We understand what characteristics to pay attention to and whether the price is always decisive.
Decide why you need a laptop
Think about who and for what tasks will mainly use the device. This will help narrow down the list of models.
For studying, working with documents, communicating on the Internet
- Processor: AMD Athlon/A-series, Intel Pentium/Celeron/Core i3.
- Memory: 4 GB.
- Storage: 256 GB HDD / 128 GB SSD / 64 GB EMMC.
- Features: plastic housing, screen with a diagonal of 14-15 inches.
For such tasks you need not too powerful processor – you can choose a laptop based on the budget AMD or Intel series. Note that there are decent models on top-of-the-line chips of previous generations: for example, on the Core i7 fourth or fifth generation (now relevant 10-11th).
But still recommend choosing newer chips: they are usually more powerful and consume less power. Also in most cases AMD Ryzen will be better than A-series and Athlon, and Core i3, i5, i7 – better than Celeron and Pentium.
You can compare the characteristics of processors in special services. If your model is not listed in one benchmark, try to find it in another:
You don’t need a lot of RAM for such a processor, but if the budget allows, 8 GB would be optimal. A high-capacity storage device is also unlikely to be useful: your documents don’t take much space, and you are likely to watch videos online.
SSD costs more than HDD, but will speed up the system as a whole. The eMMC is an even faster drive, but the capacity will be minimal: enough for the operating system, basic programs and documents.
Also pay attention to the battery. If you often take your computer with you, order a model with a higher-capacity battery.
For movies and other entertainment
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 3/5, Intel Core i3/i5.
- RAM: 8GB.
- Storage: 128 GB SSD.
- Features: case-transformer, touch screen.
It is convenient when you can put the laptop on the bed, like a book, and watch soap operas in seasons. Or together with a child to play simple games on the touch screen, and then work or chat with friends.
Minus transformers, especially with a touch screen, the relatively high price. An alternative – a tablet with a case-keyboard: it will cost less and in such simple tasks can successfully replace a full laptop.
For software development, web-sites, working with business applications
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5/7, Intel Core i5/i7, Apple M1.
- RAM: 16 GB.
- Mass storage: 256 GB SSD.
- Features: backlit keyboard, fingerprint scanner.
For these tasks you need a fairly productive laptop. It is better to take the characteristics immediately with a reserve: professional software is regularly updated, and each new version, as a rule, “voracious” predecessor.
Of course, everything depends on specific tasks and programs. For example, Android Studio and many other heavy development environments frankly slow down on 8 GB of RAM, HDD and old processors. Visual Studio Code is usually comfortable to use on such a configuration, editors like Atom and Notepad++ are even more so.
If you choose a laptop with the Intel chipset, pay attention to the Turbo Boost support. This technology automatically boosts processor frequency during peak loads, and helps save power the rest of the time.
And AMD Ryzen variants have overclocking capabilities. With it, you’ll be able to boost your system’s performance a little more without cost.
Finally, look out for fresh MacBooks with M1 chips. They’re often more productive than their Intel-based predecessors in development tasks.
If you’re a freelancer and often work from a coffee shop, pay attention to battery life. If your project involves confidential information, the built-in fingerprint scanner comes in handy.
For photo processing and design
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5/7, Intel Core i7, Apple M1.
- RAM: 16 GB.
- Storage: 512GB SSD.
- Features: 17-inch glossy screen.
Processing high-resolution files in Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and other programs requires a lot of processing power. If brushes and other tools are not applied in real time, it will be extremely difficult and uncomfortable to work.
Since photographers, retouchers and designers stare at the screen for long periods of time, the quality of the sensor is very important. MacBooks have exceptionally accurate and vivid color reproduction, which is why many professionals choose them. But quite a few decent models from other manufacturers as well. And if you want more freedom, you can simply buy a fairly powerful laptop and connect it to an additional professional monitor with a larger diagonal.
Note that the storage capacity in this case does matter. You can also use cloud storage for archives, but you will still gradually build up a collection of tools and auxiliary materials that should always be on hand.
For the latest games, 3D graphics, video editing
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7/9, Intel Core i7/i9.
