cooling systems making the overall size of the laptop larger and heavier
[/note]

Storage - SSD/HDD/NVME

Whether you need to store documents, videos, music, or install applications and games, it is very important to consider the storage type and capacity of your laptop.

Some of the common storage types and sizes are listed below:

Storage Types and Sizes

  • HDD (128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB)
  • SSD (64GB, 128GB, 256GB)
  • M.2 NVME (128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB)
  • Hybrid (HDD + SSD)

Older laptops often come with a hard disk drive or HDD. Hard disks are slower in terms of read and write speed and also heavier and make noise. They can transfer files at a speed between 100MB to 200MB per second. This results in slower application loading times, boot time and copy speed.

SSDs on the other hand are much faster, have no moving parts so make no noise and produce less heat. With SSDs applications load much faster, system boots much faster and files can be copied much faster. Conventional SSDs have data transfer speeds upto 600 MBps/6 Gbps which is much faster than hard disks.

SSDs further have variants. The older ones are the 2.5" SSDs are the most common, being the cheapest in terms of price per gigabyte, and being simpler for manufacturers to slot into laptops and other small devices.

The newer ones are the M.2 NVME SSDs are slightly more expensive but offer faster data transfer speeds, up to 3000 MBps which is at least 10 times faster than a typical HDD.

An NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) PCIe communicates directly with the CPU, reducing command input and output time to 3 milliseconds.

So what's the best option

If you don't need to store a lot of data directly on the laptop then you should go for NVME SSD on laptop with an external HDD for additional storage. That way you get the highest speeds on the laptop and plenty of storage outside when needed. NVME ssd storage is available in sizes like 256GB, 512GB and 1TB.

M.2 NVME ssds are also very small in size take less space inside the laptop. This makes the laptops lightweight and compact in shape.

On the other side, if you need a lot of disk space on laptop for cheap then your best option is a hybrid SSD+HDD storage. These laptops typically have a 128GB SSD with a 1TB HDD. These laptops may be slightly heavier and bigger in size, due to the HDD.

Weight and Portability

Being able to carry a laptop around is one of it’s biggest perks, but there are alternatives to make it even more convenient. There are numerous factors that affect the portability and most important one is the weight and the size.

The size of the laptop depends on the screen size and the hardware that is installed inside.

Weight

Laptops typically weigh in the range 1Kg to 3Kg or more. The weight directly depends on the size and the hardware inside it.

Acer Swift 3 - 14" ultrabook - 1.2 Kgs
Asus TUF A17 17.3" Gaming Laptop - 2.6 kgs

The 13.3" Macbook Air are the lightest (1.29 kgs) and thinnest laptops, whereas the 17.3" gaming laptops from ASUS and MSI are heavier because of the dedicated gpu and larger cooling system used in them.

If you plan to use the laptop while travelling then the overall weight can be a very important factor to consider and saving about 1-2 Kg on the weight of the laptop can make a huge difference.

If you need to carry your laptop frequently then look for something that has a 14"/15.6" display and weighs 1.8 kgs or less.

Display Size

Laptop size is measured from corner to corner of the screen, standard laptops typically at 15.6 inches. A standard small laptop of 14 inches will be far easier to fit in any bag, comfortably set down on any surface, and even carried around by hand like a tablet. Recently, manufacturers have been trying to get even smaller, between 11-13 inches.

Larger 17.3" laptops have more RAM slots, ssd slots and larger batteries giving more runtime, optionally more powerful cpu and gpu with larger cooling system, and numpad and extra buttons on the keyboard. But they can difficult to carry around.

Laptop Sizes

Laptop Sizes

Laptops with 15.6" display size are the most common as they have the optimum display size and adequate body size to fit on all necessary hardware. You can get the best of the hardware configurations in a 15.6" laptop.

Hardware Components

The hardware components installed inside the laptop also affect its portability. For example laptops with a optical drive like dvd writers will have a slightly thicker body compared to those that don't have any optical drive. Most modern laptops don't have optical drives anymore.

Gaming laptops with high end graphics cards might have additional cooling fans making the body thicker.

NVME ssds are very small in size compared to HDD, so laptops with only NVME ssds are likely to have a more compact body and less weight. If you laptop has an HDD inside, then you can remove or replace it with nvme, to make the laptop a bit lighter.

