What to Look for in a Laptop – Review Geek

An illustration of a video chat on a laptop.

Laptops provide the performance of full-sized computer systems in a compact, transportable bundle. However they aren’t one-size-fits-all. Shopping for a brand new laptop computer that’s nice for streaming might not fill your wants at work, and in the event you’re a gamer, trying to find the proper laptop computer is usually a nightmare. Right here’s all the pieces you could know whereas procuring to your subsequent laptop computer, from the broad particulars to the nitty-gritty.

Which OS Ought to You Use?

The Chrome, Winodws, and macOS logos.
Google, Microsoft, Apple

Each working system has its ups and downs. One is perhaps ultimate for gaming, whereas one other gives unique software program assist to your occupation or hobbies. Plus, every working system occupies a choose value vary and requires a distinct set of {hardware} specs, which is why it’s necessary to choose an OS earlier than you begin worrying about particulars like RAM.

Right here’s a rundown of the most well-liked working methods, that can assist you determine which sort of laptop computer is greatest to your wants:

Home windows

Home windows gives the widest software program compatibility of any working system, and it’s the perfect OS for gaming. When you could run particular software program for work or play, a Home windows laptop computer is often the best way to go. In fact, {most professional} apps are additionally suitable (and may match higher) with macOS, however Home windows laptops price rather less than MacBooks and may pair to your Android phone for calls and texts.

Bear in mind that the Windows OS is quite demanding and power-hungry. Entry level Windows laptops in the $200 to $500 range tend to have poor battery life and won’t offer the seamless performance of more expensive Windows machines. If you’re on a very tight budget, a Chromebook may be a better option, as Chrome OS runs fine on lower-end hardware.


MacBooks are expensive, but they come with some major perks. Not only is macOS better suited for creative applications than Windows or Chrome OS, but it integrates seamlessly with the Apple ecosystem, allowing you to text or FaceTime from your laptop or use your iPad as an exterior show. MacBooks even have nice battery life and are improbable long-term machines, typically working for a decade earlier than they should be changed.

However MacBooks don’t provide the huge {hardware} customization choices of Home windows laptops, and so they aren’t suited to gaming (though some video games are optimized for macOS, and sport streaming can assist you get round some limitations). App compatibility may also be a problem for hobbyists who prefer to play with specialty software program, and whereas Macs work with {most professional} apps, those that use particular software program for work ought to test that it’s macOS-compatible earlier than shopping for a MacBook.

Chrome OS

Common laptop customers don’t run demanding skilled software program, which is the place Chrome OS is available in. Chromebooks are low-power, low-cost laptops that center your experience around the browser. They’re perfect for someone who spends their time streaming video, working on their company or school’s website, or using web-based applications like Google Docs, Microsoft Office Online, and Pixlr photograph editor.

In fact, Chromebooks aren’t just a browser in a field. Chrome OS can run Android and Linux functions, increasing your repertoire of instruments and permitting you to play video games like Stardew Valley or Minecraft. You may also pair your Android telephone to Chrome OS for texting with higher assist than Home windows.

Whereas a Chromebook would possibly work nicely for informal laptop customers, college students, and individuals who do all their work within the browser, Chrome OS received’t run a whole lot of skilled or resource-heavy artistic functions. And whereas sport streaming works nicely on Chromebooks, don’t anticipate to play your AAA video games offline.

Portability Is Every little thing

A woman carrying a laptop.
Shutterstock/Africa Studio

Laptops are speculated to be transportable. If a laptop computer is simply too cumbersome or doesn’t have an awesome battery life, then you definitely’re going to spend most of your time tethered to a desk, which defeats the aim of proudly owning a conveyable machine.

Right here’s what to look out for when fascinated about a laptop computer’s portability:

Weight and Thickness

A brilliant thick, tremendous heavy laptop computer is a ache to hold round, so you need to discover one thing that’s as skinny and light-weight as doable, proper? Effectively, it’s not that simple. A laptop computer’s thickness and weight largely rely upon issues like port selection, battery size, storage space, and other features that may be important to you. Buying a laptop is a juggling act, and a big part of that act is finding a compromise between features and portability.

If portability is your priority, you should aim for a laptop that weighs 2 or 3 pounds and is 0.5 to 0.6 inches thick. All MacBooks and most Chromebooks fall in these parameters, so if you’re going for macOS or Chrome OS, the work’s already done for you.

But Windows laptops are a little tricky. The most popular Windows laptops are thin and light, but you may need to buy a machine that weighs between 4 and 6 pounds and is 0.7 to 1 inch thick if you want something with a ton of horsepower, like a gaming laptop with a dedicated GPU and a powerful cooling system. And if you’re shopping in the $200 to $500 range, you’re basically forced to buy a heavier laptop, as it’s difficult to make a reliable thin and light Windows laptop at a low price.

