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Whether it’s laptops or phones buying tech products online can be a painful experience for many people.
Questions, confusion, stress and anxiety are par for the course but our “Ultimate Guide to Buying a Laptop for Non-Tech People” is here to guide you through the minefield and make your life much easier.
Should you buy a Mac or Windows laptop?
Do you know your HDDs from your SDDs?
Your Intel i5’s from your AMD E300’S?
Our guide will help you understand the key considerations when buying a laptop, how to find the perfect laptop to meet your needs, how to reduce your costs when buying the perfect laptop, and hopefully, answer the questions that you have about finding the perfect laptop for your needs.
To cut through all the tech talk, we’ve asked our staff to pick their favourite laptop choices for some of our most common buyer types.
Our Staff’s Top Picks
For college students:
For Personal day-to-day users:
For business users:
Our Staff’s Top Six Tips for Keeping Your Costs to a Minimum
- Reduce screen size
- Reduce RAM
- Reduce screen resolution
- Choose smaller hard drive
- Choose AMD processor or lower spec Intel processor
- Choose Windows OS
What Size Laptop Screen Do I Need?
First of all, before you purchase your laptop you need to consider what you are going to use it for.
School goers and college students may prefer to purchase smaller, lighter laptops that are more portable. The ultra portable laptops range from screen sizes of 10.1" to 13" and are great for kids, secondary school students and college students.
The average screen size is between 14” to 15.6". These laptops are light enough to occasionally carry around and are ideal for people leisurely surfing the net, working from home or in the office, and watching movies.
Larger screen sizes at around 17.3" are the first choices for gamers, graphics and CAD, and pretty much serve as a replacement for desktop computers.
Our staff’s favourite small screen laptop is the Dell Latitude E7240, average screen size laptop is Dell Latitude E6420, large screen laptop is HP EliteBook 8570w
How Do I Judge Screen Quality?
When buying a laptop, remember that screen quality is important because you will probably be staring at the screen for hours on end. Many of the newer touchscreen laptops have glossy screens which can cause reflections.
Another thing to consider when buying your laptop is the screen resolution.
The more pixels your laptop has, the greater the screen resolution, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper the image will be.
Most budget and mainstream laptops have 1366 x 768 displays. Full HD or 1080p screens have 1920 x 1080. Some higher-end laptops have screens that are 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800 or even 3840 x 2160, which increase sharpness but reduce battery life.
What Processor is Best for My Needs?
The processor or central processing unit (CPU) determines the speed and power of your laptop. The most common processors are versions from AMD and Intel.
AMD's processors are typically cheaper and provide decent performance suitable for web surfing, media viewing and productivity. Intel CPU's are a well more known brand typically with greater performance but come with a slightly larger price tag.
AMD processors range from the E300 dual core and Athlon, which are ideal for general home usage to the quad core A8 ideal for heavy multimedia usage. Ryzen Mobile are a new set of chips that are designed to compete with Intel Core i5 and Core i7.
Intel Core i3 are generally found in entry-level laptops, while Core i5 are typically found in most mainstream laptops. Core i7-based laptops are suitable for people striving for higher performance. Models that end in U (Core i5-7200U) are the most common and have greater power and performance than those that end in Y.
Intel Pentium / Celeron have the slowest performance, but can do if your main tasks are web surfing and light document editing and provide a cheaper Intel alternative.
If you do professional-grade engineering, 3D modeling or video editing, you might want an Intel Xeon, but will have to compromise battery life and weight.
How Much RAM Do I Need?
The greater RAM your laptop has, the greater speed it will possess to perform multiple tasks at the one time.
For day-to-day surfing the web, emails and word processing a laptop with 4GB RAM would suffice but it’s probably best to go with 8GB RAM to be safe.
For professional users, 8GB and above will suit your needs while gamers and heavy users might need even more.
Our staff’s favourite 4GB laptop is Dell Latitude E6420, 8GB Laptop is Dell Latitude E7440
What Kind of Storage Do You Need?
All apps, programmes, and saved documents take up storage space.
Hard drives can be slow, bulky, and produce considerable heat and noise. The advent of external hard drives and cloud services have also reduced the necessity for large hard drives.Hard drives commonly range from 160GB to 2,000GB (2TB) but Solid State Drives (SSDs) will give at least 3x the speed.
Solid state drives (SSDs), offer greater speed than a hard drive, run silently, and doesn’t add much weight to the laptop.
However, SSDs don’t offer as much capacity. A 128GB SSD won’t break the bank for your new laptop, though, and will perform well.
The newest, fastest laptops also have NVMe solid-state drives which are much faster than traditional SSDs but also more expensive.
What is the Correct Operating System (OS) for You?
The two main types of OS are Windows and Mac OS, both are very advanced systems and run common software packages including Microsoft Office, internet browsers, audio and video players.
Windows based operating systems are the most flexible operating systems, the bestselling, have the greatest variety and can be much cheaper. Most people are used to Windows OS and find them simple to use. Windows 10 has upgraded security features that will update throughout the lifetime of the laptop.
Mac is popular for its graphics and publishing capabilities it is likely to cost you at least two or three times as much. If you have other Apple devices such as an iPhone, then the Mac OS might be best for you. Some software and hardware aren’t compatible with Mac, so check in advance if you have particular needs.
Don’t Forget About Your Battery!
Battery life depends on usage but will range from around 3 hours to up to 8 hours. Some laptops will last longer without charging due to its lower specifications.
The ports on a laptop are essential and very useful for transferring files, connecting to external devices or amplifying your sound.
The most common ports you are likely to find on a laptop are USB 2.0 to connect external devices such as keyboards, mice and audio players. VGA or HDMI for video output, headphone and microphone for audio, and card readers.
Are Graphics Important?
Graphics should not be a major consideration for most laptop buyers. However, it’s an important consideration for gaming and intense image work such as photoshop. If that sounds like you, NVidia graphics cards with dedicated memory, generally 1GB or above would suit your needs.