You’re looking around for an in-depth laptop buying guide, because you’re unsure about which one to go for?
That’s normal. That’s natural.
It’s better to have a strategic approach, and buy the right one.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll walk you through the process, and help you identify the exact requirements you should have, and the factors you should take under consideration while buying a laptop.
By the end of the guide, you’d have a list of the specs, and features, you need, and the laptop (within your budget) having all those.
About the Author
Jeff Finder has a genuine love for technology and gadgets. He is passionate about traveling, blogging, and providing the most authentic information to the readers of Laptop Cut. He tests the laptops himself and convey the narrowest details about the features, and specifications of the laptops.
Table of Content
Laptop Buying Guide
Make a Checklist & Stick to it
While you are doing your research on buying a laptop, it is vital to make a checklist to get the maximum out of your research. You can create a checklist in a traditional way of pen and paper or the modern way of creating one in your phone.
Be it any method, it is solely your own choice but if the laptop you are about to buy has a correspondence with your checklist, then that is undoubtedly the one. Let us now elaborate the different features and help you decide which ones are for you.
1. Pick a Platform You Love
An Operating System is an essential software which helps the laptop to run efficiently and effectively. There are three operating systems; Windows 10, Apple macOS, and Chrome OS, one of which comes pre-installed in a laptop.
In case you do not have any prior knowledge about any of these OS, here is a brief and easy to understand overview of the three operating systems, which will give you an idea of their features and you can decide which one is for you.
Among other operating systems of Microsoft, Windows 10 is the latest and most versatile operating system. It is also very affordable, and the cost can start from as low as $150. However, the features are quite extensive and impressive.
Windows 10 can offer you a variety of different features, such as; fingerprint sensors, touchscreens, dual graphics chips, and much more. With this OS you can switch modes between a desktop and a tablet as per your convenience.
It also comes with an impressive virtual assistant called Cortana, which is your customized personal assistant. This remarkable feature can get things done for you or assist you in making your work easier for you.
The several tasks which Cortana can help you do and assist in are; to set alarms and reminders, find facts, applications, or files on your device, send emails, manage your data and lists, and much more.
Microsoft realizes the requirements of the users of today’s world and has designed Windows 10 for the modern world needs. It is an integration of speed, strength, and accessibility and helps you be more productive with your laptop.
MacOS is an exclusive and easy to use operating system for Apple Macbooks use only. The founder, Steve Jobs not just disrupted the technology space but changed the baseline and principles of design and aesthetics.
It rarely has viruses and malware issues and offers a smooth operation. In terms of the performance, Windows 10 and macOS are almost the same, but MacOS has no match when it comes to the user experience.
However, macOS makes the users a little bit restricted and is not friendly with other operating systems. The reason is that Apple does not license the Mac operating system to third parties, and you can only find it in Apple manufactured devices.
Moreover, in macOS, you also get a virtual assistant for helping you in doing many actions quickly and efficiently. It is named as Siri and is very active and responsive. It assists you in performing several tasks on your Mac device just like the Cortana feature.
If you are already an Apple family user, a macOS can be the best option for you. Coordinating with your other Apple devices gets very easy, and you can control your computer device from your iPhone or Apple Watch with the utmost ease.
Moreover, the only disadvantage for some of the users might be that macOS is not for the use on a touchscreen device. Till date, there is no Macbook launched with the touchscreen feature. So, you might want to rethink about macOS if this feature is a big concern for you.
The Chrome OS is a speedy and easy to use operating system designed by Google specifically for use on Chromebooks. It is pre-installed in all the Chromebook devices, and you cannot download it on any other devices due to Google’s strict security reasons.
It is mainly for the people who spend a considerable amount of time on the web which means it is more web-centric and can satisfy the needs of people who use a lot of internet and web applications. It only has a web browser with a file browser and media player.
To talk further of its use and quality, users tend to be very happy because of its fast speed, specifically those who use the internet most of the time. It offers a web speed like no other and takes only seconds to load.
Undoubtedly it is a powerful and reliable OS and has the ability to run several web pages and applications simultaneously without any hassle. Moreover, it also detects and blocks any damaging websites with its in-built antivirus scanner.
Although Chrome OS works best with an internet connection and is mainly for web users, it can also run apps offline. There are over 200 applications that can smoothly work without the need for any web connection.
2. Choose the Size
There is no right size of a laptop; it all depends upon your personal preference and the intended use of the laptop. We have penned down the laptop sizes, the added perks, the best use it can offer, and its disadvantages below for you to have a closer look.