Battery Life

It doesn’t matter how thin or lightweight your laptop is if it has crappy battery life. I suggest looking for a computer with 10-hour battery life or better, although you may need to lower your expectations if you’re on a budget. If you plan to play games or run demanding software, avoid any laptop with short battery life.

Retailers like Best Buy and Amazon often list a laptop’s estimated battery life on the device’s sales page. Still, you should look up reviews for the laptop to see how its battery performs in the real world, because manufacturers’ battery life estimations are almost always best-case-scenario.

Form Factor

While traditional laptops are best for power users, 2-in-1 laptops that can fold into tablets or detach from their keyboards are perfect for people who spend most of their computer time browsing and streaming. A 2-in-1 with good stylus support is also a great option for artists who want to draw on their computer, or students and professionals who want to take notes or mark up documents by hand.

What to Look for in a Display

A Dell XPS 15 laptop with a stunning 4K display.

A laptop computer with a crappy display simply isn’t that enjoyable to make use of. While you store for a laptop computer, you need to ensure that it has a comfortably sized, brilliant display with respectable decision. Energy customers, artists, players, and professionals might even need to shell out for a cutting-edge show with a excessive refresh price or an OLED panel.

Right here’s what to search for in a laptop computer’s show:

Show Dimension and Side Ratio

Display screen measurement could make or break a laptop computer. Whereas bigger screens are sometimes higher for desktop-class multitasking or artistic work, a smaller display is healthier for portability and dealing and not using a desk or desk.

Producers measure laptop computer shows from nook to nook, very like a TV. Most laptops have 13 to 15-inch shows, which is an ideal compromise between too huge and too small. If you need one thing ultra-portable, attempt to discover a laptop computer with a ten to 13-inch show, and in the event you’re all a few huge display, go for 15 inches or bigger.

Side ratio also can play a job within the perceived measurement of your laptop computer show. Many laptops have a 16:9 side ratio, whereas others sport a 16:10 or a 3:2 side ratio. Laptops with a 16:10 ratio really feel just a little “roomier” than their 16:9 counterparts, even after they have comparatively small screens. Shows with a 3:2 side ratio really feel fairly boxy, which is ideal for Home windows customers who’re uninterested in their taskbar and toolbars taking on a lot display actual property. (The numbers in a side ratio describe width and top, so the nearer they’re collectively, the “boxier” the display will look).

Customers preferring to run a number of functions on the display on the identical time will doubtless desire a 16:9 or 16:10 side ratio, whereas customers preferring to run all the pieces fullscreen and change between open home windows have a tendency to love 3:2. Simply one thing to remember when procuring.

Completely different Sorts of Show

Like TVs, some laptops include superior OLED or mini-LED show panels that look higher than the usual LCD shows that we’re used to seeing. Right here’s a run-down on completely different show varieties:

Show High quality and Specs

Uh oh, it’s time to take a look at numbers. A show’s specs can decide its total high quality and usefulness, so in the event you’re planning to make use of your laptop computer exterior or actually care about streaming high-res video, now’s the time to concentrate.

  • Display screen Decision: At a basic level, decision determines the variety of pixels on a show. Extra pixels permit for extra element, which frequently results in higher trying photographs. Most laptops have 1366 x 768 (non-FHD) or 1920 x 1080 (full HD) shows. I counsel that you just avoid the non-FHD shows except you’re shopping for a laptop computer with a really small display (low resolutions look dangerous on huge screens). For many who need a gorgeous, future-ready show, purchase a laptop computer with a UHD or 4K panel.
  • Brightness: Show brightness might not appear necessary while you’re watching Netflix in mattress, however you’re going to need a actually brilliant laptop computer in the event you’re working exterior or sitting close to a window in the course of the day. Most laptop computer producers measure display brightness in nits, and you need to purpose for 250 nits or extra for the sake of your sanity.
  • Contact display: Some folks like contact display laptops, others hate them. Selecting between the 2 is a matter of non-public desire, though you’ll be able to at all times flip off contact controls in the event you don’t like them, so don’t stress over it an excessive amount of. Simply bear in mind you could’t make a non-touch show touch-compatible in the event you change your thoughts.

Now that you realize all about shows, it’s time to begin fascinated about specs and inside {hardware}. Don’t fear—it’s not as difficult as you assume.

{Hardware} Specs Simplified

A laptop motherboard on a table.

