Buying a laptop can be a daunting task considering the number of variants a single model can have from a manufacturer. With the physical dimensions constant, laptops can have various configurations for the hardware catering to different budgets and also use-cases. Laptops are categorised into several categories for specific use-cases too, further making the process more painful. You might want to use it for gaming or daily office work or just coding. It won’t be a surprise if you can’t make your mind over a few options. Apart from the hardware, there are other aspects such as the screen, ports, weight, etc., that needs to be considered to cover all the bases. In this guide, we will try to make your buying journey for a laptop through the following points.
What to consider
- Processor: Starting with the processor, you can comfortably play games on an Intel Core i5 mobile processor and above. If you don’t plan on playing games or using intensive software, then you can consider an i3. If you want the best performance in gaming, you should go for an i7 and take things to the next level with an i9. Ryzen 7 mobile processors have made their way to laptops and they can also be considered for high-computing workloads.
- Graphics card: A discrete graphics card should be pursued only if you want to play video games otherwise, you don’t really need one. You will be able to play popular games at 1080p and 60fps with something as low as an NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti. For triple-A games, you will need something above the GTX 1070.
- Memory: System memory should start from 8 GB for a seamless experience even if you’re only going to browse the web. Anything below that will limit the number of tabs you can open and start to lag eventually or even crash. The same holds true for games that require additional memory for high-resolution textures.
- Storage: In a laptop, you can make certain choices based on your preferences for storage. If you need faster storage, you should consider picking an M.2 or NVMe or just regular SATA SSD storage. If you want more space, then you can find a middle ground with a lower capacity SSD and high capacity HDD. There’s no reason to go for laptops with high capacity storage since it can be later expanded with an external drive. Always remember that faster storage is better than more storage.
- Operating system: While buying a laptop, you have to decide the operating system that you’re going to install. Generally, people would go for a Windows 10 laptop or a MacBook if they don’t have specific use-cases. If you plan on using your laptop for coding, you can even do that on a Linux machine. Some manufacturers sell laptops without any operating system installed. This would be great for users who already have a Windows 10 license. The cost of the laptop also goes down if the OS isn’t installed.
- Screen: Under display, there are a few aspects that you need to know. At this point, your screen resolution should be a minimum of 1920×1080 or Full HD and if you wish, you could opt for a higher resolution panel. You will find laptops with 4K displays as well but they will generally drain your battery faster. Next, you must check the display panel used in the screen. If you’re buying the laptop for casual usage, it shouldn’t bother you. However, for special use-cases, you need to consider the different panel options that you can read in detail in the monitors’ section of this booklet. Screen refresh rate is catered towards gaming laptops and you will find laptop screens with refresh rates up to 144Hz. These panels also include AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync support based on the graphics card inside. Finally, you should check the type of finish on the display. Usually, you would find a glossy and reflective coating over the screen. Sometimes, you might find a matte finish that reduces reflections.
- Connectivity and ports: Nowadays, laptop manufacturers are making compromises in terms of ports in order to make them thinner. You should ensure that the new laptop you buy contains USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 with Type-A and Type-C ports to connect your portable hard drives or peripherals. Ports for displays such as HDMI or DisplayPort should be considered if you intend on using your laptop to connect to projectors for presentations or maybe a monitor for gaming. Audio ports are a must unless you’re using wireless headphones or speakers. You need to decide whether you want a headphone and mic combo jack or a separate one, otherwise, you’ll have to buy an adapter later. Media card slots are something you should pursue only if you take a lot of photographs while carrying your laptop with you. An Ethernet port won’t be present on thin laptops and some manufacturers will ship a USB to Ethernet adapter. If you’re going to play multiplayer games, you will need a wired connection. Coming over to connectivity, at this age you should go for laptops with 802.11ac Wi-Fi and up to 5 GHz standards. For Bluetooth, you could do with version 4 and above. It’s an important feature if you’re going to connect your audio devices or peripherals. The flexibility of ports is absent on Macbooks and you are bound to buy a ton of adapters based on your usage.
- Weight: Laptops were meant to be portable and if you can’t carry them around, what’s the point? You will find beastly gaming laptops that require suitcases to be moved around, completely throwing away portability out of the window. Gaming laptops are available in small form-factors and they weigh around two kilograms. However, they can go up to five kilograms, if we ignore the heavier ones that aren’t really portable. The other category of laptops is usually under two kilograms while some can go even below a kilogram. Weight should be your consideration based on how frequently you’re going to carry it along with you. If you’re going to carry it every day, then you should definitely go with lightweight ones.
- Battery: Battery life should be given top priority, especially if you’re intending on using it for long sessions. It could be either when you’re commuting to work or onboard a flight. Long battery life is guaranteed on low-powered laptops or ultrabooks that don’t have graphics cards. You can get about eight hours of battery life on these laptops that should be enough until you find a charging port. When it comes to gaming laptops, you can’t really expect good battery life since they are power hogging machines. The maximum time you can run after a full charge would be close to two hours in performance mode. This is acceptable for gamers who carry around their laptops and want to have a quick game on the go.
What not to consider
- Mechanical keyboard: Gaming laptops have now started packing mechanical keyboards instead of the regular chiclet ones. Initially, full-size mechanical switches were used that made the laptop extra bulky. Now, switch manufacturers have developed low-profile mechanical switches that are being pushed onto gaming laptops. They are clearly a luxury and currently, only found on gaming laptops. You don’t need them.
- Speakers: You might score a loudspeaker on your laptop, but they are usually far from good. They can be used for casual gameplay or watching movies. However, they don’t offer a great experience because sound reproduction is poor. You will be able to hear the explosions but won’t get the punchy bass nor will you hear your teammates over voice chat properly. Even in movies, the dialogues won’t be audible properly.
- Proprietary software: After booting up your new laptop, you will be welcomed with a ton of bloatware installed. Whether you need it or not, the manufacturer will install additional software apart from the ones Windows has already installed. They are usually highlighted in the marketing material. You don’t really need them because you can download similar software later, sometimes better ones. Some manufacturers will also plug a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office or an antivirus program. Although it’s a great value addition, it shouldn’t compel you to make a buying decision.
The best place to get it
- Amazon India
- MD Computers
- The IT Depot