Finally

For a compact, portable yet powerful laptop look for something that has a display size of 15.6", with NVME SSD and a low/medium level GPU that does not require active cooling with fans, and does not have any optical drive. These features will make it lightweight and sleek.

Finally look at the weight of the laptop and look for one that is lighter.

6. Connectivity - USB, HDMI, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt, Ethernet

To connect external devices you would need ports like USB, HDMI etc. The hdmi port is for connecting to an external monitor, whereas the usb ports are for connecting any device that supports usb. These include keyboard, mouse, external hard drives, optical drives, usb pen drives, smartphones etc.

USB Ports

The universal connector for printers, smartphones, mouse, keyboard, gamepad, hubs, external ssd/hdd etc.

Laptops typically have anywhere between 2-6 usb ports. The USB ports have their own version numbers like USB 2.0, USB 3.1, USB 3.2 etc. The higher version numbers support faster data transfers compared to previous version numbers. Laptops will usually have usb ports with different versions.

For example 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Ports, 1x USB 2.0 Port.

USB Mode/Standard Speed/Bandwidth
USB 3.1 Gen1 / USB 3.0 5 Gbits/s
USB 3.1 Gen2 / USB 3.2 Gen2 10 Gbits/s
USB4 Gen 2×2 20Gbits/s
USB4 Gen 3×2 40Gbits/s

Since USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports are twice as fast as USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, when connecting external ssds and hdds you get real fast read/write speeds.

The upcoming USB4 technology will support speeds of 20Gbit/s and 40Gbit/s but these are not yet available as a standalone technology on laptops. However, laptops with Thunderbolt 4 technology also support USB-4, since both these technology are similar. So if you have a USB4 device you can get USB4 speeds by connecting it to a Thunderbolt 4 port, however its not guaranteed to work.

If you need more USB ports than what the laptop already has, you can always connect a usb hub which adds extra usb ports. If you need to transfer large amounts of data in and out of your laptop regularly then its highly recommended to have gen2 ports since they offer the highest speed. Simply use a 3.2gen2 ssd on a gen2 port and get blazing fast data transfer speeds.

Users like photographers and videographers often work with large amount of media files that need to be moved across pcs and laptops. For such users high speed data transfer is critical to their work productivity.

Learn more about usb standard and versions here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB

Newer Intel cpu based laptops specially the ones branded as intel EVO also have Thunderbolt 4 support available on the usb c port which provides speeds upto 40 Gbits/s if the connected device can use it. Laptops with amd cpus do not have thunderbolt support however, since its a proprietory technology from Intel.

DisplayPort over USB-C

3.2Gen2 USB-C ports may also have DisplayPort support. That means you can connect a usb c to DisplayPort cable to connect it to an external monitor. More about DisplayPort over USB-C here: https://www.displayport.org/displayport-over-usb-c/.

However note that since usb3.2gen2 bandwidth is 10Gbit/s, it can provide maximum resolutions of only upto [email protected]

Laptop Connectivity

Laptop Connectivity

HDMI

The next important port is the HDMI port which allows you to plug external monitors directly to your laptop as a secondary display for more screen space or as a mirror display.

Besides HDMI, some high end laptops like the ones from Dell also have Mini DisplayPort connectors for connecting external displays.

HDMI port also has various versions like:

HDMI version Bandwidth Supported Resolutions
1.3 / 1.3a 10.2 Gbps
1.4 / 1.4b 10.2 Gbps [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
2.0 / 2.0a/ 2.0b 18.0 Gbps [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]
2.1 48Gbps [email protected]

Each new version supports higher data transfer speeds capable of supporting higher resolutions and refresh rates. Most budget laptops are equipped with HDMI 1.4 ports whereas gaming laptops come with 2.0b which also supports HDR. More details about the HDMI specs can be found here: https://www.hdmi.org/spec/index

Also there are high end gaming laptops like the Gigabyte AORUS 15P that have HDMI 2.1 port.

Ethernet Port

Now that wifi is available on nearly all kinds of laptops, the ethernet port is not found that commonly. Ethernet port is mostly found on gaming laptops and they come in 2 common varieties of 1Gb/s and 2.5 Gb/s speeds. The latter being found on more expensive laptops.

