Compact and versatile, laptops are ideal for carrying around and running demanding applications. Whether you are at home, on the road, or enrolled in college, a notebook is the best tool for serious work and play. Lists of the best laptops accompany our rating of the best laptops for most users for businesses and college students.
Laptop Buying Guide
Although standalone tablets and smartphones are still popular, most people realize that laptops are the best way to accomplish jobs like typing a dissertation, watching videos, and playing games. So what type of laptop should you get? Choosing the best laptop is complex because different forms, features, and prices are available. Because of this, you must determine what kind of service you need. We put together a laptop buying guide to help you out.
When picking a new laptop, the following are the most critical factors. You can find the best compromise between usability and portability between screens 12.5″ and 14″. If you do not travel often, larger screens are better, while smaller screens work great for children. Below are sections that provide more details.
You are looking for the following minimum specs if you intend to spend upwards of $600: 4GB of RAM, 1920 x 1080 display, Ryzen 5 processor, and SSD storage instead of a hard drive. For laptops to last for more than nine hours, you must have long battery life.
Take a look at laptops that double as tablets (either bendable or detached). Other options include clamshell notebooks. It is suitable for students and kids to have Chromebooks, and their features are expanding rapidly. The functionality of MacBooks and Windows 10 laptops is the same. When choosing a platform, individual preferences are essential.
1. Pick a platform: Windows 10 vs. Mac vs. Chrome OS?
If you do not have experience with both Macs and PCs, this is not an easy answer. Nevertheless, these quick reviews of what each platform can offer should prove helpful. One of the three most common operating systems on laptops is Windows, Chrome OS, or Mac OS (Only for MacBooks). Each of these offers different benefits, but here is a comparison of them.
Chrome OS and Mac OS have fewer laptop models running Windows 10. There is a wide range of Windows notebooks ranging from under $150 to several thousand dollars, offering a wide range of features, including touch screens, fingerprint readers, and dual graphics processors. Many changes have been implemented in Windows 10 compared to previous versions, including a redesigned Start menu with Live Tiles, an enhancement of Cortana, and several new features.
The Windows 10 operating system has also seen a host of upgrades since its launch in July 2015, including the ability to follow up with Cortana using follow-up questions, search your email using natural language, and scribble anywhere with your stylus. It’s the only machine gamers should consider if they want a Windows 10 laptop for study, research, and business.
macOS Big Sur comes preloaded on all MacBooks. A similar operation to Windows 10, this operating system has a different style of interface which replaces the Start menu and taskbar with an app dock at the bottom of the screen. Users of Macs get Siri instead of Cortana. Apple Watches allow people to unlock their laptops and use Apple Pay to make payments. They can also make calls and text with their phones.
A MacBook doesn’t come with a touch screen, so macOS doesn’t work with it. It brings iPad apps to the Mac (and allows iPad apps to be installed natively on M1 Macs) while also enhancing the Safari browser and Siri in the latest macOS Big Sur operating system.
The Samsung Chromebook 3 has this feature, which is typical for low-cost Chromebooks. As secure and straightforward as Windows and macOS, Google’s OS is also more limited. Unlike Windows, you can drag windows around the screen and use an application menu. But you use the Chrome browser as the primary application. Unlike many “web apps,” many of the applications you use do not work very well offline. In the new Chromebook era, including the high-end Chromebook PixelBook, Android apps can now run.
Chromebooks are highly portable, offer good battery life at low prices, and are great for browsing the Web, checking email, navigating social networks, and chatting online. They are often used in schools and by parents since they are challenging to infect with malware and offer greater versatility than most tablets. Make sure your Chromebook has at least 4GB of RAM for enough memory and storage. 4K is better but very rare, but 1920 x 1080 is preferred. A 2-in-1 device is a good option if you plan on using Android apps.
2. Decide If You Want a 2-in-1
Laptop PCs often operate in 2-in-1 modes, clamshell, tablet, tent, and stand modes, all of which can be switched between. There are generally two types of 2-in-1s based on the type of screen: detachable or keyboard-attached Fully flexible laptop screens and 360-degree bendable hinges.
The majority of these laptops are designed to serve one purpose well over another. The band backs are designed to be laptops first, and the detachable devices being designed to be tablets first. You can still get a lot of performance from a traditional clamshell laptop if you don’t intend to use it as a slate.
3. Choose the Right Size
Think about how portable your laptop needs to be if you want to buy one. The display size of a laptop is usually referred to as its category:
- Systems weighing between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds have screens between 11 inches and 12 inches and often have thin and light screens.
- A laptop that weighs under 4 pounds is best if it’s between 13 and 14 inches for maximum portability and usability.