11 to 13 inches
If you are looking for a thin and light laptop device, then an 11 to 13 inches laptop size might be the best option for you. These laptops have adequate screen size and weigh from 2.5 to 3.5 pounds. Due to compactness and lightweight, they are best for students and frequent travellers.
14 to 15 inches
14 to 15 inches laptops with a weight of around 4.5 to 6.5 pounds are top-rated, trendy, and always in demand due to the balance between portability and feasibility. They are suitable for every kind of entertainment as well as business and other office needs
16 to 17 inches
A 16 to 17 inches laptop size does not offer you great portability as it usually comes with a hefty weight. However, it can be the best option for a desktop replacement. It can easily cater your gaming needs and are powerful enough to be used for programming etc.
3. Pick the Specs You Need
The internal specifications are what makes a computer run smoothly. So, picking the right features that are according to your needs is essential. It is going to decide how your experience will be with the laptop.
Let us have a look at our detailed specifications sheet, and you can then decide what suits your needs. And do not worry if computer specifications look gibberish to you, we have tried to write it in as simple a language as possible for you to understand easily.
CPU is the short form for Central Processing Unit, and the performance of your computer depends upon the capability of the CPU of a computer. Everyone has different needs and desires, and picking the right CPU according to your needs can make your experience stand out significantly.
- Intel Core i9
Intel Core i9 processors are designed to provide high-speed performance and to cope with any kind of heavy load. They boost up the loading and processing speed of any of the activities you perform on your laptop. They are best suited for ultra-high-end gaming as well as programmers who use heavy apps.
- Intel Core i7
The most demanding Intel processor is the Core i7 due to the high functionality it offers to its users. It is capable of multitasking, and other hardcore users such as high-end gaming, video or photo editing and even for the creation of 3D projects. These processors are speedy and sturdy and offer a very smooth sailing performance.
- Intel Core i5
The Intel Core i5 processors are best suited for people who are a little tight on budget and do not have a lot of high-end demands. They come in mid-range laptops and can do all your day to day work, web browsing and multitasking with the best efficiency possible. They can also handle all entry to mid-level gaming with great ease and fast speed.
- Intel Core i3
The Core i3 processors do not come with a lot of hopes and promises for you. The price range is very affordable; thus, it limits you from performing heavy tasks on these laptops. However, it can be an ideal option for people who like to have a laptop for day to day tasks like watching movies, daily emails, handling light documents, listening to music, and surfing the internet.
- Intel Xeon
Intel Xeon processors come with a promise of unmatched performance for the computer professionals. They are unsurpassable in their duty and have a high price. It pays your investment in this processor due to its power. However, they are great for desktop use only due to the hefty weight and short battery life that comes with it.
- AMD Ryzen Mobile
AMD Ryzen Mobile are latest processors that closely resemble Intel Core i5 and i7 in its performance. They come with a promise of incredible performance and have proved to be able to do so. Moreover, they are adequately priced and can be a great option for all your day to day tasks, mid-range gaming, and multitasking.
- AMD A, FX or E Series
The AMD A, FX or E Series is another set of high-end processors for personal computers. These range of processors are moderately priced and compete closely with Intel processors. They have a powerful graphics card and are an excellent value for money and can execute all the duties expected from high-speed computers.
- Intel Pentium / Celeron
These are average range processors and come at a low cost. They are a little slow in performance but can handle web browsing, day to day emails and document editing, etc. very aptly and efficiently. So, if that is something you are looking for in your next computer, you now have a great option which you can consider.
- Intel Core m / Core i5 / i7 “Y Series
These processors are designed chiefly for personal use and low power devices like tablets or notebooks. They are mainly for slim devices and have an above average performance in all day to day tasks. However, they surpass the Intel Pentium and Celeron in performance but remain under the Core i5 U series processors.
A RAM is an essential component of a processing unit as it is responsible for the overall swift performance of your laptop. The bigger the RAM, the faster the processing speed, but that comes with an increase in the price too. More RAM means the price will be high and also has a quick battery drainage issue.
RAM sizes can range from 2GB to 32GB, while the former is capable of only basic computing; the latter can help you perform anything that requires high-speed and fast loading. But, if you want need it for something in between that, then an 8GB RAM is an excellent choice. It is mostly for users who require speed and are willing to pay a few extra bucks.
The internal storage drive is responsible for storing all your files on the computer. It also affects the overall speed of the laptop. It is your storage needs that decide how much storage drive will be sufficient for you. If you are a person that likes to keep the laptop light or stores most of the data in a cloud or an external drive, then a 120GB hard drive is sufficient for you.