Ethernet connection is faster and more stable compared to wifi at larger distances. If you want the lowest ping time and latency while playing games or super fast data transfer on a stock trading terminal, then ethernet is a great option to have only a laptop.

However, even if your laptop does not have an ethernet port, you can use a USB to Ethernet port adaptor which also work great and provide speeds upto 1Gb/s.

Apple Macbooks for example do not have ethernet ports on any of the models. And most thin and light laptops also skip this port as well.

Other Ports

Aside from these essentials, there are headphone jacks for audiophiles, SD card holders for photography enthusiasts, and many other ports that can fit your specific needs.

Some laptops have a dedicated DisplayPort or a Mini-DisplayPort. Mini-DisplayPort support only upto version 1.2 of DisplayPort technology.

7. Screen Size, Resolution and Pixel Density

Compared to desktop monitors, laptops have limited options when it comes to screen size and resolution.

The following are the standard resolutions and display sizes available on modern laptops:

Resolution Aspect Ratio Common Name Common Screen Sizes
1920x1080 16:9 FHD (1080p) 14"/15.6"/17.3" and 13"/13.3"
2560x1440 16:9 QHD (2K/1440p) 15.6"
3840x2160 16:9 UHD (4K/2160p) 15.6"
1920x1200 16:10 WUXGA 16.0"
2560x1600 16:10 WQXGA 16.0"
3072x1920 16:10 WQXGA (3K) 16.0"

More about various display resolutions and sizes here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphics_display_resolution

Display sizes are usually around 14"-15.6" or 17.3" in size and resolutions are around 1920x1080 FHD or 2560x1440 QHD. There are other screen sizes as well like 13.3", 11.6", 10.1" that are found in chromebooks, 2-in-1 tablet style ultrabooks.

The following resolutions are seen on cheaper or older laptops:

Resolution Aspect Ratio Common Name Common Screen Sizes
1366x768 16:9 FHD (1080p) 14"/15.6"/11.6" and Chromebooks
1600×900 16:9 (HD+) 17.3" (Budget laptops)

If you plan to buy some very cheap laptop then it might have one of the above resolutions.

We recommend 1920x1080 as the most optimum resolution for a portable device like a laptop.

When it comes to display sharpness and pixel density, the unique laptops are Macbooks which have retina display which has unusually high pixel per inch density over 200.

The 15-16 inch MacBook Pro featured resolutions around 3072×1920, which has a pixel density of around 226 pixels-per-inch. The 13-inch MacBook Pro had resolutions about 2560×1600, which gives to a pixel density of about 227 PPI.

So if you are looking for the most stylish and sharp looking display screen then either go for a Apple MacBook Pro or a 4K display laptop like the MSI Creator 15 A11UE-491.

Problems of High PPI Displays on Latops

Higher pixel density displays have their own problems as well. Screen elements usually appear smaller by default and the operating system like Windows 10 or Ubuntu scales up the display to enlarge screen elements and make things look the right size.

However not all applications are able to properly scale their screen elements resulting in smallish, blurry fonts or images which can be sometimes very difficult to read.

Moreover higher pixel count means more graphics processing which in-turn consumes more battery, so the laptop will likely not be able to run long enough without external power supply.

Display Panel Type

Laptops come with a variety of display panel types including but not limited to the following:

Panel Type Description
TN (Twisted Nematic) Seen mostly on older laptops
IPS (In-Plane Switching) Common on most laptops
Value IPS-level (A TN panel + IPS like enhancements) Common on budget gaming laptops with high refresh rate displays
Mini-LED Seen on premium laptops
OLED (Organic Light emitting Diode) On high end premium laptops

Majority of laptops now-a-days use the IPS or "Value IPS-Level" displays. The latter being a TN panel actually with IPS functions that delivers faster response times and higher refresh rates for applications like gaming. Value IPS-Level displays are one way, that manufacturers use to lower the cost of budget gaming laptops.

If you are not looking for something very specific, then IPS or Value IPS-Level should be good to go.

Refresh rates and response times

The refresh rate is a measure of how many times the display can update itself each second or how many frames can it display per second.

