Laptop Buying Guide: The Best Laptop Qualities to Consider

Whether it’s your first laptop, replacement, or needed upgrade, purchasing one is a big decision. These are the best laptop qualities to look for when shopping.

Computer sales are booming, with more than 70 million units shipped in the third quarter of this year alone. Most of these new devices are laptops. More people working from home have decided to invest in new technology for their home office.

Whether you’re gaming, working from home, or heading back to school, you might also be thinking about getting a new laptop. There are so many choices, so what are the best laptop qualities to look at?

Keep your eye on these specs, and you’ll find the best new laptop.

Take a Look at the CPU

The first thing you’ll want to check out when it comes to a new laptop is the central processing unit, or CPU. The CPU powers the computer, which is why it’s so important to consider.

A faster CPU means a faster computer.

So, what counts as a “fast” CPU these days? Keep in mind that CPU speed is measured in megahertz. The higher the megahertz, the more processes the computer can execute at a time.

There’s also the number of cores in the CPU. A CPU with multiple cores multiplies its speed.

If that sounds like a lot of math, you can generally rely on chipset names to get you by. Intel is still the name in processors, although AMD’s Ryzen chips are also high quality.

Generally, you’ll want to look for Core i7 or Core i9 from Intel. Both are a step up from the Core i5 processors, and both i7 and i9 chipsets have some 10th generation chips in them.

If you’re looking at an AMD processor, then look for the AMD Ryzen 4000. The AM A, FX, and E series are also good CPUs.

Invest in RAM

Next, you’ll want to think about how much RAM your new laptop will run. The CPU may determine processing speed, but it’s not the whole story.

RAM also affects speed. You can think of it as the computer’s working memory. When the computer has only a little RAM, it can’t remember very much.

That will cause it to bog down. Laptops with more RAM will run faster, because they have more memory available for task execution.

What’s a good amount of RAM in a laptop these days? Most experts suggest starting at 8GB. This is a good amount of RAM for handling day-to-day tasks.

If you’re planning to use your laptop for creative endeavors, streaming, or gaming, you might want more. For gamers, 32GB or 64GB will make graphics that much smoother.

Best Laptop Qualities for Storage

One of the reasons you might be thinking about upgrading is that your current hard drive is almost full. Storage is a big consideration when buying a new laptop.

You may think “bigger is better,” but that isn’t necessarily true these days. There are a few different types of storage, and they affect your computer’s performance.

Some laptops will come equipped with traditional spinning hard drives. Since they literally have to spin, they’re a lot slower than some of the newer types of storage.

You’ll want to consider solid state drives, or SSDs. Since SSDs don’t spin, they’re much faster. They tend to be more expensive, though, so you won’t get as much storage on an SSD as you would a regular spinning hard drive.

Some manufacturers have largely switched to SSDs, especially for laptops. Apple is one example. Apple also offers something called a Fusion drive, so always fully research what kind of storage you’re getting.

How much storage should you get? Generally, you’ll want to look for laptops with more than half a terabyte of storage. You may find some that have multiple terabytes available.

Those are usually top of the line and tend to be quite expensive. You may need to get less storage if you opt for SSD, but the speed will be worth it.

Qualities of Laptop Screens

You’ll spend a lot of time looking at the screen of your laptop, so it’s a good idea to make sure it’s high quality.

Some budget laptops have 1366 x 768 screen resolutions. Generally speaking, you’ll want to look for something higher than that. At minimum, you’ll want 1920 x 1080, also known as 1080p or Full HD.

If you can afford it, you may want to think about a screen with even higher resolution. Some manufacturers offer 4k displays. Apple has their Retina displays, and Microsoft has stepped up their game on their Surface devices.

What about the technology behind the screen? OLED displays offer the best in brightness, but only a few laptops have this technology right now. Lenovo offers the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, and gaming brand Alienware has an OLED laptop as well.

What Powers the Graphics?

If you invest in a good quality screen, you’ll want to make sure your laptop has a decent graphics card to make use of that screen.

You’ll also seen graphics cards called graphics processing units, or GPUs. AMD makes a few units that combine the GPU and CPU, which is more efficient. That’s good news for laptop owners, as it can help extend battery life.

It’s not good news if you’re planning to use your laptop for anything graphic intensive. In that case, you’ll want to make sure you have a separate, high-end GPU.

People who should be particularly concerned about the GPU in their laptop include:

  • Gamers
  • Graphic designers
  • Video editors
  • CGI animators and editors

If you plan to handle large video files, animations, or other graphics, then the GPU needs to be up to the task.

Currently, Nvidia makes the best GPUs on the market. You can’t go wrong with the RTX 2070 or 2080 GPU. Other Nvidia models are a little lower quality.

AMD’s GPUs aren’t quite as good as Nvidia’s, but they do offer some great options. The Radeon RX 5600M and RX 5700M are top picks for laptops. They’re quite comparable to most of Nvidia’s line, and they can help you save a little on the price.

Think about the Ports

You might not have thought much about what ports are on your laptop. When you’re buying a new one, though, this is a key consideration.

Why are ports so important? They determine what you can and can’t plug in to your new computer. They also determine how many peripherals you can use at one time.

You can get laptops that have very few or even no ports. Not including ports makes laptops lighter and slimmer. You can opt for one of these, but you may need to carry some dongles with you.

Mainstream laptops usually include USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI out for video.

You may want to take a look at laptops that include USB Type-C or Thunderbolt ports. These ports are universal, allowing you connect USB 3.0 and USB 4.0 devices as well.

Sound Cards, Batteries, and More

This guide has gone over the most important qualities of a good laptop. There are still a few more features you’ll want to think about.

If you plan to watch a lot of movies or stream music, then you may want to pay special attention to the sound card. Much like graphics cards, there are high- and low-quality sound cards. Getting a higher quality sound card isn’t a must, but you may want to consider it.

Most laptops don’t come with optical drives, which allow you to play CDs and DVDs. For most people, this isn’t much of a problem. If you have a job that requires you to use these devices, though, then it might be best to look for a laptop that has this capability.

Other aspects include infrared cameras and webcams and Wi-Fi capabilities. Also consider if you want a 2-in-1 laptop or a regular notebook.

How Much Juice Does It Have?

Finally, think about the battery life of the laptop. If you plan to move around a lot, then you’re going to want a laptop that will last.

Many laptops have excellent battery life these days, going more than ten hours between charges. Some high-end laptops have great features, but they use much more power. They’ll have a shorter battery life than other models.

You’ll want to consider this trade off carefully. If you want the best screen and great graphics processing, then you may need to sacrifice battery life.

Find Your Next Laptop

Trying to sort out the best laptop qualities is a challenge in today’s crowded market. With this guide, you should be a few steps closer to making an informed decision about your next device.

Looking for more great tech tips? We have them in spades! Check out insightful articles, how-tos, and more in our archives.

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