Laptop buying guide: Tips to know before you buy

I love my laptop. It’s light, it’s portable, and—most importantly—it’s convenient! I can take it with me wherever I go and get work done wherever I am. The downside of this, however, is that my laptop has to be tough (or at least able to take a few hits)—but the first laptop isn’t always the best one for everyone. Because not all laptops are created equal, there are a number of things you should think about when you’re buying your first laptop.

Laptop buying guide- Tips to know before you buy

There are three main styles of laptops: clamshells (where the screen flips closed over the keyboard), convertible (where the screen detaches from the keyboard and can be used like a tablet), and touch-screen hybrids where you can use both touch and type.

  • Know what you need the laptop for
  • Decide your budget
  • Choose a screen size
  • Consider operating system options
  • Choose your processor wisely
  • Check out the internal specs
  • Give the keyboard some thought
  • Think about port options
  • Watch for important extras
  • Don’t forget about security features
  • Make sure you know exactly what you need and want before you buy.

Finding out about each style before you start looking will make it easier for you to find what you want. With a clamshell, you needn’t worry about whether or not it’s going to have a touchscreen or if it’ll detach from its keyboard—you’re just picking out how powerful of a computer you want inside that case. Convertible laptops give more options for how you want to use your computer, but they tend to lose battery life.

Buying a laptop can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. Figure out what’s most important to you and what your needs are, and then consider the following tips when shopping to make sure you get exactly what’s right for you:

  1. Know what kind of computer user you are. If you just want something that will get the job done, an inexpensive Chromebook or Windows laptop will probably suit your needs perfectly. If you’re like me and need a computer that can handle high-end video editing or other memory-intensive tasks, it may be worth the investment to go with a MacBook Pro or a super powerful Windows machine. While all of these options are within the realm of possibility for any budget, they may not all be worth it if your needs aren’t as specialized as mine.
  2. Consider how much weight you want to carry around. A laptop is more portable than a desktop computer, but still requires being carried around wherever you go—this is especially true if your laptop is heavier than 2 pounds. If portability is important to you, check out lightweight laptops that weigh less than 3 pounds—they tend to cost less than their beefier counterparts without sacrificing too much power.
  3. Be realistic about your needs- are you using it for work or school? entertainment or business? you will want to ensure that the laptop you choose is capable of meeting your needs.
  4. Consider your budget – how much do you have to spend on a new laptop?
  5. Research what’s available in your price range- there are many different options when it comes to laptops, so being informed on the features will ensure that you get the best one possible
  6. Get the most out of your money- don’t get something just because it’s cheap, make sure you’re getting something that will last and has the features necessary for you to be happy with your purchase.
  7. Get a warranty – even if most warranties aren’t too useful, it’s better to have one than not! Laptops are expensive and replacing them can be quite expensive as well, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ll be covered if anything goes wrong with your purchase.

Quick tips

When you’re buying a new laptop, there are several key factors to consider. First and foremost is the screen size. Laptop screens come in two common sizes: 13 inches and 15 inches (and sometimes 14 inches).

The most popular size for Windows laptops, and the one you’ll likely see most often, is around 14 inches—it’s big enough to be readable but small enough to slip inside a backpack. A 15-inch display is a great option if you want more real estate for working or watching, but it’s hard to find models as light as their smaller counterparts. For laptop shoppers who don’t spend much time on the road, a 17-inch laptop might be worth considering since it can be difficult to find a desktop replacement with more than 15 inches of display.

Pick a platform: Windows vs. macOS vs. Chrome OS?

Windows is a tried-and-true platform that has been around for decades, with a large library of software and a wide range of choices when it comes to hardware. There are plenty of options for those who use Windows at home or at work everyday—from sleek ultrabooks to powerful desktop replacement machines.

Windows still has the largest number of apps available on its app store (around 30 million), but there can be more bugs in the software than in macOS or Chrome OS due to its long history and its open architecture. Microsoft also works hard to keep viruses off Windows PCs, but they’re not impossible to get. All in all, though, Windows remains one of the most popular operating systems ever—particularly because it is compatible with every device you might already own (like printers, scanners, etc.) and it works well with Microsoft Office.

But if you’re looking for a computer that can be a primary writing tool or creative outlet, macOS is really where it’s at—the intuitive interface allows you to focus on getting work done without being sidetracked by the little things.

If you often need to plug your laptop in and sit at a desk, or if you want to take your computer everywhere with you but don’t want to deal with the extra bulk of a traditional computer, Chrome OS may be right for you—it’s simple and streamlined version of Google’s Chrome browser works beautifully on smaller devices that are primarily meant for travel. Whichever option grabs your attention, there are plenty of great laptops out there that can help bring your writing projects to life.