- Memory: 16 GB.
- Storage: 512 GB SSD.
- Features: screen with an increased refresh rate (100 Hz or more), discrete graphics card.
In this case, it is worthwhile to start from the processor and video card. Fresh chips are AMD on Zen2 and Zen3 architecture, Intel family of Comet Lake, Tiger Lake and Ice Lake 10th and 11th generations, and in the near future – Rocket Lake. Their advanced manufacturing process, larger cache, and other improvements give them a boost in performance, as well as support for Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, and other useful features.
Graphics cards based on GeForce MX suitable for novice gamers, 3D-artists and editors; variants GTX 10 series (1050, 1060, 1070, 1080) and GTX 16 (1650, 1660) – for those who set up serious; RTX 20 (2060, 2070, 2080) – for those who aim to record FPS (frames per second) and exceptional performance.
Models of graphics cards in Max-Q design have 10-15% reduced performance, but they are more compact, quieter and consume less power. Models with the prefix Super and Ti (Titan) are more powerful.
But battery life is not important here. Such a monster from almost any battery will last no more than 1.5-2 hours. This is enough to finish a round or save the project if the light suddenly goes out.
For business travel, business trips, work outside the home
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 5, Intel Core i5, Apple M1.
- RAM: 8 GB.
- Storage: 256 GB SSD.
- Features: thin body made of metal or carbon fiber, long battery life, fingerprint scanner.
For business laptops, reliability, stylish design and compactness are important. In addition, the gadgets must be able to withstand 8-10 hours of battery life.
Performance can be average or higher, but not record-breaking. This is enough to work comfortably with documents or online services, but at the same time not so quickly drain the battery.
Protection against unauthorized access and information security are also important. In addition to unlocking the computer with a fingerprint, often provide systems for automatic backup, data deletion and encryption, remote locking access to a lost device.
Finally, business laptops tend to be more rugged than conventional ones. They are often not afraid of bumps and drops, temperature fluctuations and other extreme conditions, even a couple of liters of water spilled on the keyboard.
Pay attention to details
All other things being equal, choose the option with which you will be more comfortable.
Matte or glossy screen
A matte screen is more comfortable if you often use your laptop outside of your home or if your workspace is positioned so that there is a lot of glare on the display.
But on a glossy screen the picture is more juicy, the colors are brighter and more saturated. If you work with graphics, play a lot of games or watch movies, it is worth choosing this option.
Number of ports
Think about what devices you will need to connect to your notebook: a mouse, a flash drive, a second monitor, an external hard drive? Make sure there are enough ports for all gadgets.
The most popular connectors and their purpose:
- USB – for connecting storage devices, mice, as well as smartphones, webcams, fitness trackers and other devices. Provides both data exchange and charging, if the device supports it. Standard USB 2.0 is usually white, USB 3.0 is blue.
- HDMI – for connecting monitors or TVs, for high-resolution video and multi-channel audio.
- DisplayPort – also for connecting monitors and TVs. But it supports not one, but up to four screens simultaneously, and inexpensive adapters allow you to connect monitors of different standards.
- Thunderbolt is for record-setting data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps (compared to 5 Gbps for USB 3.0). Copying 14 hours of HD video through this port takes less than a minute. It is compatible with USB-Type-C devices.
Free RAM slot available
If you buy a computer for several years, play a lot of games or work with resource demanding applications, at some point you will think about upgrading. For laptops, the easiest way to do this is to add RAM. Check to see if the model has a slot available.
Availability of a free hard drive slot
Each gigabyte on a solid state drive (SSD) is more expensive than a traditional hard drive (HDD), so manufacturers often offer configurations with a 1TB HDD and a 256GB SSD for about the same price. If you assume you don’t have enough disk space, check to see if your laptop has another slot for a drive. Then you can buy and install it when you need it.
Usually these slots are closed with a plastic cover, secured with one or two screws, and the loop to connect the drive is already available. It is true that the specifications often do not specify whether there is a free slot, so it is worth checking this point with the manufacturer or the store consultants.