The standard refresh rate values available in laptops include:

Refresh Rate Needs dGPU Best For
60 hz No Document work, Web Browsing, office use
75 hz No Document work, Web Browsing, office use
120 hz Yes Gaming, Document work, Web Browsing, office use
144 hz Yes Gaming, Document work, Web Browsing, office use
165 hz Yes Gaming, Document work, Web Browsing, office use
240 hz Yes Gaming, Document work, Web Browsing, office use

For regular use, like office work, document work, web browsing, image and video editing, watching movies, you do not need very high refresh rates. Something in the range of 60-75hz would suffice. 60 hz would even work for occasional casual gaming.

Competitive gaming requires a refresh rate of 120hz-144Hz or more and a response time of 5ms or lower. Laptop displays have limited options when it comes to high refresh rate displays and they don't compete quite well with desktop monitors.

But still there are gaming laptops designed to meet these requirements. Gaming laptops from MSI, Acer, ASUS offer high refresh rates upto 144 Hz and response times as low as 3ms. There are few laptops with refresh rates as high as 240 Hz as well.

Higher refresh rates are necessary only for gamers and most regular laptop users don't really need to think about this feature. Also higher refresh rate displays are more expensive as well. Even in the gaming segment, a 240hz gaming laptop would be significantly more expensive than a 144hz display alternative, with similar hardware specs.

The best option would be to attach a high refresh rate external monitor to your gaming laptop for more FPS.

Display Color Gamut

The color gamut of the display determines how many distinct color shades can it display or produce accurately. The more shades a display can reproduce the more accurate images will look.

The most commonly seen color gamuts on laptops are the following:

NTSC sRGB Adobe
45% NTSC 62.5% sRGB 47.1-47.34% Adobe
72% NTSC 99% sRGB

Ideally you want a laptop with higher color gamuts so that it can display more color shades with clarity. For instance the Acer Swift 3 i5 11th gen that i purchased a while back has 99% sRGB whereas the Asus TUF 17.3" RTX 3060 which I purchased recently has 62.5% sRGB.

The difference between the 2 gamut levels is huge when it comes to viewing images and videos, but not so much when working with documents or just browsing the internet.

There are higher gamuts as well like, 85% NTSC/110% sRGB which are seen on desktop monitors like the MSI Optix AG32CQ. 99-100% sRGB is ideal for all use cases including those that need high color accuracy like image processing and video editing.

Display Brightness

The display brightness determines the maximum brightness that the display can produce. Its measured in NITs and most current laptops as of 2022, come with a brightness capacity of 200-400 nits, though there are few models advertised to offer 500 nits displays.

Common values:

  • 250 nits
  • 300 nits
  • 400 nits
  • 500 nits

Brightness of 250 nits is very common in laptops and is usable and good enough when working indoors, but if you need to use your laptops outdoors in the field and under bright sun-light, that you would have to look for a laptop with 350 nits or more.

Some laptops will lower the maximum brightness levels when running on battery so would offer less brightness than their rated specifications. In such cases it is desirable to have higher brightness displays that don't look dim out when on battery.

More-over if the display is glossy, then it will tend to reflect the ambient light and could make the screen content look less bright. Matte finish displays perform better in this regard, as they only show the screen content and do not reflect external light.

Most budget laptops come with a matte finish display anyways. Display brightness matters even less if you use an external monitor as the display for the laptop making it a desktop replacement machine.

The brightness factor does influence the cost of the laptop as well, with higher brightness displays being more expensive. So unless you have a very specific use case needing higher brightness you might ignore this as well.

Even if a laptop has high brightness display at 350 nits or more, remember that it will consume more power when brightness level is set to high like 50-60% or more. So if you are using the laptop outdoors on battery, higher brightness setting would give more visual clarity but also lower running time, which might defeat the entire purpose of portability.

8. Keyboard

Keyboards on laptops are very different from desktop keyboards. The are lots of factors that can affect the usability of a laptop keyboard. Some of the key points are numeric pad, backlight and size of arrow keys.

  • Numpad
  • Backlight and RGB
  • Arrow Key size
  • Overall layout
  • Key size and travel

Numeric Pad

Most small sized laptops usually don't have the numpad in the keyboard, to save space. However with the standard sizes like 15.6" some of the laptops have numpad while some don't.

