So you’re set to buy a new laptop or even a second -hand one. Here are ten useful tips that will make sure you get the right one for your needs.

The Inside

Processor

The processor is the engine that powers a laptop. You should aim for at least an Intel Core i3 processor, which is ideal for web browsing and office work. A Core i5 chip is ideal for more intensive tasks such as large images, editing and encoding video. Laptops with Core i7 chips are expensive but incredibly quick, if you want the best possible performance. You don’t have to look for Intel-powered laptops specifically. AMD is another processor brand that is generally on par with Intel. However, watch out for laptops that seem really cheap, it’s usually because they have old processors inside of them such as a Pentium.

RAM

Also known as random access memory it lets you do lots of things at the same time. 4GB should be the minimum so you don’t have to worry about how many browser tabs you have open at once. If you’re going to be editing video, you’ll ideally need at least 8GB. That said 8GB of RAM is now common even in inexpensive laptops.

Graphics

Most laptops rely on a processor’s integrated graphics chipset. This can play simple 3D games at low resolution. But if you’re into serious gaming you’ll need a laptop with a Nvidia or AMD graphics chipset, these are dedicated gaming chips.

Battery life

Small, light laptops generally offer better battery life compared to larger models, because they have less powerful low-voltage processors and a smaller screen.

Storage

Most laptops only have room for one drive to store data. Some of the lower end models only have 32GB of storage, which is just about enough for Windows 10. Ideally a minimum amount of storage should be 120GB. But if you’re going to be storing lots of photos and music, you should consider at least 500GB storage. Many laptops today come with 1TB which are well worth considering.


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The Outside

Size

Laptops are categorised based on the diagonal size of their screens. A laptop with a 17-inch screen is ideal for work and gaming and it will have good sized keyboard. It’s also a good replacement for a desktop PC but  not so easy to carry around if you travel a lot. A 15-inch model is a good compromise between ease of use and portability while 11 to 13 inches are lightweight models and easy to carry.

Screens

Higher screen resolution means that text and icons are smoother and easier to see. Resolution is measured in pixels and the minimum tends to be 1,366 x 768 pixels. This is good enough for many tasks. However your choice of screen resolution ultimately depends on what you will primarily be using the laptop for; if you’re going to be watching lots of videos then a high resolution screen will be the best bet.

Design

Laptops have evolved from the traditional clam shell lid which opens and closes on the keyboard. Some laptops today have the traditional shape but add a touchscreen. Others have a touchscreen that can fold back behind the keyboard, turning the laptop into a tablet. Some have a screen that detaches entirely, to make a tablet. These designs are good if you use applications that take advantage of a touchscreen but they are more expensive than standard laptops.

Keyboards

Keyboards are often overlooked when making decisions about buying a laptop, but it’s an important consideration.  Because of size constraints laptop keyboards are generally a bit different than desktop keyboards. If you use the keyboard a lot it’s a good idea to find one that replicates as close as possible a desktop keyboard. And to be honest some keyboards are not great quality. If at all possible check out the keyboard before you buy.

Touchpads

The touchpad is the laptop’s mouse and how you interact with applications.  Try and get a demo so you can check how good the touchpad is. With a poor touchpad the cursor can jump all over the place when you click it, which can be very frustrating when using Word. Microsoft-approved Precision Touchpads are a sign of a good quality touchpad. Alternatively, a USB travel mouse can be useful if you buy a laptop and discover the touchpad as a nervous disorder; you simply plug the mouse into a USB port.