Like most technology purchases these days, when it comes to buying a laptop, you’re spoilt for choice. Our purpose in this guide is to make the choosing a little easier for you. No doubt you’ll know the market is complex, confusing and has a language all its own. But there is no single “best laptop” because there is no single kind of laptop user. We’re all different and each of us has a whole range of wants and requirements that must be met. So, our first thing to note before you begin your search is that choosing the right laptop is definitely not a one size fits all scenario.
When it comes to how to choose a laptop, start with yourself
Ask yourself some questions before you start asking them anywhere else. It’s good to know the basics yourself before you approach your local electronics retailer, department store or Mac/Microsoft Windows support guys.
Start with what you want a laptop for, and what do you need it to do? Work, family or play? Office, home, or university? Should it be light and portable? Are powerful graphics for gaming or video editing needed? What about battery life for long periods of use between charging?
The ideal laptop is compact enough to carry with you, yet versatile and powerful enough to run the most demanding applications. Put simply, your laptop can be the best tool for serious work or simply having fun on the move.
Still, with an enormous range of brands, sizes, features, functions, and prices out there, choosing a laptop can be a challenge. Therefore, we’ve put together this article to break down the elements and help you make an informed decision.
The key factors to consider when buying laptop
There are a few important things you should take into account when thinking about laptops. We’ll go into more detail, but here’s an overview:
Choosing Laptop Size
Screens that are between 12.5” and 14” probably give you the best combination of usability and portability. Larger screens are fine if you don’t travel much, and smaller sizes are perfect for youngsters.
Choosing Laptop Platform
When it comes to mobile phones and computing, people tend to go with what they know. Generally, this means they follow their experience and expectations of the operating system. With laptops your main options are MacBooks, Microsoft-based laptops, or Chromebooks. They all offer you plenty of choice, power, performance, features, and functionality.
Choosing Laptop Brands
Don’t let the big brands overshadow your requirements, as they are not always a necessity. There are some perfectly serviceable laptops out there offering all the performance you need without the premium name attached to the price tag. Check out each brand’s reputation for reliability and support – this can tell you a lot.
Choosing Laptop Battery life
If you’re going to play, work or study on the move and need your laptop to perform between irregular charging, then look carefully at battery life.
You may have seen the laptops that have bendable backs or detachable keyboards. This allows you to quickly turn your device into a smaller tablet for more flexibility and creativity. On the plus side, 2-in-1s can offer less clunky, lightweight features for better portability. But, if you’re not fussed about this facility, stick with a standard clamshell laptop.
The options in more detail
Usually, laptops are categorised by their display sizes because it’s the most important factor in people’s purchasing process.
So, here’s a quick rundown of the main options and the benefits of each:
- 11” to 12” are generally the thinnest and lightest systems on the market. They typically weigh in at around 2.5 to 3.5 lbs, so are the easiest to move around.
- 13” to 14” laptops tend to deliver the best balance of portability and usability. This is especially true if you find one that weighs under 4 lbs.
- 15” to 16” are the most popular laptop sizes, and usually weigh in at around 4 to 5.5 lbs. Only consider this size if you’re in need of a larger screen and you’re not planning to constantly carry your laptop around. In fact, laptops with 16-inch displays are rare, although Apple offer a 16” MacBook Pro.
- 17’ to 18” is a choice that only makes sense if you need plenty of processing power. This could be for activities such as high-end gaming or workstation-level productivity, where your machine will remain on your desk.
Take your pick of platform
As we said earlier – like with choosing a phone – people tend to go with the brand and operating system (OS) they know. There’s no reason you can’t change from, for example, Mac to Microsoft as both have similarities. They are both straightforward systems to use once you’ve invested a little time getting to know them. As it stands, most laptops come with one of three operating systems: Microsoft Windows, Google Chrome OS and MacOS.
These operating systems tend to offer similar functionality, but with a slight difference in interface and some features.
Mac is very user-friendly and can connect your Apple devices in many ways. Users get Siri, can perform transactions with Apple Pay, take calls or texts from their phones, and can also unlock their laptops with an Apple Watch. But MacOS isn’t made for touch because there isn’t a MacBook with a touch screen.
Google’s OS emphasises simplicity and security but is more limited than both Windows and MacOS. It is probably most comparable to Microsoft in use. If you just need a device for you or the kids to surf the web, check email, navigate social media networks, chat online and undertake basic word processing, then Google’s Chromebooks are a great choice. They are highly portable, offer touchscreen and good battery life at low prices. This makes Google OS popular with schools, colleges, students and parents.