However, if your situation is opposed to it and you store a large number of files and media on your computer, then at least a 500GB drive is recommended. Moreover, there are now SSD (Solid-State Drive) that perform much faster than the traditional HDD (Hard Disk Drive). They are slimmer and lighter weight, but they are much more expensive than hard disk drives.
Apart from the internal speed and processing, display size and quality is a crucial aspect of a laptop. The display size of laptops typically range from 11-17 inches. Whatever you do on your computer must look the best on your laptop display screen. So, to attain that, there are a few things to keep in mind while choosing the display quality of your next laptop.
The higher the resolution, the better the screen images will appear. A 1366 x 768 is the minimum resolution range for small budget laptops but, if you are a hardcore gamer, you need 1920 x 1080 resolution or more. However, for more splendid sharpness QHD screens of 2560 x 1440 and 4K of 3840 x 2160 are required but with a higher price tag.
Matte or Glossy
Although matte and glossy both screens offer a marvelous performance, but there are a few variations in them. Glossy screens are rich in color with more accurate and vibrant colors, but they are very reflecting in the presence of bright lights or outdoors. In opposition to that, matte screens are anti-reflective and are not harsh on the eye but with the downside of a dull display.
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens are the latest and most modern types of display. The reason that makes OLED being the best than other LED screens is its awe-inspiring and exquisite quality. The OLED technology is for thinner panels and is able to display the colors more vibrant and crystal clear with remarkable contrast.
G-Sync or FreeSync
The Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s FreeSync screens are for the modern world gamers. Both are competent in their performance, but the G-Sync technology is superior over the FreeSync technology. G-Sync is more consistent in its performance with a faster refresh rate. However, the price of FreeSync is less and offers integrated graphics and overall decent performance.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The most important aspect in the external features of a laptop is the keyboard quality. A smooth and responsive keyboard can alter your views about any laptop, and if the case is the opposite, then you will be bashing the keyboard every time you use it. Some very significant features are the key to find out the best keyboard for your needs.
Key Travel is the distance between a key at rest to when it is pressed. For your keyboard to act responsively, you need a longer key travel distance. The ideal key travel for laptops ranges from 1.5 mm to 2 mm, and the closer your laptop key travel distance is to these figures, the better and smoother your laptop will perform during any typing activity.
Actuation is the force that is required for the key to hit the button and operate. In other words, the force you put in pressing the key of a keyboard is the actuation. The ideal force needed for the keys to press is 60 grams, and your keyboard keys tend to perform faster and be very responsive if the actuation number is closer to it.
Before opting for a laptop, make sure that it allows the keyboard to be fully in your control. Some keyboards come with the backlight feature, having one color and/or an RGB feature. However, it gets a little awkward if you are not able to control the customization of the keyboard in enabling or disabling a particular function.
Anti-Ghosting feature is essential in gaming laptops, and it has to work for you to attain an ultimate gaming experience. Anti-Ghosting is the ability to press several keys together and get a reasonable response in return. It is very much needed for the keys to work simultaneously, failing, which can result in ruining the whole enjoyment for the gamers.
The graphics quality is an important feature if you want butter-smooth display and want to enjoy all the high-end games to the fullest. Better graphics also lets you play all the high definition videos on your laptop. You can achieve sharp graphics only if you invest in a laptop that is capable of handling solid framerates and have a higher refresh rate.
- Mainstream Gamers
If you are a mainstream gamer, then a laptop with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card can let you play all your favorite high-end games. However, the GTX 1050 graphics too can achieve all your heart’s desire from your gaming laptop. They are better in display and gives out natural-looking colors and accurate sharpness.
- High Performance
For higher performance, there can be no better partner than the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card. It is VR ready and will surely impress you with its stunning frame rates. It provides you silky-smooth graphics and makes your games or anything that you play on your laptop appear very realistic and bright.
- Above Average
The graphics as mentioned earlier cards are necessary for all the hardcore gamers out there. However, if you do not have intentions to use your laptop for high-end or no gaming at all, then do not stress about AMD and GTX graphics. All your day to day tasks can be fulfilled with any integrated graphics card and that too in a low budget.
The audio quality of a gaming laptop matter as much as the display quality of it. In order to achieve a realistic experience and for you to fully dive into your gaming activity, you need a splendid audio quality. With the help of Bass Boost, TrueHarmony and Dolby Audio Premium technology, you can get a fantastic sound quality to enjoy any audio you play on the speakers.
The increasing need for connectivity to your laptop urges for more ports availability on the laptop you own. Ports like USB 3.0 and HDMI are available on all mainstream laptops and can help you connect external sources to your laptop. But, if you need Type-C compatibility for external docks, then you should look for USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 ports in your next laptop.
