When people think about buying a laptop, they might think about brand or budget as the most important factors. Getting a good deal on a laptop is important, but cheaper isn’t always better. A good laptop computer is like a trusted ally: you want one that’s going to come through for you when you need it most.
Whether you choose a netbook, ultrabook, notebook or another type of laptop, there are some things you should consider before making a purchase.
With that in mind, here are some things to consider when buying a laptop.
Consider Why You’re Buying a Laptop
Understanding why you want a laptop is essential to helping you find the right one, as it will inform every decision that follows. If you’re buying a laptop for college, you should look at durability, portability, and battery life. If you’re purchasing a gaming machine, you’ll want something with lots of horsepower and a top-flight video card.
For a desktop replacement or light video editing, you should look for the best mid-range laptop you can buy. If you only remember one of the the laptop buying tips I mention in this article, this should be the one you don’t forget.
Consider the Operating System
If you’re already entrenched in a particular operating system, you may want to stick with it — or this might be a great time to switch. Microsoft Windows has widespread support across a variety of laptop makes and models, and Windows machines tend to cost less.
OS X has a more closed ecosystem and a better reputation for stability. Its products tend to be slightly more expensive, (though you can mitigate this by shopping for used or open-box items).
If you’re looking for a deal on a tablet or two-in-one, Windows is your best bet at the moment. If you just want to browse Facebook and write email, a lightweight Chromebook (running Google’s Chrome OS), will likely fit your needs.
Consider the Laptop Size
Portability is the primary advantage of the laptop, and the easiest way to measure this is screen size. The thinnest and lightest units (about 2.5 pounds) have a screen of 11 or 12 inches, such as the “netbooks” and Ideapads. These are the lightest and most portable, but the small screen size can limit their usefulness for some applications.
At about four pounds, a model with a 13 to 15 inch screen will give you a good balance of usability. A laptop with a 17 or 18 inch screen gets into “desktop replacement” territory. At this size, you’re likely looking at buying a laptop for gaming or a serious workstation.
Consider the Peripherals
This comes back to the most important of all the laptop buying tips, or the “what will you use it for?” question. If you plan to use the laptop for high-end video work, you should look for a DisplayPort or HDMI interface. Photographers may want a laptop with a full-size SD card slot built in.
Gamers who still rely on DVDs may find optical drives tough to find off the shelf: many manufacturers have dropped them by default. If you’re looking at buying a laptop for the home office, look for a model with a built-in webcam (1.3 megapixels is the current standard) so that you can easily teleconference. Most modern laptops should come equipped with USB 3.0 and 802.11g wireless cards.
Consider the Laptop Battery Life
Take it from people stranded at the airport overnight: running out of juice is no joke! If you plan to use your laptop away from home or work — basically, anywhere you might not have access to an outlet — you should have good battery life. The bare minimum is about six hours; an ideal battery will last closer to eight.
Netbooks and ultra thin laptops claim to have a life of twelve to fifteen hours — but you shouldn’t take the manufacturer at their word. Check reviews and third-party to get the real scoop on battery life, especially if it’s critical to your work (or play).
Consider the Screen Quality
At first glance, it may seem like all screens are created equal, but not so. Smaller laptops are very portable, but can cause eye strain if the screen quality is low. Laptops with larger screens will likely have full HD resolution (1920 x 1080), which should give you plenty of screen real estate. A laptop with IPS (in-plane switching) technology is ideal, as it offers the widest viewing angle.
A 2-in-1 laptop that doubles as a tablet will have a touchscreen, which means it will be glossy and reflective. Whatever you choose, make you’re comfortable looking at the screen — you may be doing so for hours a day.
Consider How it Feels
Last but not least, you should get your hands on the laptop you intend to buy. All those great features won’t count for much if you can’t stand using the machine on a daily basis.
If possible, go to the store and check out the keyboard, trackpad, and tactile experience of the machine first-hand. See how it responds, if the keys are comfortable for typing, and make sure you can easily read the screen. This is particularly vital for netbooks — their small form factor can be a great advantage, but many don’t feature full-size keyboards.
Does buying a laptop sound complicated? It’s really not. Now that you know how to buy a laptop, and what to look for, you can rest easy with the purchase you make. Just imagine all the awesome stuff you’re going to accomplish after getting a new one! Then, hit up BLINQ’s laptop section and find your favorite laptop!