Expert tips for buying the right laptop

December 16, 2014

Whether you’re a student, mobile office pro, serious gamer or entertainment junkie, chances are there’s a laptop computer to meet your specific needs. Here's what you should know to help you pick the right one.

Expert tips for buying the right laptop

Types of laptops

Mini-laptops: With 11- to 12-inch displays, mini-laptops are the ultimate in portability.

  • Larger than a notebook but smaller than a mid-size laptop, they fit inside a briefcase and include most features common to larger laptops except a CD/DVD drive.
  • They’re not recommended for working with spreadsheet programs or creative software and games, which generally require larger screens and greater processing power.

Mid-size laptops: The majority of laptops fall into this category, with screen sizes ranging from about 13 to 16 inches.

  • The larger display is better suited to watching video and managing business software. Mid-size laptops may also include an optical (CD/DVD) drive, HDMI ports and larger keyboards.
  • The price of mid-size laptops generally goes up with each additional inch of screen. They can pack plenty of processing power, memory and gaming capability in a relatively lightweight package.

Full-size laptops: As substitutes for desktop computers, 17- to 18-inch laptops provide comparable power and features with the advantage of mobility.

  • Gamers and media lovers also appreciate the powerful multi-core processors, high-powered graphic cards and massive storage.
  • Gaming laptops often include built-in subwoofers for a truly immersive experience.

Convertible laptops: Mini and mid-size hybrid laptops are fitted with detachable keyboards.

  • These ultra-thin units allow you to turn, flip or twist the screen on various pivot points, so it can be used as either a touchscreen tablet or keyboard laptop.

Laptop features

Here are a few features common to most types of laptops:

  • Operating system: The operating system will depend on which brand of laptop you go for.
  • Display: Most laptops have widescreen displays for watching movies and HD resolution
  • Speakers: Sound quality generally increases with the size of the laptop
  • Touchpad: Unless you have a touchscreen laptop, a touchpad on the keyboard is used to move the cursor
  • CPU (Central Processing Unit): AMD and Intel processors are found in the vast majority of desktop and laptop computers
  • Drives: All laptops have either a HDD (hard disk drive) or lighter, faster SSD (solid-state drive or flash memory)
  • Ports: At least two USB ports, a HDMI video port and a flash memory (SD) card slot are recommended
  • Battery: A built-in lithium-ion battery powers your laptop when it’s not plugged in

Factors to consider when buying a laptop

Type of work: Opt for a bigger screen if you work with spreadsheets, design software or multiple browsers at the same time

Entertainment: Look for a faster multi-core processor and a high-quality video card if you’re shopping for a gaming laptop

Weight: The thinnest, most streamlined laptops offer the most portability and also tend to be the most expensive

Versatility: For meetings and presentations, consider a hybrid laptop with a removable keyboard that can be converted to a tablet

Power, weight and budget

Choosing the right laptop is often a trade-off between processing power, weight and budget.

  • Go for the highest processing power at the lightest weight you can afford for the best experience for work and play.
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