In a world of internet document sharing and downloadable applications, you might be the one needing to read or write some DVDs. So, to do that, you should always check if the laptop comes with a built-in DVD/Blu-ray drive. In case it lacks that feature, you can buy an external one, connect it through USB, and have your work done.
The long or short battery life of a laptop only matters according to your use of your laptop. You should only worry about battery life if you carry your laptop with you for long hours. For traveling, you would need at least 7 hours of battery life, but if your laptop is a desktop replacement or stays close to the power plug-in mostly then worrying about short battery life is useless.
4. Plan Based on Your Budget
It is always a wise idea to plan about buying a laptop according to your budget, as it might dishearten you if you want a specific feature, and it does not come under your budget. Here is a list down for you to know if the features you want come under your budget and what you can expect from which range of laptops.
$200 – $400
The expectations you can have from a $200 laptop are slow processors with barely enough storage. Although they might not offer you much, but they can be the best for light usage at home or with kids playing all those silly games. However, above that cost, you can get a core i3 and i5 with higher storage and better overall performance.
$400 – $600
A laptop ranging from $400 and under $600 can give you significantly better performance and features. You can easily get up to 8GB of RAM and 500GB storage. Some of the laptops even have full HD screens and extended battery life. However, most of the laptops are on the heavyweight side and lower the portability factor.
$600 – $1000
As the price goes above $600, the specifications of the laptops get incredibly better both inside and outside. You get some stylishly looking laptops having thin and sleek bodies with lighter weight. A better and more transparent display, faster processing speed, and more storage are some other added perks to this price range.
Any laptop above $1000 is going to be stunning in its performance and built, and you can mark our words for that. You get full HD screen having crystal clear display and matchless processing speed. These laptops are powerful enough to handle your high-end games as well as media editing. The battery life is longer, and the laptops have a higher capacity to be portable.
5. Mind the Brand
A brand is never the best or the worst in all aspects, each brand might impress you in one thing but might fail in some other. They all have something to offer, and each of them has become famous for one or the other feature. They all are best at what they do, and over the years, buyers have become conscious of what to expect from which brand.
HP is a world-renowned computers manufacturer and is famous for making remarkable quality laptops. They are best known for making laptops for personal and professional use and had not established its name as gaming laptops creator. However, with the release and success of the OMEN series gaming laptops, HP has proved to be an all-rounder.
Asus is a very reliable laptops manufacturer that is committed to providing smart products for the smart generation of today and tomorrow. The brand is very innovative and dedicated to what it does and is famous for creating high-ranked computers at an affordable price. It is renowned for creating the best gaming laptops having powerful specifications.
Dell is an old manufacturer in the market which never disappoints you with any of its products. It is one of the best options for buying personal use laptops and is a reliable partner in the long run. It is also very efficient in providing technical support to its customers and is very active in providing any service within the stipulated warranty period.
Alienware is known for making high-performance gaming laptops, which is even evident from the look of the Alienware laptops. It is now a fact about this company, and buyers can trust them for gaming laptops without a second thought. However, there is also another range of laptops available by this company.
You might find Lenovo laptops being very simple looking and unfashionable but beware and do not get trapped with this idea. The inside is packed with some fantastic and powerful features to handle all the activities that you throw at it efficiently. The laptops are of quite affordable prices, and the company offers a one year warranty with it.
If you want a slim and lightweight laptop that is primarily for gaming activities, there can be no better option than Razer company. It is a popularly growing computer company producing gamers-centered laptops. They are quite stylish laptops with powerful specifications. There is also a one-year limited warranty offered from the company for the laptops.
Acer is an all-rounder when it comes to providing laptops. It is an award-winning company that has a different range of laptops and can serve any type of customer of a low budget or high budget. All of the laptops come with some incredible features, and especially their gaming laptops have won the hearts of the users.
Microsoft produces some top of the line and premium laptops, which are matchless in their performance. The laptops are very speedy and durable, having sleek and stylish looks. It is an excellent choice for personal and business laptops. They also have a wide range of 2 in 1 and touchscreen laptops, which are a combination of style and performance.
Huawei is primarily known for producing smartphones is a newbie in the laptop world. It has established its name in the phone industry and is struggling to mark its name in laptops industry too. With the release of Matebook X Pro, which is a remarkable all-purpose and casual gaming laptops, it has cleared all the doubts of being capable of producing laptops.
Apple is a famous multinational technology company known for producing top of the line laptops. They are one of the most expensive laptops around, but the reason for that is the promising speed, excellent built material, and high-end features such as the display, SSD, graphics, etc. Apple is a great choice for personal/business laptops and not gaming laptops.