The numpad makes it easier to type long numbers, so if you need to use the numpad, look for a laptop that has one. If you are doing data entry or accounting work which needs typing numbers frequently then consider a laptop with numpad keyboard.

Backlight and keyboard color

Most new laptops models have backlight, but there are a few cheaper ones that don't. In older laptops only the key letter used to glow, whereas with newer ones, the entire frame of the key glows from all sides.

Gaming laptops take it a step further with RGB backlight not just in the keys, but also around the chassis.

We recommend having a laptop with some kind of backlighting even if its minimal. Note that keyboards with black keys and white letter are more clearly visible without backlight compared to gray colored keys with backlight. It can be difficult to check such usability factors until you see the laptop physically.

Arrow Keys

Laptop keyboards are compact in size and to save space the arrow keys are often made very small. A lot of laptops have the up/down arrow keys half the size of the left/right arrow keys to make them fit in a row. The smaller up/down arrow keys can be inconvenient for some users like me.

Alternatively there are other laptops that feature large sized arrow keys like the ones from MSI. If typing comfort is preferred then look for keyboards with bigger sized arrow keys. Arrow keys are used very frequently when you are doing tasks like coding on a laptop.

9. Battery Life

Battery life is perhaps one of the most critical features of a portable device like laptop. If you are using your notebook while travelling then battery life is very important. The higher the battery life the better.

The battery life however is not a simple metric like disk space or cpu speed. It is a very complicated thing and the actual battery life will depend on numerous factors including the hardware, the software and the usage pattern of the laptop.

Most modern laptops have better and power efficient components that utilise battery power at optimally. Laptop battery life typically ranges from 5 hours to 12 hours. For some specific models it might be higher.

Laptops with more powerful hardware will often have lower average battery life because they have more power intensive hardware. For example gaming laptops with dedicated graphics card, rgb keyboards and powerful cooling fans.

Gaming laptops typically have battery life of 5-8 hours.

On that other hand, laptops designed for portability have medium level hardware specs within a compact size are able to deliver better battery life. Laptops like the 13 inch macbook can run for upto 12 hours on battery.

Also the battery life will depend on your usage pattern. If you are using the web (wifi) then the battery would be consumed faster. On the other hand if you are doing simple stuff like typing or reading documents, the battery will potentially last longer. So if your usage is not battery intensive you might go for a laptop with better hardware but lower battery life.

Top Brands

Some of the top laptop brands include Apple, Acer, Asus, HP, Dell, Lenovo, MSI.

1. Apple - MacBooks

Apple makes Macbooks which are are most premium looking laptops with their unique metal body and design. Macbooks come in sizes like 13.3", 15.6" and more. The hardware specs are high end with dedicated graphics card and high pixel density displays.

Macbooks run on macOS so you are tied to the Apple eco-system in terms of available applications. They are great for productivity users like coders, office users and web users. Macbooks also have the best battery life amongst all laptops going upto 12 hours.

2. Acer - Popular Series: Aspire, Predator, Nitro

Acer has many different series of laptops for different users. The Acer Aspire series are budget laptops at around $500 that are lightweight, sleek and portable. These are great for office and home users who want to do regular tasks like browsing web, watching videos and handling documents.

For gamers Acer has a separate line of laptops called Acer Predator and Acer Nitro gaming laptops. Both have dedicated gpus and the predator series features displays with 144hz refresh rates which is great for competitive gamers.

3. ASUS - Popular Series: Zenbook, Vivobook, ROG, TUF

ASUS is another popular laptop brand with offerings for both regular users and gaming users.

The Asus Zenbook series of laptops are lightweight, portable laptop with high end hardware configurations. They are great for travellers who use laptops on the go.

Another series is the Asus Vivobook which features medium budget laptops with decent hardware specs suitable for home, office and professional work.

The Asus ROG and Aus TUF are the gaming series laptops from ASUS with powerful hardware. The prices can go upto $2000 and higher depending on how much hardware power is packed into the machine.

The ROG series features dedicated gpus like GTX 1650, RTX 2070 and is available with screen sizes upto 17.3".

The TUF series features dedicated gpus like GTX 1650, AMD RX560X and is available with screen sizes upto 173.3".

If you are looking for powerful hardware with a large display screen, Asus ROG and TUF series are excellent candidates to consider.

