The Complete Laptop Buying Guide

Well, the time has finally come to replace your old, faithful laptop. Whether it finally bit the dust, or it’s simply not running like it used to, you’re on the market for a new computer. With so many options for operating systems, specs, and sizes, it can be overwhelming at first to find the best device for your needs. To help make things a little easier, we’ve broken down everything you need to consider when choosing a new laptop:

  • What platform is best for you?

Basically, there are three operating systems you can choose from: Windows, Chrome OS, or Mac OS.

Windows: Windows is the most versatile operating system. When you are computer shopping, you will notice that a majority of the devices on the market run on Windows. These laptops are also very budget-friendly, with basic laptops starting as low as $200. In addition, if you’re a gamer, Windows devices are arguably the best choice. However, Windows is less secure than other operating systems; however, there are measures you can take to make it more secure.

Chrome: Chrome operating systems boast a simple and easy-to-use interface. While it looks a lot like Windows, the main difference is found in the browser. Chrome devices excel in web tasks such as fast web browsing, video and music streaming, video conferencing, and more. Also, like Windows, Chrome laptops are relatively inexpensive. So, if you’re on the web often, and enjoy Chrome’s simplicity, maybe this OS if for you; however, if you need more than that, you may be better off looking elsewhere.

Mac: While the other two operating systems have aspects in common, Mac OS is the outlier. For a Windows/Chrome user, finding your way around a Mac for the first time can be confusing. For example, instead of a “Start” menu, Mac devices feature an apps dock on the bottom of the screen for easy access, and a “Launchpad” app for the rest of the apps that are not in your customizable dock. While the interface is different, it is still simple and easy to use once you get the hang of it. If you have an iPhone and/or other Apple products, this might be the OS for you, as it is the most compatible with these devices. Also, it is the most secure system, meaning that your laptop will very rarely, if at all, be infected by any type of malware. However, Mac laptops are notoriously more expensive than their counterparts — so if you are on a strict budget, Mac computers may not be an option.

  • What size do you prefer?

Each of the three platforms listed above have a variety of hardware in many different sizes. So, before considering other specifications and pricing, think about how portable you need your computer to be. Typically, the smallest devices have an 11 inch screen, and the largest can go up to around 18 inches.

Small Laptops: Devices that are in the 11 to 12 inch range (and even some 13 inch devices like the 13 inch MacBook Air) are light and easy to carry around. So, if you are a college student who needs a device that is easily portable to take from class to class, laptops in this size range might be the best option for you. You can always purchase a larger sized laptop when you begin your career. Also, if you have a job that requires you to bring your own device to work, this would also be a good option (given you have adequate screen space for the kind of job you are doing).

Medium-Sized Laptops: These devices are typically in the 14-to-15 inch range, and are the most popular size of laptop. They feature a larger screen, so if you do a lot of design work or other work that requires a larger screen, this size might be best. Medium sized laptops, due to the larger screen, are a bit heavier and harder to carry around, so if you simply carry it to and from work each day, this could be a viable option for you. However, if you are a college student or need the ability to bring your device with you to multiple places in a day, you might want to look at the smaller sizes.

Large Laptops: Larger laptops range from 16 to 18 inches. These are a good option if you leave your device on the same desk all day and do not need to carry it around much. Large laptops are optimal for gaming and any other function that requires heavy productivity, as these devices can be very powerful.

  • What about specs?

Okay, so you’ve decided on what size you want and which operating system is best for you. That’s all pretty straightforward. What’s not so straightforward? All the specs and components of a laptop that you can’t see, like RAM, hard drive, processor, and more. Here are three of the most important specs, broken down:

CPU: This is the processor. The processor has a significant influence on speed and performance, and its main task is running the OS and every application you use. A faster CPU makes for a more powerful laptop, but it also comes with a larger price tag. There are many different processors that you will need to choose from, but think about the things you considered when you were choosing a size — what are you going to use your laptop for? If it’s gaming, or something like heavy design work, go with the faster processor. If not, you can probably get by with an average speed CPU.

RAM: RAM is your device’s memory. Typically, laptops will come with either 2GB, 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB. The cheaper laptops usually come with 2GB RAM, but it is a good idea to get at least 4GB. This will work for most users, but if you can afford to spend a little more, and plan on using it for heavier purposes, go with the 8GB. 16GB are typically unnecessary for most users.

Storage: This one is pretty self-explanatory — this is the amount of space you have on your laptop to store photos, videos, music, and other software and applications. It can also affect the speed and performance of your laptop. Smaller, more portable devices usually offer less storage, while all-purpose, more powerful laptops offer more. Some models offer an option for a solid state drive (SSD) instead of a traditional hard drive. SSDs will cost more and provide less storage — but your device will be much speedier.

Picking the Perfect Laptop

When shopping for a new computer, the first thing to think about is what you will be using it for. Are you a student who needs an ultra-portable laptop for light use? Or are you an active gamer that requires high performance? After that, the top three things to consider are the operating system, the size, and the specs. Still confused? Reach out to our IT experts for more information.