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Buying a laptop is not always as simple as one would hope. With overlapping prices, different processors and operating systems, ports, storage, and a ton of other specs to consider when choosing your next laptop, it’s good to get a good foundation of the basics. Familiarize yourself with some of the terms and get a general idea of what they mean, so you can make an informed decision and not have buyers-remorse.
There are many types of laptop users. You have gamers, streamers, bloggers, the pros, business users, and basic internet users. First think of what you’ll be using the laptop for now and in the future and then the specs will make more sense.
When buying a laptop, if you can physically see the item prior to purchase, always test its durability and body. Open it, and see how the hinges handle, check out the screen, feel the weight; then ask if it works for you. You’re the one who will be using the laptop, so remember to keep that in mind.
All laptops have an operating system. The operating system is the “heart” of the laptop. It manages software and hardware alike, including connected devices, memory, and files. It allows you to actually interact with your programs and laptop visually. Without this, you would be writing code to get stuff done.
Designed around a touch screen interface, while still able to be used with a keyboard and mouse, Windows expands navigation options. The Windows “Hello” feature, allows a quick login with a touch or look instead of the traditional password. This operating system maintains enterprise-grade security offering you peace of mind. Windows boasts streamlined management of files, a suite of apps built-in, and an updated task manager.
This operating system is exclusive to Mac computers. The OS X offers an easy-to-use and elegant interface, which complements the Macs’ well-known sleek look and long battery life. Mac is known to have less issues with malware and viruses, too. On the down side, these laptops start at a much higher price point than most non-Mac laptops and, if you love a touchscreen, you won’t find one on a MacBook…yet.
Not surprising considering its name, but Chrome OS — you guessed it — is featured exclusively in the line of Chromebook mobile computers. The OS runs cloud-based programs and custom apps rather than traditional software most laptops use. It’s great for web-surfing, social networking, and sharing pics. This isn’t made for data-intensive tasks, photo/video editing, extreme gaming, or anything that would take too much “power” to do. This is for more basic use.
The battery life claims from manufacturers range from a few house to 12 hours or more. Enhancements for laptops like — higher and larger resolution screens, the addition of an optical drive, increased processing power – will quickly drain your battery. Keep that in mind.
RAM or “Random-Access Memory” is important. It helps your processor tackle multiple tasks simultaneously. 2GB is the minimum required for the most basic computing, however, 8GB and up is recommended if you’re into editing, graphics, gaming, or anything of the like. Most laptops are equipped with 4GB-8GB, while some have 64GB. If you want to start smaller, be sure to check that the laptop allows for the expansion of RAM.
It’s important to know what kinds of screen features are available on the market. This is especially important if you’ll be doing a lot with graphics, designing, editing, and gaming! There are a few aspects to look at when looking at screen specs.
Different brightness and color levels are yielded by different display technologies. With many laptops having LED backlighting, this allows displays to have bright and crisp colors without draining the battery. For wider viewing angles, choose a display with an IPS panel. If you plan on watching movies with a friend, the wider viewing angles will be best for that.
Matte displays minimize glare, and glossy displays usually deliver deeper and more rich colors with darker blacks. Some laptop models feature a fine bezel – the border around your display – this allows more of the display space to fit within the laptop’s screen.
You can typically find laptops ranging in screen sizes of about 11 to 20 inches, however, the 20-inch is more of a niche product. 17 inches is more of the standard for max screen size of a laptop. The larger screen sizes are ideal for gamers, movie-watchers, video and picture editing, as well as side by side document viewing. With a larger screen, comes a larger laptop. With that in mind, the overall weight, size, and power consumption are greater than that of a smaller laptop.
A touch screen Laptop makes navigating your computer much more intuitive. With this feature, you’re able to select by tapping, hold to drag items, the usual- swipe to scroll, and pinch in either direction to zoom, the same way you would on a phone or tablet. Touch screens are available on a lot of Windows laptops and some Chromebooks—this feature is not available on Macs.
If you want better picture quality, you want higher resolution. There’s a range of resolutions that laptop screens can have.
4K Ultra HD:
Four times the pixels of Full HD, 3840 x 2560 and 3840 x 2160 resolutions create rich colors as well as images perfect for editing and viewing extremely lifelike graphics and images.
QHD and QHD+ (Quad HD):
The incredibly high pixel density boasted by the 2560 x 1440 and 3200 x 1800 resolutions, create sharp text and very crisp detail. This resolution is ideal for pro graphics, photography, as well as HD games and movies.
The 2304 x 1440, 2560 x 1600 and 2800 x 1800 resolutions can be found in Apple laptops, typically, the 12 through 15.6-inch laptop displays.
With the 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution lets you play video games and watch Blu-rays without losing any detail.