ASUS has some of the finest collection of laptops for nearly all kind of users from students to gamers and office users to professionals.

4. HP - Popular Series: Pavilion, ENVY

HP is amongst the oldest names when it comes to laptops. Their Pavilion series of laptops are very popular as budget laptops for home and office users.
The pavilion laptops have mid level hardware configurations that can be used for gaming as well.

The HP Envy series has more powerful hardware for productivity users and competitive gamers.

Besides these HP also offers Chromebooks.

5. DELL - Popular Series: Inspiron, Vostro

Dell has 2 popular series of laptops named Inspiron and Vostro. Both have high end configuration models that can be used for both regular office use and gaming as well.

Dell Inspiron laptops feature display sizes 15.6", 14", 13". It has fold-able 2-in-1 models that can be used as both laptops and tablets.
Most of the models have integrated gpus like Intel UHD graphics. Great for routine tasks like web browsing, document editing, watching videos etc.

The Dell Vostro series has more powerful hardware like dedicated gpus include the Nvidia GTX 1050, MX130 etc. They can be used for gaming.

6. Razer - Popular Series: Blade

Razer exclusively makes laptops with high end hardware suited for gamers and content creators. The Blade series of laptops have dedicated gpus like Quadro RTX5000 16GB GDDR6 VRAM and GeForce RTX2080 SUPER MQ. Most laptops feature 8-core Intel processors with 16-32 GB of RAM and 1TB nvme storage.

Razer Blade laptops pack powerful hardware ideal for gaming, video editing, 3d modelling, and other hardware intensive applications.

7. MSI - Gaming Laptops

MSI offers a large collection of laptops targeting the gaming segment mainly.

Laptops have higher end hardware configurations with dedicated gpus, nvme ssds and high refresh rate displays (144 hz). There are various models in different price points.

Since the laptops have high end graphics hardware they are also suitable for content creation like video editing, 3d modelling etc.

8. Lenovo - Popular Series: Ideapad, ThinkPad, Flex

Lenovo makes budget friendly laptops that are great for office and home use. The hardware is medium level making it suitable for daily tasks like web browsing and document work.

The Flex series feature a 2-in-1 foldable laptops that can be used as a notebook and tablet.

TOP Lists

Here are some of the top list compilations of laptops in various segments.

Top 8 Best Laptops with AMD Ryzen 7 CPU in 2022 - 4700U / 3700U / 4800H, 16GB RAM
Top 8 Best Laptops with Numeric Keypad in 2022 - Reviews and Comparison
The 8 Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 - Reviews and Comparison
The 8 Best Laptops under $500 in 2022 - Reviews and Comparison
The 8 Best Touch Screen Laptops in 2022 - Reviews and Comparison
Top 8 Best MSI Gaming Laptop in 2022 - RTX 2060/3060, 15.6"/17.3", 120/144 Hz, Intel i7
Top 7 Best Laptops with Ethernet Port in 2022 - Acer / HP / Lenovo

Conclusion

Nowadays, laptops can serve all kinds of purposes, so you should be deciding based on budget, and any factors or hardware you consider more important. Some users may be looking for specific ports, a mechanical RGB backlit keyboard, or even just attractive design.

A student looking for a laptop with only essentials for simple academic work won’t need the best screen quality or resolution, whereas digital artists might need these.

There will never be a need for you to overspend on a laptop as long as you pick the right one, especially with the many flexible and great choices of laptops on the market.

About Silver Moon

A Tech Enthusiast, Blogger, Linux Fan and a Software Developer. Writes about Computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software and coding in Python, Php and Javascript. He can be reached at [email protected].

2 thoughts on “9 Things to Consider When Buying a Laptop – The Ultimate Guide

  1. William Watts

    Such a great explanation! I personally tried most of these Brands and each thing you consider is completely true. I also prefer MacBook, To The Top Brand and personally using from last 5 years
    Thanks, Binary Tides for the perfect buying guide.

  2. Ricky Smith

    Hello,

    This is really an ultimate and in-depth guide for buying any kind of laptop whether it is for normal use, students, business purpose, gaming, etc. And you have covered all the points which are necessary. And the thing which I like the most in this article is you have also covered the laptop brands and their popular series also and it is really helpful to choose the best laptop brand.

    Great work…

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