- A 15-inch laptop typically weighs between 4 and 5.5 pounds, making it the most popular size. Taking the Eee is a great option if you’re looking for a larger screen and you won’t be carrying around your notebook very often. Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro may start a trend involving laptops with 16-inch displays.
- For laptop users whose machines stay glued to their desks, a 17-inch or 18-inch system might be enough to let them play high-end games and do workstation-level productivity.
4. Check that Keyboard and Touchpad
In selecting a laptop, ergonomics and specifications are the two most important factors. When it comes to the keyboard, make sure it provides an excellent feel to the touch and critical travel. Separate the keys by a space. You should look for laptops with Precision touchpad drivers if you are buying one.
The touchpad should be sensitive to pinch-to-zoom gestures and not give you a jumping cursor. The nub on business laptops allows you to navigate seamlessly through the desktop without ever taking your fingers off the keys.
5. Pick Your Specs
Whether a processor, hard drive, RAM, or graphics chip in a specification sheet appears confusing to you. There is no need to feel bad. As the brain of your computer, the processor, in turn, affects performance. However, if you don’t want to spend more than you need to, the less expensive model may do just fine. The rundown is as follows:
- AMD and Intel have introduced their respective 11th Generation processors. Tiger Lake is a 10-nanometer HEDT processor with improved graphics integrated. Moreover, It is compatible with Thunderbolt 4 and up to 4.8Ghz speed. New EVO laptops set battery life parameters of at least nine hours. For more information, please visit this page.
- Core i9 processors are more powerful than the Core i7 as Intel’s flagship mobile CPU. These chips outperform any other chip on the market. The Core i9 processor is only suitable for those who use more demanding programs and apps. It’s only worth the premium price if you own top-of-the-line laptops, workstations, or gaming rigs.
- The Core i7 Y series chip has reduced power consumption and performance. Check for model numbers that begin with 10 since they are more common in Core 10 and Core 11 processors, which perform better.
- The Intel Core i5 is the best choice for mainstream laptops if you’re looking for an affordable and powerful computer. Many models end in U. Models with a Y in the name have lower performance and are low power. In contrast, ones with an HQ draw more power and are typically found in gaming and workstation systems with more significant memory. With Intel’s new Tiger Lake CPUs, you’ll get four cores, as well as WiFiWiFi 6 and Thunderbolt 4 integration as well as enhanced artificial intelligence capabilities.
- The performance and price of the Core i3 are just below those of the Core i5. When you can afford one, you should consider a Core i5.
- Processors are designed specifically for mobile workstations, especially those with high performance and high price tags. You will not get a light laptop or good battery life from a Xeon for engineers, video editors, and 3D modelers who work on professional projects.
- Pentium or Celeron: Found in laptops under $400, these chips offer slow performance but can do the trick if you mostly surf the web and edit documents. Your budget should allow you to either get an i3 or an i5.
- The AMD Ryzen family of processors come in two flavors: i5 and i7. AMD Ryzen 4000 and Ryzen 5000. The Ryzen 4000 and Ryzen 5000 processors do better than their Intel core equivalents. The Ryzen 5 4500U CPU is comparable to the Intel Core i7 in terms of performance. Moreover, Ryzen laptops often cost less than their Intel counterparts, offering excellent performance and endurance.
- CPUs are rare in low-cost laptops, but AMD APUs are suitable for web browsing, viewing media, and other tasks. AMD’s FX and E series processors are equally popular with consumers.
- An ARM-based M1 chip from Apple outperforms the competition in terms of strength and endurance as the company’s first custom silicon. Apple’s MacBook Air and MacBook Pro both have this feature.
You might only get 4GB of RAM in a budget laptop, while in a higher-end model, you may get 8GB or 16GB. It is recommended that users have at least 32GB of memory, while those with 64GB or more should avoid this. Solid-State Drives (SSD): A fast storage drive is even more crucial than a fast CPU. When you don’t need a lot of storage or can afford it, a laptop with a solid-state drive (SSD) is at least three times faster than a laptop with a hard drive. Compared to older SATA products, the new PCIe x4 (or NVME) drives offer triple the speed. In laptops under $250, users can choose eMMC memory, which is not as fast as a mechanical hard drive but still works well for general use.
Having a high resolution will allow you to display more content on your screen. Therefore, a higher resolution will enable a better display. Even though some budget laptops and some business laptops still have screens that have 1366 by 768 resolution, we recommend you when you have the means to upgrade to a screen that has 1920 by 1080 resolution, also known as Full HD or 1080p. There are laptops with displays with resolutions of 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800, and 4K (3840 x 2160). These screens look sharp, but they consume more power and reduce battery life.