You don’t simply need a pc that’s stunning on the surface, you need one which’s stunning on the within too, proper? A laptop computer’s inside {hardware} specs (or specs) decide how briskly the pc runs, how nicely it could possibly deal with software program, what number of recordsdata it could possibly maintain, and a lot extra. It’s annoying to consider issues like CPU and RAM, however in the event you do it now, you should purchase the very best laptop computer and keep away from looking for a alternative sooner or later.

All About CPUs

A pc’s CPU is its most necessary part. Just like the human mind, it processes and manages all the pieces inside your laptop. If you need a laptop computer that’s quick, dependable, and highly effective sufficient to maintain up with years of use, then you must pay for a very good CPU.

However there’s no one-size-fits-all resolution for CPUs. Everybody has completely different wants, and a few working methods are extra demanding than others. So, listed here are some tips to choosing a CPU primarily based on which working system you purchase:

  • Clarification of Intel Core and AMD Ryzen Speeds: A CPU’s title gives a brief clarification for its pace—an Intel Core i5 is quicker than a Core i3 processor, a Ryzen 7 is quicker than a Ryzen 5, and so forth. However in the event you’re shopping for Intel, you additionally have to test which “era” the CPU comes from, as a current-gen i3 CPU might outperform a last-gen i5 processor. AMD Ryzen naming conventions are just a little simpler, because the numbers after the CPU mannequin (3350, 5600, and so on) denote how briskly the processor is.
  • Home windows: Light-weight Home windows customers can get by with a current-gen Intel Core i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 processor. Individuals who want extra energy for resource-intensive software program ought to purpose for an i5, i7, Ryzen 5, or Ryzen 7 CPU, and energy customers ought to go after an i9, Intel Xeon, or Ryzen 9 CPU. Until you’re on a severe price range, you need to keep away from Home windows laptops with Intel Celeron or Pentium processors—they’re sluggish and received’t final lengthy.
  • macOS: Apple is transitioning to its custom-made Apple Silicon processors, and surprisingly, the corporate makes use of the identical fashions of Apple Silicon in each its Air and Professional laptops. Each laptops can run demanding skilled and artistic software program, although the MacBook Professional has a built-in CPU fan, so it’s higher suited to lengthy, resource-intensive duties. In the event you’re an influence consumer shopping for an older Intel Mac to economize, purpose for an Intel Core i7 or i9 processor (take into account that a tenth gen i7 might outperform an older i9).
  • Chrome OS: Many price range and mid-range Chromebooks include Intel Celeron processors or ARM-based processors from manufacturers like Mediatek. These low-power processors are high quality for on a regular basis duties however not ultimate for hardcore multitasking, taking part in video games, or working a number of Android apps. If you need a strong Chromebook, search for one with an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor.

Keep in mind that CPU isn’t all the pieces. Your RAM choice can have an effect on multitasking efficiency or browser pace, and your laptop computer’s storage sort (SSD, HDD, and so on) can affect boot instances and file navigation.

Built-in GPUs and Devoted GPUs

Most laptops have a GPU constructed into the CPU. This built-in GPU ought to have no trouble with on a regular basis duties, primary artistic work, or informal gaming. That stated, individuals who need to play video games at their highest setting or shortly export video recordsdata ought to search for a laptop computer with specialised built-in graphics.

In the event you’re a gamer or video editor looking for a Home windows laptop computer, search for one with Intel UHD 630, Intel Iris Plus, or AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics built-in. Those that are prepared to pay a premium ought to search out a laptop computer with Intel Iris Professional Graphics P580 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 11, that are the very best built-in graphics accessible now.

However what in order for you desktop-class gaming efficiency out of your gaming laptop computer? The only choice is to purchase a gaming laptop computer with a devoted graphics card. However in the event you don’t thoughts gaming at a desk, you possibly can go for a laptop computer with USB-C Thunderbolt 3 eGPU assist and hook up an exterior GPU.

Maximizing graphics efficiency on an Apple Silicon MacBook is a bit simpler—Apple lists a number of MacBook configurations on its web site, some with extra GPU cores than others. Whereas an additional GPU core might not make a noticeable distinction whereas paying the few video games which can be optimized for macOS, it is going to have a good affect on video modifying and 3D design. In the event you’re shopping for an Intel-based MacBook, purpose for one with a tenth gen Intel processor and Intel Iris Plus to maximise graphics efficiency.

All About RAM

A pc’s RAM is similar to short-term memory. It retains all the data you want for in-progress packages, together with your browser, your textual content editor, and no matter service you utilize for music. A ton of RAM ensures that your laptop computer received’t decelerate when you may have too many tabs open, however RAM is dear, so how a lot must you be prepared to pay for? It relies on your OS.

