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.
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]
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.
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.