Have you ever walked into Best Buy only to be overwhelmed by all the laptop choices? If so, you ought to read this article to choose the most cost-effective laptop for your needs. Several categories are taken into consideration: brand, size, processing power, RAM, and graphics cards.
Don’t get drawn into Alienware’s fancy logo—brand ought to be used as a proxy for quality.
If you’re the type of person who takes good care of their electronics, you ought to consider a “budget brand,” which are known for being less durable. The best brands in this category include Acer, Lenovo, and Toshiba. Alternatively, if you’re a klutz who may drop a laptop, or a student who carries around a laptop in a bag, consider something more durable: ASUS, Dell, and HP offer many sturdy and affordable laptops.
Students should be especially observant of laptop brand. Three companies regularly offer student discounts: Dell, HP, and Apple—keep an eye out for these deals, as they may bring a high-end laptop down to the cost of a mid-tier laptop.
Gamers beware: gaming brands often come with an unjustified premium. Alienware and IBuyPower laptops generally ought to be avoided as you’ll likely pay extra for the laptop’s logo. Instead, consider buying a lesser known gaming laptop: ASUS’s Republic of Gamers models, MSI models, and Acer V-Nitro models are often just as good as Alienware laptops at a lower cost.
In general, bigger laptops cost more—you’ll pay a premium for a large screen. One’s ideal screen size is subjective (often students prefer small laptops with a small screen as they’re easy to carry, whereas gamers desire large screens for a better gaming experience). When considering laptop size, however, you ought to think about a hidden specification: screen resolution. Smaller laptops often have lower screen resolutions, and larger laptops often have higher screen resolutions—this means that you’re more likely to have a crisp image on a large laptop than a small laptop. When looking at laptops, be sure to check screen resolution: 1080p is the gold standard for a crisp image; 720p screens cost less but provide a worse image.
Everyone wants an i7 processor, but few of us will utilize its full potential. The only reason to buy a laptop with an i7 processor is for video editing and/or video streaming. These applications can use all eight threads offered by the i7, whereas few video games or day-to-day programs utilize the i7’s full power. For those who desire a powerful laptop and don’t desire to edit videos, consider purchasing a laptop with an i5 processor. The i5 is powerful enough to run most modern games, statistic processing packages, simulations, and will fly through everyday tasks.
If you only plan to use your laptop for word processing, internet surfing, and other non-intensive applications, avoid i7 and i5 processors. Instead purchase a laptop with an i3, Pentium, Celeron, or AMD model processor. These processors are all slower than the i5 but are far more cost effective and often more power efficient. If you want your laptop to have a bit of extra ‘zip,’ invest your savings into a solid state hard drive. This type of hard drive will decrease your laptop’s boot-up time to about 10 seconds and will make word processing and internet browsing smoother.
RAM is far less important today than it was several years ago. Almost nobody needs over 8GB of RAM—the only exceptions are those who plan to play games released in 2017 and those who edit videos. 4GB of RAM is suitable for the average laptop user. 4GB of RAM is enough for light gaming, statistic processing, video streaming, and all day-to-day use. Those on a tight budget may consider 2 GB of RAM. This is a sufficient amount of RAM for all day-to-day laptop tasks, but will likely cause a slight decrease in laptop performance.
There are two types of graphics cards: integrated and dedicated. Dedicated cards cost far more than integrated cards and will drain your laptop’s battery. Thus, if you don’t plan to edit videos, play demanding video games, edit photos, or utilize design programs such as AutoCAD, avoid laptops with a dedicated card. Those who need a dedicated card should check websites such as “Notebook Check” to determine the quality of a laptop’s card. There are numerous factors (dedicated memory, pipelines, and clock speed, to name a few) that impact a card’s performance—so card choice should be determined on a case-by-case basis.