  • Home windows: A Home windows laptop computer with 8GB of RAM ought to carry out most duties simply high quality, although it received’t be nice for multitasking. A 16GB laptop computer is a greater choice for anybody who runs a whole lot of software program or retains a ton of browser tabs open directly, and it’ll maintain up higher than an 8GB laptop computer as software program grows extra demanding. Energy customers who render massive recordsdata or do memory-intensive work ought to go for a 32GB mannequin.
  • macOS: Macs are higher at managing reminiscence than Home windows machines, so a MacBook with 8GB of RAM is okay for most individuals, together with some energy customers. That stated, a 16GB MacBook is an effective funding in the event you plan to make use of it for the following 5 to 10 years, particularly in the event you’re a tab hoarder or somebody who runs memory-heavy software program.
  • Chrome OS: Chromebooks require little or no reminiscence, so a Chromebook with 4GB of RAM will run easy for most individuals, even when you’ve got a whole lot of tabs open or run Android and Linux apps. An 8GB choice is healthier for energy customers who plan to push their Chromebook to the sting, or individuals who need to use their Chromebook for a number of years. You don’t want a 16GB Chromebook, though 16GB of RAM is beneficial in the event you plan on utilizing a whole lot of Linux functions or need your Chromebook to final for a number of years.

Now that we find out about short-term reminiscence, it’s time to consider long-term storage.

Storage Sort and Dimension

Trendy laptops run on a wide range of storage media, together with stable state drives (SSD), eMMCs (embedded multi-media playing cards), and old school HDDs (onerous disk drives). Extremely-fast SSDs are the costliest of the bunch, as they supply sooner boot instances and file navigation than different storage media. Slower eMMCs are in style in low cost and mid-range computer systems, and HDDs, the slowest and least-expensive storage format, permit producers to make reasonably priced laptops with a ton space for storing.

Most individuals should purchase a laptop computer with an SSD, although eMMC storage is suitable for Chromebooks. Home windows laptops with a 1TB HDD could appear tempting, however you’re higher off shopping for one with a super-fast SSD and utilizing an exterior drive for media that you just need to retailer exterior of the cloud.

However how a lot storage does your laptop want? Because of streaming platforms and cloud storage options like Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, and Google Drive, built-in space for storing is lots much less necessary than it was once. Nonetheless, you need to purpose for at the very least 256GB of storage on a Home windows laptop computer or MacBook to accommodate any software program that you just obtain or recordsdata that you just select to retailer regionally. Individuals who plan to play video games or work with artistic software program ought to go for extra inside storage or purchase an exterior drive (the exterior drive is often a less expensive choice).

Chromebooks require much less storage than different laptops as a result of lack of industrial quality Chrome OS software program. However in the event you plan to make use of a bunch of Android apps or obtain movies for offline viewing, you might need to skip the 32GB Chromebooks and go for 64GB or 128GB of drive house. Understand that Chromebooks include 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage, which you’ll be able to improve for simply a few bucks a month.

Port Choice

The MacBook Pro's limited port selection.

Keep in mind when laptops had been overcrowded with ineffective ports and mysterious slots? Effectively, don’t fear, now we have now the other drawback. Many laptops have just some multi-purpose Thunderbolt 3 ports rather than the same old USB or HDMI ports, which is usually a main turn-off for some folks. So, are you able to get by with some Thunderbolt 3 ports, or do you want a wider port choice? In the event you want extra than simply a few ports, it’s not a foul concept to discover enterprise laptops, which usually provide extra ports (like HDMI and a number of USB-A ports) than you’d usually discover on a consumer-grade laptop computer.

What Can You Do With Thunderbolt 3?

Most new laptops include a USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, which may fulfill a number of roles. A USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port (which is different from a regular USB-C port) can typically cost a laptop computer, work together with USB equipment, and join your laptop computer to a monitor or TV. You may even plug a hub or docking station right into a Thunderbolt 3 port to increase the laptop computer’s port choice or performance, which is nice in the event you like to make use of your laptop computer with desktop displays or amp up your gameplay with an eGPU.

However you need to by no means assume {that a} laptop computer’s Thunderbolt 3 port can do all of these items till you learn the producer’s description and third social gathering opinions. Each laptop computer makes use of its Thunderbolt 3 port in bizarre and distinctive methods, and naturally, it’s onerous to inform on-sight whether or not a laptop computer has a Thunderbolt 3 port just a few boring previous USB-C jack for primary equipment.

Different Ports to Look For

Some ultra-portable laptops have USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, a headphone jack, and nothing else. In the event you’re comfortable to make use of a dongle to connect USB equipment, thumb drives, SD playing cards, and desktop shows to your laptop computer, then a few Thunderbolt 3 ports are all you want. However in the event you’d relatively have devoted USB and HDMI ports or a built-in SD card reader, you might have to get a thicker laptop computer.