Whether you are a student or not, the fall back to school season is a great time to buy a new laptop. Many retailers and manufacturers offer big discounts and lower prices, which are often not exclusive to students. Besides your budget and preferred operating system, when looking for an affordable laptop there are quite a few factors to keep in mind. We’ve put together a brief guide summarizing the most important functions and components to consider when buying a new laptop.
Buy a laptop that will last
Think about buying a new laptop as an investment. Often spending more upfront means saving money in the long run. Your new laptop should stay in good shape and perform well for at least a few years, and a super low-budget deal might not meet this expectation. And it’s not just about the hardware, don’t skimp on durability either. Think about how you will be using and carrying around your laptop. Will it be packed away in your backpack as you ride your bike or public transportation? You want something robust enough to handle being moved about daily. Check what reviewers say about a laptop’s build. For example, some specific things to look out for are how much stress the screen hinge can take and how the laptop chassis reacts to pressure.
Pro tip: Buy a laptop sleeve for extra protection. Besides extra cushion, a laptop sleeve can help keep your computer safe from liquids, crumbs, and any other debris in your bag.
Choosing the best laptop for portability
For many people, the point of buying a laptop is to have a computer that you can take with you on the go. If you are planning on taking your laptop to class or to do work in a park or café, you might want to consider a lightweight option. Yet convenience can come at a price, as a lighter laptop might mean one with less power. Typically, a more powerful laptop comes with a bigger battery that adds extra weight.
Pro tip: Look for laptops with SSDs and buy an external drive for more storage. That way you’re only carrying around extra weight when you actually need the extra data.
What to look for in a laptop battery
Ideally, you want a laptop with a battery that can last a least 7-8 hours. If the one you like does not offer this kind of endurance see if it at least has a quick-charge function that gives it an extra couple of hours when plugged in for just 15 minutes.
Pro tip: Watch out for laptops that use large, high-wattage power supply as this often means a quick-draining battery.
Which CPU should you choose?
A computer’s processor is its brain: it is the component where most of its thinking” takes place. A faster central processing unit (CPU) allows you to make spreadsheets, browse websites, play games, or edit photos more quickly. Without going into all the details about the different types of CPUs and their capabilities, here are the main things to know.
As the numbering suggests, the Core i3 is the slowest processor, the i5 is in the middle, and the i7 is the fastest. In general, the i5 is more than enough for the average user who is not going to work much with graphics, do intensive engineering or scientific work, or play games. Unlike the Core i3, both the Core i5 and i7 have “turbo boost”, which allows the frequency to increase depending on the task.
Also, you may have seen some combination of a 2- or 3-digit number and a letter (almost certainly U, Y, H, or G). We recommend the G and U series of processors. The G series comes with better graphics, so it’s good for productivity, photo editing, and playing around. However, they are battery operated and are not suitable for intensive gaming. If you’re looking for a “classic” laptop experience, with powerful performance and good battery life, the Intel U Series is the one for you. This CPU is a good choice in terms of productivity, content consumption, and battery life.
Pro tip: Keep in mind that the processor can’t be changed, so choose wisely.
How much RAM should your new laptop have?
RAM (random access memory) also affects the performance of a laptop. It is the main memory of a computer, so the more, the better. Even the cheapest laptops come with 4 GB of RAM, which potentially is enough for very basic use but a minimum of 8GB is recommended. However, a laptop with 16 GB is usually not that much more expensive, so spending a little more might be worth it in the end.
Pro tip: You can upgrade the RAM on your laptop, so if you are unsure about how much you need or restricted by your budget there are options to increase it later. Just make sure you buy a laptop with this capability!
What to look for in screen quality
HD, HD+, Full HD (FHD), Ultra HD, 3K, and 4K; you’ve probably heard of all these display options, but which is the best? A higher number of pixels on a screen means that images, movies, and text are sharper, with a more realistic representation of the visual content. You should be able to find a good deal on a laptop with a Full HD display with a 1920×1080-pixel resolution. If you are someone who works with a lot of visual content, you might want to splurge for a laptop with 4k resolution.
Pro tip: Before spending extra money, have a look in person to see if you can tell the difference between the display quality – especially between FHD and 4k.
A matte or glossy screen: which is better for a laptop?
Let’s talk a bit about the screen coating, specifically LCD, a flat-screen technology used in television and computer monitors. There are two types of coating for LCD panels: matte and glossy.
Matte displays have an anti-glare coating that prevents them from showing reflections and makes them a better choice if you will often use your laptop outdoors. The tradeoff is matte screens tend to have lower color accuracy.
Glossy screens tend to be brighter, with higher contrast and more accurate color. Yet this can also be a disadvantage. Highly sensitive to light, it produces noticeable reflections that make it practically unusable in direct sunlight.
In the end, there is no right or wrong decision. Deciding which is right for you comes down to personal choice and a consideration of the type of work you want to do on the laptop and where you will use it most often.
Protect your new laptop against cyberthreats from the start
You just bought a new laptop, so why not start taking care of it from the get-go? One way you can keep your new laptop at peak productivity and performance is by installing powerful antivirus software to protect your device against cyberthreats. You can opt for a free antivirus like Avira Free Security that covers all the bases with a comprehensive set of security, privacy, and performance features.