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

6. Storage

Hard drives used to be all the rage, but these days they are mostly out of favour, especially for thin and light laptops. This is because they can be slow, somewhat bulky, and produce noticeable heat and noise. A solid state drive (SSD), on the other hand, offers a lot more speed than a hard drive, runs silently, and can be installed in a form factor that doesn’t add too much to the weight and bulk of a laptop.

The only problem is that SSDs don’t offer as much capacity. You’ll be stuck with a drive that’s either 128GB or 256GB in size, and even then, laptops with 256GB SSDs are pretty expensive. Stick to a 128GB SSD for your new laptop, though, and you’ll love the speed with which it can load programs, access your data, and also how quickly it can boot up your system.

The newest, fastest laptops also have NVMe solid-state drives which are much faster than traditional SSDs but also more expensive.

7. Battery life

Manufacturer-quoted battery life is often not indicative of what a laptop can do, and this is based on the many variables that affect battery life. These are the screen brightness, the screen resolution, and the tasks that you run. If you run programs that need lots of processing, or if you stream lots of online video, or if you transfer lots of files over your wireless network, then your battery will drain a lot sooner than what the vendor has quoted.

Look at the rating of the battery in Watt-hours (Wh) or milliamp-hours (mAh). The larger these figures are, the longer the battery can last. For a 13.3in Ultrabook, for example, a battery with a rating from 44Wh to 50Wh will give you the best results.

8. USB 3.0

You shouldn’t get a laptop without a USB 3.0 port, and you should look for a laptop that has at least a couple of these ports. This is for obvious reasons such as plugging in an external hard drive to back up your laptop’s data, or for when you want to plug in a conventional mouse or a fancy keyboard.

9. Fingerprint reader and TPM

Fingerprint readers are great for logging into mobile devices and the latest Windows 10 Operating System makes further use of them with its Windows Hello system. Ultimately, people can guess your password, but few can fake a fingerprint.

10. Build quality

No matter how careful we are, laptops can get bashed and dropped. Some are ruggedised to withstand rain and dust and some are built especially for the brutal educational environments - some even come with military-grade protection. Others can weather liquid spills and can be rinsed clean. Either way, it's worth checking out how much testing a laptop has undergone (the manufacturer usually crows about it) or whether there's any certification.

Meet your needs and budget

Of course, you need to balance these features with your budget and your needs, and you might have to make some compromises. Rarely does a laptop come along that ticks all the boxes, especially when it comes to price. Let us know in the comments below if you consider other aspects of a laptop to be more important (maybe you want better gaming performance or a rugged build, maybe you want a laptop that can turn into a tablet), and especially let us know if you’ve already found the perfect laptop for your needs.

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