An all-round option, Microsoft Windows offers great administrative control and has long been for offices and workplaces. Its interface is recognisable, with new updates on Windows 11 being similar to that of MacOS. As always it gives good security, file organisation, storage and best compatibility with cloud-based platform Microsoft 365.
If you’re in any doubt about the virtues of either of the main platforms, talk to a Mac support or Microsoft support expert for the latest specifications and advice.
Be brand aware
Essentially, whatever laptop you opt for is only as good as the organisation behind it. This is important to consider particularly when it comes to after sales service and support. Having access to accurate and timely technical help is paramount.
However, that kind of backup is only a small aspect of what makes a laptop brand worth spending your hard-earned money on. Check out how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition. Consider design, functionality, performance and any other criteria important to you, such as aesthetics.
Think big on battery life
If you plan to use your laptop on the go, aim to get a machine with a battery life of at least seven or eight hours. Reflect on the fact that more and more people are starting to work remotely, and if this could be a possibility for you. Therefore, it may be helpful to have a battery which can withstand workspaces without a charging port. From coffee shops to railway carriages, many remote spots won’t have access to constant power.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy a large, bulky laptop or a gaming rig that you’ll only ever use on a desk near a power outlet, battery life isn’t as important.
Here’s a heads up: to really determine a laptop’s expected battery life, don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, check out objective third-party reviews from independent sources.
Can you be converted to a 2-in-1
Some PC laptops (also called convertibles) fall into the category of 2-in-1 machines. These are hybrid devices that can switch between traditional clamshell, tablet, tent or stand modes.
These machines tend to come in two different styles. There are ‘detachables’ with screens which come off the keyboard entirely, and ‘flexibles’ with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes.
Again, much depends on what you want and need. Flexibles typically function as laptops first, while a detachable offers a superior tablet experience. Realistically, if you don’t see the need to use your laptop as a tablet-style device, you’ll usually get more performance for your money with a traditional clamshell machine.
Keep usability in mind
You’ll likely spend quite a lot of time with your laptop – at work, for entertainment or simply relaxing. So, it makes sense to pay attention to more elements of your chosen machine’s functionality. These are:
The keyboard and touchpad
Make sure the keyboard on your chosen laptop offers solid tactile feedback. You’ll want plenty of key travel (the distance the key goes down when pressed, usually 1 to 2mm) and enough space between the keys. To be more precise, if you’re buying a Windows laptop, ensure it has Precision touchpad drivers.
When it comes to touchpads, you want to avoid an over-sensitive, twitchy cursor experience. Instead, the right touchpad should have accurate, consistent multi-touch confidence. When this feature works efficiently, it is worth searching out.
If you’re buying a business laptop, look at those with pointing sticks or nubs between the G and H keys. This allows you to navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.
It’s called ‘screen time’ for a reason and we’re all spending much of our lives doing it. So, make sure you get a screen that is comfortable to look at and use.
For example, consider whether you want your laptop to have a touchscreen. They’re common on Microsoft machines, for example, and can make some tasks easier.
Beware of overly glossy screens that can lead to reflections. This is a definite negative if you’re gaming, watching content, or editing images and video content. Note that touchscreens do tend to have glossy screens.
Resolution is another vital factor on any laptop you’re thinking of buying. For a good viewing experience, go for 1920×1080-pixel resolution (Full HD). However, for specialist activities, such as content creation, photography, or videography you may prefer even better resolution. Higher quality screens offer features such as 4K resolution, better colour accuracy and a wider colour gamut.
However for most of us, high-end display panels are generally costly options in addition to an already expensive purchase.
Laptop expertise right here in London
If you’re looking for a new laptop for you and the family to use at home, or for a youngster going off to university, there are lots of retail options. From electronics and digital specialists to department stores and online providers, you are steeped in choice. Before you make a decision we suggest you go play with a few in person. For example, feel and weight are difficult to gauge from an online image.
If you’re looking for a new laptop (or laptops) for your small to medium-sized London business, you can start with chatting to your usual Mac support or Microsoft support provider.
However, if you’d like independent, expert advice regarding purchasing laptops for your business, why not try London’s go to managed IT support team?
We’re one of the London’s most trusted managed IT support providers (MSPs) and every year we acquire numerous laptops for our clients across London. What’s more, we’ve earned two consecutive Feefo Gold Trusted Service Awards, Five Star ratings from both Trustpilot and Google and a 98% client retention rate.
To find out more about the various ways we can help you, simply contact us at totality services for a confidential, no obligation chat about your requirements.