Resolution is only one aspect of display quality. It would be best to read our reviews before buying a laptop to find out whether it has a good display because IPS displays differ in both color and brightness. In most cases, we look for results that are over 100% in color and over 300 nits in brightness. Consider buying an OLED display if you care about the picture quality but not battery life. A new display technology, including mini LEDs, will also hit laptops shortly.
You don’t get much benefit from a touch screen if you’re buying a regular laptop. A touch screen is standard on 2-in-1 computers. See our best touchscreen laptops page if you still want one. If you are not playing PC games, creating 3D objects, or editing videos in high resolution, integrated graphics chips may suffice. Intel’s Iris Xe graphics are excellent. However, for those who utilize any of these features, a discrete graphics processor from Nvidia or AMD is required.
Graphics chips are available in high-end and low-end models. Today, a low-end gaming or workstation system usually contains Nvidia MX450, GTX 1660, and RTX 2050, RTX 2060, and a high-end model has a 30 series chip, like the 3070 or 3080. From entry-level to high-end, NVIDIA offers a range of graphics chips. Although you won’t need a MacBook to play video games, AMD’s graphics cards are Apple’s go-to choice. GPUs based on AMD’s Radeon RX 5600M and RX 5700M were released last year. The AMD graphics card list is also available online.
Although sports are not an absolute necessity when choosing a laptop, it helps to have all the connections you need right on the machine instead of carrying around many dongles to make life easier. Video output is usually HDMI and USB 3.0 on most mainstream laptops. Even so, more laptops will be equipped with USB Type-C ports or Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 4 ports that are compatible with USB Type-C.
It is also beneficial to get Type C since it can be used to charge and dock your phone universally. With USB 4, you’ll be able to connect multiple 4K monitors with one cable and benefit from faster transfer rates. Additionally, SD card slots, headphone jacks, and Ethernet ports may be helpful (especially for gamers). Buying a laptop with 4G LTE or 5G support can be a good option if you need to use it on the go.
When buying a laptop, be sure to look for one that supports WiFiWiFi 6. 802.11ac offers less stability and lower theoretical throughput than 802.11ac. As well as Bluetooth 5, we recommend looking for a laptop with better connectivity, such as improved support for Bluetooth mice and headphones. If you need an external DVD drive and your laptop does not provide an integrated one, you can purchase one for under $20.
6. Don’t Skimp on Battery Life.
If you’re planning on using your laptop or gaming rig primarily at your desk next to an outlet, battery life won’t be an issue. It is advisable to get a laptop with enough endurance if you plan on using it on your lap, whether at home or work. When determining the battery life of a notebook, listen to the manufacturer. Instead of reading results from third parties, consider reading objective reviews.
7. Plan Based on Your Budget
Most laptops sell for under $200 nowadays, but if you have a little extra money, you can get a better built, faster, and more impressive system. The following are the options you have based on your budget.
- Low-cost notebooks typically range in price from $150 to $250, with Chromebooks. It runs Google’s browser-centric OS and low-end Windows notebooks like the HP Stream 11 and Dell Inspiron 11 3000, having limited storage and slower processors. Consider using them as secondary computers only or giving them to children.
- With an Intel Core i5 processor or AMD A8 processor, 4 to 8 GB of RAM, and 500 GB of hard drive, you can get a laptop for under $600, making it a feasible purchase. A laptop at this price won’t come with an SSD or even a full-HD display. According to the study, Acer Aspire E 15 and Asus Chromebook Flip C434 stand out as notable exceptions.
- Around $600 to $900: The designs will get more premium as you get higher up. Increasing the price of a laptop enables manufacturers to introduce features such as higher-resolution displays and SSDs. A great example of a laptop that offers all these features for a reasonable price is the Lenovo IdeaPad 530s and Asus ZenBook UX333FA.
- For notebooks that are over $900, you should expect more portability, more power, or both. Screens will be high-resolution, processors will be faster, and possibly discrete graphics will be available. Apple’s MacBook Air and Dell’s XPS 13 are among the most powerful, lightest, and most durable ultraportable devices you can buy. Gamers and mobile professionals usually spend upwards of $1,500 on gaming systems and mobile workstations.
8.Mind the Brand
A laptop’s quality is directly related to its manufacturer. Every major brand is evaluated in Tech Support Showdown, a showcase of the best tech support of the year. According to this year’s rankings, Apple was the top company, followed by Razer as the big news and Dell as the third company.
A notebook brand is worth its money because of its support. In addition to comparing value, design, selection, performance, and other criteria, you should also examine how well the manufacturer stacks against the competition. HP was rated the best laptop brand in our report on the best and worst brands of 2020. Acer, Alienware, and MSI round out our list of gaming laptop brands.