Wi-Fi 802.11ac/ax support
Almost all laptops in recent years support the 802.11 ac Wi-Fi standard. It allows you to work not only in the 2.4 GHz band (it is very common, so there is more interference), but also on the 5 GHz (here the connection will be more stable, and the ping is lower).
802.11ax, or Wi-Fi 6, is the latest mass standard. It supports operation in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and can also include additional bands in the 1 to 7 GHz bands as they become available. The coding density has also increased, and as a result, data rates are up to 50 percent higher.
It’s important that the router supports the right standards, too. Check this before you buy your laptop and upgrade if necessary. Of course, there are not many routers with Wi-Fi 6 support nowadays, but if you are buying a laptop for several years and you need fast Internet, pay attention to this point.
Active cooling system or passive
If it is critical for you to keep your notebook quiet without needing record performance, choose a model with a passive cooling system – simply put, without fans. Radiators on the processor and in other places of maximum heat will help to maintain the correct temperature and maintain decent productivity. If high power is more important, then prepare for the fact that at the limit of loads the laptop will be noticeably noisy.
Here we should note that the SSD works silently. In fact, it is a large flash drive, and it has no moving parts. And the HDD is audible during operation.
Backlighting of the keyboard
If you often sit at your computer in the evening or at night and don’t want to turn on the lights, this feature will come in handy. Not only is it easier to write code or edit texts, it’s also easier not to mix up the video player’s settings or quickly reply to messages. In addition, it makes it much more comfortable to move your gaze from the screen to the keyboard at dusk.
Try to avoid popular mistakes
In such situations, the purchase will not bring joy and the laptop will want to get rid of as soon as possible.
Choose on a budget
When money is tight, customers often choose either the cheapest model or the most expensive one available within their budget. But then disappointment sets in: games don’t launch, tabs in the browser load slowly, the battery dies very quickly.
There are several ways:
- Decide which model you really need, and save up. The main thing is not to try to grasp the immensity and not to look every time for more expensive options.
- Take a used laptop with suitable features – it will be 30-50% cheaper than the new one. But before buying, be sure to consult with an expert so you don’t get a waterlogged or repeatedly repaired copy.
- Purchase the device on credit or in installments. The amount per month will be small, and if you need the equipment for work, it will pay off quickly.
Buy the most expensive model
“Expensive means the best” is a popular stereotype. For example, if you drive the “home – work – school – home” route every day, you don’t need a supercar that has nowhere to park, nor a huge four-wheel drive SUV that will take your entire salary to fill up, nor a vintage car.
It’s a similar story with laptops. For example, a cool business model with a fingerprint scanner, carbon fiber casing and top-of-the-line processor may not pull the latest games with a good FPS. But all pictures of your cats will be safe. That said, you could buy a “gaming monster” with a good discrete graphics card, a screen with higher refresh rate and RGB keyboard backlighting for a third cheaper.
Making compromises with yourself
Here are some stories full of frustration and sadness:
- “Always wanted a red laptop, but bought a black one because it was cheaper.”
- “I was planning to buy a thin and light 13-inch model to take with me to university. But I bought a regular laptop, which together with the charger weighs 3 kilograms and barely fits into a backpack.”
- “Wanted a laptop with a gaming graphics card to learn 3D graphics and relax in the evening in CS:GO. But ordered a regular office one – and dullly edit my spreadsheets on it.”
- “Dreamed of a MacBook Air, but didn’t buy one at all. My friends convinced me that the MacBook was just marketing.”
If you don’t like your new notebook, your productivity will be low, and you won’t be able to rest at all. And you will, sooner or later, buy another model. Maybe you should do it right away?
Buy a laptop as a gift, without specifying all the nuances
Suppose you want to please your loved one, but you buy it is not what he needs. Sincerely enjoy such a gift will not work.
To avoid this, try to unobtrusively clarify the nuances in advance. For example, pretend that you are choosing a laptop for yourself, and ask for advice. If a person does not understand technology, just find out what qualities of the device are important to him: a large screen, high-capacity battery or to run the latest games, and on the body lit up an apple.