Screen size:

Screen size is a matter of personal preference, but 12.5 to 14 inches offers the best balance between portability and usability. Screens that are too small will strain your eyes, while screens that are too big will be uncomfortable on your lap or in your hands when using a laptop as a tablet.

Processor speed:

If you’re planning on paying $600 or more for your new laptop, you should aim for a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 processor; anything less and there’s not much of an improvement over the processor that’s already built into most laptops.

Screen quality:

A resolution of 1920 x 1080 is ideal and if you can get an IPS display with good color accuracy, so much the better. IPS displays are also more energy-efficient than the standard TN panels used on cheaper models—but keep in mind that higher-res TN panels will look just fine at this screen size.


An is not essential, but if you can find one it will make your computer feel faster and last longer without having to worry about replacing its hard drive.

Battery life: 9+ hours in our test is ideal if you plan to take your laptop anywhere. A longer battery life means

Know what you need the laptop for

When you’re buying a laptop, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to use it for. If you know that you’re going to be travelling a lot and regularly taking your computer with you, or if you’re going to be using it for work and will be doing lots of writing on it, then you’ll need something that’s easy to carry around and comfortable to use on-the-go. If you plan on having your laptop in one place most of the time and only taking it out occasionally, there may be less of an emphasis on these features (though they can still come in handy if you take it on road trips every now and then).

If you plan on using your laptop mainly for watching movies and playing games, as well as doing some writing or work every once in a while, then you can focus more on the hardware used for these purposes. A high-quality graphics card is essential if gaming is your main priority. On the other hand, if writing is what’s most important to you, opt for an extra large screen (if possible) or a keyboard with lots of special keys that would make typing easier. If visuals are where most users will spend their time with the laptop, a high resolution screen is crucial.

Choose your processor wisely

The processor inside your computer is important because it determines how many programs you can run at once as well as how quickly those programs will run. To put this into perspective, imagine two different computers: one with a slow processor running four programs and one with a fast processor running just one program. All other things being equal (the amount of RAM each computer has), the faster computer will not only do its single task more quickly, but it’ll also be able to switch between tasks more quickly; or it’ll be able to start up an entirely new task even quicker.

While it’s tempting to just get the most expensive processor on the market, this could lead to some regrets down the road. A Core i7 processor is great for a lot of applications, from streaming movies to editing video. However, if you’re going to be doing nothing but word processing and web surfing, you’d be better off saving the money and getting a Core i5, which will give you great performance at a lower price.

Check out the internal specs

It’s also important to take a look at what else is inside your machine. The internal specs are just as important as the outside appearance—a gorgeous laptop can be let down by shoddy internal components that fail after a few months of use. The most important part for any computer, especially one that will be used frequently, is its hard drive. The more space you have available, the longer you can keep your data without having to worry about external backups or new hard drives. Solid state drives (SSD) have become increasingly popular recently thanks to their light weight and faster access times—however, they’re incredibly expensive.

Give the keyboard some thought

When you’re buying a laptop, it’s easy to get so wrapped up in the design and screen size that you forget to think about how important the keyboard is. But when it’s time to use your computer for work, or for play, or for both, you’ll be glad you did. Think about where you’ll be using the laptop most: if it’s at home on your desk most of the time, you might be okay with a keyboard that isn’t as spacious and comfortable as one that will spend more time on your lap. If size is important and weight tolerable, consider a full-sized keyboard—you’ll have more room between keys and less travel distance to activate them.

If you travel with your laptop frequently, however, you may want to opt for a slightly smaller footprint. While every inch of space may not matter, reducing bulk can be crucial in tight quarters. In both cases, though, battery life is going to take a hit no matter what: running a bigger battery takes up more space than a smaller one. Watch out for important extras like backlit keys and trackpads (especially if the laptop will spend some time on your lap).

Think about port options

A laptop should have a variety of port options to connect it to peripherals and accessories. USB ports are the most common connection option on laptops because they allow you to plug in flash drives and other common devices. However, try to find one that includes some type of video-out feature (such as an HDMI or VGA port) so that you can hook up your computer to a monitor or television for watching videos on the bigger screen. It’s also helpful if you can use an Ethernet cable with your laptop so that it can get online when there is no Wi-Fi available.

Some laptops have an additional port for hooking up an external hard drive; this allows you to store lots of photos, videos, and documents without using up all of your storage space on your laptop. If this sounds like something you’d find useful, look for laptops with a USB 3.0 port instead of USB 2.0—this newer technology provides faster data transfer speeds.

Make sure you know exactly what you need and want before you buy.

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