The top 10 things to consider when buying a new laptop

Here’s what to look for if you want to buy the best laptop possible

When people ask us which laptop is best for their needs, the first thing we tell them is that there is no clear answer. There are too many different types of laptops, and different price categories to suit them. However, we do give people a checklist that they should consider before splurging on a new device.

1. Size

If portability is your main concern, then you need to consider a notebook that has a small-ish screen and a light weight. Any laptop marketed as an Ultrabook should fit your bill here, as they are designed to be slim and light. More to the point, though, look for a laptop with a screen that’s 12.5-13.3 inches in size, and a weight that is from 1-1.5kg.

2. Screen quality

You’ll be staring at your laptop for many hours every day, so you want to make sure you get a screen that is comfortable to look at. Many laptops these days also have touchscreens, which means they are glossy. Glossy screens lead to reflections, so consider a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Next, look at the resolution. A 1920x1080-pixel resolution (aka Full HD) should be considered if you want plenty of space to line up windows and keep things in view. Finally, the viewing angles are extremely important. A laptop screen that touts IPS (in-plane switching) technology offers the widest viewing angles and the best user comfort.

Try not to buy blind. If possible, go into a store and see the screen for yourself. Otherwise, rely on multiple reviews to get a good overview of the product.

Related: The Top 6 TVs in 2016

3. Keyboard quality

For long typing sessions, you must get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard. You don’t want to get a keyboard that packs in every key under the sun (think keyboards that have squished in number pads) because that can translate to a poor overall user experience when hunting for keys like the arrows.

You want a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys and some space around the arrow keys. The keys should have adequate travel on the downstroke and snappy responsiveness when you let them go. Make sure the keyboard is also backlit, so that you can type with an easier view on the keys in dimly lit environments.

As with the screen, it helps to try before you buy, especially if your main task will be typing.

[Related: MSI laptop with a desktop keyboard]

4. CPU

It’s hard to go past any of Intel’s Core-based CPUs when buying a new laptop. Think Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7. These CPUs offer the best performance when it comes to multitasking and multimedia tasks. Core i3-based notebooks are generally found in entry-level systems, while Core i5 makes up the majority of mainstream computers.

Core i7-based systems are for those of you who want the best performance from your laptop. However, note that with a Core i7-based system, heat coming through the base of the laptop can be cause for concern, especially if you plan to actually use the laptop on your lap a lot of the time.

5. RAM

You need 4GB of RAM or more to get the best out of your system. More RAM allows for more applications to be run at the same time, and for more data to be quickly accessible by the system at any one time, which comes in handy for tasks such as editing photos.

Next: 6-10

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags notebookslaptop featureslaptop buying guidebuying tipslaptopschecklist

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?