Buying a laptop can be challenging when you consider the massive variety of models on the market. With all the technical jargon involved, and the massively varied prices, you might find yourself feeling confused.
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Before you part with your hard-earned cash, sit down and work out an action plan to ensure you buy the perfect laptop to suit your needs. There are many things to consider: budget, screen size, portability, operating system, storage space, processing power, battery life and graphics card.
You will need to decide on the ideal specifications, depending on the intended use of the laptop. It’s important to read reviews before purchasing, as this is how you can find out how truthful the specifications are. Read on for some handy tips on buying the most suitable laptop…
Which operating system?
Windows is the most flexible operating system, as it runs on more laptop models than Mac OS X or Chrome OS. Windows laptops have a wide price range, from under £150 up to several thousand pounds. They also offer plenty of features, including fingerprint readers, touch screens and dual graphics chips at the top end of the range.
The latest version of Microsoft’s operating system, Windows 10, has added a number of improvements since Windows 7 and 8. Users can switch between tablet and desktop mode, while there’s an improved Start menu, featuring live tiles and the latest Cortana digital assistant.
MacBooks now come with Mac OS Catalina (Apple’s latest desktop operating system), offering similar functionality to Windows 10. However, it has a different interface, substituting the Windows’ apps at the bottom of the screen for Microsoft’s Start menu and task bar. Mac users get Siri, rather than Cortana. Users can take texts and calls from their phone, carry out transactions with Apple Pay and unlock their laptop with an Apple Watch.
Google’s OS is secure and simple, but more limited than Mac OS or Windows. When you’re looking for a device to surf the Web, go on social networks, check email and chat online, the highly portable Chromebooks are becoming more popular, as they also have good battery life at a low price.
Often used by schools, they are favoured by parents, as it’s difficult for kids to infect them with malware and they are also more functional than many tablets.
What to expect for your budget
Wondering what you should spend on a laptop? In terms of the functions it offers, including speed, graphics, memory and more, then as a rough guide when you spend less than £200 it won’t be particularly fast. You’ll be looking at Intel Celeron or Atom processors, 32GB of storage and 2GB of Ram. It will be okay for note taking and browsing the internet.
In the £200 to £400 bracket, expect Intel Pentium, Core i3, 4GB Ram and AMD Ryzen 3. This will make it fast enough for web browsing and for research work. If possible, go for the higher end and get a laptop with an SSD and a full HD screen.
Moving up to the £400 to £600 range, look out for Intel Core i5, i7, 8GB of Ram and AMD Ryzen 5. It will be suitable for video and photo editing work. Search for a laptop with a light and thin design, a full HD screen and an SSD.
If you can go up to £800, you’re into the realms of the best high-end designs. They should also have excellent battery life, especially with the premium Ultrabooks.
When you’re spending more than £800, you can expect great screens, some stunning designs and good speakers. These top-of-the-range laptops will suit more intensive tasks, including video editing. They are also ideal if you like playing games.
Choosing the right size
The thinnest and lightest laptops typically measure 11 or 12-inches and weigh 2.5 to 3.5 lbs. These are the most portable models if you want a laptop you can just slip in your bag and hit the road. However, you need to balance portability with usability. Many reviews suggest a size of 13 to 14 inches is best in this respect. If you can find one that weighs under 4 lbs with a 14-inch screen, this is a great balance.
If you’re looking for a larger model, 15 and 16-inch laptops are the most popular. They usually weigh 4 to 5.5 lbs. Laptops with a 16-inch display are quite rare, although Apple has got the trend going with its 16-inch MacBook Pro.
If you’re planning to keep your laptop on your desk, a 17 or 18-inch system provides an enhanced operating system, so you can enjoy the kind of processing power required to play high-spec games and carry out workstation-level activities.
Of course, make sure you read manufacturers’ specifications, but always read online consumer reviews too, as this will give you an accurate picture of what each laptop has to offer.
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