MSI is one of the most innovative companies that will blow you away with every product of it. They have some amazing gaming laptops as well as other business laptops. However, the price is a little high, according to some of the buyers. Moreover, what impresses the users the most is the two years warranty that the company offers with the purchase of every laptop.
Samsung laptops are quite low ranked in comparison to other laptops on our list, but has still made itself worth mentioning. It has a wide range of laptops available, and buyers have an extensive products line to choose from. What users complain of the most are boring designs and non-innovative features, but the company provides amiable technical support.
6. 2 in 1 Laptops
If you want a device that can cater to your multiple needs such as sketching, writing, watching movies, etc., then considering a 2-in-1 laptop is the best option. Gone are the days when you have to spend money on various devices to fulfill different functions; today is the modern world where you can get many things done from a single device.
A 2-in-1 laptop means that you can use it as the traditional laptop mode, tent mode, and the touchscreen tablet mode as well. Some of the laptops even have a detachable screen where it entirely becomes a tablet, thus serving both of your needs of a laptop and a tablet. However, it is worth mentioning that these 2-in-1 laptops will still have one factor better than the other.
7. Four Rules of Buying a Laptop
Apart from considering the internal features of the laptop as well as keeping in mind your personal preferences, there are a few other general things to know about buying a laptop. We have compiled a set of four general rules for you that will help you in making a better and wiser decision.
Rule # 1: Don’t Invest More then Needed
With the improving technology and the new upgradations taking place every other day, it is advisable that unless you don’t intend to keep the laptop in the long run, do not invest a lot in the laptop. Secondly, as there are many options available these days, keep in mind your primary purpose and just for your day to day work do not end up buying a high-end gaming laptop.
Rule # 2: Travel Light
Who does not like to travel light and with the utmost ease? The answer is none. So if you are a frequent traveler or just a person who carry their laptop every other day that too in public transport, then it is undoubtedly not a good idea to buy a laptop that is tiring and heavy to carry. Go for a lightweight, slim, and medium-sized device that keeps you going smoothly.
Rule # 3: Design is King
Now that you have decided to invest in your next laptop and need an upgradation from your old device, why not invest in something stylish and well-built. The material of the chassis, the color, and the design matter as much as the interior features, as it lets you be proud of your investment and owning a device that is as good on the outside as the inside.
Rule # 4: Do You Want to Upgrade it Later?
If you have bought or planning to buy your next laptop but compromising on a few things just because of your budget, then we have a solution for that as well. The internal features like RAM and hard disk storage of the laptops are upgradeable and it is better to check before buying the laptop if these components have this option so that it becomes easy for you to take the decision.
8. Fingerprint Reader and TPM
If you have to store crucial data on your laptop, or simply you are a person who does not like that anyone accesses your laptop, then just a password is not enough. For added privacy and security, fingerprint reader laptops are a success and give you the protection that you need and desire. So, if you are such a person, opt for a fingerprint sensor-enabled laptop.
The portability factor is necessary to consider before buying a laptop unless you are looking for a desktop replacement. People who travel a lot or students who need to keep their laptops with them, need maximum portability. There are a few things that make a laptop highly portable, and those are to be kept in mind to have maximum experience of having a portable device.
The weight of a laptop is the most prime factor involved in increasing or decreasing the portability of a laptop. It is noteworthy that the more the weight, the more it becomes difficult for you to carry your laptop around. One should opt for a lightweight laptop as well as a slim and sleek design to make the laptop a highly travel-friendly partner.
A big screen or the overall size of the laptop is one of the other reasons that might hinder your traveling activity with your laptop. So, to avoid that, you should opt for a screen size that is just the right size for your work and is comfortable enough to travel with you. The most ideal would be a 13-14” screen that is big enough for your work and appropriate enough to be portable.
Apart from the weight and the screen size of the laptop, the other factor that makes your laptop travel-friendly and portable is the long battery life. Together with the other two factors, extended battery life gives the power to the laptop for a more extended period, and it is easy to travel with your laptop without worrying about a power plug-in.
What makes the laptops as business laptops are the high portability factors of a laptop. In other words, in business or office scenarios, you have to have your laptop most of the time and carry it to the meetings, or anywhere you go for business. So, it is imperative to consider all the above factors to make your laptop able enough to perform efficiently in these situations.
Although it depends upon the personal choice of each buyer, we still hope that our definitive and detailed buying guide will help you make the best decision. After considering every aspect, we mentioned together with your personal preference, and we expect that your next purchase would not be a regret for you in any way.