What to keep in mind when choosing a laptop

Simple and practical tips for anyone interested in buying a laptop

For many people, laptops are an expensive investment that will hopefully last for years. Here you will get an overview of the most important points to consider before making a purchase. When making your choice, your ‘gut feeling’ is more important than anything else. If a computer feels good when you try it out, it's probably the right one for you.

Screen size and resolution

Select a screen size that matches how you use your computer. If you’re often on the go, a smaller screen is a more practical choice than a large one. On the other hand, if you play a lot of computer games you should look for larger screens that are well suited to gaming. Here are some of the most common sizes currently on the market.

12-14 inch

Perfect for people on the go who want to take their laptop with them when they commute. These are often the thinnest and lightest models. If you want really good performance, be prepared to pay significantly more for the same performance in a small laptop than in a larger one. This is due to the technical challenges involved in manufacturing small computer chassis.

15-16 inch

This has long been a standard size, and it works well for most things. More expensive models are both powerful and easy to carry around. If you're not sure what size is right for you, this is the one you should consider.

17-20 inch

If you work a lot with graphics and enjoy playing games, then these are the sizes for you. The computers in these size classes are often large and heavy. This means that they are rarely well suited for day commuting.

Keep in mind that to ensure a sharp image, the larger your computer screen, the higher the resolution it should have. For the best possible user experience, we recommend choosing a computer with full HD screen resolution or better.

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Processor and memory

The first thing many people look at is how fast a computer is. Regular office and school work do not require particularly powerful components. You can quickly save thousands of dollars by choosing a slightly slower computer – and you can do so without sacrificing your user experience.

For example, the vast majority of laptops are adequate for editing documents, working with photographs, and browsing the internet. That said, you shouldn't choose one of the absolute cheapest laptops on the market. A low price means that the manufacturer has to cut corners somewhere, and if it's not on performance it's often on the battery life and chassis.

We recommend choosing a model with at least eight gigabytes of internal memory and an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processor. This will provide a good foundation that works for most things, except playing heavy computer games. If you want to work with video and graphics or do a lot of gaming, you should look a bit further up the price ladder. Your ideal laptop should have 16 to 32 gigabytes of internal memory as well as an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 processor or better.

Be sure to choose a processor from one of the latest generations. You will be rewarded with better performance and lower power consumption – and it won’t necessarily cost you more. As of the date on which this article was written, you should choose a laptop with a seventh-generation processor or later. This will ensure that you don’t buy a computer with outdated processor technology.

Weight and storage space

If you’ll only be using your laptop at home, then there’s no need to consider how heavy it is. But if you plan to carry it in your backpack every day, it’s a good idea to choose a thinner, lighter model. A few hundred grammes may not feel like very much in the shop, but when you commute every day it can make a big difference.

Unless you’re planning to save a great deal of video or images, storage doesn't matter that much. At least 128 gigabytes is recommended for the storage space where the operating system is located, preferably 256 gigabytes or more. For better performance, avoid mechanical hard drives and instead choose a model with a SSD.

Today, you can use cloud storage services like Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox to free up your computer's storage space. If you edit high-resolution videos or save large amounts of images, a fast, external hard drive may be a better complement.

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Check out the battery life and keyboard

How much battery life do you need? Most laptops offer many hours of battery life, but when the battery indicator turns red and your computer starts to complain, it's helpful to be able to squeeze in a bit more time before you have to pull out the AC adapter. At least six hours is preferable, and eight hours or more is even better, as this will cover a full workday.

Keyboards are very different in feel and design. Smaller laptops often have scaled-down keyboards and almost no space between the keys. The largest models have full-size variants with number keys. Because the feeling of the keyboard differs from computer to computer, it’s important to try it out before making a purchase. Find a model that feels right and that clearly registers each keystroke.

The touchpad should also be a good size with plenty of room for gesture control. Larger touchpads make it easier to drag text and move files across a large screen. Because palms often come into contact with the touchpad, your laptop should be able to ignore this so that the mouse pointer doesn't move accidentally.

Windows, Mac, or Chrome OS

Choosing an operating system is mostly about what you find convenient to use and which programmes must be supported. The cost of the computer is another consideration.

The cost of an Apple laptop starts at about £749, while Windows and Chrome OS laptops can be purchased for a lot less. If you don't need programmes specific to Mac OS, you can save a lot of money by buying a Windows laptop or Chromebook with Chrome OS.

Both Mac and Windows laptops have thousands of programmes from which to choose. Chromebooks with Chrome OS are primarily limited to web apps that run in the browser. Some models support Android apps from the Google Play Store.

To make sure you choose the right operating system for your particular computer needs, check these compatibilities carefully before making a purchase.

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Traditional laptop, 2-in-1 or tablet

A touchscreen makes it easier to write digital notes, draw, and create illustrations. Many laptops don't have a touchscreen, but they are becoming more common in laptops that use Windows and Chrome OS.

The best models support an active stylus pen that connects via Bluetooth. These have thinner tips than passive stylus pens and offer better precision on the screen. They often have extra function buttons that connect to software on the computer.

On touchscreen laptops that don’t support an active stylus pen, you're limited to using your fingers or a passive stylus pen for touchscreens. You can still draw and write, but you don't get the same precision or functionality as with an active stylus pen.

Tablets are a great alternative to a laptop when you need a smaller and simpler option – for example, when you’re lounging on the sofa. All tablets have touchscreens, and several models support an active stylus pen.

There are lots of applications that close the gap between laptops and tablets. However, these do entail certain limitations that may alter the way you work. For example, file management is a bit more complicated, and not all models have good keyboard support. On a tablet, a simple task like cropping an image can become a major project.