If you’re looking to watch DVDs and do some light gaming the 1600 x 900 resolution is a great choice.
HD is the standard resolution on most mainstream laptops at 1366 x 768. If you’re looking to use the laptop lightly and not for anything too techy or advanced, this option is awesome for surfing the web, using social media, and all other basic computer tasks.
So, remember the operating system acting as the “heart” of the laptop? The processor is like the laptop’s “brain”. It works in tandem with system memory, the processor’s power determines how many programs and how fast the programs will run at the same time, and the level of complexity of the software you’re able to run. Many laptops boast an Intel or AMD processor.
Within processor classes, variances exist. Laptops that are designed with maximum batter efficiency typically utilize a very low voltage version of the listed processor. This sacrifices processing speed.
For serious gaming and heavy graphics work, you’ll want to select a laptop with dedicated video memory and graphics cards. Having the separate resources for the two affords smoother, and faster processing while you game, watch movies, and anything else.
At the heart of every modern Apple laptop and most Windows laptops is an Intel processor. The Intel Core series of multicore processors are the most prevalent.
For the ultimate experience in virtual reality and gaming. This series offers nearly 36 threads and 18 cores to power through the editing, production, and creation of 4K or 360 ° videos, high quality audio, and high-res photos.
For power-users like the graphic designers, hardcore gamers, videographers, and photographers. It truly excels at intense multitasking and multimedia creation for high def or 3D projects.
This is more middle-of-the-road. The processor is strong enough for most tasks and multitasking. You can watch a movie while looking up actors or sending some work emails.
This is an entry-level processor. It is more than capable of web browsing, everyday email, listening to music, and any other more basic task.
For virtually every task, AMD provide a range of advanced processors.
AMD Ryzen Mobile Processors with Radeon Vega Graphics:
From personal use to work, these processors deliver stunning visuals, multitasking performance, and a long battery life, all while maintaining a sleek form factor. Options of these processors include:
For running demanding apps, editing videos, and playing games with seamless frame rates, this is the option for you.
Great for streaming 4K, light video editing, and other somewhat intricate tasks.
This is perfect for providing efficiency and responsiveness you maximize your batter life while working on work or school projects as well as light entertainment.
AMD FX and A Series:
This series of processors is designed to enhance productivity, boost multimedia, and increase energy efficiency.
Typically, laptops offer quite a few options for staying connected to the internet and other devices. Most laptops provide the latest wireless networking standards (802.11) as well as Bluetooth capabilities, for more convenience with syncing your speakers, portable devices, streaming devices, and smartphones.
Be on the lookout for the below mentioned ports that are all commonly used for connecting to cameras, TVs, and other devices:
This USB connects external drives, smartphones, gaming controllers, and other accessories. USB 3.0 ports transfer data much faster than USB 2.0 solely when used with USB 3.0 devices.
This USB provides lightning speeds and versatile power. They feature connectors with matching ends that plug in right-side up or upside down. Adapters afford video and backward compatibility with type-A ports.
This offers ultra-high bandwidth for very fast data transferring between devices with MiniDisplayPort or a Thunderbolt connection.
You can display HD media on your TV or connect a projector with HDMI.
For simple camera or camcorder photo transfers.
The traditional hard disk drives offer larger storage capacity, but they do add to a laptops weight, thickness, and overall size while generating noise and heat. Also known as flash storage or SSDs, solid drives are much faster, cooler, quieter, and lighter than hard drives. These are pricier per GB, in turn, they do provide less storage space. There are a handful of laptops out there that feature hybrid drives that combine both hard drive and solid drive, providing the user the best of both worlds.
Hard Disk Drives
Traditional hard disk drives are, by far, the most common type of storage. The reasons behind this are their lower price point and higher storage space. As mentioned before this adds significantly to the laptops overall weight and size and they generate sufficient noise and heat. The 2 standard speeds in which these can be found are: 5400 rpm drive, which is great for basic computing, and a 7200 rpm drive that transfers data quicker. If you regularly work with large files, this is definitely worth considering.
Solid State Drives
Also known as SSDs (for Apple, “flash storage”), solid state drives are much faster than hard disk drives but offer less capacity. SSDs make an ideal choice for ultra slim, lightweight laptops that make very little to no noise and produce very little heat. They offer huge advantages in physical size, power efficiency, and weight.
Some, but not all, laptops employ a solid-state drive for all storage. Other laptops dedicate smaller SSDs to house the OS (operating system) and apps (for faster start-up), then they add a traditional hard drive for general data storage.
Now, you have a helpful guide to assist you through the process of choosing the perfect laptop for your needs! You can always come back to this if you get stuck, make sure you bookmark it, so you can get back to it easily. Happy shopping!